Mark Twain said, "The Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo."
With that in mind, Twain himself would certainly be pleased with the thought and care that has gone into the creation of the Mariani's home in Austintown.
A peek through the wrought iron gates of the property provides merely a hint of the sprawling beauty that is home to Amico and Patricia Mariani as its winding, brick-lined walkway begins at an ornate fountain, featuring tiles installed one by one over several years by Amico as a tribute to the one situated in his hometown of San Pietro, Rome, Italy.
Photos by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Just one of several gardens gracing the grounds of their property, Amico and Patricia Mariani are pictured in the vineyard where they grow grapes to be used for their annual Bacchanalia Festival and its stomping of the grapes, and wine-making competition.
Just beyond, visitors are met by looming cement columns, also formed by the hands of Amico, an array of gardens, water features, a vineyard, and inescapable opportunities to sit and chat, sip wine, and take in the breathtaking views.
It is on the last Sunday of each September that the Mariani home truly comes to life, serving as the venue to their annual Bacchanalia Festival. First hosted in 2000 when the Marianis said they were in the company of 50 family members and friends, the fete has grown over the years to more than 325, with many traveling from all across the United States and Canada to take part in the crowning of the high priestess, stomping of the grapes, and wine-making competition.
Looking back on that first year, Patricia shared that she had wanted to have a plastic swimming pool in which the grandchildren could stomp grapes.
"He took over and it was off to the lumberyard," she said of her husband, who took the construction of a wine tub to a whole new level.
"We stomped the grapes that year and handed out the juice for the contest the next year," added Amico, explaining that each guest samples the wine upon entering the celebration, placing their vote, in addition to the presence of an official judge.
Asked what he enjoys most of what they have built together, "The laughs we have when we have people here," said Amico, to which his wife added that in addition to the fun of family and friends, "the food is the best." Adding of the gala celebration, "It's something to talk about forever."
The son of a bricklayer, Amico said he traveled to the United States in 1955 with his parents, who also owned a cantina in Italy. Asked what brought them here, he said simply, "Opportunity."
Arriving at the age of 16 speaking not a word of English, Amico was required to attend St. Joseph's as he acclimated to the language. Following six months there, he became a student of Ursuline High School, and at the age of 21, joined the Marines, during which, he returned to Italy. Returning after three years, in addition to work in various machine shops, Amico had long-term employment at both United Engineering and Warren Fabricating. Speaking on his parents' decision so many years ago, "I was uprooted... now I appreciate what they did," he said.
Serendipity stepped in when Amico, who had begun purchasing homes, crossed paths with Patricia, who worked in real estate. The two were married in 1980 and have since shared the first home she sold him, that which had belonged to her mother. He purchased the home, and "a year later the chain saw came out," said Patricia laughingly of her husband's penchant for construction, to which he replied, "You told me it had a lot of potential."
With three children between them, the Mariani family now includes four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, the birth of whom has sparked preparations for yet another gathering at the Mariani home. In addition to the fall festival and a large family picnic over Labor Day weekend, which includes a bocce tournament, the Marianis will soon unveil "Via Eloise," the newest constructed addition to their backyard haven in honor of their new great-granddaughter, Eloise.
Excited about the impending event and busily preparing the property, the two said the gathering will provide the perfect opportunity for everyone to meet the newest Mariani family member.
While Patricia still works in real estate, Amico, who is now retired, said of his painstaking attention to the grounds of their home, "It keeps me busy all the time."