These are the words of Marco Batacchi, and Italian hotel manager who migrated to Perth from Florence in 2005.
“I’ve wandered around the world and lived in the United States, where my brother, the classic runaway, has lived for a long time,” the 55-year-old Florentine said.
“I travelled a lot because I wanted to have fun and see as much as possible.”
Batacchi adores Florence, and the city was also central to his love story: at the age of 36, he met Jodie, an Australian tourist, at a hotel in the Tuscan capital where he was working at the time.
From that meeting blossomed “a gentle, delicate relationship” and, after “staggering phone bills”, Batacchi decided to travel to Australia to see Jodie.
However, at first he didn’t want to live Down Under, so Jodie moved to Italy.
It was around 2000, “a time when Italians still lived fabulously”.
But the arrival of the euro changed the lives of many and the couple were ready to start a family, so they decided to return to Australia.
“What we wanted was no longer in Italy,” Batacchi said.
Sometimes fortune favours the bold, and after a few months in Australia, Batacchi was appointed a management role in the hospitality sector.
“Since then I have been running hotels, like my family has for three generations now,” he said.
Batacchi loves Italy, where he often returns and where his mother still lives, and particularly Florence, even though he’s aware that “it’s no longer what it once was”.
When asked what he thinks of Australia, he gave a candid reply.
“This is my country,” he said.
“It’s an extraordinary country, especially if you want to start a family.
“It’s a country that has opportunities for those willing to seek them.
“There are green open spaces and forward-thinking people.
“We Italians are anchored to a fabulous and very rich history and sometimes for this reason we perhaps risk the future a little.”
Having grown up in one of the most historically important cities in the world, Batacchi inherently loves history and everything that revolves around it.
In Australia, he’s managed to strike the perfect balance between Italian history and Australian modernity.
He’s also managed to transmit his passion and meet entrepreneurs who share his desire to promote his heritage.
Just over two years ago, Batacchi became the manager of the Hougoumont Hotel, owned by Patrick Prendiville, who boasts the surname of a prominent Irish family in Perth.
The unique hotel is located in Fremantle, a Perth suburb steeped in history.
You’ll find it on Bannister Street, at first a red light district and then, from 1923, a refuge for Italian migrants who founded the Giovanni Italia Club.
Over 80 years later, the historic headquarters of the club made way for a new hotel.
Behind the name is an interesting tale: “Hougoumont” is in fact the moniker of a three-masted ship that sailed the seas all over the world.
It carried French soldiers during the Crimean War, migrants from Plymouth to Port Adelaide, and the last load of political prisoners to land in Fremantle, as also reported in Peter FitzSimons’ recent book, The Catalpa Rescue.
Next to the historic building are the hotel rooms, made from ship containers and turned into luxurious abodes; it’s the perfect fusion of history and modernity.
Hosting both corporate and international clients, the hotel was somewhat affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but Prendiville and Batacchi managed to reinvent the venue, perhaps thanks to Italian creativity, and attract new local customers.
So how is the relationship between the two, an Irishman and a Florentine?
“There’s great respect for our history,” Batacchi said.
“Patrick Prendiville has certainly grasped the 100 per cent Made in Italy perceptiveness, culture and warmth.”
Batacchi has a philosophy that favours quality of life and relationships over quantity.
“For me, it’s important to live a life worth living,” he said.
“To live like an invalid in order to die healthy doesn’t interest me.”
Batacchi has not only managed to feed his fervour for history in Australia, but he’s also fulfilled his dream of starting a family in his new home.
His three children were born in Australia, but with names which celebrate their father’s heritage: Michelagniolo, Angelica and Raffaello.
“Having roots to treasure is important,” Batacchi said.
Before the end of the year, we’ll share with you a new adventure that Batacchi has embarked on, still linked to hospitality and the history of Fremantle, a corner of the world where he was able to transplant his roots and make them sprout.
After 15 years in Australia, Batacchi feels like a “Florentine Australian”, with a still impeccable Tuscan accent, who’s proud of his origins, his history, his sense of belonging and his “Australianness”, in a unique and powerful combination, characterised by a deep love for his work.