22 Dec 2017

That's Amore: a Kiwi Christmas love story

From Nine To Noon, 11:20 am on 22 December 2017

Fausto Mottalini made the news a couple of years ago as the only resident of a tiny Italian hamlet called Sostila.

Auckland artist Josephine Sharp read an article about him and wrote him a letter. Now they're engaged to be married.

The town of Sostila was abandoned in the 1960s due to cold winters and lack of work.

It has no main road to it, just a mule track you walk in and out on.

Josephine – who doesnt like crowds – says Fausto's lifestyle there is "like heaven".

She was already planning a trip to the "beautiful crumbling old towns and villages of Italy" when she read the article about him.

"I thought this man sounds really nice. You hear about people who choose to go and live in siolation maybe because they can't cope with people or technology … but Fausto had just chosen to go and live in a quiet place, which really intrigued me."

She tried to get his contact details online, but didnt have any joy.

"I thought 'Okay, he's the only person living there. Surely he'll have mail going to him'."

She then found the postcode for the region and addressed a letter to him with just his name and the name of the town.

In it, she told him about her life. She included one of her etchings and her contact details and said she was coming over soon.

Two weeks later she got a message from on Facebook – in Italian.

"It was a bit of a shock to me think 'Oh my gosh, he doesn't speak any English. And I don't speak any Italian whatsoever."

Josephine learnt as much Italian as she could in the two and a half months before her trip - over that time they were penpals on the messaging application Whatsapp, with the help of Google Translate.

"After four days he wrote and said 'I think I'm falling in love with you'. It was so amazing. I said I felt the same."

When Josephine arrived in Italy, Fausto met her at the airport, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When Josephine first told her friends about her plan to meet Fausto they filled her with warnings, she says.

"Yet my heart told me 'This man's safe and he's lovely'. And it just felt right. If I'd listened to my friends I might not have stepped out and done what I did.

"We're just really happy together."