The Italian Job with the Irish connection.

"Long distance cycling photographer
 and daydreamer. Half man, half bicycle"
(That's Fulvio's own words, not mine). 

Some years ago, when my hot air balloon 'St.Pio' accomplished its maiden flight in Mondovi, a stunning surreal setting nestled away in the shadow of the Italian-French Alps, I returned back to Ireland on a high, literally. I was (and still am) totally awestruck of this Italian alpine aerial oasis that St. Pio (G-PPIO) now calls home. Back in Dunshaughlin and I'm on Facebook the following day. Here I see this absolutely cracking photo of St. Pio airborne within a stunning alpine setting and the shot is jumping off the screen at me. I notice a watermark adorning the photographers name. In total admiration of what I saw, I contacted the photographer via email to enquire about purchasing a print of this artful aerostatic scene. He briefly told me how much he loves Ireland and how some years earlier he cycled around the entire coast of our island, just him, his camera and his tent. Back to the email and I quickly received the hi resolution image by return to my inbox, payment for the shot was politely refused.

The stunning photo of St. Pio
 in Northern Italy. 
It cemented a beautiful friendship.
© Fulvio Silvestri

I immediately offered to treat the photographer to a flight in St. Pio the very next time I got back to Italy. That magical flight duly happened. Something about it was special, it just was. From that day on, I become good friends with one serious creative and mood photographer. 

I present to you 'Fulvio Silvestri'. 

As I run with this story, I share below just a scent of Fulvio's photographic prowess. 

A stunning landscape from the place Fulvio calls home. 
© Fulvio Silvestri


 'The Murf' in pensive mood, low level flight in St. Pio over Mondovi. 
© Fulvio Silvestri 

A brilliant air to air capture from the flight deck of St. Pio over Mondovi. 
© Fulvio Silvestri

A beautiful air to air shot 
over the skies of Mondovi. 
 As seen from wicker basket of St. Pio. 
© Fulvio Silvestri 

St. Pio as seen thru the lens of one Fulvio Silvestri. 
© Fulvio Silvestri 

Fulvio has since flown numerous times with me in St. Pio. Two years ago and Fulvio's day job saw him spend time at a private school in Dublin, teaching his Italian students the English language. His timing here was impeccable as the weather then was settled, light stable breeze, high or no cloud, zero risk of precipitation, dry ground and as such was conducive to Hot Air Ballooning (I'm lucky if I get 25/30 hours annual flight time here in Ireland). I duly rescued Fulvio one afternoon from his North County Dublin, Malahide based classroom and subsequently treated him to his first balloon flight over the Irish countryside that evening. It was a class flight. Joining us in the basket that evening was a random local lady. I had flown the balloon the evening previous and this woman chased me in the air with her kids and was in the field when we landed, just down the road from their own farm house. Helping us pack away and she tells me it's her birthday the following day. So there was only one thing for it (timing in ballooning is everything). That following evening, Catherine Leonard met Fulvio and the 3 of us enjoyed a nice cream sponge Birthday Cake in the basket. I was in my element, Catherine was having a ball and Fulvio was grinning ear to ear as he captured magic shots thru those talented Italian eyes of his. On landing, copious amounts of Guinness duly followed,  all necessary and above board of course, for the post flight de-brief. 

I remember when dropping Fulvio back to his class the following morning and the dubious looks on his colleagues faces as the previous evenings flight adventure was recanted. For good measure I did agree with them that, well, maybe the aerial antics tale of the evening before was all a figment of Fulvio's imagination, before of course I hastily exited the building, so funny. 

Seconds to launch and we present Catherine with a birthday cake.
© Fulvio Silvestri 

A beautiful in-flight capture of our Ballooning Birthday Girl,
Catherine Leonard.
© Fulvio Silvestri

A pre-launch shot from Fulvio's Irish Flight. 
Bellinter House Hotel in the background. 
© Fulvio Silvestri


A nice air to air shot in North Italy
as seen from St. Pio's basket. 
© Fulvio Silvestri 


Fulvio was one of the first people I told of my tumour in my stomach, my gastro cancer. Being based in Italy, we do of course keep in touch, but I could recently detect a frustration in our communications. I could sense Fulvio wanted to give a big friendly hug, but the broadband was in our way. Then this evening, the doorbell rings, 'ding-dong'. It's my good friends Anna and Trevor Kellett. When the Kellett's are not milking their prize Holstein Friesian herd, Trevor can be found offering fixed-wing flight instruction or indeed putting other student pilots thru their dreaded flight exam. They will both chastise me for saying this, but since the day I got my diagnosis, these two beautiful people, every Monday night make a 50km round trip to visit me. But this evening, I could hear other voices at our front door. I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. Not tonight.
With a big smile, here standing in the hallway of our house is Fulvio Silvestri and his lovely girlfriend Valentina. They both flew over just before Christmas Eve in full stealth mode, hid out in a house in rural County Wexford and then today, somehow (hello Facebook) hooked up with the Kellett's. Back to our living room tonight and I see Fulvio is holding a large but well wrapped gift. Wow !!, It's a stunning framed photographic print of his own work. A Hot Air Balloon in majestic flight as seen from his own abode, tucked away within the photogenic valleys of Verduno, Northern Italy. I could see it was also handframed by my good friends in Callan & Harte in Navan, the plot indeed duly thickens. To be fair, the photo of the framed print (below) cannot and does not do it justice, it can't !

Teatime at Murf's tonight. 
L-R: Trevor Kellett, Aidan Murphy, Brian Meegan, Alison Murphy, Fulvio Silvestri, Anna Kellett,
 Aoife Murphy, Valentina (Fulvio's Girlfriend). 

I hope you enjoyed that story. It is one that needed to be told and with the surprise visit that happened earlier tonight, this was it's moment. My friends are amazing. Most of my friendships, just like Fulvio's has happened or has came about in a surreal way. There's a definite sense of magic attached to them. I love that and I hold that very dear to my heart. 

The stunning framed photographic print 
presented to me by Fulvio and Valentina. 
© Fulvio Silvestri 2016

As I fight this tumour, it's friendships just like this which gives me massive support. 
This support is so important, even just to know it's there. 
It puts my mind in a better place. If I can achieve that, then I've extra fire power. 
With that spare ammunition, I can focus the fight more and that folks is EXACTLY what I'm doing. 

To see more of Fulvio, do visit his home on the web: 

Thanks so much for reading my blog. 



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