Massimilla Alighieri. That was the name on the card she handed to me. I was photographing the vineyards just outside the entrance to the store and tasting room of the Serego Alighieri Vineyard.

I had visited the vineyard two days before, upon my arrival to the Valpolicella wine region of the Veneto. This gorgeous wine region lies just outside of Verona, one of the main cities of the Veneto region of northern Italy.

It’s filled with rolling hills lined with vineyards, tiny villages and mountains lurking off in the distance. It’s not heavily touristed which was nice after spending a few days in Venice – in mid-June! Here it was quiet. It was peaceful.

Vineyards of Valpolicella

Vineyards of Serego Alighieri in the Valpolicella wine region of Italy

I settled into my B&B La Meridiana in Fumane, one of the small towns in the middle of the vineyards on that first day. But I was eager to see more, and to taste some vino!

So, I jumped in the rental car and drove around, following signs for vineyards when I happened upon Alighieri. There was a sign that said “tasting room open”. I knew most places preferred appointments so it was my lucky day.

Vineyards of Valpolicella

Vineyards and church near Serego Alighieri winery, Valpolicella wine region, Italy

I went in and began tasting some fabulous wines. There were many to choose from. The lady who had been pouring my tastes had an appointment with some other folks who had just arrived so she handed me off to another young lady, Massimilla.

She was one of the daughters of the vineyard owner. Wow! I was impressed. I finished tasting the wines and bought a bottle – or was it 2?! She then asked if I would like to take a tour around the grounds and, of course, said yes.

wine bottles

Wines of Serego Alighieri, Valpolicella wine region, Italy

Massimilla showed me where they dried the grapes and explained the process of making the Valpolicella wines – Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone.

She pointed to the house that was actually a B&B – I didn’t realize I could have stayed here. We chatted a little bit and she was patient as I took photos. I left, feeling happy with the visit.

drying racks for grapes

Drying racks for grapes, Serego Alighieri vineyard, Valpolicella wine region, Italy

B&B Serego Alighieri

B&B at Serego Alighieri vineyard, Sant’ Ambrogio di Valpolicella, Italy

Uhhh…I Met A Famous Italian (sort of) and Didn’t Know It

So, on this day, a few days later, I was just out driving around, focusing on taking some images of this lovely area. And, who comes up to me? Massimilla. She asked me about my photography, recognizing me from the visit to the winery a couple of days earlier.

She gave me her card telling me if I had some good images of her family’s vineyards I should send them her way. I pocketed her card and didn’t think much about it for the rest of my trip.

After settling back in at home in the States, I began going through my photos. I remembered the business card, but couldn’t remember the exact name of the vineyard.

Upon finding the card, I decided to google it… and what came up on my computer screen stunned me.

Vineyards of Valpolicella

Vineyards of Serego Alighieri, Valpolicella wine region, Italy

Massimilla was actually a descendant of Dante Alighieri. You know, the great poet and writer of The Divine Comedy. The guy who helped form the Italian language.

I had no idea! I mean, I met Italian royalty – literally. Massimilla’s dad is a count, which makes her some sort of countess, I guess. And I was completely oblivious to it. Boy, did I feel stupid.

But, looking back at it all, she was really quite unassuming. She was very nice and down to earth. Just the daughter of a vineyard owner.

So, lesson learned.

There are so many famous Italians out there. Read your history books. Know at least some of the famous artists and writers and ruling families. There are tons of descendants of these folks, simply living their lives in Italy. You just never know who you’ll meet – even in the middle of a vineyard.

Have you ever met a famous person on your travels? Did you recognise them or did you figure it out a little too late like me? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to read your stories!