Mimi Bartoli: L'età è Soltanto un Numero (Age is Only a Number)

story and photos by Tim Churchill

Mimi Bartoli’s no-nonsense manner contrasts her smile and energy as she moves purposefully in and out of Caffee Del Commercio. She enjoys a drag off her thin, delicate cigarette.Mimi serves customers

At her family-owned café, Mimi smiles – even when she doesn’t want to. She is always on her feet, working early in the morning until late at night, six days a week. All day, she mixes drinks, makes foamy cappacini, and serves snacks.  Her prescription for the stress: Have a laugh. Her wit is apparent as she describes the frequent college visitors who photograph ashtrays and empty coffee cups. She wonders why Americans -- citizens of a large, beautiful country -- would take such random photos in little Cagli, Italy.

While she clearly loves her adopted town, her best memories come from her childhood hometown of Gubbio, a medieval village just 20 minutes from Cagli. She says it is a calmer setting than Cagli. She remembers being surrounded by educated, polite, and respectful people. While visitors may find Cagli quaint and stress free, Mimi says many of the town’s residents seem anxious and rushed. Cagliese increasingly ask that their cappuccini be made faster and poured into to-go cups. She also thinks today’s young generation isn’t taught manners and respect at home. Nothing appears to be taboo anymore.  She acknowledges that this is a common complaint among older generations, but she knows many residents share her concerns.

Mimi has been married since 1963. She advises newlyweds to “keep loving each other and continue to just keep putting up with them.” She pokes fun at the challenges of marriage while still beaming as she describes her partner.  The passion she has for her husband surfaces as she describes her wedding, which took place on a mountaintop ceremony in Gubbio next to a gondola.  They chose to live in Cagli, her husband’s hometown, to raise a family.

Years ago, at the age of 50, Mimi and her husband decided to buy Caffe Del Commercio “to try something new.”  While the title of homemaker is valuable to her, she was reMimi decided to buy Cafe COmmercio to try something newady for a new challenge after raising her boys to men.

When not running the shop, Mimi loves to visit the opera house and travel.  Germany, Switzerland, and Turkey have all been graced by her presence, as well as most of Italy.  However lately, her yearly September holiday has been what many in America call “stay-cations.” Travel is a stressful time as bags must be packed, arrangements must be made, and sleep is often lost.  She chooses to stay at home, relax, and “just lie around” rather than deal with all of the unexpected issues that come on the road.  She does hope to visit Denmark, the country she dreamed of as a child as “a dark, mysterious forest.”  Like many travelers, she knows that what is expected is not always what is found.  Her husband visited Denmark and found a nice town -- one similar to Cagli.

At her café on the piazza, Mimi offers customers a drink and a table with an umbrella – several ways to find relief from the hot summer sun.  Paying the bill is not the first priority. Enjoying the atmosphere is.                 

At her café on the piazza, Mimi is an inspiration. Her desire to work hard, and “always smile” gives encouragement to regulars of the caffe, as well as visitors to Cagli. Residents like Mimi are part of the charm of the town of Cagli.