DOLCE VITA: A HOMESTAY STORY
Depending on your tastes, there are many ways to ‘do the TT’. Homestay is one such option and offers a unique and, in some ways, a more authentic experience. It’s also a fantastic way to glean some local knowledge from your hosts, helping you discover all the best places to eat, drink and spectate. Indeed, many hosts and guests have become lifelong friends; meeting up each year around the Island’s motorcycling events and coming together over their mutual love of the Isle of Man.
Islander Lucy Shea knows exactly how incredible a homestay can be. As her Mum, Sandra, spoke basic Italian, the family had welcomed a number of Italian visitors from the mid-1990s onwards. Welcoming the Italians into their home gave Sandra the opportunity to practise the language, and allowed the family to meet a range of exciting people.
While Lucy and her family are still in touch with many of these guests, the most memorable ‘home-stayer’ was Massimo, who first came to stay in 2002. Massimo quickly became a friend of the family and Lucy attributes this to the fact he is ‘the kind of person you immediately get on with.’ Indeed, Massimo – like many continentals - was always up for a chat to aid and improve his English.
He spent a lot of time with the family - joining them to watch the races in Sulby, where Lucy’s grandparents used to marshal and, as Lucy’s Mum rode a motorbike, she and Massimo would often go out for rides together and chat about bikes for hours on end. Some years later, Massimo was also able to take Lucy out for her first ride around the TT course. Getting on the back of a bike across the mountain during TT week is not for the faint of heart, and Lucy found the experience of overtaking bikes so terrifying that it was her last ever bike ride!
Many hosts and guests have forged lifelong friendships; meeting up each year around the Island’s motorcycling events
More successful was mealtime, and Massimo enjoyed lots of meals with the family - even joining rest of the family for a classic Sunday roast at Lucy’s grandparents. The Italians are, of course, known for their incredible cuisine, and Massimo also took the opportunity to prepare some delicious dishes for the family – sharing a few tips on how to cook like true Italian along the way. Somewhat cheekily, the Sheas subsequently took Massimo to some local Italian restaurants - just so he could rate their authenticity!
A LIFELONG FRIENDSHIP
Massimo is a true TT fan, having visited the island 14 times since his initial visit in 2002. While he hasn’t always stayed with the Sheas, he has always met up with them. Lucy has grown up with Massimo in her life, and as an adult, created many (hazy) memories with him and her family in the TT beer tent.
Now married with three children, life has changed a lot for Massimo in the nineteen years since he first came to the island. Meanwhile, Lucy and her Mum have twice visited Massimo in Italy: once for his wedding, and the second time to meet his newly born twins and his three-year-old son. These visits remain two of Lucy’s cherished memories, who found it lovely to have the roles reversed and be welcomed into his home. “The opportunity to see Italy beyond the tourist destinations is thanks to meeting Massimo”, she says. “It was definitely a cultural exchange, and I got to really experience the dolce vita in such an authentic way.”
Whether you’re a biker looking to stay like a local, or a resident who loves to make new friends, Homestay can help connect you!
STAY LIKE A LOCAL
For Massimo, homestay allowed him to live like a local and make incredible friends on the island. As a solo-traveller, this is a particularly valuable experience - but you don’t have to be on your own to make the most of homestay. Homestay is available for people in a variety of situations: whether you’re coming with friends or family. It’s a great way to experience the TT in a rich and surprising way, often getting to know the island’s people and places like few tourists do. In lots of ways, that’s priceless.
WELCOME A BIKER
For those considering hosting, Lucy cannot recommend homestay enough. She describes it as ‘amazing’ as ‘you meet people from all over the world and unexpected friendships are made.’ Sure, you can make a little bit of extra cash, but more than that, it can be a sure-fire way to make your TT even more special.