I used to wonder what kind of people were brave or crazy enough to quit the rat race mid-course to do something like open up an inn and tour company in Italy. Now I know because my wife and I are doing just that.

But before I get into the details of what we are doing, I think I better let you know who we are.

My partner in life and in this Amazing Abruzzo adventure is Lisa Grassi-Blais. Like me, Lisa is 47 and we have shared our lives since we met in 2000.

She was born in Sudbury, Ontario to a French-Canadian father and an Italian-Canadian mother, Nita Grassi, whose father was born in the Abruzzo region east of Rome. Nita is – get this – the 13th of 14 siblings, so Lisa grew up immersed in the rich Italian culture you find in Sudbury where thousands of Italians migrated for work in the first half of the 20th century.

Lisa was a great student and visited her mother often at the Sudbury courthouse where Nita worked as a court reporter and then a Justice of the Peace. Early on, it became clear that Lisa was going to be a lawyer. Not any lawyer though, a criminal defence lawyer.

So after high school, it was off to the University of Ottawa for undergrad followed by law school, then back to Sudbury for the start of her career where, among other accomplishments, she helped gain a self-defence acquittal for a young Native man who beat another man to death with a Walrus penis bone. (You can’t make that kind of stuff up.)

So with that box checked, Lisa moved back to Ottawa where she started with a law firm and met me at the courthouse. I was the court reporter for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper at the time and was covering the case of a guy accused of taking part in a machete fight between two gangs. It was an interesting case, but even so, I was more interested in the sharp-witted defence lawyer with the dark good looks and great legs.

Lisa agreed to go on a date at the end of the trial, and 2 ½ years later, we married in 2002.

A few years later after slogging it out as a self-employed defence lawyer, Lisa took a job in the extradition section of the Canadian Department of Justice sending wanted criminals back to their countries of origin to face trials. Two years after that, she transferred into the federal prosecution office where she almost exclusively pursued cases against drug suppliers, dealers, and organized crime figures.

In 2011, the president of the Canadian Association of Justice Council asked Lisa if she would join the union’s contract negotiating team. She did, and in May of 2012 Lisa replaced him as president of the 2,700 member union.

In two-years as president of the union, Lisa got a record contract settlement out of the Canadian government, spearheaded a successful membership drive, and became a media source on labour relations issues. It was a highly successful run, but two years was enough, and by the spring of 2014, our Italy plans were well under way.  Lisa went back to prosecuting until we were ready to make the leap full time to our beautiful Italian inn.

Lisa has a wide open, supportive and caring personality. She’s quick on all things – humour, wit, friendships, and annoyance. She’s hard working, determined, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She has a huge and varied circle of friends, people from grade school to those she met recently.

She’s the perfect woman for me, and I couldn’t image a better partner on this adventure.

Next Blog: Who is Jake?


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