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Ab van Marrewijk, Wematrans

"We would like to show what we have achieved"

"We are no standard people, we would like to create something beautiful in our old age for the environment and for the people who come after us." In an earlier interview we spoke to Ab van Marrewijk. Now, he and his wife Shirley have been living in Italy for 1.5 years. They are making their dream come true by establishing a holiday farm on Italy's Riviera of Flowers. The former owner and founder of Wematrans is enjoying life in Bordighera: "At the back, we see the Alps; at the front, the Mediterranean; on one side, our vineyard; and on the other, a hill full of greenery and beautiful flowers. Sometimes, I just sit at the edge of the vineyard and feel incredibly lucky."

Berries and cresses
The couple deliberately chose the Floral Riviera. The Mediterranean climate is ideally suited for growing flowers, vegetables, fruit, and even tropical fruits. Ab says, "The Flower Riviera owes its name to the many flowers that used to be grown here. The environment and climate are still perfect for this, but it is much more profitable to grow flowers with modern techniques in the Netherlands and Africa. It's a pity because the conditions here are top-notch." Nevertheless, this doesn't stop Ab from growing various products himself. He is conducting several trials with soft fruit varieties from the Netherlands, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and gooseberries. He is also testing cresses he brought from the Netherlands, delivering them to local restaurants to create a new market.

"We are in a good location, close to Nice, Monaco, Turin, and Genoa, and even Milan is not too far. So, there is a big local market for us, and many Europeans living here want to get to know locally produced vegetables, fruit, and flowers." However, it doesn't always go smoothly, Ab continues: "Sometimes, certain trials don't go as expected, such as growing certain vegetables in pots. But that's the beauty of a year like this, you can try all sorts of things. Sometimes you find out that something doesn't work, but at least you tried. Italians are not quick to experiment, but they are very enthusiastic when they see our results."

Sparkling rosé
While the Dutch sometimes amaze the Italians, the latter is also true. The vineyard has just been planted with help from the Italians. While Ab wants to grow the wine grapes himself, bottling will be done by a local Italian winemaker. In Italy, you mostly see red or white wine, but Van Marrewijk wants to put his own spin on that: "Italians make the best red and white wines, so we decided to distinguish ourselves with a sparkling rosé."

Italian mangoes and avocados
In total, Shirley and Ab have about 4.5 hectares of land. The vineyard covers about half a hectare. "The 130 olive trees are also a significant part of the estate. We want to create a beautiful and varied park where people can enjoy themselves, but also help with activities such as olive picking, grape harvesting, and beautifying the estate. Most of the products we serve to our guests come from our own land. Guests appreciate that because it is healthy and fun to see the herbs, vegetables, and fruits grow, and then eat them afterward. Agriturismo fits the times; people value healthy and local food. Tropical fruit still has to wait, but soon, even mangoes, lemons, bananas, and avocados can be picked here. Everything can survive winter in this climate; it's a great place to live and grow produce."

Yoga in the forest
To accommodate more guests, they will start building holiday homes in 2025. These homes will be for sale to interested parties looking for a return on their investment. What will make these holiday homes distinctive are the perfume gardens with delicious-smelling plants and herbs that will surround them. The plan is to give guests a complete experience during their stay, from picking their own fruit to yoga in the forest.

The wedding
Once the holiday homes are ready, the location will also serve as a wedding venue. The wedding season could start in 2025, says Ab: "There's a beautiful Mediterranean country house with holiday homes and a nice park around it with holiday homes. For many northern Europeans, such as the Dutch and Swedes, it is the ideal place to get married. From the airport in Nice, it is a 45 km drive to Bordighera. Even by car, it can theoretically be reached from the Netherlands in a day. That was also why we wanted to stay within Europe. During the pandemic, it was difficult to fly, and we were happy to travel by car. Even now, we still travel to the Netherlands regularly, especially my wife Shirley. We recently had a grandchild, and she can't go back often enough to cuddle with the little one," he laughs.

"We complement each other. Shirley makes sure everything looks fantastic and likes to welcome guests. I like to fix everything outside and ensure nature looks nice. This is our last project after being in logistics for 20 years, and before that working as a nurseryman for 20 years. We want to make this beautiful for the neighborhood and the next generation of Marrewijks. All the children are very supportive of this project, and from July, our middle son Guy plans to come and live in Bordighera to work with us and take this project to an even higher level. How wonderful is that!"

"This noble house from 1870 was built for beauty, outdoor living, and grandeur. It might be crazy to do this, but our dream was to make this beautiful, and we would like to show what we have achieved."

For more information:
Instagram: @villa.genua.bordighera

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