I will tell you about my first time. No, I’m not referring to intimate matters, but rather my first time at an event called AMICIGAR. I’ll try to describe it through the eyes of a child observing it for the first time, knowing very little about it.
Surely there have been more than 10 editions, probably less than 20. It’s easy to notice that behind this seemingly carefree and light-hearted event lies meticulous organization. And just in its name, you can already feel the spirit of this event: Friends and Cigars.
But let’s talk about it in more detail without technicalities, but with the gaze of an observer who turns their head and looks at everything and everyone with great curiosity. The formula is simple: an event among friends sharing a common passion. Guessing what this passion is may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Whether they are friends or acquaintances, people who attend AMICIGAR have been participating for years; and for the first time, I approached this group as a “stranger.” Why do I say it seems easy but actually isn’t?
Because entering the “magic circle” of AMICIGAR is not taken for granted; you must earn your place, and priority is always given to those who have been attending the event for years. Many familiar faces, many new friends; the atmosphere is friendly and carefree. Conversations flow naturally among peers speaking the same language – that of good food, fine wines and spirits, premium cigars – all connected by our shared passions. You might find yourself sitting next to a tobacconist one moment or a banker or even a farmer another moment…it doesn’t really matter. These details become inconsequential when you sit at the table with a spirit of sharing quality leisure time. Every moment is convivial; every moment offers opportunities for exchange, enjoyment, and excellent smokes. The team that organizes everything is diverse and cohesive. I had the pleasure of interacting with them during those days, and I witnessed their remarkable devotion, seriousness, and attention to detail. In every gesture they made, I could see their desire to do well and make their guests feel good.
The event takes place alternately between Italy and foreign countries; choosing a different location each time for AMICIGAR is a fantastic way to ensure that it always feels like the first time. This time, Sicily was chosen as the venue between Vittoria and Scoglitti. Sicily and the friends involved in these events proved to be excellent hosts despite the large number of attendees – no easy feat. Carving out moments with everyone is remarkable but they managed to do it.
How were the days organized? The team thought of everything: finding places to sleep and rest between one event and another, all within reach wearing flip-flops. After having breakfast based on Granita (a semi-frozen dessert) with Brioche topped with “Tuppo” (typical hairstyle from Catania), taking a stroll along Scoglitti’s promenade in the morning was priceless. Then we would head to “Gabbiano,” the hotel designated for many of the events held near the sea.
Tastings of great wines, fine cigars – there was an eagerness to bond that rarely finds its equal elsewhere. The camaraderie among participants was palpable at every moment, continuing late into night after official events at various bars or restaurants nearby. Fantastic days indeed!
The chosen locations for dinners and tastings are evocative; you have probably seen many photos that evoke dreams. Sicily lends itself well to this kind of event; its beauty is ancient yet natural, offering dreamlike views wherever you turn. What can make an AMICIGAR even better? Doing it in the company of a friend. In my case, a brother as red-blooded as me – Fabio Ventura, the magical mustache. Great harmony, great fun.
Sharing the car journey from Catania to Scoglitti made everything more enjoyable and lighthearted. Smoking cigars and chatting about tastings, pairings, exquisite cuisine…priceless. Finding immediate agreement in rhythms is not easy, but with him, everything was simple and pleasant. Among Vintage cigars,champagne, aged Ragusano cheese for up to 400 days, fine Marsala wine, and chocolate tastings – perfectly balanced between technicality and carefree enjoyment – each tasting took place in a different location. Among various activities was also spending an entire morning at Decorato’s tobacco shop in Vittoria. The ritual of opening and serving a Balthazar of Ferrari (a large format Champagne bottle) was perfect thanks to custom-made craftsmanship that added both scenic beauty and pleasure.
On Saturday morning there was the iconic Amicigar Smoke, the San Cristobal del L’Habana ed.reg.Cuba and Champagne rose’ Billecart Salmon. There was the awarding moment of the Hombre Amicigar which this year went to Peter Dansky and his wife Agnes Kilipatrick. Another iconic moment was the final photo all in blue polo shirts. The blue wave.
On the evening dinner was elegant yet light-hearted; it offered me the opportunity to enjoy excellent company at the table while we indulged in magnificent bottles of wine and fantastic cigars. Official moments recognizing achievements through awards were never missed. The presence of beloved Habanos , fourteen during the four days event may be implicit but never explicitly mentioned throughout this event where you breathe Cuba effortlessly; everything can be found exactly where expected.
I would like to conclude with what impressed me most during those unforgettable days – perhaps not what one would expect from such a description: twenty-two countries represented but only one language spoken—the language of Cuban cigars—alongside numerous sincere hugs filled with warmth and friendship.
Lastly, I’d like to reflect on something: We are fortunate to live in Italy. We have passion; we are great communicators, and we live our pleasures with fervor. We can enjoy dreamlike places and exceptional food and wine products. The culture of epicurean pleasure, which I adore and nurture, can be found in every corner. It doesn’t matter if competition often comes into play – any unpleasant feelings that may arise disappear to make room for beautiful sensations and fond memories. To those who ask me, “which is better: this or that?” my answer is always the same: “Why bother choosing? Both are wonderful.” Happy smoking to all!
Text: Aurelio Tufano
Originally posted on July 21, 2023 @ 1:17 am