Luciano Pavarotti praised Andrea Bocelli as the best before Bocelli had even put out his first single. After selling more than 75 million albums, the Italian classical-music singer needs no introduction.
Andrea bocelli is in the kitchen of his villa in northern Tuscany asking someone to make me an espresso when he starts belting out a Neapolitan melody from his youth. His voice washes over me like warm honey, and my heart echoes at the sweetness of the notes, rendering me a puddle of goo on the antique white couch in his parlor.
This is not a dream or the opening line of an imaginary romance novel. It’s actually happening.
He returns with a man at his elbow bearing our espressos on a silver tray. “What did you think?” Bocelli asks, grinning. I’m tongue-tied. I bob my head and squeak, “Wow,” before being handed a demitasse.
Then he confides a dark secret.
“I love many things in America, but I hate American coffee,” he says, lifting his cup to lips that have sung to presidents, the pope and the Queen of England. I don’t take this disclosure personally but vow to buy an espresso machine as soon as I get back to the States.
I visit Bocelli on a rainy Monday at his home, a former 19th-century hotel that he restored to its original splendor in the tony seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi. Bocelli lives in the 10-bedroom villa and recording studio with his wife, Veronica Berti, and their 1-year-old daughter.
I meet the striking, raven-haired Berti while waiting for Bocelli, who, I’m told, is upstairs on the phone. Wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt encrusted with a rhinestone heart, Berti introduces herself and her daughter en route to the kitchen for a fresh bottle.
“This is Virginia,” she says of the smiling, dark-eyed baby on her hip.
Berti is earthy and friendly, and after a few pleasantries, she departs, leaving me alone. My eyes immediately absorb the tasteful opulence of the room and float to the walls adorned by framed covers of some of Bocelli’s most popular albums, including Romanza, which features his soul-piercing duet with Sarah Brightman, “A Time to Say Goodbye” — one of the best-selling singles of all time. In his storied career, Bocelli has recorded 22 albums, which, combined, have sold more than 75 million copies worldwide. This makes Bocelli, 54, the biggest-selling solo artist in the history of classical music. But when he descends the curved staircase a few minutes later, he looks more like a beach bum than a musical icon.
Wearing white shorts, a dark short-sleeved top, white leather loafers and at least a day’s shadow on his boyish face, he is accompanied by an interpreter. Even though he speaks English well, he prefers the accuracy of Italian when being interviewed. The interpreter guides him to my side, and we shake hands.