Interview With Nathan Heinrich
Meet The Writer, Designer, Horticulturist And Host Of The "I'm Moving To Italy" Podcast
Who Is Nathan Heinrich?
Isn’t he that designer from New York?” “I thought he was from California.” “No, he’s a podcast host for those who want to move to Italy, isn’t he?” “He’s a horticulturist – right?” “I’ve been reading his articles, I know for sure he’s a writer.”
As a matter of fact, all of these facts about Nathan are true.
In this article, we are going to come to learn who the real Nathan Heinrich truly is.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nathan, at his home in the Prosecco Valley in Northern Italy, and asking him some questions.
It was a very interesting conversation and am delighted to be able to share some of it with you.
Claudia: “Where did you grow up, Nathan”
Nathan: “I grew up in a little farming community called ‘Wood Colony’ in Northern California.
My dad is a 5th generation walnut, almond, and grape farmer.
Growing up in a vineyard surrounded by walnut and almond orchards with my incredible parents, two lovely sisters, and six amazing brothers was very special.
The older I get, the more I realize just how special.
We had a pretty wonderful childhood – not perfect – there was never a dull moment. I don’t recall ever being bored.”
Claudia: “Wow, there were 9 of you? I bet you have some fantastic memories of your life as a farmer’s son.
What memories from your childhood in California that you would like to share?”
Nathan: “Great question, there are so many.
One of my earliest memories is standing in my great-grandfather’s vineyard in late summer or early fall during grape harvest, I was probably 4 years old.
My dad and grandpa were standing beside me and I was mesmerized by this sight that was unfolding in front of me.
The leaves on the vines were dusty and some of them were beginning to turn a brownish yellow.
The air was filled with an earthy sweetness – I can still remember the smell.
On top of the soil, between each row of vines, was a 3-foot-wide sheet of cream-colored paper running the entire length of the row.
Moving towards us were groups of men talking loudly and laughing amongst themselves as they worked fast cutting bunches of golden-green Thomson Seedless grapes and throwing them onto the long sheet of paper.
They were making sun-dried raisins, but as a little boy, I had no idea what was going on.
I thought it was so strange that these grown men were throwing those delicious grapes right onto the ground, but I did feel a bit better that they were throwing them onto the paper.
I recall going for a walk with my parents and brothers several days later and seeing that the grapes had shriveled up and turned brown.
My dad let us taste them. They were warm and sweet. Some were so dry they were almost crunchy and others were still squishy.
That’s how I learned where raisins came from!
I have so many memories like that.”
Claudia: “That’s a beautiful memory, Nathan. I’ve never even thought about how raisins were made – so interesting. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to grow up with 8 siblings.
How did your parents manage it? Where do you fall in the birth order?”
Nathan: “I have no earthly idea how my parents did it!
To this day when I think back on them raising all 9 of us it actually kind of stresses me out.
But they did it and none of us died, although we sure tried to kill ourselves countless times! (laughs out loud)
I was the 2nd born, so I helped raise the younger ones – almost like a 3rd parent. I loved it – except when we would go out into public.
When all 11 of us showed up anywhere together like a restaurant – and we seemed to have eaten out at restaurants quite often probably to give my mom a break from cooking – we would get such crazy reactions from people.
People, especially older people, would come up to our table and ask my parents, ‘Are they all yours?’, ‘They’re such beautiful children and so well-behaved’.
My parents would be just beaming with pride and say, ‘Thank you! Yep, they’re all ours! God has blessed us.’
I wanted to just hide under the table out of embarrassment.
We stuck out like a sore thumb – we couldn’t go anywhere without people staring at us and asking my parents questions about the ‘school’ or ‘orphanage’ they were running.”
Claudia: “Did you all work on the farm growing up?”
Nathan: “Yes we did. But we had two types of work.
We had household chores like dishes and laundry that we did every day and we also had outdoor chores like yard work and feeding the dogs, horses, and chickens.
Oh also milking the goats!
I can’t tell you how many goats I have milked in my life or how many gallons of milk I was responsible for – I hated that job.
The goats were my mom’s project, we didn’t even drink the milk. I think maybe my mom sold it to people to feed to their calves – or maybe my younger siblings drank it – but my older brothers and I hated it and we refused to drink it.
We didn’t get paid for our chores, but when we worked for my dad in the fields driving tractors, helping with the harvest, or anything related to farming, he would always pay us cash.
I think we made 5 per hour. It was nice to make some cash working for my dad.
But as I got older I didn’t have so much fun operating farm equipment. It sort of stressed me out.
My dad is an amazing farmer with an excellent reputation, but he was always under a lot of pressure to get everything done right and as fast as possible.
I remember the day, when I was 11, that I decided I didn’t want to be a farmer.
It was during the almond harvest. Almond orchards are the driest dustiest places on the planet and the harvesting equipment whips up so much dust that by the end of the day you are covered head to toe in powdery brown dust that you have to use an air-blower at the end of the day to get it all off of you before you can go in the house.
Anyway, my dad was extra stressed out that particular day and he was trying to teach me how to drive the sweeper in a very particular pattern so that after 4 or 5 passes, over several rows of almond trees, this machine would have all the nuts that had been shaken out of the trees onto the ground into neat narrow windrows.
But the more he tried to explain the complicated pattern to my poor little non-mathematically inclined mind, the less I understood and the more frustrated he became.
He left me totally confused to go to several other fields to manage his other workers.
Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to get the pattern right.
The more I tried the more of a mess I made until I was just crying out of sheer panic and misery.
Needless to say, when my dad returned several hours later he was less than pleased to find his orchard a total mess and his son a dusty crying wreck!
That was the end of my commercial farming career. Ha ha ha!”
Career And Life Before Italy
Claudia: “My goodness! What a unique set of childhood experiences.
So you decided you were not going to be a farmer at 11, did you know what you did want to be?”
Nathan: “Well at first I was convinced I was going to be a doctor – an orthopedic surgeon to be specific.
My first year of college, my major was “pre-med” but that didn’t last long.
I discovered horticulture and landscape architecture so that’s what I ended up studying and graduating with degrees in.”
Claudia: “Medicine to horticulture and design really is a major change – how did that happen?”
Nathan: “When I was very young my Mom gave me a shady corner of the yard behind our farmhouse and told me it could do anything I wanted with it.
I guess she understood that I needed an outlet for my creativity and desire to make things beautiful.
For years I toiled in that little corner of the yard and called it my ‘Secret Garden’ – I loved it.
It wasn’t long before I had taken over the entire yard and was spending hours and hours each week and too much of my parent’s money at local nurseries.
Looking back, I realize I was such a nerd, but I loved plants and using them to design beautiful landscapes – it gave me a lot of joy.”
Claudia: “After college, you worked in the commercial nursery business didn’t you?”
Nathan: “My first job at a nursery was when I was 18. I loved that job. It was a local garden center I had grown up visiting with my mom – I worked there for a few years while I attended a local college.
After I transferred to a California State College, I was recruited by a large wholesale nursery grower.
They wanted someone to start a propagation department for them. So for the next 6 years, during and after my college years, I designed and helped build several commercial greenhouses, and managed and trained a crew of employees.
We grew millions of seedlings every year in those greenhouses.
I also had the opportunity of turning a barren 10-acre parcel of land into a landscape and garden center open to the public – it was a great experience.
Claudia: “When did you start your design company?”
Nathan: “While I was still employed by the nursery, I started taking on private clients for landscape design work as well as event design projects with a special focus on what I called “botanical design”.
This grew until I was not able to manage both my day job and my own clients. I started my design company soon after and it took off.
I soon had more work than I knew what to do with. For the first several years, I had a business partner who was very talented – she handled most of the bridal wedding side of the business before she eventually retired from the business.
My projects at Nathan Heinrich Design continued to grow in scope and I started doing more work in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Eventually, I started working on the East Coast in New York and I eventually moved there in 2015.
Starting A Podcast
Claudia: “How did you decide to move to Italy and what made you decide to start a weekly podcast about your experience of starting a new life in Italy?”
Nathan: “As you know, I am married to a native Italian, and after 5 years in New York I was ready to shift away from the extreme stress of luxury event design – it was taking a toll on my physical and mental health.
So after the pandemic hit New York, and everyone was scrambling to buy a ‘country house’, I put my carriage house in Nyack on the market and I was bombarded by offers.
While I was in the process of selling the house, I started searching for a podcast on the topic of moving to Italy.
I was surprised to discover that there were no podcasts documenting the process of an American, or anyone else for that matter, moving to Italy.
I got the crazy idea to start my own podcast and document my experience.
That’s how the ‘I’m Moving To Italy’ podcast came to be.
I had no idea what I was doing, but two days before the sale of the house was finalized in November 2020, I sat down in my upstairs sitting room looking out over my property with my little patch of woods and stream in full fall color, with my newly purchased microphone and croaked out the recording of my first episode.
It took me two months to record my second episode and figure out how to edit the audio and set up a podcast after catching COVID while traveling to Italy.
Claudia: “What a wonderful topic and a brilliant idea to record your first episode of the podcast right before moving to Italy.
This past week, I have caught up on your most recent episode – your most informative conversation with the remarkable Tammy from Cheap Italian Dream Homes – I just signed up for her weekly Italian property newsletter.
After reading the beautiful reviews on your podcast and it’s clear that your topics and format are resonating with your listeners.
The “Surrounding Sounds” from Italy at the end of each episode and your newest segment “La Vera Italia” with Vera Sarzano are some of my favorite parts of the show – it’s really developed into something quite special and very unique.
It’s no wonder your show is a number 1 travel podcast in many countries and why you are a top-10 podcast in multiple categories on global podcasting charts.
I noticed that you’ve also got a 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts. Well done.”
Nathan: “Thank you, that’s so kind of you. I agree, I think Vera’s segment has added so much to the show – I can’t imagine doing the podcast without her!
We have the absolute BEST listeners! I can’t tell you how much I love and how connected I feel to our listeners from all over the world!
We have folks listening to the podcast from almost 100 countries and I’m just so humbled and thrilled that people are finding value in what I share.
I do my best to keep it real with the listeners.
I have told them from the very beginning that I’m more interested in sharing my pathetic and embarrassing ‘fumblings and bumblings’ with them than some manufactured fake version of ‘La Dolce Vita’.
Keeping it cringe-worthy and sharing my endless mistakes as I try to adjust to life in Italy gives people who are planning to do the same thing some comfort as they realize there’s no way they can be anywhere near the catastrophic disaster I have been since moving here.
Claudia: “I have to admit you had me in hysterics in your third episode when you shared that story of you hiding under the bed from your Italian in-laws!
You’ve had so many different experiences since moving here and I must admit you have navigated them with a great sense of humor – I think sharing your mixed experiences, both the highs, and lows, makes you relatable and gives people the courage to embark on an adventure of their own.
Nathan and I talked for several hours about a number of other topics, we had such a wonderful visit.
If you are considering a move to Italy or some other exciting location, or even if you’re simply afraid to take a leap of faith and do something in your life that both excites and terrifies you, I highly recommend listening to Nathan’s podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Nathan shares so much helpful information about life in Italy and he includes some of the best stories that will have you laughing, crying, and rooting for him. Every episode ends on a high note and you won’t want to miss a single one.
Thanks again to Nathan Heinrich for taking the time to share some of his remarkable stories with us – as Nathan would say, “Ciao Ciao Ciao!”
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