Richard Sherwood

Pouring pints across the Boot

Catie Horseman
March 14, 2013

With its unparalleled and legendary wines, Italy is not the first place you’d think to enjoy a pint of Guinness or glass of Jameson Irish whiskey. However, right in piazza Santa Maria Novella, the eclectic cultural heritage of Ireland is only one step away. That’s exactly what Richard Sherwood, founder of Florence’s Fiddler’s Elbow traditional Irish pub, provides.

 

Venturing to Italy over 40 years ago, Sherwood never imagined that his trip abroad would turn into a lifestyle, but he says he was ‘destined to be an expatriate.’ Born in northern Germany after World War II, minutes away from a British Army base, Sherwood entered the world in the back of a taxicab, and was, as he says, ‘born on the road.’ He spent the next few years of his life in Germany, until his father, a Royal Sergeant Major of the British Army, was transferred to Wiltshire, England, where Sherwood developed a passion for his mother’s Irish and father’s English heritages.

 

After his father’s death, Sherwood left London at 19 to study English and German literature. Moreover, he developed a passion for music. As he explains, ‘I got by as a student busking on the London Underground, and at the age of 21, with the “road” still in my heart, I took a year off university and hitchhiked through Europe.’

 

This journey changed the course of his life, as he encountered, for the first time, Italy’s robust, thriving culture. He describes his experience, noting, ‘I remember my first time in Italy as a 21-year-old, hitchhiking through this country, heading towards Greece, and from certain unpleasant experiences here, swearing I would never return.’

 

Soon thereafter, fate stepped in and his stance on Italy changed. After finishing his European hike, Sherwood entered the University of Vienna, where he fell ‘head over kneecaps in love with a beautiful Italian lass.’ Like most expatriates, he chose love over reason and settled in Rome with just a guitar and one pair of shoes.

 

In Rome, he met his two current business partners and opened up Italy’s first Irish pub in 1976, the Fiddler’s Elbow Rome. On the basis of that instant success, the Fiddler’s team quickly made plans for expansion. Having visited Florence several times for musical pursuits, yearning for that taste of home after a long night of strumming away on his guitar, Sherwood set out to bring his pub to a new location in piazza Santa Maria Novella.

 

Despite turmoil in the piazza during the drug wars of the late 1980s, and in spite of apprehensive warnings from peers in the area, Sherwood stayed true to his vision, and the Florence location opened in July 1990.

 

He imagined a place of refuge for locals and travelers alike, hoping to provide a relaxing environment, complete with traditional music, hearty laughter and lots of cold beer. From the ambiance of his pub—complete with low, brick ceilings and rows of mismatched antiques and photographs—to the pour of his pints, Sherwood describes the joint as ‘a place where expats can come and feel a part of the family.’ The pub offers different types of entertainment every day including concerts, open mic nights and cultural events.

 

Now, 37 years later, because of his insatiable passion and unwavering vision, Sherwood has opened numerous Fiddler’s Elbow pubs around Italy. People have the opportunity to enjoy a Fiddler’s pint in Florence, Bologna, Venice and four locations in Rome.

 

Today, Sherwood lives in a small town outside of Rome with the love of his life and their two children, frequently traveling around the country to pour a pint or two, fix an old pub bench or strum his guitar for an unplugged concert. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch him at one of the Fiddler locations.

 

Thanks to Sherwood and the Fiddler team, one can experience ‘the luck of the Irish’ in Italy, where the glass is always half full.

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