Written By Abel Streeter
Photography by Skyler Evergarden
Luxury, tranquility and community are the three adjectives that spring to mind when you visit the nineteen regions of this finely manicured second life community. For over ten years, The Grove has been home to Second Life residence, it is based upon Tuscany in Italy. The landscaped areas are breathtaking with sweeping willows, ornate lanterns and chiseled stone waterfalls .
As you stroll around this peaceful community your eyes wander from the private gated, palatial residencies, lined with mature trees, decorated and landscaped to the highest of standards with ornate Greek statues and idyllic pools adorning the gardens.
The sense of community is what has made the region popular and relevant for over a decade. With cohesive quality builds, spacious social areas and a list of live music and arts events, it is simple to see how the ever evolving country club has continued to blossom.
Once my explorations were over, I had the privilege to meet the man behind The Grove, Crito Galtier at a quiet eatery set with vintage crockery, The Del Vino restaurant. We had a very insightful and interesting discussion about The Grove’s beginnings, where the Grove was heading and the people who make it a community.
Where did it all start?
The inspiration came from Patch Thibaud and Umberto Giano. Umberto started The Grove eleven and a half years ago. He hired Patch to create the foundation of a Tuscan style community. I took over The Grove from Umberto seven and a half years ago and continued the theme as well as growing it. I grew it from ten regions to nineteen.
Can you highlight how it has changed?
It has grown a lot and in many ways. Besides adding nine more regions, we've grown our events that are both public and private. Also, you have to keep up with SL technology. Like changing to all mesh. Virtually all of what was here eleven and a half years ago has had to be upgraded. From planting to buildings, it's all changed yet it still remains the same so far as theme and atmosphere. Plus, overhauling certain areas to breathe new life into them. People rarely want to see the same things they saw eleven and a half years ago. It gets boring. So I'm constantly evaluating what works, what doesn't work and what we can do that's new.
What motivates you to continue with The Grove for over 7 years?
There are many things, actually. The residents I get to meet here are always exciting. It is really exciting getting to know so many people from all over the world. Also, the creative element. While I'm not a builder per se, I love working with my team to come up with new aspects here. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the opportunity to host some of SL's greatest musicians. I host live singers here every Sunday afternoon. There are so many amazingly talented people in SL! And that not only offers me a way to promote their talent, it's also another way to meet more people. It's all about the people, you know?
How involved would you say you are with those living within your region?
Well, of course I help them in any way I can to ensure their property is what they desire. Some have become great friends as well. I also have several events for residents such as The Parade of Homes contest, The fall decorating contest and The Parade of Lights in December. But if people want to just settle in quietly, that's great too.
What are your predictions for the future?
I would say doing a lot of the same things but continuing to do them better. We also don't know what new technology the future holds and those surprises can be exciting. We are always looking for new ways to get the community together. We have several things planned for that which we'll be rolling out soon. More ways to offer the residents opportunities to grow the bonds of a neighborhood.
Did Covid impact The Grove?
It sure did and not only for The Grove but for Second Life in general I believe. COVID brought a lot more people inworld and they needed a place to live. I'm grateful that many chose The Grove. On the other hand, the vaccine, which was a wonderful effort by the global medical community, offered a way for people to leave their real life homes so Second Life sort of rolled back some. I think the next huge event (if you want to call it that) is what Facebook is attempting to do; introducing the metaverse to all the people they have. What those folks are seeing today as something "new", Second Life has been doing for what, nineteen years now? Facebook's version I think will lure people into that realm and make them look around. Many will see how much better Second Life is, so I predict there will be an influx. We'll have to wait and see. But mark my words.
What do you think it is about The Grove that makes it one of the most unique communities Second Life? Why would the new resident choose to make their home here?
For starters, one just has to walk around. I encourage potential residents to go look at what the other communities have then come and see The Grove. If you want to live in the sky, if flat barren ground is what you like, if you want to live in Second Life without ever really experiencing all the magic it has to offer, then The Grove isn't for them. We're a lush community that is rich in creativity and we use elements by the top creators to make it special, more like real life, but more than what they can have in real life. That is where a community starts. If you think, "If you build it, they will come" is all you need, you're wrong. Yes, the build is vital but to be different, you have to be, as you mentioned, hands-on. Just like any business, it's about serving your "customers" and I use the word "customers" loosely. I don't see the people that live here as "customers" but rather like people I have in the neighborhood where I live in the real world. You have to treat them like they are your neighbors. That's what makes The Grove different, special.
What did you find challenging?
I don't look at challenges as bumps. I see them as opportunities. Yes, there were times when I wondered how to get people here but that's just a springboard for looking for new and different ways to do business. That's when my team and I collaborate and the ideas flow. If every day was perfect, we'd all get bored, right? How we overcome anything is about the talented people we have around ourselves and how we all come together to make change. And change is good. Change is, after all, a measurement of time.
What features make The Grove unique?
You know I could make this the longest answer, right? Ok, let's hit the top ones. The sunken garden, our greenhouse pavilion, the beach, our coffee shop called Caffe Diem, the Woodland Park and its amphitheater as well as where we are now, our Del Vino restaurant. There are also three region sized estates that are open to the public. The Hanging Gardens and Magisterium are custom builds by our chief architect, Patch Thibaud and are must see homes. My home, Bellezzamora is also open to the public. I could write an entire article on this question but I'll leave the list there. The best way to discover it all is to come visit, fall in love and call The Grove your home.
In conclusion, The Grove has stood the test of time in an ever evolving, technologically savvy age. And how they have achieved this is simple to see by visiting. As the man himself said, ‘come visit, fall in love and call The Grove your home.’