Updated: Mar 1, 2020
It is hard to believe that it is time to say ‘Arrivederci Italia’. In a way, I feel like I will never be ready to go home. In other ways, I know my Tenterfield Cottage with its lemon tree, Kevin and Rosie and our menagerie are waiting for us. You could not find anyone who loves Australia more than me, especially the tiny little place in the mountains called Tenterfield that is my home. Sometimes I feel though that my heart belongs in two places. Australia and Italy. I love both these places so very much.
This trip to Italy has been a life-affirming trip, I thought I would be revisiting demons, but instead, I was surrounded by angels, though I truly believe that all those angels were in fact just one. I was also reminded of things that I hold dear to my heart. Perhaps it is just this part of Italy and those people I have been fortunate to have met, but this is the Italy I have found and the one that I love. So, as I say Arrivederci Italia, I also say thank you for the reminders of a sweet life, well lived.
We always think we need more than we do. I travel light. It is something that the kids and I have become adept at. But we still brought more than we needed. I lived in my jeans and two black jumpers. My jacket, beanie and scarf. I brought two scarves I needed one. I wore a dress on the plane that I wore once or twice when here. Everything else apart from my underwear and pyjamas was not needed. It always amazes me how much we think we need when in reality, we need very little to live an incredible life. It is not what we own, but what we do with what we have that matters.
An unplugged life can lead to a world of wonder and unexpected moments. I am not against technology and all that it brings to our world. I could not travel or have the relatively flexible life I do without Wi-Fi, my laptop and the ability to work wherever I am. In a way, I need to be plugged in all the time to ensure that my work gets done. But in other respects, I love being unplugged and apart from work, I have no desire to be plugged in at all. My mobile has dodgy international roaming, so I only have it in case of emergencies and use it for work when I have Wi-Fi at set hours of the day. In Italy, I tended to work both very early and very late. The thought of doing “Insta-stories” or “live videos” makes me queasy as it would mean being connected and relying on devices and forgetting to see.
When we drove, we drove without GPS or even maps, that was how we found the house of the Medici’s. When we arrived somewhere like Florence, we never had a plan. We wanted to catch a bus to Fiesole in Florence, so we did it the old-fashioned way, asked for directions, looked at a map, got lost for hours and enjoyed the world we wandered in. I truly believe that being unplugged leads to the magic that we have almost forgotten how to enjoy. It is a magic of not knowing what is around the corner, of not knowing the answers.
Il dolce far niente. In Italian, the sweetness of doing nothing. In English, being lazy. I love how in Italian it sounds like a decadent and rich reward whereas in English it almost sounds like something you should be guilty about. In my quest to visit the hill-towns of this region, we really were relishing doing absolutely nothing. Find a hill town, wander the laneways, sit in the sunshine and sometimes fall asleep on the grass. Doing cartwheels in Montecatini. Wandering the waterways at the Podere and waiting until at least one of the boys fell in.
We live in a world where many people wear “busyness” as a badge of honour. Those moments when I could put away my laptop and know my work was done, it was the hours of doing nothing, apart from occasionally pretending to be Italian, that were the sweetest of all.
Eat simple food, in season. I think most of the Italian food that I love is an exercise in simplicity. Limone gelato is sugar, lemon and water. Penne with Pomodoro e Basilico – pasta with tomato and basil. Schiacciata bread – water, yeast, flour, olive oil and salt. The vegetables that are eaten are in season, like fennel for example which is eaten as is, or with a dash of oil and salt. Italian food reminds me how good food can be when it is in season and prepared with love. It is not about a million flavours, but rather a handful of exquisite flavours that are almost revered.
You don’t need a banquet to have a feast. Bread, olive oil, salt and red wine. That for Italians sounds like a party! But then almost anything is an excuse for a celebration. It amazes me to be reminded here of how little you need to feast and celebrate. Feasting is not just about food but rather about the preparation, the people you love, the discussions, (endless discussions) from where the food or wine originated. If you are with the people you love, if you have food and wine that you enjoy, then you have a feast.
Life is so short, so do what you love. I put off this trip for a long time. I was worried about money, I daydreamed about travelling without having to work. I was anxious about the demons that I thought I would meet on the way. I gave myself a million excuses. But eventually, the voices in my head, told me I had to come to Italy. It didn’t matter that I had to work. One day I will holiday properly but, in the meantime, how lucky am I? The kids and I found the money and what we spent on airfares was simply priceless for what we received in return. Italy makes me happy, and I have only scratched the surface. I love wandering; I love pretending to be Italian, I love not knowing what this amazing country is going to reveal to me next. I love the people we have been lucky enough to call our Italian family.
Quite simply I love being in Italy. Life is short, and I truly believe we should fill it with things you love.
We always think we need more than we do. Give yourself the chance to live an unplugged life. Enjoy il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. Eat simple food, in season. You don’t need a banquet to have a feast. Life is short, so do what you love.
Arrivederci Italia and thank you.