Italy, in many ways, has taught me to love. In Tuscany, I think of chefs like Fabio Picchi, who radiates an eccentricity and passion for everything he touches. Or Giorgio, my favorite farmer at the Sant’Ambrogio Market, cupping a fresh artichoke in his dirt-covered hands, bundling up a bouquet of fresh herbs for me to take home along with my vegetables. I think of laundry strung above the alleyways and the texture of old stone and crumbling plaster as I walk through the narrow streets of Florence, which open up to wide piazzas filled with swooping swallows.
We all have places like this, and discover new ones each time we travel. Places that remind us to fall in love with our own lives.
This kind of travel isn’t about romance or fantasy. It’s not about escaping our situation or distracting our minds with picturesque views. It’s about waking up, learning to notice details–like Fabrizia Lanza at Regaleali reminiscing about her mother under a palm tree that she planted in the family garden, or an impromptu aria belted out by our bus driver as we navigate the rolling hills of Sicily–and appreciate the magic of our own lives. It’s easier to remember and appreciate the small details when we travel and everything is new, but this kind of love is available to us all of the time.
This is what Italy shows me and I love her for it. The flavor of fresh vegetables plucked from volcanic soil, a theatrical performance by a wild chef, conversations around patio tables and cafe counters with old friends.
If I have been away for months, I can step into my favorite bar and the bar man will see me and welcome me in. I belong here too. He noticed that I was gone and has invited me back in, often with a complimentary coffee or prosecco. I think Italians are genuinely affectionate and their gaze can tell you a lot.
What opens your heart, or touches your heart, opens you to love. What you love, touches your heart and opens it. This can be a kind gesture, a ride on my bike through the fresh air, buying flowers for my altar. Italian is a romance language. It is spoken from the heart. Emotions live there expressed in all sorts of levels and layers, heart open, heart broken. Feeling feels good, even if at times it feels bad. Feeling brings us alive and into the present moment.
Next time you feel contracted and self absorbed, take a walk and look at the sky and say hi. Both will smile.