God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is This Home?

When Ken and I decided that we would move to bella Italia for a year--that we would not just dream but really do it--many people thought we were crazy, others applauded our choice and wished us well and still others envied our willingness to transplant and move to a country whose language we did not know, where we had no relatives and where life would be quite different.

We have now been here a little more than 4 months, have settled in and love it. Already there are discussions about how hard it will be to leave and what it will seem like to be back in the country of bigness, strip malls, fast food and processed foods. Will reentry be difficult? I think so.

We like the small villages here, punctuated by larger cities such as Florence and Siena-- cities that have existed for centuries and have so much to offer. Cities that seem to sing and hum with pride and self-assurance. San Francisco, Boston and New York are such places, too.

We love hopping on the SITA bus, and 40 minutes later finding ourselves strolling the streets and alleys of Florence, window shopping, quickly stepping into a museum, visiting with friends, appreciating the art and serenity in any one of a multitude of churches, eating--ah yes, eating, crossing the Arno and meandering through Santo Spirito, savoring the smells and vitality of the Mercato Centrale--and more, more, more. How envious we will be of our time here when we return to Stati Uniti.

We enjoy driving the country side, exploring white roads that lead to places without sign posts, to silent shrines,

hill top castles, monasteries and abbeys,

forgotten churches,

tumbled stone farmhouses, roaming sheep and delightful trattorias tucked away in small hamlets.

We wonder who lived in that stone house with its shutters hanging askew? What happened to them? Whose is it now? What would we find inside if we dared to go?

Is there a forgotten masterpiece in that little church?

Why does this hamlet exist so far from anyplace else? Our fertile minds fill with questions. So many mysteries. But it is fun and a world away from the life we left in San Diego. Time is so less the master here.

Sometimes we take off in the morning, not really knowing where we will end. We may go to a village an hour or so away and take time to visit the small Sacred Arte museum sure to be there. Or maybe we will stumble on a weekly market we didn't expect to find.

Some of these are quite large, covering many streets and selling a vast variety of items. Others are small with just a few vendors. But--no matter the size, each serves as a social gathering whether one buys or not.

Sometimes we find something but more often, after roaming and looking, we leave empty handed but never with the feeling that time has been squandered. We are a part of Italy and feel it as we participate.

Greve in Chianti has welcomed us. Store owners know us; restaurants save tables for us; butchers cut the meats we want; the local artist freely shares his life and views, his origins in Persia, not Iran; the little woman in the negozio di abbigliamento (clothing store) looks at me and knows exactly what size wool undershirt will be the perfect fit; Luca gives me the perfect haircut and Ken is quite comfortable with the other men of the village in the barbershop, catching up on local gossip--although, he doesn't understand a word of it. So different from the impersonal services at home.

We love where we live--it is the perfect place for us. Our landlords are gracious, fun and have become friends. Casey has a sister in Camilla. Our apartment has character, is comfortable and roomy (by Italian standards) and meets all our needs. We love coming back to it after a trip someplace else. Its location could not possibly be more lovely or beautiful--every day we drink in the views and countryside and enjoy the differences that seasons bring. It is home!!


gentle spirit said...

I am so glad that your adventure has turned out so wonderfully. When will you be returning?We will be moving nearby at the end of May, and will be there until December of each year. Your blog has really made me excited about returning. I took my children to see "Beethoven" in the little theater in Greve. I really enjoy your pictures. Buona giornata! Kim

Gil said...

Beautiful pictures and story!!!

Ella said...

I read blog from time to time and enjoy it. I must say that reading this post brought tears to my eyes as I am Italian born and raised and have been living in San Diego for 17 years. I miss my beautiful Italy so much and through your blog I am able to feel closer to the places I miss and love. The good news is that my family and I will be moving to Italy in Feb 07. Can't wait. Thanks for writing. Ella

Jane said...

I just caught your e-mail as I was getting up from the computer. Isn't
cyberspace wonderful? I am so glad you enjoy the blog and that you find
pleasure in it--just as we find it here. Where do you live in SD? Where are
you moving to in Italy? Anywhere close ot us?

Kim, I forget--or did I know--where are you moving to? I have a very bad memory. I think I could research it but asking may be faster.


Ella said...

Hi again Jane,
I live in sunny Oceanside CA, this is a great place, but too far from my parents who I miss so much. I have 2 kids Francesca 5 and 1/2 and Alex 3 and 1/2.
I am originally from Sicily, Termini Imerese, I will be visiting my parents for a few months, during which we will need to decide where to go. If we decide to stay in Italy we will consider surrounding areas in Rome, Siena and Florence. Do you have any recommendations? I hope the school system is good, I am happy with what I have observed here in Oceanside, school is fun and exciting. My memories of school in Italy are boring and very strict. Hope things have changed. Thanks

Jane said...

Ella, it'll be easier and better to answer you directly so e-mail me (address in my profile)your address and then I can take the time to answer well. One thing to consider though is the terrible state of the $. It is very costly here right now.

Mary Beth said...

Hi there Jane,

I'm back from our beautiful adventure in Italy w/my 3 darlings (and a wonderful babysitter).

I think the kids loved Ravenna best - if only for the magical carousel!

We went to Venice for a day (and they fed too many pigeons too much food.)

And Bologna was wonderful too - great food and all in a all, we had a wonderful 8 days over thanksgiving. take good care and happy natale!

keep writing. - mb

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos and commentry Jane.
I've been to Greve many times - it's a beautiful place. We often stay in Panzano.