Books · Travel

Bella Tuscany: This Time Last Year

I want to share a story of something that happened one year ago today.

But first the backstory. I love all things Italian and I know the exact time and place this love affair started. It was years ago, late at night after wrangling three children all day. I fell exhausted into bed with Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I was a few chapters in when, inexplicably, tears started rolling out of the corner of my eyes.

What in the world? I searched my brain…was I just too tired? Where was this emotion bubbling up from?

I finished the book in the next few days and simply could not get images like these out of my head:

I have as much as I can carry. The other stop I’ll make is at the cooperative cantina for some local wine. Near the end of the sinuous line of market stalls, a woman sells flowers from her garden. She wraps an armful of pink zinnias in newspaper and I lay them under the straps of my bag. The sun is ferocious and people are beginning to close down for siesta. A woman who has not sold many of her striped lime and yellow towels looks weary…and…All summer the sun strikes the Etruscan wall directly at dawn. It wakes me up, too. Behind the pleasure and fresh beauty of sunrise, I detect an old and primitive response: the day has come again, no dark god swallowed it during the night…and…He peels a peach in one long spiral and just because this was all too pleasant we open a second bottle of prosecco and wile away another hour before we drift in to rest and revive our energy for a walk into town to case out the restaurants, stroll along the parterre overlooking the valley, and, hard to contemplate, begin our next meal.

I realized soon where the tears came from. I was truly “homesick for a place I’d never been.” From that point forward, I began to long to somehow “go back to” this boot-shaped country.

At some point over the years though, I began to wonder if the reality of this place would somehow fall short of what I believed it to be. Perhaps I had created an Italy in my mind that was unreal and if I did ever make it for a visit, I feared being disappointed. So I settled for books and was quite happy with descriptive language instead.

Yep. I like me a good book about It-Lee.
Yep. I like me a good book about It-Lee.

So, I was a bit anxious last year, when  the opportunity for a short week in Italy presented itself.  I couldn’t let the chance go by, so with Todd’s blessing, my dear friend and I hopped a plane to meet our daughters who’d been “studying” in Germany. The four of us decided that Florence, bella Firenze, would be our home base for a short week of travel.

A lump the size of a Tuscan green olive grows in my throat whenever I relive the magic of this trip.  The beauty and heat, the very smell of history. The stone, the smiles, the espresso, the art, the gelato. Too much!


I sat down at my desk this morning and pulled out my travel journal. I was curious to remember exactly what we were doing last year on July 6th.  One of my favorite stories jumped off the page at me. We’d arrived in Florence the night before. We schlepped our luggage up 3,499 stairs and were delighted to discover this view from our 4th story apartment window on Via Dei Servi:

The Duomo atop The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
The Duomo atop The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Holy Cow! (Or I guess I should say “Vacca Sacra!”) We were going to be sleeping 2 blocks from an official World Heritage Site. Score!

The next morning, July 6th, I woke up early, disoriented and feeling like I’d overslept. There was light coming in our bedroom window from behind the curtains so I tiptoed over to peek outside. There was light all right….the light of a golden full moon poured into our room.  She was poised directly over the cross at the pinnacle of the Duomo.

One of my all time favorite things is a full moon. Love. So I took this little moment as a precious gift and blessing on my first morning in Italy.   I believe God woke me up at that precise time, when the moon hung was suspended in exactly that spot and whispered into my soul, “I see you. I knew this would delight you. Welcome to Tuscany! You are SO not going to be disappointed.” And He was exactly right.

IMG_3726 IMG_3721 IMG_3707 IMG_3171


Maybe someday, I can go back again. I’d love to show Todd this place that stole my heart. Until then, I am so grateful for the stories I have. Once you live a story, it (and the pics you take) will always be with you.

Caitlin, Becky and Sarah….Who said $90 croissants weren’t worth a stolen spoon? Yes, there is definitely a story there…

2 thoughts on “Bella Tuscany: This Time Last Year

  1. I love this for you. I thought of this the first of the week when a year ago I was headed to Boston and you to Italy, and at church that Sunday before all we had time for was a big hug and smiles that surpassed words because we were thrilled for the adventures before each other. What a blessing of an experience for you! Loved seeing your pics again!

  2. I want to travel to this part of Italy! Even more so after reading this. While I adored Rome, it seems another world to Tuscany. Another trip to took forward to . . .

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