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Time in Tuscany

Years ago, I had a dream of travelling to and existing in Tuscany - the land of my roots - Italia! Well, nine or so years ago I took action and booked a week stay in the heart of Tuscany - a charming family-owned villa called: Villa Le Torri. I fell instantly in love with Tuscany; the cuisine, the culture, and the endless rows of olive groves and vineyards. It’s like nothing I have ever experienced. No trip or destination has ever come close. When I travel to Tuscany I feel as if a part of me is home. It’s as if I never left. I am confident that my soul existed here a thousand years ago and it continually calls my spirit home.

What I noticed about Tuscany is that you can’t just go for a week. There is too much love to experience in this quilted countryside, a 20 minute drive from the heart of Florence. So, for the past eight consecutive years Angela and I lengthened our stay from one week to three months in 2020, during the global pandemic.

Let me take you back to March 2020. I had been returning to Tuscany to write transformational novels and movie screenplays. I know right - what does a formerly-trained architect know about writing novels? Well, I guess in my former life I must have been a writer. When I travel to Tuscany all I want to do is cook, eat, drink and write! I wrote three novels in Tuscany up to this point so in 2020 I was hungering for more of Tuscany. We originally planned a one month stay. We discovered in the past few years that existing in Tuscany in the early spring was the best. No tourists! We love it. So, in March 2020 we set off for our next Tuscan adventure and oh what an adventure it was. Like most of the world, we heard about rumblings of a flu virus in Northern Italy but we didn’t really think much of it. We had no issues with flights or driving from Florence to our villa. It was about ten days in when the words: ‘lock down’ began scrolling across all of the newsfeeds. Our family was screaming for us to come home to an out of control, toilet paper hoarding chaotic Canada. Hmmm. Do we choose to go back or remain in the vineyards surrounded by rolling hills, majestic views and limitless bottles of red wine?

I believe we were given a gift in the spring of 2020. Aside from the villa owner and his family, we were alone - the only guests existing at this wondrous nine room vacation villa. We knew that we would never again experience this gift. I chose to write my fourth novel - ‘The Life I Notice’ for that was exactly what we were doing in Tuscany; ‘Noticing Life … noticing what Matters.’ I hadn’t planned on writing this sequel but when God gives you lemons you don’t question it, instead you make limoncello. So, that is what I did. I purchased a stack of writing pads and pens from a charming convenience store in the nearby village of San Quirico. I planted myself in the olive grove, nestled in a sea of a thousand glistening olive trees and looked up at the Tuscan sun and expressed the highest version of my soul. Writing ‘The Life I Noticed’ during these three months in Tuscany was like living a miracle.

I’ve always loved Italian food and cooking. Over the years, existing in Tuscany, I learned to master my skills for Tuscan cuisine. Sauces, pastas, breaded eggplant, fresh bread and pizza cooked in an outdoor oven were just some of the inspired influences. The way the Italians celebrate life and food is truly inspiring. In North America, we have it backwards. We don’t take the time to eat, linger and enjoy a delicious meal with friends and family on a consistent basis. In Tuscany, it’s not surprising to witness men and women in their seventies actively moving and participating in the daily chores. They have a sense of purpose. They wake up with the rising sun and joyfully go about their day living life to the fullest before ending it all by savoring a glass of Chianti under a glorious sunset. It’s one of the reasons I love spending time in this majestic part of the world.

I’m drawn to the long wooden harvest tables and fireplaces is the heart of Tuscan villas. Kitchens are open with gleaming white pasta bowls resting on wooden shelves, begging to be filled with a daily fresh pasta. Food is organic and deliciously healthy. Tuscan farmers rarely go to the store for vegetables but rather eat what is in season from their lush vegetable garden. One of my favorite Saturday rituals was sitting with the family at the outdoor table next to the pizza oven, eating dozens of freshly-made pizzas for a two hour eating extravaganza. We would then go on a long walk across the Tuscan countryside soaking in views of quilted vineyards and thousand-year-old stone villas that have stood the test of time and two wars.

Tuscany will always be home to me and my creations. I can’t wait to share what I have experienced with my two daughters one day. I picture the three of us sitting under the large tree at the end of the villa, looking out onto an audience of olive trees, smiling back at us. We’re enjoying one another in new ways, laughing and listening to the distant chime of the village bell tower.

Tuscany has touched my soul and inspired me to write from a place that truly moves a reader. Sometimes the best way to describe Tuscany is through a sunrise or sunset. So, I thought I would share a passage from my recent novel, ‘The Life I Left Behind’:

The sun rolls across the horizon. Bright shades of violet and pink meld with each other between Earth and sky. I stand, witnessing the progression of time as past and future intertwine in wildly stirring vivid colors. Time no longer exists here. The only moment that matters is now, the arrival—choice at the end of the line—a chance for Lilly to feel again, begin anew, and create the life her soul desires to live.

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