02 03 A Vintage Farmwife: My Arms Are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy, Part 3 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

My Arms Are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy, Part 3


Note: I have had this post written for almost 2 weeks, but I just couldn't share about my wonderful journey to Italy at the same time that one of my dearest friends was saying goodbye to the love of her life after a massive heart attack. John's sudden death reminded all of us that we are not promised another breath, no matter our age or the plans we have made or the people depending on us.

I have spent a lot of time the past few days filled with gratitude for normal days with my family, more convinced than ever to LIVE each day, not just exist. 

I am so glad I went to Italy. If you have a dream, don't put it off, friend.

Bellagio, Bellagio, Bellagio

I feel like the pixie dust I was sprinkled with in Italy is starting to wear off, so I need to get my memories down on paper before the magic is completely gone.
Thanks for joining me!

(If you need to catch up, you can read Part One here or Part Two here.)

We were picked up on Saturday afternoon at our hotel, encouraged several times to take Dramamine, and taken to Bellagio, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is one of several villages scattered around the base of Lake Como, a huge body of water at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy.

Mr. Google describes Bellagio as the “Pearl of the Lake”. He is right.

I had never take Dramamine before, but I was scared not to because Laura mentioned it MANY times, so I took two.

The trip was “interesting” to say the least! I loved driving past Italian corn, bean and hay fields and at one point we were even following a John Deere tractor. Who knew?! It made this farmwife feel right at home.

Before long we arrived at the huge lake and began to drive on a very wind-y, narrow road with one blind curve after another. The driver would slow down, beep his horn a few times and go for it. We made it without incident, but I sure wouldn’t want to drive it myself in the little Fiats the Italians drive. Now I understood the Dramamine suggestion, but we all were fine.

And I was. Very. Mellow.

We pulled onto the one narrow street coming into town and headed slowly downhill. My eyes were on overload at the stunning and very “Europeanesque” (I know it’s not a word!) sights all around us.
The colors, the flowers, the old, old architecture, the cobblestone streets, the people on foot, the stores less than a foot from our van windows-beautiful!

We quickly arrived at the Hotel Serbelloni for a reception on a beautiful, flower covered terrace on the shore of the lake to meet Laura, Jeanne and Stephanie, our teachers for the week, and to get better acquainted with the other ladies on the trip. We knew immediately we were in for something special.

This was an Art and Faith Creative Retreat so we were all believers. There is just something remarkable that occurs when God’s girls get together to learn more about HIM. The Holy Spirit in each of us quickly bound us together, and we skipped all the insecure nonsense women so often bring out in one another.

We bonded. Big time!
And that made it all the more fun.

Sidebar TWO: Oh, how I hope you have experienced that special closeness that quickly develops between strangers when you share a love of Christ. If you haven’t, let’s talk about it…….

So here we were. A very open and willing group of Christian women brought together in a place of unbelievable beauty to use the gifts GOD gave us to create art. I had to figuratively keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The next week was full of art lessons and walking tours of beautiful gardens, a villa, a monastery. We rode in fancy cars with drivers to multi-starred restaurants, the ferry to other lake villages and vintage boats-the kind you see in movies set in the 1960’s. On one trip we were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of it all and spontaneously sang the Doxology.

It was awesome!

One afternoon, we split into 3 groups and went to cooking school in a cute little apartment. We later ate the delicious food on the tiny balcony under a 2 story grape arbor. Debbie and I are now certified Italian cooks who can make Tagliatelle, Bruschetta, Ragu, and Tiramisu.  And we have the aprons to prove it. Want to take a cooking class with us when our pasta makers arrive from Amazon?

Sidebar Three: I learned a lesson about hospitality that night. The balcony wasn’t big, the decorations weren’t fancy, everything didn’t match, but the food was delicious, the conversation was important, and we felt so WELCOME.  I need to quit thinking I must have my version of perfection in order to have guests over.

We hiked up and down the cobblestone streets for a little while every afternoon admiring the silk and leather goods. We met and became “friends” with the people who designed and made the shoes we bought in their little workshop in the back of their store. I bet I will wear them until I am 90 and they will still be in style-and they were reasonably priced too!

The Italians are such friendly people and I’m tickled that I now have Italian “friends” on Facebook and can’t wait to get to know them better. Did you know there is a translation feature that comes up when a post is in a different language? How handy!

Our little apartment was in the center of the village, and we soon begin to recognize some people and see them as we went about our day. Marta, Rita, Silvana, Elisabetta, Simona, the sales people where we bought our coffee, our gifts for people from home, and our many bottles of water seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them!

And then there was the food. Oh my. I love the way Northern Italians eat. The food was really fresh and the portions were reasonable and every meal we ate was better than the one before! And the meals last a


And gelato.

I'm sitting at a table along the street. Silvana and Leonardo are in the street. The gelato store is across the street. The street is narrow!

Several people have asked me about the “ART” that I made. I have to say that I really enjoyed the chance to learn and play with watercolors and my chalk pencil and little bitty pieces of paper torn from a fashion magazine.  We made jewelry, a mosaic of the Madonna, a travel journal, a mixed media canvas, and illustrations that symbolize our faith journey.

I had no expectations for myself since I am no artist and I was able to really enjoy CREATING and EXPERIMENTING instead of looking around at the work of others-many of whom were really talented- and feeling small and intimidated. Kudos to our wonderful teachers for making every project accessible for someone like me. It was FUN!

The week flew by and we said good bye with lots of hugs and promises to stay in touch via social media and reunions stateside. If we don’t see each other again here, we will in GLORY!

Our flight home was long and uneventful but God had one last big JOY BOMB for us.  As Debbie and I boarded our plane in Miami headed for Indy, we noticed a large group of young people boarding with us. We could tell just by the looks on their faces and the “light” of their presence that they were Christians who had been on a mission trip. We chatted and learned they had been to Haiti working with children.

Our hearts were turning toward home and our husbands who were waiting for us at the airport, so we decided to work on some Italian phrases to greet them. In our exhausted, slap-happy state, our giggles  at our "Italian" soon turned into flat out nonstop laughter. Yawns are contagious, but laughter is too, and before we knew it, half the plane was cracking up with us.

Can you imagine? A small plane of people laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath-what a wonderful ending to our trip! Isn’t God fun? He invented laughter, you know.

This trip was one of those special life events that takes some time to fully process. I enjoyed it so much and on so many different levels.

I will never forget the time two farm girls from the Illinois prairie went to Italy and will never be the same.

Picture borrowed from Laura and taken by Cathy Walters, photography extraordinaire
Sidebar Four: I love a good list and still have gobs of pictures, so be on the lookout for one more post!

If you are interested in learning more about Laura and her amazing Creative Retreats (I want to go to ALL of them), please check out her blog A Kiss on the Chic. (Don't you just love that name?)

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