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.
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
Mr. Google describes Bellagio as the “Pearl of the Lake”. He
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
And I was. Very.
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
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
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
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
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 inGLORY!
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?)