DSC00943Italy has a way of encompassing you, like the bosomy hug from your favorite aunt, the one who let you speak freely, made the best cookies, and always told you that you could run away to her at any time. Thus, as I re-read my favorite passages from a year ago, Italy is not just in my mind today; it’s all around me. Here’s why:

…The Sea water is high as I write. It’s early because we leave today. The Piccolo Marina restaurant isn’t open yet. How much I want to tell the cameriere that I’ve enjoyed watching him sweep the floor every morning as I sit here with my toes in the water and write, and how much I’ll miss seeing him. But he isn’t here, and I wouldn’t really tell him that, anyway. He’s the first person I saw and spoke to in the Cinque Terre, and so, the first person I fell in love with here. Since, I’ve fallen in love over and over again with the people, the flowers, the food, and the Sea. Ah, but you never forget your first.

The little black fish are swimming around my feet. They don’t mind me at all—as if I’m part of the rocks here. There’s another lady who just walked down—I’ve been wonderfully alone up to now. The water felt a bit cool at first, but now feels refreshingly right, just like when we jump in after hiking and trekking out for the day. I’ve spent time in the Sea every day.

You wake up here to the smells of cinnamon, or celery, or pasta cooking. Every morning has been an aroma adventure welcoming you into the day. And the church bells that begin at 7 and remind you of the hour and of the half hour, well, they’re loud and I get mad at them. But I also find myself listening for the next set of bells to remind me of the time. I don’t set the alarm anymore. 401

Keith said yesterday that this would be a hard life, physically, with the constant up and down of all the stairs—hard enough that no one would choose it by choice. I agreed it must be difficult to build and farm in the mountainside—the stairs alone would hurt even the healthiest of knees. But I also believe that the Cinque are so beautiful that these people couldn’t help but want to live here, they were pulled and called here, and they adapted every part of their life systems to make it work. That’s love. Love of olives, grapes, wine, and fish. Love of storms and sunshine and Mountain and Sea.

Amazon’s got my book: Upside Down Kingdom.