This is my last full day of living this fairy tale in Italy. What began as a surprise elopement with the kids in tow, has evolved into a love affair with all things Italian. I am smitten, and longing to return even before I head to Rome’s FCO Fiumicino Airport.
After COVID dashed several attempts to gather friends and family for a castle wedding in the British countryside – Will and I decided to elope in Tuscany – our twice cancelled honeymoon destination. Disguised as a family vacation, the kids were in the dark about our wedding plans until the night before. Our day was truly magical. The anxiety and stress leading up to getting on the plane floated away into the Tuscan countryside. With Omicron and pandemic numbers climbing, and 5 PCR tests to pass – I’d pretty much thrown in the wedding towel – but Will determinedly declared we’d make a “game day” decision. How do you say, ‘game on’ in Italian?
So, what is it about Italy that has me crushing on absolutely everything from the gorgeous shutters to the bumpy lemons? The food, of course. The wine we’d pick up for a few euros a bottle. Those are both givens. But for me, it was more about the slowing down of time that had me so mesmerized with how life could and should be. Italian culture and ‘la dolce vita’ are all about a sensible, natural, beautiful work-life balance. Embedded in the Italian culture is the philosophy that work should be secondary to the enjoyment of life. Truly contradictory to our work hard - play hard lifestyle. I’ve never had a month off, because I didn’t have time – or, I didn’t make time. But, oh, what lessons I have learned.
My memories of sipping cocoa-dusted cappuccinos from a beautiful cup, in a beautiful piazza – instead of hitting a drive-thru for a coffee to-go in paper cup with a plastic lid – followed by spilling the coffee down my work clothes as I drive and dash to my next showing. I already know I won’t have to time for sitting and sipping anything with spring market preparations underway – but as I write this – I make a promise to myself to go back to that cappuccino moment whenever life spins into instant coffee mode.
I also vow to buy high-quality coffee, and to enjoy one cup – instead of an entire pot of the bargain brand. Local coffee bean roasters will be my new best friends. I will shop in small batches – and if I can find my bean grinder, I’ll take the time to grind my coffee beans.
Savour everything. I will eat slowly, and enjoy every bite. I will pause between courses. I will sit and relax before jumping up and loading the dishwasher. A dishwasher! I have even enjoyed washing dishes by hand in Italy. What’s with that?
Vino. Meghan, don’t just drink wine – stick your nose in it, smell it, swirl it around in your glass, and swish it around in your mouth. Taste the soil, the sun, the history. Pour your favourite red into a jug and set it in the middle of the table. I admit, it will be hard to NOT have a glass of wine with the midday meal, because there’s no afternoon napping where I am heading.
Dressing to impress. For Italians, it’s more than just looking the part – it’s living and breathing the finest fabrics and tailoring – elegantly and effortlessly. The way the Italian men and women toss on a scarf is an artform! I vow to take the time to find my style and show to the world. (No offense to my Lulus and Wellies.) Just before we left on this adventure, I hired guru stylist Tara Wickwire to overhaul my closet. In reflection, I highly recommend a closet refresh. I love quality over quantity in all things in life, and Tara had me rethinking and recycling. Looking back, I guess it was a little advance ‘dolce vita’ training. Slow shopping. Slow dressing.
Even a walk in the Tuscan countryside has a way of luring us into the Italian dream. The trees. The terra cotta rooftops. I have revelled in the beauty, the scenery, the architectural details, and the Renaissance art. I know we are returning to snowy, dark and long Canadian winter days – but despite the weather – I am committed to creating a sweet life in my home and garden. I will be mindful of simple things – from meals, to flower arrangements, to what I wear to work.
I think ‘dolce vita’ has always been a part of my DNA, and I thank my ‘mama’ for that. She stressed the importance of incorporating simple pleasures into our home – fresh flowers, a beautiful table setting, local market ingredients in the summer months. This is now my internal challenge to refine and practice. To slow down – not to be interpreted as lazy – but to put more intention into work and life.
Thank you, Italy for showing me your many layers, and faces, and kindnesses. Thank you for the extra baggage I am taking home, ever grateful that I own pants with stretchy waistbands. Thank you for reinforcing what love is. Amore. We didn’t just get married in Italy, we got married to Italy.
One last thing. The bells. Church bells ringing, echoing down cobblestone streets and across the gentle hills. Bells all throughout the day were my only point of reference – I lost all sense of time in Italy. I woke up. I went to bed full, and happy. What happened in between was serendipitous and life changing. Stop, and really listen the next time you hear church bells. Time is all we’ve got, so make time to take time, and spend it wisely. Preferably in a Euros state of mind. Inizio partita!