It’s 3:45 A.M. I am in the throes of jet lag. I arrived home from the indescribably gorgeous Tuscan countryside last night, a zombie, weighed down in bags and chocolate (and a few extra pounds around my middle). I could barely tell my family about my trip because I was in that sliver of space between asleep and awake. I made it until 8:40, when I had to call it, falling into my bed like a dead weight. I think I was moaning from the pleasure of my cool sheets, my own mattress, or maybe it was just the pasta coma I was still in.
The trip was to honor my yoga teacher, Roni Brissette’s 20th year of teaching. But it was so much more than just an anniversary soiree. Spending a week with people who you only know in a classroom, where they are trying to perfect their Bhujangasana and Utthita Parsvakonasana, speeds up intimacy. I left Val D’Orcia with 15 new friends.
Something interesting about the makeup of this little travel group was that we ranged in age from 39 to 79. What was fascinating about this was how well we all got along and genuinely liked one another. Might this be a way to accept and respect aging–to have lots of friends at different stages? Am I behind–does everyone already do this?! Really, it was kind of brilliant and I learned as much from the 39-year-old (Lana for president) as the 79-year-old.
Rarely do things equal your expectations, but this trip blew mine out of the pasta pot. The combo of being in a secluded, sophisticated and subtly lux farmhouse, taking day trips to small and postcard-like towns, eating sublime food around-the-clock, walking for miles, laughing our faces off and participating in daily yoga classes was a recipe for vacation nirvana. Perfect, I tell you (you know, except for I wasn’t sharing it with my family and for that I did have some Catholic guilt passed down from my mother’s lineage–thank you Rotellos).
The flavor of Tuscany is different, oh for God sakes, no pun intended. It’s not just the truffle pasta (although everything is the truffle pasta), it’s the importance of not only food but good and beautiful food. It’s the flowers and herbs and vegetables that are planted everywhere and honored like Gods. It’s the vibrant language echoing down through the streets, the quaint villages–every square inch a history lesson, the aged patina, the cobblestones that would blow your mind apart if they could sit down and tell you about their lives over some vino.
There’s not one thing in the world like traveling to set your mind on fire, to challenge your curiosity, nourish an exhausted soul. Italy hits you from all sides, like one of those fabulous showers with multiple heads. It has looks and brains. It honors its monumental history while keeping you firmly entrenched in the day. Dolce vita prevails, not just because everything is set to make it so, but because Italians know this is the secret of life–to enjoy the good stuff, to eat the rich pasta without thinking calories, to gorge on garden fresh vegetables, to tear a hunk of crusty bread and smother it in olive oil, like you were smothering a baby in kisses. Drink the wine with lunch. There’s a siesta every afternoon–how civilized and gorgeous a way of living is that?
I have a muffin top of gratitude. This trip enriched every pore. I will never forget the generosity shown to me by people I barely knew, the eurphoric days of sunshine and pasta, the inability to escape beauty, the photo opportunities around every curve of winding road. It was a week of pure bliss, born of a love for an exceptional yoga teacher and person, which turned into so much more. How lucky to find myself in this situation, in this community of asanas and amazing, kick-ass humans. How lucky am I and how very, very grateful.