I turned 40 in July 2012. Ben suggested we celebrate in Italy. What do you say to a suggestion like that? Yes!
When we started talking about the places we might like to see, the things we would like to do…there were so many choices. When we travel we are not ones to visit a place for a day, see the large monuments, tick the boxes and move on to the next. We like to sit in a place for as long as we can, usually at least a week, and immerse ourselves. So with six weeks in Italy we tried to do just that.
Our first stop was Venice. This was Maya’s favourite place in Italy. We rented a self contained little apartment near the Rialto Bridge.
We are extremely passionate about eating. So one of the first things we like to do is find a local market or supermarket to buy snacks and other basic necessities. This is always so much fun. We LOVE wandering the aisles to see the local foods and try and work out what things are. The Rialto Fish Market was an easy stroll and full of beautiful fresh local produce.
The following days were spent getting lost in the stunning laneways of Venice. Stopping for gelato and coffee and more wanderings. We found a quiet spot along the Grand Canal and watched how this incredible city flowed. Ben is an Urban Designer, so trying to understand how a city such as Venice functions was quite mesmerising. Actually most of Italy fascinated him in regard to the town planning aspects and lack of.
We reluctantly left Venice, vowing to return (but in a different season) and caught the train to Florence. I won’t post the link of the apartment we stayed in, in Florence, because I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The location was good…
We had spent a lot of time before the trip immersing ourselves in the history of Italy. For the children some of this ancient history was like a tale from the Brothers Grimm. They were particularly enthralled by the Medici family, so Florence really was that open air museum for them.
Ben and I got up early most mornings to jog around the city while most people were still sleeping or sipping their first coffee. I love doing this, not the jogging part, but those quiet early mornings when you have the streets to yourself is really quite magical. We really loved Florence and again made that vow to return.
From Florence we hired a car and drove down to Siena. Ben did an amazing job making his way out of Florence in our little Fiat. I, on the other hand, have no sense of direction and are a terrible navigator, so was completely useless! We drove for several hours and by the late afternoon arrived at what would be our home for the next two weeks. (We were only planning on staying for one week but didn’t want to leave!) You know when you find a place that just fills your heart? A place that makes you sigh deep happiness? A place that you know that will stay with you forever? This was the place.
The ancient house is on top of Rocca D’Orcia. Nestled in a little town of 150 inhabitants. Surrounded by a medieval fortress. We found our little piece of heaven. We walked, we read, we swam, we ate. We embraced every moment. We watched the locals scurry up to their small terraces to pick fruit, vegetables or herbs for their next meal. We drank wine looking over the olive groves and vineyards. We realised how much we enjoyed the simplicity of it all. It was here that really made us think about what really mattered to us. What did we want to be doing? Where did we want to be? How did we want to live?
At the time we were living in inner city Melbourne. It was fun. It was stimulating, but it wasn’t feeding our souls.
This slow, conscious way of life had always interested us and was something we wanted to try, especially while the children were still young enough. This was the turning point.
This was the Here + There.
We left Rocca D’Orcia and Italy with a new appreciation of connection. Connection with the land, the seasons, with food, and with family.
A year later we moved to our little farm and our connection to this adventure is always so close to our hearts.
p.s here is the link for our little piece of heaven..