It’s been a busy few weeks… below, the condensed version of my life of late:
#1) I move to my own apartment, it’s just one block from the river. In 10-minutes-flat, I unpack everything I own. The apartment is furnished with the following: three kitchen tables, (no idea why), seven kitchen chairs, three of which, I personally reclaimed from the side of the road, one hutch, one dresser, two “plywood firm” beds, a 70′s style puffy leather-like chair, and 15″ TV with wobbly stand. While this may sound like a full apartment, understand there are two bedrooms, a living room, a large entrance, a kitchen, and bathroom… AND now ME; smiling from ear to ear. I’ve rented my own place in Florence… three months in paradise has expanded to five.
#2) I purchased a stunning new bike. It has a bell, and a basket, transporting me throughout the city…my smile grows!
#3) I sign-up for Italian lessons…. I’m the worst student in class. I try to hide my discomfort with an unconvincing painted-on fake smile.
It’s Easter weekend. Italy is magical in spring, every bud is bursting, as the sun warms, and paints the Tuscan hills, with a burst of colour.
My friend Monica has invited me to join the trio of lovely ladies, who live in her neighbourhood, for a Good Friday celebration at her church in Maiano. This quaint church is nestled in the hills of Tuscany. Monica, Laura, Gyorgyi, and I arrive, and settle into our pew. Ten minutes into the sermon, the rear door opens and a gentleman marches toward the altar, he takes a bow, and sits in a chair directly beside the altar, the chair appears to be reserved for someone of great importance. He looks down at all the parishioners below, as if he is taking inventory. I turn to Monica and whisper “The Mayor of Maiano?” She stifles a laugh, and nods “Yes”. I should mention, on our way to church Monica described a fellow who is the self-appointed Mayor of this sleepy village. Only two problems; firstly the village does not have a Mayor, and secondly this man doesn’t even live in Maiano. The poor guy is hopelessly confused. Every Sunday, he drives in from Florence, sits facing the congregation totally convinced that he is the Mayor of Maiano. The kindly priest can’t bring himself to ask “The Mayor” to sit with the rest of the congregation. I smile with the addition of a snicker and a chuckle.
After mass, we walk along the path to Settignano – the picturesque field, and castle where the movie “Room With A View” was filmed. As we walk, I’m touched by these three extraordinary women, who have invited me into thier lives, on this Holiday weekend.
This combination of experiences envelops me with the magic that is Tuscany…my heart is brimming with gratitude, and my smile is genuine.
Following our picturesque walk, we arrive at Gyorgyis home, the girls make authentic Italian pizza with fresh buffalo mozzarella & vine ripened-tomatoes.
We toast the day with Prosecco, laughing until 2:00 a.m… as I ride home on my cherished new bike, the brilliance of the Easter moon illuminates my path, the crisp night air caresses my face, while I sing to myself the entire ride home, grinning like a schoolgirl.
The following morning, I set out on my bike, to purchase supplies for Easter dinner. I buy meat at the butchers, fruit at the vegetable stand, bread from the bakers, wine at the wine store, and cured meat from the corner deli…………..I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!!! (if you say this part really really loud, you’ll appreciate what I’m feeling)
On Easter Sunday, I wake early not wishing to miss the sunrise, or one moment of this glorious day. I sit on my windowsill savouring the sun, the light, and an espresso, for hours, inspired by the sound of the church bells, as they ring continuously throughout my beloved Florence.
I smile blissfully, standing shoulder to shoulder, with these beautiful people, enjoying the familiar aroma of espresso, mingled with warm pastry. I can’t believe this is real.. would someone please pinch me!!! Ohhh wait a minute, I forgot… I’m in Italy, pinches were invented here, God only knows what would happen if I actually asked for one.
I ride to the vineyard where Monica lives, for our Easter Day celebration. Laura, the artist of the group, hand-paints eggs, while Monica, and I prepare dinner.
As I slowly pedal home, not wishing for the day to end, I realized my face hurts from smiling all weekend. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Easter Celebration.
Quote ~ Andy Rooney ~ “If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it”