The vision that kept me focused on turning my dream 0f living in Italy, into a reality, was the image of myself, gazing out over the hills of Tuscany, at the break of dawn, on my 49th Birthday.  I initially had doubts that I could make this happen.  I had no idea how I would achieve this.  Or if it was even possible.   My intuition hinted to my heart, if I moved forward in the belief that it was attainable, the details would work themselves out.

I could move to the country that captured my heart three years ago.
could give myself the gift of travel for the next few months.
could open my eyes on my birthday and be living the dream.

In my hasty departure, I neglected to consider a few scenarios I now find myself facing.  #1-I am completely alone in a foreign country.   #2-I’m in the middle of Italy’s bone chilling winter.   #3-My Italian language skills consists of:

“CIAO” “SI” “GRAZIE” & “PREGO” (“Hi” “Yes” “Thank You” & “You’re Welcome”).

Yesterday, I woke to jet lag’s disorienting impact.  In addition, the  sensation of a dozen  Italian butterflies, flapping their designer wings, in the pit of my stomach, resulted in a confused state: firstly excitement, then fear.  I’m mildly acquainted with a total of four people in this city, two of whom are on vacation, the third is immersed in renovations, and lastly, Issam, whom I’ve had no contact with in over 3 years.  My idyllic vision of waking up in Tuscany on my birthday, could possibly end with loneliness and seclusion.  Unforeseen complications in activating my cell phone, had further added to the feeling of isolation.  Spending the day wandering the chilly streets alone, was not exactly what I had in mind when I came up with this bright idea to fly off to Italy, in January.

I decided to contact Issam, who is the owner of, “Fun In Tuscany“, a tour company here in Florence.  He agreed to meet me for a quick coffee.  Sitting in a cafe, near his office, we enjoyed espresso and fresh pastries, while sharing stories of our lives since we last spoke.  He encouraged me, to join a private tour, scheduled for late afternoon, and evening, on the day of my birthday.   The program included, wine tasting at a vineyard, in the Chianti region, shopping in Siena, dinner, and gelato, in San Gimignano, and finally a midnight view of Florence, from  Piazzale Michelangelo.  The existing group consisted of, two lively couples from Malta, Issam assured me, they would not mind an extra person tagging along.

What a unique gift to myself… both engaging and memorable, not the least isolated or alone.  I accepted his offer, anticipating my first Italian adventure.

On this, my birthday morning, I purposefully wake before dawn to prepare my breakfast for one: a pot of Earl Grey tea, a lightly toasted baguette, fresh homemade fig jam, and  peeled sections of a sweet Taracco-orange.  I stand content at my window immersed in morning’s first light as it reveals the spectacular hills before me.

View from my bedroom window

One week ago, on the frenzied day I’d left Calgary, my daughters assisted me in the final packing, cleaning, organizing my home for a renter, and rescuing me from any loose ends, I’d overlooked.  Upon my arrival in Italy, I discovered a deliberately hidden package, they’d buried deep in my suitcase.  I’m grateful this morning, for this unexpected, and thoughtful present.  I feel a rush of excitement knowing that even if it’s a pair of tube socks, I will love it because it’s from them.
Carefully considering how I want to experience this significant morning.  I arrange myself comfortably on my bed, surrounding myself with pillows, nestling under cosy blankets.  I face the window, hot tea, and warm toast on the bedside table, eager to open the special present from my three beautiful daughters.

Reading the inscription on the inside page, my fingers touch my mouth in reverence, a delighted cry escapes my lips.  They have created a personalized photo album, filled with pictures of all the special people in my life.  Tears stain the pages as I turn them one by one.  The images in the photos, creating vivid memories of my adored children, and extraordinary friends.

As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I see once again the view before me.  A winding stone wall, borders a silent vineyard patiently anticipating Spring’s first bloom.  Morning mist swirls and envelopes the distant hills like delicate silk, as the Italian sun warms this crisp January morning.

I’m far from alone as I sit, embracing my loved ones, smiling at me now, from the pages of this exceptional gift.  I’m reminded I have the love and support of enough people to fill an entire photo album.  The miles between the faces in the pictures, and my quiet room in Italy, suddenly seem non-existent.

Special Photo Album

Six weeks ago, I had a fantasy of where I wanted to be on my 49th birthday.  This spectacular morning far exceeds even my wildest dreams.

I lovingly place the album on my bedside table, delighting once again in the breathtaking view outside my window, wondering how the upcoming day could possibly top this morning.  Or could it?


About Italian Living

I'm an interior decorator from Canada. I own a design firm. I have three grown daughters who are confidant women living busy lives. I love my family my friends and my life, however, something is missing. December 3rd, my eyes open at 3:33 a.m. It's time to fulfill my lifelong dream of living in Italy..... I rent my house, pack my bags, say a final farewell to all the people I love most in this world and hop on a plane January 13th.... alone. This is my story...
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  1. Jack McLin says:

    I keep seeing you finding your way in Italy Shauna. Don’t keep us hanging by our fingernails- wondering what happens next

    Auntie Agnes.


    • Thank you Auntie Agnes, I’m working on keeping you on the edge of your seat now.
      I’m enjoying going back and reliving it myself.
      My girls are taking me away for the weekend, staying in a hotel here in downtown Calgary. Wanted to drive to Banff, but the weather here is brutal. Best to stay off the roads. Want to keep my baby boy, ‘grandchild’ safe!! 😉


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