Non innamorarti di una donna che legge,
di una donna che sente troppo,
di una donna che scrive.
Non innamorarti di una donna colta, maga, delirante, pazza.
Non innamorarti di una donna che pensa,
che sa di sapere e che, inoltre,
è capace di volare.
Di una donna che ha fede in se stessa.
Non innamorarti di una donna che ride o piange mentre fa l’amore.
Che sa trasformare il suo spirito in carne ,
e ancor di più, di una donna che ama la poesia (sono loro le più pericolose),
o di una donna capace di restare mezz’ora davanti a un quadro o che non sa vivere senza la musica.
Non innamorarti di una donna intensa, ludica, lucida, ribelle, irriverente.
Che non ti capiti mai di innamorarti di una donna così.
Perché quando ti innamori di una donna del genere, che rimanga con te oppure no…
Che ti ami o no,
da una donna così, non si torna indietro.
Mai.


— M. R. Garrido

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Words

Pema Chödrön:

‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’

Buon giorno

I’m just waking up to sunny rays glowing through a double stone bell tower and breakfast prepared in the town square below my window. Siena is calling, and I need to get up and be like the travel journalist who’s been turning out fabulous video footage since he got here. I’m kind of ashamed to be enjoying my … suite? It’s like a tiny Tuscan palace, with a stone tiled bathroom, two vasque sinks, a leather sofa, a double bed. I could work here. I mean, really. Don’t they want to pay me to just stay here and write about how fabulous it is to work in their facilities? hmm.

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This morning we’re heading to Siena, this afternoon spa treatment. I want to float in the salt pool. I saw the gastronomy journalist walking around in her spa robe, and I seriously want to do that. To walk through ‘town’ in my robe. But I can’t figure out whether I should go barefoot, wear my slippers, or throw on my Converse; and she is about as friendly as the pretentious food she reviews. I don’t feel comfy asking her, and yes, I forgot to look at her feet. This is my biggest problem today – spa etiquette. Egad.

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Castel Monastero

This morning I caught a train down to Geneva Airport and a plane to Florence. A sweet Italian autista picked me up along with two other journalists and a press attaché, and drove us down about 20-km past Siena to a renovated monastery turned five star spa resort.

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The place is so quiet and peaceful, renovated with so much Tuscan, dare I say Lazian?, taste. Deep brown stone sinks set over stone floors in the spacious bathroom, whose tiny window over looks the courtyard of what was once a town square. We dined in the Tuscan wine cellar/restaurant on quail and truffle sauce, locally cured meats and cheese, a Brunello. The entire resort is an ancient città that was purchased and flipped over. A deep leather sofa sits opposite my luxurious double bed and I think about sleeping. It’s been a long day. And I have doubts about writing. I’ve been feeling them again lately. I had decided to come on this trip in the hopes of reclaiming some inspiration from the beloved and passionate, even if tame, countryside and stone edifices. But as it turns out, doubt is not quelled by a passion and thirst for beauty. It is only forgotten for a time.

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Maybe tomorrow.

For now, I feel home again. Where tall grasses brush shoulders as I pass and the sun sets the colour of my own ancient memories, reaching its sinewy shadows toward an unknown future. I will go toward it. I will. But let me feel the present’s Tuscan whispers on my skin first.

Buona notte, Tuscany.

Home

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Home again.

I had a minor meltdown Monday night after a concert I heard in Bologna. Too much tension, I suppose. I can push my inner ferrari at 300km an hour, but eventually the engine just shuts down. I found myself slipping out of the church in the full knowledge that people were waiting for me. With every step I took away from San Petronio, my inner voice rose in protest: “where do you think you’re going?”.

I took a left turn and entered a friendly bar.

“A glass of local red, please.”

The bartender handed me a smooth Sangiovese, and I sat with my back against a wall of organic pasta and olives with my eyes closed. There was nothing else to do but sit quietly and hope the buzzing feeling would pass.

I flipped open my phone and wrote a message: ‘Go on to dinner without me. Enjoy yourselves, it was a lovely concert!’.

Then I ordered a second glass.

By this time the bartender, waiter and waitress were paying attention to my face. “Mangia,” he said. “Non hai mangiato niente. Tu non stai bene. Dai! Mangia qualcosa.” (Eat. You haven’t eaten a thing. You’re not well. Go on! Eat something.)

If tears roll down your face in Italy, the world brings you food.

I picked up a chunk of parmesan and sipped my wine. Then an olive. And another. They smiled and went about their business.

Eventually I paid my bill and gathered my bag to fizzle out into the warm cobblestoned street. And as I went a deep voice called out sweetly: “Ti aspettiamo”.

They’ll wait for my return.

Where passion breeds

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I arrived in Bologna last night for a delicious vegetable flan with porcine mushrooms. The sun shines bright over an ancient town, and I’m off to discover early music instruments in the Cathedral of San Petronio before directing a photo shoot with an all-male early music ensemble this afternoon. Here’s the thing about early music: it’s passionate. Especially with an Italian interpretation.

There is this ancient stereotype about Italian men being sexy, the best lovers, the most passionate. How would I know? But if you’re talking about music, the answer is absolutely yes. Take Stile Antico, for example, the very popular early music ensemble sings like a group of pious nuns. If you want to be lulled to sleep after a long day – go to their concert.

Italians (specifically this group) inject an energy into the interpretation that will keep you drinking of their rich tonality and crusty texture like an addictive ambrosia. Erotic, indeed. There was nothing holy about about early music, even if it was written to ecclesiastical ends.

A musical orgie, I daresay. Thank God this blog is anonymous…

The best laid plans

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It’s early morning even though I vowed to go to bed early tonight. I will rise in six hours for a work session tomorrow before catching the train to Bologna. The photographer and I explored the city today, taking in a trip to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, the second most important film museum in the world, and catching the glass elevator up to the top where we watched the sun set over the city from the soaring look out point. We walked in comfortable comradery.

The shoot took about an hour, and after that we were free. We walked, observed, laughed – and then had pizza and beer to close the day. The plans that are contrived over good Neapolitaan food are positively daring, and by the time we’d slurped up the last bit of oil with our foccacia, we’d conceived a new but related piece, condensed it into a useable pitch, and decided who would talk to whom about the possibilities of connecting with Switzerland’s most prestigious newspaper in … French? Horrors! We shall see. For now, to bed with a large cloud of hope hovering above.

Life is so obvious to some

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I arrived in Torino yesterday on the noon train and was taken immediately to the atelier and home of the great Ugo Nespolo, who, I learned, designed the Campari campaign among a thousand other world-renowned projects. There was Luigi Nono from the Frani studio in Rome, the Neapolitan Stefano Vizioli of opera, Aaron Carpene, the Aussi conductor who became my instant friend the minute he called Corelli music ‘erotic’ to a roomful of scholars in Fusignano. An artistic dream team.

It was the first time I’ve sat down to a home-cooked northern Italian meal, and this one was just a ‘snack’. A two hour snack. Not only was the food so delicious Stefano kept adding portions to my plate. “She’ll have a-one of each-a! And-a darling… you have such a sad a-relationship-a with a-food-a. Just-a eat! Then we take a nap…”

After pasta con melanzane alla napoletana, three kinds of Neapolitan fried desserts, the creamiest gorgonzola, a pear with amaretto chocolate baked into the top (qualified as “pure perversion”) Ugo insisted that Aaron and Stefano play a little ditty on the Steinway in his newly renovated living room. The artistic stimulation for an afternoon laying the groundwork for a new project the team will be launching next year in the States.

I feel full and empowered. These people make me feel that I can do anything, go anywhere, reach my personal dreams and goals, and enjoy myself doing it.

Before we left for the night, I was scrolling through my email and asked them: “I’m invited to the launch of Cecilia Bartoli’s new CD in Versailles, and to a 5-star spa in Chianti on the same days. Which should I do?” The answer was so obvious to me because in the world of music, Bartoli is a goddess. I’m a big fan.

“The spa!” they called in unison.

Of course they did.

Bellissima

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It’s still dark outside the gaping train window as I speed toward Bern – Brig – Milan – Torino. I kissed the children goodbye after having stocked the fridge with homemade zucchini bread and vacuumed the house. I feel comfortable in my jeans, white tee and little black jacket; deceptively stylish. I need to feel stylish today. On the other end of the line waits the celebrated costume maker Farani.it who designed (and won Oscars for) two Hollywood films. They’re also designing for Sofia Coppola’s Borgia TV Series. And then there’s me… world champion whoopie pie maker.

There is a surge that’s pushing me into a world where I feel good, if somewhat afraid. The world of the arts; of music, design, opera, history. Many times it is Italian.

Nearly two years ago (we’ll celebrate that) I was embraced and espoused by Italy. Growing up feeling somewhat out of synch with my environment, I’d spent years trying to suppress that side of me that is most real: the artist. A little off-colour, decidedly off-center, walking every line there is. Italy accepts that. The Italian arts say it’s ok to be unique.

Every time I think my career is over (I get like that, you’ll come to know), someone shows up and says, “We like you. Come work with us.” I’ll probably never be the journalist who takes that for granted; I’m surprised every time. The challenge is whether or not I am willing to take the risk. And the risk is not only a professional one (am I skilled enough to write this piece), it is a personal one (am I brave enough to drop the facades). Someone once told me: “Your own voice has done okay by you so far, right? Be yourself.”

Grazie, Italia. Arrivo subito!