Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ahhhh, Tuscany. Honestly, what's not to love?
On Friday, I returned from my adventures in Italy, where I spent a week with the incredible Alessandra Belloni, a world-renowned percussion artist, Italian folklorist and incredible spiritual healer. She's so inspiring, and her week-long workshop on the sacred dances, songs and rhythms of Southern Italy was easily one of the most joyful and fulfilling weeks of my life.
The beauty of the land itself is just remarkable, and the comments I'd heard about the light of Tuscany were all true. The sun casts its remarkable golden glow over the landscape, and as it nears the horizon in the evening, the color deepens into amber, setting olive groves and vineyards alight in ways that were breathtaking.
The villa where we stayed for the week, La Chiara di Prumiano, was an hour outside of Florence. (Can I just say America needs to take a page from Italy's public transit system? Not only was the hour-long bus ride only about $5, but it was on what was essentially a charter bus - big seats, slightly tinted windows, curtains on the windows and space below the bus to store your bags.)
Surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and gardens full of fennel, zucchini, pumpkins (a wonderful green-skinned variety), eggplant and, of course, tomatoes, the land was like something out of a fairytale.
Every day, I ate fresh figs straight from the trees behind the villa, and for those who know me, this was a huge treat. I am downright addicted to figs, eating dried ones nearly every day (as well as stuffing them with walnuts and baking them in the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo and honey), but pulling them off the tree and slowly eating them was one of the great sensual pleasures of my week.
In the mornings, I would walk amongs the olive trees, marvel at the sky, sing a traditional Southern Italian song to the sun (Jesce Sole) and feel the pulse of the Great Earth Mother Cybele below my feet and in the very air I breathed.
One of the greatest impressions I had from the week was the sense of deep joy with which we lived every day. There were times when many of us dove into some of our greatest griefs through ritual and dance, and yet, that was never the end point. We continued to dance, sing, drum and release our pains, disappointments and fears, until we pulsed with the vibrancy of life that was ecstatic, full of laughter and tears of what I can only call bliss. Then with arms around one another, we made our way back up to an outdoor dining spot amid roses, grape arbors and herbs, and ate, drank wine and laughed loud and long.
More to come on the the food (my goddess, the food!), a trip to Siena and, of course, some of my spiritual experiences along the way.
(Above is a picture of me, standing on a balcony above the villa's main entrance - click on it for a closer view. I'm dressed in the traditional colors of the tarantata, red and white. More on what a tarantata is another day. Also above are some of the figs - there were two varieties, green and a purplish-brown - both wonderful! Olive branches against a blue, Tuscan sky. Also some sunflowers in the gardens of the villa.)