Life lessons after a week under the Tuscan sun

Sunday, September 23, 2018 Permalink

Yonks ago I wrote about happiness and the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. I’ve now lived that life – well, for one week – and though it (happily) involved no arduous renovations or (sadly) included no affairs with younger men, I’ve still walked away with some valuable life lessons. 

1. Find your tribe
I’m tempted to quote The Breakfast Club in describing my fellow retreatees, you know… the newlywed, the young-at-heart-soon-to-be grandmother and so forth. In reality the five of us at the retreat (and Vanessa, our facilitator) were all very different. We were from different countries, had different life experiences and arrived at the villa with very different goals.

However, we all shared a passion for writing. (And reading, as it happens!) That connection – the ups and downs of trying to live a creative life and balance it with other stuff – bound us in a surprising way. As well as our writing, we shared backstories and bits & pieces about our lives in general and I left feeling a kindredness with these former-strangers, I don’t often experience.

2. Perhaps my writing is okay
I read my writing out aloud THREE times. Yes, three times, all as part of free-writing sessions we did in response to prompts. I’ve talked before about the fact I HATE reading my writing in public, or even to / with another person (maybe other than my mum).

I don’t write like other people. I don’t think I’m descriptive or detailed… My mind jumps elsewhere – to a different place – but I had nice feedback (and I don’t think people were just being polite), which was lovely.

3. Clarity around what I want to write
One of the things I wanted to do on the retreat was decide which of my manuscripts I’d progress and interestingly I worked a little on two of them.

However, when I tried to explain (to the group) my struggle with writing – the assumption I’d write fiction when (in reality) this thing I’m doing in this very moment – non-fiction, writing my thoughts and feelings rather than creating a fictional world (ie. blogging) – is more in my comfort zone… so I touched on the idea I’d toyed with for the last decade or two, to write something about my overseas experiences… (the book that starts with: “What the fuck was I thinking?” as I looked at the depressing view from the window in a house I was bundled into when arriving in Mozambique back in 1995!) And everyone loved the idea of me pursuing that.

4. Take inspiration where you find it
Tuscany (the villa we were at near Greve-in-Chianti) lived up to my expectations. It was stunning. There was always something different to notice: the green patchwork hills or the way the sun reflected the whites, yellows and peach-coloured houses which poke out of the hillsides.

I also love the look of the villas. I know people have tried to replicate that in different places, but I’m not sure it works… the old ‘fish out of water’ thing. But, I tried to soak up elements I loved and pondered what it was drawing me to them. (And yes, I possibly did some overanalysing!) I liked the floor coverings for example. And I liked the cosiness of the outdoor living space, though it was vast.


I know I won’t be working when I return so will be *cough cough* ‘poor’ so I can’t go crazy buying new outdoor furniture or rugs for all of my floors but… there are things I will remember and could possibly do to bring that sense of warm sanctity home with me.

4. And finally the need to stop bloody rushing around and just ‘be’
I live in a lovely spot on the beach. However I don’t often take the time to absorb the view. It’s always there but I don’t appreciate it. I sometimes stop to take an instagrammable photograph but it’s something I do in passing. I never sit outside on my verandah and simply be ‘present’ in the outside world.

For a range of reasons I was struggling a little when we left the villa in Tuscany. I was hot, hormonal and really tired. I didn’t feel great and that continued during the rest of the day which I spent with two of my fellow retreatees. (I had a wonderful time with them though and they helped me overcome my usual apathy to actually GO and look for the cabin luggage bag I wanted and so forth.)

I felt rested in a way I hadn’t for a VERY long time at the villa. It was nice to stop and unpack for a week and not feel obliged to rush about as a tourist. (Just as we rush about in our everyday lives, working and doing chores.)

So, I still have a week left in Italy and my plan is to NOT feel as if I have to see everything and anything. I’ve always said, I love just soaking up the atmosphere of a place rather than playing tourist, so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll go back to my plans of perhaps seeing ‘something’ each day but I’ll also just sit at a cafe or similar, drink prosecco and remind myself how lucky I am to be here – this trip of a lifetime – and one I’ll always remember.

I’m closing comments as these posts are probably to document my travel as much as entertain readers with my insightful prose. (Which I’ve most likely failed to do anyway!) I also don’t want people to feel obliged to read my drivel or leave a comment. Feel free to stop by my Facebook page for a chat instead however.

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