I’m going to the heart of Italy, a brand new early retiree from a career in corporate government relations. I enjoyed my career, had fun and felt fulfilled. So I’m not a refugee from corporate America. Nor am I a refugee from a bad break-up or some horrible tragedy. I have nothing to flee from – I enjoy a full, very satisfying life, spending most weekdays at home in a large, vibrant Midwestern city and most weekends in a quiet log cabin in the heart of an Amish community, where the daily life is as slow as you’d imagine, the neighbors are more engaging than you’d imagine, and seeing the Milky Way at night is the rule, not the exception.
I’m going to the heart of Italy not because there’s something missing from my life, but because I have a chance to add another place that feels like home to the canvas of my life. I’m going because I now have the freedom and time to explore more deeply and chronicle more carefully what life is like in a place I’ve known as a tourist and, in the last two years, as the absentee owner of a 1000-year old villa. Along with two American friends from Rome, my husband and I bought the manor house of Benano, a walled hamlet in western Umbria where only fifteen people live full time and no one speaks English except the guests who rent our house. Benano sits on a mountain looking down on Orvieto, a bejeweled Umbrian hill town. Driving less than 15 minutes in either direction, I can be in southern Tuscany, home to Siena and so many other famous hill towns like Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano, or northern Lazio, where literally all roads lead to the region’s and the country’s dominant city, Rome. And by train, I can be in Rome or Florence in less than an hour and a half.
As I start this blog, I’m getting ready for a 6-week stay, which will include 4 weeks of Italian immersion at a language school in Orvieto. During my visit, work will begin on renovations that will transform our house from 4-bedrooms/2-baths to 5-bedrooms/4-baths. I don’t know what to expect from either experience, but promise to share with you whatever comes along, especially whomever comes along, for I always find that most of what I take home from an experience is about the people I’ve encountered, the life they lead, and how they’ve touched mine.