The trip to Ghivizzano, Italy:

 

Because I am a nervous flier, I have come up with a solution to help calm my nerves. I don’t sleep for a day or two before I board the plane. This trip was no different. I had been awake for 36 hours by the time we boarded. A big step for me, a small step for mankind. I normally don’t even move my head on a plane. I, usually, spend all the time looking forward. When the flight attendants come down the aisles with drinks, I don’t even make eye contact. I just ask them or Rusty to place it on my tray. But this time I was going to go beyond my comfort level. I turned my head (more than once) to speak face to face with Rusty and his mom who were sitting next to me. I even took a gamble and got up and walked to the bathroom. The plane didn’t fall from the sky. I was amazed. Next time, I may even use the bathroom.

 

We arrived in Milan in the early hours of the morning. We were staying overnight and so we went straight to our hotel to drop off the luggage-all six large suitcases and five carry-ons. We walked around Milan to explore the town and give us time to get acclimated to the time change and the culture. Milan didn’t impress me much. Sure it’s a large cosmopolitan city-but-it is basically Miami with nicer buildings and better food. The next day we took a train to Florence where we spent a day in the outskirts of the city center enjoying getting together with friends. We also met with our good friend and lawyer and picked up the keys to our new place. I have been to Florence a few times before. And it happens to be one of my favorite cities in Italy. But if you asked Rusty which is his favorite Italian city, he would answer; “Florence is the most beautiful city in the world.” He would say it in Italian, of course.  (We returned to Florence several times during this trip.) The next morning we rented a car and drove to our new home.

 

Entering into the Serchio Valley for the first time was amazing. Looking out the car window, I could see castles and towers with every curve and snow-capped mountains always in the distance. We passed what seemed like a million villages on the sides of hills. Bright and colorful homes jutted out from the rocks.  The trees had not leafed, but on the branch tips you could see the first few buds getting ready to burst. For several miles, we drove alongside the river which was rushing, with white caps, as it cascaded down towards the plains. We passed through several tunnels. A train raced up the valley, the tracks hugging the edge of the hill.  We drove through many wonderful small villages. When Ghivizzano came into view, I recognized it immediately from Rusty’s pictures. As we drove closer to it and passed through the main square, I felt a sense of home already.

 

The car rounded the final curve and we parked outside our new house. Beautiful. Peaceful. Relaxing. This came to mind when I first set foot on the courtyard. We had arrived. We were home.

 

Standing in that courtyard, I could barely contain my excitement. I looked out at the hills and mountains that seem to embrace the village and it seemed so magical. Ghivizzano Alto, the walled medieval village, seemed close enough to touch. The church’s bell-tower and the castle stretched towards the sky.  It almost didn’t look real. I kept looking around for the director to yell cut and the background scenery to be rolled away. But it was real and it was beautiful.  There is a large stream that flows down the hillside and it sounded like music. The air was crisp and cool and the scent of burning logs coming out of the chimney tops was wonderful. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was in Italy, in our village, in front of our new home!

 

 

(end of part one)

(new images in Gallery section)

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