Dreaming in Italian

Posted by Susan On July 15, 2017 ADD COMMENTS

For years, I’ve had a strange recurring dream. In it, my husband and I are traveling– sometimes by plane, sometimes by train–but always with our grown kids. Simple… and yet it always produces a sense of tremendous contentment.

It was odd that it would recur with such frequency. The dream came to me so many times, in fact, that I remember talking about it to my sister Dale, wondering over the significance. Was there some spiritual or emotional implication to it?

The likelihood of traveling anywhere with our grown kids only grew more and more remote as time went on. Each of them have rich and busy lives, and we began to spread apart geographically…until, remarkably, an opportunity for such an adventure recently fell right… into… our laps!

It started when a deep need (in the form of a house fire) arose for friends who were overseas at the time and unable to take care of it, so my husband Dan jumped in as a general manager of the reconstruction. It involved significant hard work, lots of detailed administration and creative ideas, but Dan loves a challenge, and the difficulty of the task motivated him– as well as the enthusiastic affirmation of these friends over each detail in the work being done.

During those intense and hectic days, no one was more surprised than Dan was when, to thank him for all of his hard work, these friends offered us the use of their Italian villa for a week. Nothing could have pleased Dan more, or given him the great lift of encouragement that it was exactly meant to give him!

As we began to plan our trip to Italy, one of our daughters-in-law noted that the villa was large enough to accommodate four couples… and hinted that this might be a great family vacation (minus grandkids.) Our friends were more than pleased to let us bring our grown kids along to enjoy a “reunion” of sorts. And just [*snap!*] like that… my “dream” became a full color, life-sized, best-vacation-in-the-world, dream-come-true reality!

This was Dan’s and my third trip to Italy, but the first for all of our kids, and they all wanted to see as much of it as possible in our ten days together. After landing in Rome, we all converged at the coliseum– a wonderful spot to connect. I’d never known such a surge of satisfaction as seeing our own kids emerge out of the crowd in such a beautiful and faraway place! On a previous trip, Dan and I had seen the coliseum, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” and Trevi Fountain, so the kids enjoyed these sites while Dan and I wandered the streets of Rome, had a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, and drank in the unexpected deep pleasure of “returning” to such a place. The sensation was new for me, akin to the great feel of “coming home!”

After savoring sites of Rome, wandering through the astounding Forum, and indulging in lots and lots of gelato (Rachel is nothing short of expert in her ability to search out the very best in gelato) we all headed to Civitavecchia by train. There, we rented a couple of cars and drove on to the villa, stopping on the way for groceries and to find a cake for Anne, whose birthday was the next day. Important observation: you cannot just “quickly run in and run out” of an Italian “pasticceria.” The amiable elderly Italian baker who doesn’t speak English will not let you leave without sampling several of his cookies and pastries as he painstakingly wraps the cake you just purchased, peppered with a long Italian commentary on (I think) how to properly store the cake until it’s consumed. Or maybe he told us how to consume it? Or maybe it had nothing at all to do with cake…

You probably already know that Italian villas are designed for a very relaxed lifestyle, which is undoubtedly what draws tourists in droves to this wonderful haven. Outdoor living is a powerful magnet here, so stone terraces lead to stone stairs that lead to more stone terraces surrounded by lemon trees heavy with fruit, huge lush succulents, and olive trees loaded with the promise of abundant harvest.

Situated on the Mediterranean overlooking the Island of Giglio, we spent the following week meandering through the backroads of Tuscany and Umbria to stunning hilltop cities– Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, Pitigliano, Siena, the amazing hot springs of Saturnia– as well as the nearby towns of Porto Ercole, Orbetello, and Porto Santo Stefano. We collected stones and sea glass on the shores of the Tyrrhenean Sea on the beach close to the villa, climbed the rocks there and watched huge waves crash on the surf.

Of course, Italy is food. Amazing, delicious food. Four of those nights, after returning from our adventures, we settled down to a long, leisurely dinner at the villa, with each couple in turn making a wonderful Italian feast that we enjoyed either in the lovely Tuscan dining room with huge rock fireplace and rustic ceiling beams, or around the big outside table on the upper terrace.

One day, a sweet Italian woman named Paola arrived at our villa with bags of ingredients and settled in to show us how to make authentic homemade Italian pasta from scratch with savory Bolognese sauce (“Primo,”) Pork with Mushrooms (“Secondi,”) and homemade Tiramisu (“Dolci.”) And, of course, vino. Lots of vino, because this is Italy, after all.

Someone asked us if there was one primary highlight of the trip. We didn’t hesitate for split second! The height of this dream-come-true experience for both Dan and me was our return to the tiny, ancient Etruscan hilltop city of Civita di Bagnoregio– but this time, sharing this incredible experience with our family.

Carved out of the rock almost a thousand years B.C., this city– resting majestically on the top of a high pinnacle, accessible only by a very long, narrow, steep pedestrian bridge– had almost faded into oblivion as erosion cut away at it. But in recent years, tourism has injected new life into it, and it still survives after thousands of years.

Dan and I had first visited this little city four years ago, and were incredibly impacted by this place, so ancient, so beautiful, so authentic. For the last four years, Civita di Bagnoregio was a special and intimate memory that Dan and I shared together, like a certain love song that makes us look deep into each other’s eyes whenever we hear it, or the taste of a certain food that makes us glance at each other knowingly as “we remember…” Civita was like that. It was Dan’s and my special place…our most unique memory… the ultimate travel experience…the place we dream of….

Now, as they entered the city through the ancient stone gate that opened into the sudden brightness of such a breathtaking “long, long ago in a land far, far away” medieval world, each of our kids likewise felt that magic. As though mesmerized, each couple drifted in different directions as they wandered through the stone streets and buildings carved out of the rock in this incredible medieval place. For four years, it was Dan’s and mine. Now, our kids owned it just as much as we did.

Dan had disappeared with our son-in-law and one of our sons to explore tunnels under the city, and I found myself wandering alone through the narrow stone streets of this magnificent place– alone, and yet so absolutely content just to be there, knowing that my kids were there too, loving it as much as I did. Heaven will be like that, I’m certain. I have confidence that we’ll actually see each other in heaven… but if we didn’t, I would still be fully content, if not seeing them, knowing that my children were there too, likewise experiencing the incredible glory of the place.

We all regrouped again at the wonderful little restaurant Alma Civita for an amazing hours long feast together. Dan and I were very glad to see the young owner, Maurizio whom we’d met and talked at length with four years prior. At one point, as we were so completely enjoying the beautifully plated and incredibly delicious food, our son Justin commented, “Heaven will be like this!” Amazing food…wonderful wine… an unbelievably beautiful place… conversation… being together with the ones I love more than anyone else in the world… Heaven WILL be like this!

I do not know why I had that recurring dream for so long. A subconscious desire? A foretelling of this amazing experience? An idea that God Himself planted in my heart? All I know is that this trip was so perfect, I blurted to my oldest son, “Now I can die.” By far, it was the pinnacle of any travel experience we’ve ever had. And I know this for sure: the world may be filled with adversity and many troubles… but it’s still an amazing and beautiful place. Experiencing more of it by way of travel is such a sweet reprise in the middle of a hectic blur. And sometimes, in our crazy and uncertain lives… beautiful dreams really do come true. And oh, how we need to know that!


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