I’m spending the next week at Gudiolo, a beautiful Italian countryside home outside of the small Umbrian village of San Giovanni del Pantano. The week is a visit with my sister, who is travelling throughout Europe this year, and also a farm stay as part of the helpex network. Longtime readers will remember my similar visits to the French goat farm and in Tuscany three summers ago. Although we are working for our room and board, we are also guests of the wonderfully gregarious Madeline, who has so many words of wisdom I feel compelled to follow her around with pen and paper collecting bits of life lessons as we weed the gardens and carry out chores.
In the few days we have been here already, we have seen and done so much. We quickly made ourselves useful on day one, cooking a casual dinner for friends, family, and other helpexers in Madeline’s impressive kitchen, roasting artichokes from the garden into a pilaf and finding a use for the chickpea flour with a Moroccan-style crepe. I’ve been constantly reminded of my mother and grandmother during the morning’s weeding sessions, surrounded by the property’s poppies, something both women loved. Afternoons have been spent walking the family’s beautiful new Maremma puppies, and the landscape is just breathtaking—the hillsides go on for miles and miles in every direction. And we had the lucky opportunity to attend a presentation of the Civetlla Ranieri Foundation’s current fellows, a collection of visual artists, writers, composers, and poets spending a few weeks working in Italy; Melanie and I were both a little star struck to hear regular New Yorker poet Jane Hirshfield read her works.
The plan for the rest of the week is just as exciting. Tonight we are headed into Cortona to pick up Madeline’s daughter for a weekend visit, where we will all enjoy a pizza dinner and possibly look for new summer sandals. Saturday we have a wonderful dinner party for 20 planned, a menu of fresh, light dishes along with a three-piece jazz band. Hopefully there will be time for a visit to a special gelato shop in Perugia, a nearby town, as well. In between all the fun, I’m putting my skills to work trying to help Madeline with her website and blogging, as well as with weeding projects (a great way to work on my tan!), and cooking for the group (which I find so relaxing). All in all, it may not be tanning poolside, but it is a wonderful break from the rush of work and life in Berlin and really so lovely to get to know these new people, hear their thoughts and perspectives on life, and breath this fresh Italian air.
Melanie and I have been waking up each morning to clear our heads and prepare for the day with some yoga. Looking out of the terrace during my stretches I face the heart-shaped hillside opposite Gudiolo. I find the view to be so positive that I know I will certainly come away from the trip feeling quite rejuvenated and renewed in spirit.