I had a shock this morning. A Facebook memory come up from three years ago and it featured a woman I could barely recognise – me. I was in beautiful Assisi and I was slowly and calmly talking to the camera. But I was way too calm and speaking way too slowly. I was in town I loved but almost too exhausted to enjoy it. As I watched the footage, it looked like I was swimming through energetic mud.
Over the preceding months and years, I had worked every minute of the day to make ends meet. At one point, I had five casual, contract and part-time jobs at once. Immediately before the trip, I had also become, once again, romantically entangled with a man who was not worthy of me – he just took what he wanted and I let him. I was making the same decisions on repeat and nothing was changing. I was surviving not living. Even though I had finally returned to Italy (where my Soul longs to be), I was a burnt-out shadow of myself.
I’d love to tell you I came back from that trip and things were different. But they weren’t. I went back to doing all the things I had been doing before – working every hour of the day, doing things I didn’t want to do anymore, holding onto things I needed to let go of, and guess what, that guy broke my heart.
Early last year, I finally cracked and made some radical changes and when I returned to Italy in August 2019, I was a different person. I had connected to a joyfulness and peacefulness within myself that I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t have everything worked out (of course not!) but I was definitely moving in the right direction.
I always had the keys and it was never about anyone else. It was about the choices I was making, the stories I told myself, and the boundaries I didn’t put in place. I had to get real with myself and draw on some major internal courage to make uncomfortable choices.
Covid-19 and all the crazy 2020 happenings remind us we need to be living as much as we can, not just surviving.
Is the person you see in the mirror, photograph or video only surviving? If so, what are you going to do about it?
The seagulls in Italy are the size of small dogs and as vocal as any misanthrope Dachshund who believes it must assert its masculine authority over an Alsation. I’m always taken aback when one flies past or perches on an ancient statue nearby and proceeds to loudly proclaim its superiority and place in the world. You may believe that I am a mere gull, it calls, but I am equal to any of you and king of the skies. At least that’s what I think they’re saying as I shake my head and move on elsewhere.
I’m currently sitting in my apartment in Amalfi overlooking the harbour and one of those gulls just swooped past, hence my reflections. But the memories of them on statues come from my time in Rome.
The gulls are numerous along the Tiber and one in particular didn’t hesitate to compete with the notes of the long-haired guitarist playing outside Castel Sant’Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian) two days ago. I stopped to listen to his version of Hallehujah and, as usual, my eyes filled with tears as the notes cascaded mournfully through the air. It reminded me of the first time I heard the song when the radio announcer had played it in honour of Jeff Buckley who had waded into the inky Mississippi River just day before and never made it out alive.
But the gull clearly had little respect for melancholy musings and continued its own demanding calls.
The Italian gulls live large and unapologetically, just as their human counterparts. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel here. From their passionate gesticulations when arguing about anything from football to food, to the languid confidence of almost every Italian man as he appreciates passing women like a smorgasboard and the effortless chic of Italian women (and oh yes, Italian men in their Italian suits), they know how to live wholeheartedly.
I know I am making some very broad generalisations here but I believe culturally, these assertions frequently hold true. And I love this country for all of it.
Why do we, in other countries, believe we must keep our passions under control instead of fully expressing them in all their inconvenient glory? Give me passion over repression every day of the week (and twice on Sundays). Far better to express our emotions and release them in the moment than push them down, way down, where they simmer for years making us physically ill and diluting our joy.
You know what I mean, right?
When I meet people for the first time these days, my first question is rarely the prosaic, what do you do for a living? Instead it is more likely to be, what are you passionate about? What’s your thing, the thing you love? It is there that I uncover the real gold within that unique human being. Because anyone can do a job but passion, well, that is something that is entirely yours and owned by you. You may find others who share it but how you feel and pursue it is entirely a matter for you and you alone.
I love Italy for its unapologetic passion for life, love, art and faith.
The other thing to remember is not everyone is going to share your passion and that is totally perfect because we all have our own path and things only we can do in this lifetime.
That’s why, despite his kind offer and personable manner at the café this morning, I turned down Luigi’s offer to share my bed. His passion didn’t align with mine and sadly, for him, men in their 60s don’t really do it for me.
But his conversation was lovely.
Lucretia is currently on her latest Italian Odyssey, soaking in the passion, culture and love that lives in the country where her Soul feels most alive. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
Well, I arrived in Verona yesterday and will be here for the next seven days. I wish I could say my trip here was all ease and grace but sadly, it wasn’t.
I left the AirBnB apartment in Perugia with Riccardo (the owner) and Sonya (the other traveller staying there) waving to me from the door as I awkwardly shuffled my luggage into the tiny lift. They both got up especially to see me off and I was touched (particularly as they looked as though they could easily sleep for another three hours).
I boarded the train from Perugia successfully and then found myself in conversation with three Americans (a couple and another woman). The couple were a little older, well-travelled and he was a lawyer with a passion for food, Italy and travelling in general. He reminded me of that actor Robert Klein in Two Weeks’ Notice. Their daughter was flying in later that day and they would take her shopping in Milan for her wedding dress over the next week- what a lovely engagement gift. He talked about the importance of creating experiences his children would remember. I loved that. Experiences are what you take with you.
The other woman was friendly and clearly enjoying her trip after indulging in some wonderful shopping for scarves and wine. However, she did spend a significant amount of time talking about how AirBnBs aren’t really clean (i.e. dust under the bed) and how the food in Italy doesn’t taste the same as it does back home (e.g. tiramisu). Why people expect things to be the same as they are ‘back home’ is beyond me. If you want things to be the same then don’t go anywhere. However, it was clear she was doing her best to push her own comfort limits generally and she was nice enough.
Unfortunately, as we pulled into Firenze (where I was to catch my connecting train to Verona), they all took a while to get their bags and I, being the polite person I am, waited for them. As a result I made it to the train exit doors just as they locked.
As fate would have it, I couldn’t catch my train from the next station and my ticket was non-transferrable. Fortunately for the Americans, the station didn’t overly affect their travel plans so they were fine. Serves me right for being polite. Ha! Ha! As the lawyer also pointed out, this was an occasion when I just needed to go with it (I’d mentioned during our earlier conversation that I try to take this approach whenever I travel…ha bloody ha Universe!).
So I had to buy a new ticket (37EU). This time it would take me via Bologna where I would need to change trains to get to Verona. Cue two-hour wait in the train station.
My next train was one of the high-speed deluxe trains and it was a fabulous. Ultra-modern, new and clean. But the trip from Firenze to Bologna is relatively short so I couldn’t enjoy it for long. I did have a great chat to an older Columbian couple sitting across the aisle though. They both had lovely energy and had spent about a month in Italy so far. They were loving every minute of their holiday and recommended I visited the towns of Turino and Lucca.
Unfortunately, the stylish train was 15 minutes late leaving Firenze. The train conductor kindly rang ahead and asked the driver of the connecting train to delay his departure for a minute or two as we would now be arriving precisely when he was due to leave.
Unfortunately, Stefania (another passenger) and I leapt from the Firenze train and sprinted to 2 est platform just in time to see our connection pulling out at the other end.
We then bumped into Rita (another passenger in the same situation) and after perusing the timetable we established that it would be two hours before we could hop the next train to Verona. Fortunately, our tickets would still be valid by then.
We retreated to a bar where Stefania, a civil engineer who also weaves (yes, on a loom to create beautiful rugs and blankets, etc.) and Rita downed an expresso or two in tiny white cups while I indulged in a hot chocolate (not appropriate for mid-afternoon by Italian standards but by this stage I cared nought for that!). Stefania generously shouted the round and then in true Italian style she and Rita smoked up a storm while we chatted about life. Smoking is still de rigueur here whereas it’s increasingly rare back home in Australia. Italians of all ages smoke anywhere, anytime, near children, while pregnant, at dinner. What can you do but accept…when in Italia and all that.
Anyway, we had a wide-ranging conversation, me with my stumbling Italian, Stefania with her good English and Rita with her no English at all – Stefania translated for her at various times.
Eventually the hours passed and we finally boarded the train for the last leg of our journey. Rita disembarked before me – she travels to Firenze once per month (and has done for 17 years) for experimental treatment to prevent her going blind from a rather nasty condition called retinitis pigmentosa. She and three of her sight-impaired friends had just this week decided to write a book about all the ‘train stories’ they have experienced/learned during their monthly trips. Rita uses Google translate extensively and my resounding memory is hearing her say “Okay, Google” as she would speak into her phone and ask for a translation.
I got off at Verona and said goodbye to the fabulous Stefania (we will definitely stay in touch). I made it easily to the Tabacchi to buy my bus ticket and then, with the AirBnB man What’s App’g me instructions and then asking “Where are you?” I boarded the number 11 bus. Following the instructions on the Moovit App I got off at Porta Vescovo and the two transport inspectors on the footpath made room for me as I maneuvered my suitcase and my person out the bus doors. One of them subsequently asked me for my bus ticket.
Over the next five minutes I unsuccessfully searched for that piece of thin card on my person and in my bags to no avail – picture me crouched on the footpath with my belongings strewn around me as the two inspectors (and Lord knows who else) watched on. Eventually, he took pity on me and said don’t worry about. My humiliation as I stuffed my belongings haphazardly back into my bags was complete and it was only the third time that day that I’d felt like crying from tiredness/frustration/overwhelm. Last year I’d had a similar experience on a bus in Ischia so it seems I am a magnet for transport inspectors. Next time I buy a ticket I’ll staple it to my forehead or something.
The AirBnB man was conspicuously absent throughout this incident and when I rang he said he was at the bus stop we’d discussed but could not see me.
I had got off one stop too late – thank you Moovit app.
Olindo eventually found me and with his minuscule English (far less than my Italian skills), he grabbed my suitcase and walked me to the apartment – kindly carrying my rather heavy luggage up a flight of stairs to get there.
He showed me around the apartment (it’s very modern), gave me a map and said he’d What’s App me the details for good places to eat. He also asked if I spoke Spanish (because apparently my Italian sounds like it’s Spanish). I’ve never spoken Spanish in my life. Clearly my accent is deplorable.
When I recounted the day’s debacles to a friend she said, sounds like you’ve been taught a lesson in patience today. She’s probably right. I also learned that the best laid plans can go awry when you’re too polite.
Lucretia Ackfield is a published author, psychic channel and transformational teacher who is currently traveling through one of her favourite countries in search of adventure, inspiration, transformation and space to write.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. There’s been a lot going on in my life personally and professionally and, strangely for me, I haven’t been able to find the words to describe what’s been happening. I’ve been a writer lost for words and that is a peculiar feeling indeed.
But today I feel like the words are beginning to trickle back in, hence this post.
I’m writing to you from Assisi in northern Italy. Yes, I’ve finally made it back to a place that I love, Bella Italia. Despite my name, I have no Italian heritage but I always feel drawn back to this place. It’s my fifth visit and I know it won’t be my last. There is connection for me here and I’m sure I’ve lived here before, in a past life, more than once. There’s something about Italy that fills me up and although I’m still not fluent in the language, I always feel as if I am visiting an old friend.
Yesterday as my bus traveled up the hill towards Assisi, I felt tears welling in my eyes and that song, I’m Coming Home began playing in my head. Many years ago on my last visit to this town, I had a similar experience; an almost overwhelming feeling of spiritual homecoming. I guess time has not changed that circumstance for my soul.
I’m not of the catholic faith but there is something about this place that moves me. Despite the focus of many of the religion and artworks in the great churches here on pain, suffering, obedience and sacrifice, there is also a joyful recognition of something higher than ourselves. The angelic sculptures in Cattedrale di S. Rufino soar ever upwards and reach for that which is unseen but believed to be possible. I guess it is faith I am talking about; faith in something more
To visit this place reminds me of my faith in what is possible, not what has been lost. I guess in many ways that is what this trip is about for me – a rediscovery of grace and hope. Often it is too easy to work and work and work and lose sight of what you are working towards. And I guess that is what I’ve been doing. After all, this is my first holiday in four years and when I got on that plane bound for Roma I was exhausted. But now, a mere week or so later, my tiredness has begun to lift and I am beginning to see through the mists to what could be real, if only I maintain my faith in my capacity to create the life I desire and know I deserve
I’ve had glimpses of that life recently so I know it is near. All I must do is keep my faith, my focus and come home to me in this beautiful place where inspiration lays around every corner and from every window.
La vita bella. Life is beautiful.