art, literature, and serendipity
29.07.2011 20 °C
There have been many travel books written about Italy, some of the newest are Under the Tuscan Sun, Angels and Demons, and Eat, Pray, Love. But there are more: La Bella Figura, Bella Italia, La Cucina There is a rich history of classic writers finding passion in Italy: D.H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway... I could go on and on. Other Italian cultural greats are too numerous to list but Michelangelo, Botticelli, Bernini, Giuseppe Verdi, Donatello, Leonardo DaVinci, Roberto Cavalli, Dante Aligheri, Versace, and Giorgio Armani are a pretty impressive starting point.
When Chris and I were discussing our own 'getaway', where to go for three months while we reassessed our lives, we tossed around ideas for several different places we could go. New Zealand, England, Germany, Hawaii, Croatia, Costa Rica - there was a growing list of possibilities, but at the top stood Italy. I went to the library to do a little research on the subject of travel in Italy, and I found a massive amount of literature. At first I was disappointed. How unoriginal. Maybe we should go someplace LESS known for its culture, cuisine, art, romance, history. Maybe we could write an amazing story about someplace people had not explored, someplace few people have visited. As I thought about it, I wondered why so many books have been written about traveling in Italy, when by comparison, there are not many at all about individuals going to France or Germany or Russia in search of themselves.
Of these books about discovery and love, passion and food, creativity and desire, Italy corners the market. Why is that?, I pondered. Why don't people write books about food and love from Spain or Scotland? Then I realized: it is the place that inspires. It is in the soul of the place itself that motivates artists, evokes love stories, and invites pieces of yourself to come home again. I know this is why I wanted to come to Italy, to be in this place that has for centuries inspired creativity in the minds of intelligent authors, the hands of great painters, and the hearts of lovers. I desire to be all of these things, and being in the land that woos artists causes one to dream, to expand, and to cultivate. There is something palpably aesthetic about Italy - perhaps it is the ancient charm of the picturesque piazzas and frescoes in the churches, and all of the culture that surrounds you. But it is also in the amorous nature of Italians, the fashion, the architecture, the civilization in its entirety. It awakens elements of yourself, and allows you to focus on appetites and aspirations outside of work, home, family, and friends around which most of our time and space revolve. We are currently living in the town where Puccini, the great opera composer, lived. Other greats have spent time walking these same streets, sipping espresso and leaning on the same marble counters.
I realize after being here for the majority of three months that I have found something that I do not want to lose. I was walking around the city of Lucca yesterday, somewhat aimlessly, on my way back from the market. I stumbled into an artist studio, and the paintings inside spoke to me in a way that I cannot adequately explain. If you have ever walked into a place and realized that if you were practicing that profession, that is what your work would look like, than you know what I mean. I saw myself in every work. I related in a way that is not coincidence. It is one of those moments, like when you bump into someone on the street and know instantly that you have known them closely before, that I could feel providence moving. I have not felt that level of serendipity for a while, and it is still with me. I wish I could have bought all of the paintings in the shop and walked out with my arms full, eyes beaming. I wanted to tell the man instantly, tell your wife (the painter) I will apprentice with her. If she wants to teach me, I am willing to learn. It is not unlike meeting a guru, I understand, or meeting a soul mate. When you know it's right, you know. So that was the universe's way of telling me that I will be back in Lucca, sometime, somehow. We cannot stay longer this trip, but we will be back. And next time we come, I hope to be a bigger artist than I am right now.