When I booked Villa Esmeralda for our September Retreat, it seemed like a wonderful rental home, one which would serve many of our needs for Beauty, Privacy, Accessibility and Comfort.
The rental agent was easy to work with, and he assured us that once there, we would be in good hands as Roberta, who was to prepare our meals, was actually the owner’s daughter in law. She knew the home well, and would be able to answer our questions.
Roberta and I had a few Skype sessions in preparation for our arrival, and she shared with me that her son happened to have been an exchange student just a few miles from our island, the previous year. Talk about the odds of this, considering how tiny both Anacortes and Portovenere are... It was agreed that she would pick Carol and myself in La Spezia, and take us to the house so that we may get it ready for our guests.
Once arrived, we found out that this beautiful villa was actually not a rental home.
In fact, this was to be the first time that anyone outside of the family would stay there.
Roberta explained with love in her voice that this was her in law’s home, and that she had been married on that very terrace 27 years earlier. Then she went on to say that as her husband’s dad had died the year before, there had been talks of selling the home. Opening it to being rented was her attempt at keeping it in the family.
Being the first “strangers” to stay there felt like a big honor, and when she said that she wanted us to meet Zia Teresa, I knew this would be an important meeting.
Zia Teresa (Aunt Teresa) lives right next door to Villa Esmeralda. Her terrace pretty much touching our terrace, there is no telling the two homes apart, seen from the beach. She is eighty four years old, and because she is not used to having strangers next door, she had asked Roberta to please introduce us that day. Something about the way Roberta presented the request made me think that Zia Teresa might be a tough cookie.
The hours passed and there was no sign of our neighbor. We did see what seemed like a much younger woman roll up her awning at the end of the day, but no Zia Teresa.
Later that evening, she came down. She hopped down, really. Trim, energetic and with a heck of a handshake - which quickly turned into a cheek kiss-kiss - her eye contact was bright and clear, and I knew then that she was the younger woman we had seen cranking up her blinds, earlier.
She spoke some French, and she and I immediately liked each other. Roberta smiled said that “she was sure glad about that,” and I knew better than to ask more details.
As the days passed, we would wave at each other from our respective homes. I asked her a couple of time times if we weren’t being too loud, and she told me how much she enjoyed having us nearby, and hearing us laugh. On the last day, she invited me on a tour of her home, and let me know that if I needed a place to stay, “she had a little apartment down below we could talk about.” She also said that she was about to close up her beach home for the winter, and go spend the next few months in La Spezia, as she did each year.
We said goodbye, the sweet Retreat ended, and I filed away the mysterious apartment for later.
Two days ago, I wanted to share Portovenere, this blessed place, with my partner. We rented a stylish white Fiat 500 for a few days, and headed towards the Cinque Terre, barely an hour from our village. The only hiccup to the plan was the parking. Having experienced a nightmarish parking situation in that town a few months before, (I actually considered walking away from the car in an underground lot), I was still scarred and not excited about the thought. But hey, it would work out.
Well, one does not improvise themselves an Italian driver - nor passenger. And if one does, one will most likely gain a few new gray hairs.
Both of our Lizards were on pretty high alert, and a few snippy words were exchanged.
As we passed the Navy base and the road started to twist and turn, I thought it best to slightly angle my body away from my dear driver, and focus intently on whatever was happening outside the passenger window.
That’s when I saw her.
Zia Freaking Teresa.
Right there on the side of the road, hopping out of her car, and climbing a short hill to a statue store.
STOP THE CAR!!!
I thought maybe I had imagined the whole thing. I mean... I know a total of two people in this whole area, and 50% of that population would happen to be at the exact same place as me at the exact same time??
I think I just saw Zia Teresa.
You think you just saw who?
He suggested I get out of the car and do something.
Seconds later, Zia Teresa and I were kiss-kissing and she seemed just as surprised as I was. She was shopping with her cousin, the owner of Villa Esmeralda, and introduced us. She was beaming, she was talking faster than I could understand, and there was something about being with her again, completely out of the blue, that reminded me of the magical mandala with all live in. From down below, it may look random and crazy, but from up above, it all makes so much sense. From up above, we’re all connected. Hearts, souls and places.
Teresa wanted to meet “mi amico” and so down to the Fiat we went. She hugged him and he hugged her, and as she kissed-kissed me goodbye, she reminded me that parking was tough, down in Portovenere - and that I was invited to park down at the house, in her private parking spot.
Home. Home everywhere. This sense of home that has not yet left me, and keeps on winking at me, day after day. Reminding me that I am only co-creating this life, that someone with a much bigger plan - and serious leads on great parking spots - is right there by my side.
It took me hours to stop asking: can you believe we ran into Zia Teresa??? The fact that that day was my grandma’s birthday eventually did occur to me.
Here’s to life, to co-creating, to zippy little cars, and to looking and living this well, when we are 84 years old.
PS: we found THE best deal on renting a car in Europe. Let me know if you need that info.
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Island Bliss Retreat
July 12 to 19
Happiness Retreat in Italy
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