Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wild Hydrangeas

My senses were being bombarded…  The sun seemed brighter and more powerful in Italy than any other place I’d been except home in Australia.  I remember distinctly smiling when I stepped out of the airport terminal in Milan on my first day and took my first deep breath on Italian soil for many years.  For some reason I felt completely at home and at peace in Italy…go figure?  

Initially I had put it down the cool and romantic idea of being in Italy, seriously what’s not to love about it.  Although traveling by oneself isn’t really so romantic per see, I think the real allure to traveling alone is that you’re completely in control of your timeline and agenda with no need of compromise unless you so choose it.  

The more I thought about it the more I felt unnerved and a little off balance with it all. Why did I feel so deeply about a country that I’d visited so infrequently during my lifetime, yet seemed to have such a deep affinity and appreciation of?  I guess if you believe in living prior lives, perhaps you would write it off as that but being the pragmatic guy that I am I searched for a more fact based reason.  Yeah I know, hard to believe right?

It was the little things, but I noticed them the first day. 

Wild Hydrangeas
I’ve always been one for details, sometimes the hidden little things that no one else notices are the things that capture my attention and that I gravitate toward. This was just such an occasion. 

To the untrained eye they were lost in the overabundance of colors, shapes and spectacular vistas that make up this most beautiful part of the world. It seemed that everywhere I glanced there they were, at the side of the road as I drove toward my destination, in front gardens of the houses that I passed, languidly growing in ravines and even deep in the forests and along hiking trails…where ever I seemed to be they were there – omnipresent if you will.  

I rent an apartment in a village called San Giovanni di Bellagio, as I want to feel the vibe of the village and observe the inhabitants as they go about their daily lives, not to mention practice my very poor Italian on them.  Fortunately for me San Giovanni is a small fishing village set on Lake Como about 2km from Bellagio.  With its narrow cobbled streets that are too narrow for cars, it’s the perfect place for me to get acquainted with my Italian soul.  

Most days started the same way, after a lazy breakfast of cappuccino and fresh croissants at the CafĂ© San Remo I’d jump on the next ferry with camera in hand and explore the villages that dot the miles of lakeshore.  Often times I’d only find out which direction or towns this particular ferry was headed after I was onboard and it was well out into the lake.  Nothing like a new adventure to set the day off right!

Each summers day in Italy starts exactly the same way, well for me anyway. The sky is an iridescent blue or as the Italians call it “azure”.  This gorgeous sky is accompanied by the softest of breezes, the type that caresses you warmly; some might even suggest that it was only the hint of a breeze rather than the actual air moving it so imperceptible. 

On top of all this grandeur was the feel of the air.  It’s aroma is reminiscent of my childhood in Clunes, with the hot sun providing a baking effect on the plants, shrubs and grass, which give off such a pungent and fragrant scent that it transports me back instantly to my days as a child in rural Australia.  When you stand in the sun it prickles the skin on your arms and neck, but in a good way, in a way that makes you feel alive and healthy.  The type that gets deep into your bones, yeah, you know the one I mean.  

It took me a few days to become aware of something that I found myself doing numerous times per day.  With my eyes closed and standing as still as possible, I’d be listening to the orchestra of sound made by the cicadas in the nearby trees and bushes, this beautiful sound teased the senses and complimented the overpowering sense of peace and tranquility that I enjoyed during those weeks in Italy.  

Italy for me represents “Dolce Vita” in the truest sense of the phrase, no wonder I feel so at home! 

Even today, as I sit here in Toronto during the depths of winter and surrounded by snow all these months later, if I close my eyes I can literally take myself back to those carefree summer days in Italy.  

To a distant moment in time when the earth stood still and breathed in the scent of the wild Hydrangeas…

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