Tuscany is exactly what you imagine. Exactly. It’s not like Disney world when you expect to meet a giggling Mickey Mouse, but instead get hugs from a musky chubster made of terry cloth with fixed pupils. This place really is a clay-roofed promised land with afghans of Sunflowers laying over rolling hills. If anything, the photos degrade its beauty.
I remember watching Under the Tuscan Sun years ago and thinking, “Yeah, right. I’m sure that place exists outside of Hollywood.” Well actually, it does exist, and I unintentionally ended up in the city where the heart warming picture was filmed: Cortona.
In fact, Diane Lane’s character really did restore an old villa in the rolling hills, and I, along with two other chick-flick admirers found the lavender gated home.
After several days of traveling with friends from the road, I was honestly quite content to experience the quiet village of Cortona on my own. A place as magical as Tuscany really gives you a chance to explore your thoughts, and ponder life’s ordinarily trying questions under the influence of citrus oils and blooming grape vines in the air. Suddenly, everything that once provoked the growth of gray hair at home is lost in the cracks of a cobblestone city.
This is the street I lived on for 3 nights. Sometimes I would only walk ten feet before sitting on a doorstep to eat a fresh picked fig. And no, I’m not kidding… this has been my life.
As if it couldn’t be more perfectly cliche; I went to dinner on my last night at a shockingly affordable restaurant overlooking the emmaculate villages below, when the man at the table next to me began singing. Singing. Between bites of truffle risotto and sips of red house wine, this man found the unabashed courage to start singing his heart’s ballads to everyone enjoying dinner. And the best part was, no one looked at him as if he were losing his marbles or disturbing their elegant dinner. Everyone just paused and breathed it in.
As I ate melted bites of a Sheep’s milk and pear soufflee as my fourth course, I thought about how freeing it is to simply do whatever you feel exactly when you feel it. Like choosing to sleep on trains for a night and spend the savings on a five course dinner with a view. And if fresh shaved truffles swimming in browned butter makes you want to sing Italian hymns to a patio of diners, then belt it out.
My last dinner in Tuscany struck a chord in me and, I warn you now, I had an existential epiphany that I feel I must share.
The most important thing I’ve learned in my 7 weeks of solo travel is that I can be whoever I want to be. I think everyone should experience a journey alone, so you can discover who you are without any preconceived expectations or influence of another. I think it’s good practice to reinvent yourself regularly and allow yourself to let go of the things you cling to as your signature, and create a new one.
Maybe five years ago I stood by the belief that I dont wear lipstick because I’m pretty enough without it. Thats confidence right? But now at 24, I find myself with a different breed of confidence, eager to paint on a coat of crimson because it makes me feel like a lady. We are not a fixed set of habits. And this gorgeous world of sun and herbs taught me that.