Our Tuscan adventure taught us that strength, power, intellect, efficiency, and capability are genderless qualities. And sometimes they are named Barbara.

Tuscan Hills

We were determined to find a one room art/music studio in Italy—full of romance, abundance, creativity, magic, wonder, and beauty. Essentially, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the powerful Feminine Energy of the Tuscan Hills—the epicenter of the legendary Italian Renaissance, that incredible experiment in humanity. Florence (Firenze) whispered to us and its rolling northern hills beckoned. Our plan seemed simple enough. We longed to “birth” something new from deep within. However, life is messy sometimes, and cross-cultural life can be downright chaotic.

Just a one room studio

We found the perfect place, unfortunately in ruins. Our friend Pietro said, “This project sounds tricky. There’re many Italian laws you MUST know and follow. You need a good attorney (avvocato). You need Barbara!” Even though her specialty is corporate law, as a favor to Pietro, Barbara agreed to assist. She was an absolute godsend and without her, our dream wouldn’t have been fulfilled. She not only speaks English, but she’s great fun and definitely knew how to work through the intricacies of the Italian bureaucracy. 

It just so happened that Barbara was pregnant with her first child when we started working together. We soon met her husband, Giacomo and our Italian adventure expanded. They were starting their family and we were beginning our dream journey at the same time. As the years passed, we came to understand the significance of Barbara and her baby.  

The site was cleared

The spring was filled with tough negotiations, promises, miscues and confusion. The developers were a challenge to work with, but Barbara remained calm and collected throughout the process. She was up against a negotiating team of 80% men, which made the game even more fun for our Wonder-Woman attorney. Single-handedly, she charged forward with confidence and negotiated everything we needed to close the deal. Although Italy remains a patriarchal society and Italian men basically still run the show, Barbara was amazing and a real powerhouse. We were certain that we had tapped directly into the fierce Tuscan heart of ancient Feminine Energy and perhaps we even caught a glimpse into the not-too-distant future. We just stood back and watched her do what seemed to come natural—the impossible.

That summer Barbara and Giacomo welcomed their first daughter. We shared their excitement as we all greeted the new addition to our Female Power Team. We felt an immediate emotional attachment to their sweet daughter. After all, she was in the room with us (in utero, of course) during all of the negotiations and debates. With our young new partner and renewed enthusiasm we turned our attention to the promise of a completed arts studio. 

The invisible stuff

The second year of the project crept by very slowly, as the construction company readied the site, cleared and prepped for building to begin. There was visible activity, but at a snail’s pace. We had devastating periods of discouragement, due to the contractors’ inaction and constant internal conflicts. To say that it was exasperating would be an understatement. But soon, we received wonderfully distracting news, Barbara and Giacomo announced that a new baby would be joining the family.

Soon, their second daughter was born and the Power Team increased. Barbara was now super-busy with her full-time job as a lawyer, our project and two little girls (bambine) in tow. Since they had become a family of four, they needed more space. So, Barbara and her husband casually added more construction and relocation projects to their to-do list—without even flinching. They were busy times indeed with many changes, EXCEPT for the studio project which continued to drag along at a the pace of an old Tuscan turtle.

Stone walls appeared

As time passed with very little progress, we were nearing the end of our patience. We even entertained the possibility of scrapping the whole project. Once again. Barbara made a quick intervention, saying  “WHEN (more accurately, WHENEVER) the project is completed, it will have definitely appreciated in value.” She emphatically said we would be FOOLISH to withdraw from the contract. Since Barbara was a force of nature to be reckoned with, we followed her advice, immersing ourselves into writing more music and stories—the perfect distraction.

What seemed to be a relatively short time later, Barbara gave birth to her third baby. Unbelievable! Another sweet little girl joined the team representing another substantial increase in Feminine Power. Compared with our slow-motion project, it was incredible to note that 3 perfect little people had been born into our tiny sphere of “family.” How could this happen? How is it possible to create three baby girls in less time than it takes to rebuild/restore an old Tuscan barn? 

Finished Studio?

We finally moved into our dream studio at the end of the four-year odyssey. Although no one could deem it “move-in ready” by any means, our studio was finally a reality—just a wee bit late (più tarde). Somehow, all the delays and consternations were curiously within the limits allowed by Italian law (don’t ask). Never-the-less, we had keys in hand. So we turned our attention to the yard, or as the Italians call it, the GARDEN. We quickly learned that trees are masculine and the fruit is feminine as we focused on “bearing fruit.” Soon enough, we had enclosed and surrounded our little stone studio with lush vegetation—a soft green embrace.  

The Studio Goddess

Our dream studio could not have happened without Barbara, Giacomo and their three sweet little girls. The overwhelming presence of Feminine Energy inspired us. And yes just like the garden, it takes both the masculine and the feminine to make it work, but we’re thinking about an ideal balance of 80/20—majority Female Power. Our little project nestled in the Tuscan hills remains as a powerful symbol for us as we remember that simple truth: “The future is female!” 

This is a true “Italian Moments” story of actual events from 1999 – 2004

Related Stories and Music

 

The story called “Good Girl” speaks to the essential life-giving power of feminine energy.

We wrote another short story and music a few years back about our romance with Tuscany called “Tuscan Hills.” Check it out if you’re so inclined. 

When first arriving at the site of the ruins, we were captivated and swept away in the mystery of it all. We called it “My Treasured Heart.”

“Is there a more isolated house?” 

Climb aboard!

It seemed a simple question to pose to two Italian realtors. Without hesitation, we soon had our answer. Almost immediately, the more practical of the pair, feisty Inga, was at the wheel, maneuvering the old Jeep up the steep terrain. Her associate, Patrizia, stunning in her white knit pants, fitted shirt and lavender scarf tied stylishly around her neck, occupied the passenger seat. As Inga revved the engine, Patrizia turned and smiled to reassure us that everything was okay. Just after we turned off of the main road, Inga immediately threw her weight into the steering wheel for a hard left and we continued a steep climb. At one point, all we could see from the back seat was the dashboard because the road was completely obscured from view, due to the car’s jolting angle. Surely, this must be the top, we thought, as the grade leveled out a bit and we found ourselves passing between enormous old vacant barns and rusted grain silos. Inga paused only momentarily, grimacing as she engaged a stubborn gear, and then yanked the steering wheel hard to the right and away we went into the woods. 

Arriving at the top of the mountain

Surprised, we continued to climb up the rugged hillside, while brush and bushes slapped both sides of the Jeep. Rocks rolled down the hill while others crunched beneath the spinning tires as we bounced and jostled our way along. We felt a sudden lurch as Inga course-corrected after unintentionally dropping a tire into a huge pothole. Patrizia turned once again to offer another cautious, silent smile of reassurance. A few hundred feet further, Inga nearly stood on the brake pedal, bringing the Jeep to an abrupt halt. She then shifted into neutral, cut the engine and with a sharp tug, engaged the parking brake. Just for good measure, she kicked a large stone under the back tire. Then, as if nothing unusual had just happened, Patrizia smoothed her hair, adjusted her scarf and said with a gracious smile, “Andiamo, let’s go!” We emerged from the back seat to see—ruins. Not just something in need of minor repairs—serious ruins.

Barn In Ruins

There before us, was a small, dilapidated stucco, terra cotta and stone barn with a 3-inch wide diagonal crack running from its fallen roof all the way down past its dirt floor. Near the barn stood the delicately balanced pile of stones that once was a large house, as evidenced by a remaining 10-foot high stone corner. One wall jutted up far enough to hold the crumbling remnants of an old stone window opening. The adjacent partial wall was completely overgrown with vines that had surely gone unchecked for at least—umm, maybe 100 years?

Overtaken by nature

We couldn’t get too close to either the barn or the house, since brambles and weeds obstructed our way, completely covering the lower levels. We heard wild pheasants warbling in the nearby meadow. With nimble fingers, we lifted thorny branches and edged cautiously closer, remembering that in the undisturbed, abandoned parts of Tuscany there were undoubtedly many resident snakes—vipers among them—watching our every move.

The peaceful valley

We stood, staring from the ruins into the magnificent valley below. From that perch at the top of the hill we saw multiple layers of blue and gray mountains receding into the distance. Directly below us was an intimate valley in various shades of lush green vegetation. The landscape was broken with the occasional yellow stucco farmhouse, a castle tower and a couple of grand old villas. Silvery grey olive groves dotted the hillsides. Vineyards followed the contours, rolling like gentle green waves. On our far left, nestled within a distant pine grove stood a centuries-old monastery, Madonna del Sasso, with its own commanding view of the amazing valley. We were mesmerized, taking it all in, gazing into the distant past, smitten by the current breath-taking view—lovestruck.

Patrizia casually mentioned that Dante Alighieri, had a country home just down the hill in the late 1200s. She went on to say that he even penned his famous Divine Comedy while staying there. We were lost in thought. Then, after several minutes of silence, she said, “Allora, che pensate, so, what do you think?” 

Her question snapped us back to reality. With a quick glance and subtle nod to each other, we answered, curiously at the same time, “Perfetto, perfect!” Inga and Patrizia locked eyes and slightly raised their eyebrows. We’re sure we heard one of them utter to the other, “Pazzi Americani, crazy Americans!” Yet, we knew better. These RUINS would be the source of our inspiration. To rebuild the fallen stone walls was the perfect metaphor we needed to begin building our own dreams.

This story is a true “Italian Moment” that took place in the spring of 2000. 

Documenting real life is tricky business.

It probably would be much easier if our story was just our life alone, in some isolated way. But our lives are all tangled together with those of so many other people. To complicate matters, being in Italy means that there are also cultural tightropes as well. Let us explain. (more…)

Em here~

Today, Cheryl restarted her blog after several months of coasting along with a few broken parts. Now it is back up and running and I think we are all in for some interesting conversation. It is especially important for us now that we have started this joint blog related to the writing of our book, and documenting “Italian Moments” along the way. Her individual observations and musings on life will provide us with a counterpoint to all of our more focused work together. (more…)