Palazzo in Firenze

Once upon a time, in a magnificent palazzo in the center of Firenze (Florence) Italy, lived Beatrice Portinari with her adoring family. They spent their summers and weekends in the cool Florentine hills in her family’s serene villa—the quiet and lush Tuscan countryside unfolding just beyond the city. Italy, in 1275, was on the cusp of the Italian Renaissance, poised to leave medieval times behind.

Tuscan hills at Villa

“Bice,” celebrated her 8th birthday with a lavish party at her country villa. There she met young Dante Alighieri for the first time. The 9 year-old-boy found himself speechless—love at first sight. More than just smitten with her beauty, he sensed something deeper. Her presence seemed to exude a spiritual quality, an aura of perfection. Had Dante seen an angel? Perhaps. Would his life ever be the same? No.

Dante Alighieri

Dante also lived in Firenze, but his family had a country villa, as well. In fact, his country home was just a ten-minute walk from Beatrice‘s place. Even though they shared a geographically small world, they only encountered one another a few times in their lives. Sadly, Bice died at the age of 24, but her influence remained a constant companion in both Dante‘s writing and in his dreams—she was his muse and inspiration.

Likeness of Beatrice

Dante‘s book La Vita Nuova was written about his love for Beatrice. His adoration was neither physical nor earthly, but was rather an ethereal, aspirational, platonic or even agape love that inspired his journey toward enlightenment. In Dante’s La Davina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), Beatrice appeared as a guide to lead him into Heaven. While Dante could only approach Heaven, Beatrice took her seat next to God, as an amazing divine spirit—truly other-worldly.

We imagine our “Best Self” as a modest reflection of Heaven’s perfection. In order to move toward our “Heavenly Best,” don’t we all need a muse—someone who inspires, guides and leads us to our highest possibility? How romantic a thought, to be smitten by an earthly presence who shows us a way that we could otherwise never even imagine. For us, the story of Dante and Beatrice presents a powerful, idealistic yet tangible image—a vision to help us navigate this Life on Earth and beyond.

Credits

Featured image above: Dante encounters Beatrice in the historic center of Florence, Italy C1285—this painting is dated 1883 by the artist Henry Holiday, on display in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England.

Dante: Painting by Attilio Roncaldier 1801-1884, Ravenna, Museo Dantesco.

Beatrice: Painting by Washington Allston 1819, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Related Stories and Music

Winter’s End
This musical story and lyrics were written by Cheryl, alone in Tuscany on a cold winter dusk as she gazed out the window toward the beautiful Villa Portinari. Following are her poetic musings put to music. 

Beatrice’s Ghost
This music was spontaneously written and recorded in our Tuscan cantina by Joshua Housh in 2009—inspired by the mystery of the nearby historic villas of Beatrice and Dante.

If you have a great life, but still sense a longing for something more; if you ever considered acting on your special dream that has waited patiently for what seems like an entire lifetime; or if you’ve ever tried to create, or even change a long-term relationship, this book may be for you.

The title is Time to Partner—Relationship Changed Through Dreams, Intuition, Trust and Courage.

The story of our journey into a new way to partner together is now available thanks to the wonderful capabilities of Apple Books. Originally, we documented our process of personal change by writing the story and then binding the books by hand—creating only 27 copies. That was over 20 years ago. However, more recently, technology has opened doors to other possibilities.

The entire book has been transformed into a digital format, exactly like the original (amazingly close, except for a few improvements). The new version includes stories, art, poetry, quotes and 14 original songs. In the book we share the details of the first four years of our partnered journey, openly disclosing the dissatisfaction, risk, creative spark, intuition, dream and magic exactly as it happened. Now, our hope of sharing it with a broader group has become a reality. As we pass the 50-year mark in our relationship, we think it is a good time to reissue the digital story.

Join us on our adventure

You can easily get the e-book with just a few clicks. However, the app is only available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Simply go to Apple Books and search for Time to Partner—download for free and you’re ready to start reading, viewing and listening.

Below is a short video called Accidental Authors, we made as a way to introduce the book. Check it out to discover something that might spark your own insights and inspirations. Also, feel free to share the link with any friends you think could be interested. Basically, we’re inviting you to take Time to Partner!

Cheryl and Emerson

Accidental Authors (Trailer)

Uncommon Promise (Music)

An “uncommon promise” became extremely important to us in the early years of our relationship. We knew we had to become impeccable with our word, and open and honest like never before. It was then, that we decided to use “Uncommon Promise” as the name for all of the art, music and stories we were creating together. Then, we decided to write our feelings of recommitment into a new song so we could capture that feeling and sincerity for all times. At that moment, we envisioned our journey into a stronger relationship like trying to discover an unimaginably beautiful Pearl. We haven’t yet uncovered everything we’ve been searching for, but remain committed to the quest.

Veruska and Igor seem happy with their lives in Italy. We don’t really know where exactly in Russia they came from or IF they really are Russian. Why did they leave? Were there suspicious circumstances? It doesn’t really matter. We simply know that they are the sweet couple that we encountered just outside the Balducci Coffee Bar on the piazza in Caldine. (more…)

È quest’autobus per Santa Brigida? Is this bus going to Santa Brigida?”
Seems like a pretty simple question, but after a 5 hour hike and an hour wait for the last bus of the day, we wanted to be sure. We had no interest in retracing our steps back to the car. ” Sì, questa è l’autobus giusto. Yes, this is the right bus,” she replied with a smile. (more…)

“If you get pure beauty, you get about the best thing God has to give.”

The quote is attributed to an anonymous artist long ago, cited by the British writer, Charles Latham in his 1905 book, The Gardens of Italy. The sentiment sums up the intention of the Italian villa—pure beauty! And Villa Gamberaia, set in the peaceful hills overlooking Florence is certainly no exception. This incredible garden in the Tuscan landscape has been studied and celebrated by architectural historians and garden designers throughout the centuries. In fact, the painter may have been standing in Gamberaia’s garden when he first spoke those words that captured Latham’s imagination. (more…)

Ah, Spring! It’s that magical season that reminds us that what was closed and silent begins to open, open, open.

Immediately in front of us is the most incredible display of hope and faith in each new day. The Tuscan spring of this year arrives in all its splendor. Millions. No, billions of tiny tentative forms peek from beneath hardened bark, choosing to go one more round, to continue Life’s cycle, to shake off the blanket of winter. Shades of gray transform into delicate green, pink and yellow buds, right before our eyes. Blossoms. Flowers. And we anticipate the unfurling of leaves for shade in the months to come.

We are moved by the intensity of nature’s confident and bold statement. Choose life! Choose growth! Choose transformation! (more…)

Why would anyone voluntarily leave Italy? Good question. But, that’s another story for another time. So . . . given that we wanted to “get out of Dodge,” we asked ourselves one simple question, “How can we most quickly and easily leave, yet still enjoy rolling hillsides of enchantment and inspiration, all the while, eating incomparable pastries, local cuisine and of course, a refreshing gelato now and again?”  The answer was obvious: Corsica. (more…)

We share the same middle name—Emerson.

I miss my dad.

About a week ago, an envelope arrived in the mail. The address was hand written in a recognizably flamboyant style, using what appeared to be a black Sharpie felt-tip pen. Clue number one was the unmistakable script—none other than my mom’s handwriting. Inside was a short letter scrawled on an odd piece of notepaper, on which she’d written that she had found some old pictures of her and my dad’s wedding. She thought we might enjoy seeing them. She was right! (more…)

A quarter cup a day keeps the doctor away! That’s the adage that our friend Giacomo‘s father lives by and he’s in his nineties.

A quarter cup of what, you ask? OLIVE OIL. Signor’ Martini actually drinks it—in addition to what he typically drizzles over every meal, every day of his life. In ancient Greece, Homer called it liquid gold because of the countless benefits: heart, skin, medicines, rituals and much more. You name it. And that doesn’t even count the spiritual boost that comes from harvesting the olives by hand. It’s truly a meditation. Somehow, the gift of longevity is linked to the magic and mystery of the albero olivo, olive tree as far back as double digit centuries. Evidence like that is hard to ignore or deny. (more…)

Yesterday we spent the entire day in Florence.

Every once in a while, we have so many things that need to be done, it just takes all day. There’s no way around it. So we dedicated Monday from 6 am to 7 pm to make everything happen. Yes, we said 6 am—as in the morning. But we’re happy to report that we not only made a clean sweep of it, but enjoyed an extra surprise along the way. Little did we know that our burger day had finally arrived! (more…)