A Nonna's New Life in Italy

Siena- piazza-del-campoSiena, Tuscany

Long ago our sites stopped being only about me, Maria and "our" Italy. Thanks to our Facebook page I realised that nearly everyone has a story to share about Italy.

Whatever Italy means to you I'd love to hear it.

The more Italian tales we all share the more we'll have a beautiful kaleidoscope of Italy to enjoy right here. I no longer want this to be about me or about Maria but about all of us - a true public piazza. A true community.

Well we have a great adventure to share with you today but, before I get to that, here are a couple of others that you might enjoy:

A Canadian mom moves to Calabria.

Romance and summers in the sun from an enchanted island.

On with the story...

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream ~ C. S. Lewis

That quote by C.S. Lewis says it all when it comes to this grandmother from Northern California.

With five children and ten grandchildren most people would decide that the time for journeys to distant shores and the living of ones dreams was long past.

Never think like that again!

I'm about to share a story that inspired me enormously. A story of great courage and determination.

I'll let Nancy (the nonna in question) share it with you...

Following My Dream After 43 Years

43 years ago, when I was at the tender and inquisitive age of 18, I set off alone on a pilgrimage to discover my Italian roots.

Fearless, determined and adventurous, I left my comfortable home and familiar surroundings in the USA thinking that this way of thinking was normal.

All I had was an address in Lucca, (Tuscany), some American Express Traveler’s checks and the hopes of a letter of introduction from my American relatives to arrive before I did.

Well, the letter didn’t arrive before I did. I didn’t speak Italian and my warm, surprised and welcoming relatives didn’t speak English.

We somehow were able to make at least a heart connection and they welcomed me to the family with open arms. We still laugh about it today. I’ll never forget the priceless look on their faces when the letter finally came and explained everything.

Their warm invitation to me as an unexpected stranger at the time and even warmer hospitality earned me the nickname "Americanina."

This is when my instant love for Italy began. I felt like I was home. How could that be?

I ended up helping out in the family's little trattoria and lived with them upstairs for about a year. Their life was simple and they lived it well.

This unfamiliar expression of life became to me La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) that everyone in America talked about. A life manifested with love, faith, family, laughter, generosity, hospitality, kindness, passion, music, food and pure joy that impacted me, moved me and has stayed with me every single day of my life.

The yearning and desire to return again was just as irresistible as it was the first time at 18. I knew that if I tried to figure it all out and analyze it as a more mature person now, I would never go. That adventurous, brave and determined spirit was still there and rose up strong. So, I booked a one way ticket and the adventure began.

It was even more difficult to say yes to my dream because you see I’m a single Mom to 5 amazing adult kids from Northern California. They’re all married and have been blessed with spouses that can only be described as extraordinary. I’m also blessed with 10 grandchildren! Granddaughter #11 will make her debut this summer.

Well, there are no words to describe how special and beautiful they are. My grandchildren call me Nonni, melt my heart every day, and inspire me to follow my dreams, to count my blessings and to live and appreciate life fully every moment like they do.-

That’s what I had to hold on to because I already knew how much I would miss them. My life for the last 43 years has been that of a mom and a grandmother. I didn’t know or could identify with being anything else.

I didn’t know where I was actually going until a few days before I departed. Mutual friends on Facebook introduced me to a wonderful family in the country near Montereggioni, Siena. They graciously invited me to stay with them to begin realizing my dream. Martino Vertova is a glass artist. I’m told that he’s one of a few left that still create stunning glassware in an oven. You can find him on Facebook and Etsy.com under Martino Vertova.

We lived everyday life together and I became quite good at driving a very large van with 6 gears. As far as speaking Italian? Well, I was pretty rusty after all these years but with time that improves. Long walks, journaling, frequent cappuccinos and trips to Siena made for a wonderful first leg of my journey.

Then a new chapter began for me in a quaint little town known as Colle di Val d’Elsa. They are known for their crystal production. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the beauty of this place and the people. I’ve met so many new friends and have been welcomed again as if I’ve know these people for years! 

Each day has been filled with so much joy, constant awe and the wonder and anticipation for what’s next. I now realize this dream is also much bigger than me and has a far greater purpose than I can realize at the moment.

My journey thus far has been mixed with having compassion on and helping those that are struggling, sick and overworked. It’s been about getting into the world and work of everyday life with the locals. Chatting, laughing, eating, praying, having cappuccinos, encouraging each other, building community and relationship, which is after all, the universal language that we all desire, want, understand and speak.

I don’t yet know where in Italy my journey will beckon me next, but one thing I do know is that I have barely scratched the surface of my dream and all that awaits me in its discovery. In the meantime, I continue to pray, wait, trust, love, help, observe, learn, teach, listen, hope, believe and be ready when it’s time to go.

Some say my journey is much like that of the true life movie Eat Pray Love. And in many ways…they are right. I’ve already been blessed to be familiar with…Eat and Pray. But Love? Well, that just may make a wonderful and romantic next chapter.

Keep an eye out for my next my next update and I hope you enjoy the photos.-

Colle di Val d'Elsa

Colle di Val d'Elsa
A lane on the edge of Colle di Val d'Elsa
Real Italian Pizza
Butcher in Italy


Osteria in Siena
Restaurant in Siena
Bike in Siena

Nancys blog is at nancydelgrande.wordpress.com.

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