Archive for December, 2011

The Gift of Orvieto

Kristi and I were in The Grind the other day. The Grind is one of our local coffee shops. It was warm, cozy, bustling, friendly. We had a good talk with Roberta, the Sicilian barista, who, incredibly, lives here in Morganton. We left feeling so content, so much a part of this place, and loving we can hear a bit of Italian in rural NC. We have Orvieto to thank for, what amounts to, a huge gift.

We’ve been leading trips to Orvieto for 9 years, about to enter our 10th. Each season we become more attached to the city, more enamored of its people, form deeper friendships. It is a very rich experience. In May of 2008 we returned from Orvieto morose over the suburban life to which we were returning. After the fullness of 3-4 weeks in Orvieto, the prospect of an automobile dominated life was unthinkable! We are lucky because our work in Italy allows us to live anywhere. So, we got in the car and began a search.

We love the mountains. We set off on a 5 day trip, list of towns we felt had possibilities in hand, up one side of the Appalachians in NC and VA and back down the other side into TN.

We stopped in Morganton the first night. We sat outside having a beer and watched a busy parade of pedestrians. It wasn’t a passeggiata exactly, but it wasn’t far off. We kept returning over the following 6 months, and finally decided it was the place for us. We got here in February of 2010 – we’re closing in on two years.

Morganton River Walk

Morganton River Walk

And we love it. That morning at The Grind is one of many, many human-centered experiences we have every week in this town. We walk to downtown and the Grind. We walk to the gym. We’ve made friends easily. Without knowing it, we were small town people and here we are!

And we have Orvieto to thank. Had we not had the incredibly fulfilling relationships we had there we would still be in Columbia, living unexceptionally in suburbia, likely with a certain level of discontent we would not be able to put our fingers on. Yes, we are very lucky

I have written before about the gifts we receive from Orvietoand Italy. I guess

Merry Christmas from Morganton!

it is a regular theme because, well because it is true it gives us so much. I write about it today inspired by the Italy Blogging Roundtable. There are lots and lots of wonderful blogs about and from Italy. The Roundtable is a group of five who monthly write about the same topic. This month they are opening it to others. So I thought I’d participate.

The Roundtable is made up of ArtTrav, At Home in TuscanyItalylogue, Italofile, and Brigolante. Thanks to the Roundtable for the inspiration!



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“Living is the original art,” Mark Nepo says. I love that. While many of our trips to Italy are art based, every one of our trips is based on the idea that life is, or at least certainly can be, art. In fact at one time we considered doing an “Artful Living” trip. Ultimately, we just decided to make every trip a life-is-art experience by its very nature and character.

Of course, Italy and Orvieto epitomize artful living. It is what attracts us to them. We tend to forget life is art as we go about our busy lives. Any vacation can return us to this understanding. But one to Italy, when you go slow enough to enjoy the place rather than trying to see it all, immerses you in life as art. You see it in the way people dress. You enjoy it when you eat on tables with linens – most restaurants use linens. You appreciate it with the care that the coffee is made and presented.You recognize it in the ancient monuments so beautifully built and decorated. It infuses everything.

One little example. When you step up to the bar for a cappuccino at

Our barista Stefano Scarponni

Scarponni’s  in Orvieto, Stefano always spins the cup on the plate so the handle is to the right. He puts the spoon on the plate so the handle faces you on the right of the cup. Always. Then he pours in the frothed milk in front of you. It is this kind of simple gesture happening around you all the time that you begin to absorb.

Living is the original art. Italy helps remind of us that!

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