An Italian Journey: Writing And Healing

September arrived and with it, any thoughts of writing vanished.   My birthday; a long-awaited holiday.  Both beckoned.   But somewhere in the space between early spring and autumn’s first flush, everything blurred into one big smudge of I can’t face it.

We heal, eventually, from family illness and loss, but scars do not disappear. And something, at some point, has to give, even if only for a short while.  My long-burn writing dream never died, but in the deep, silent part of me, my ability to focus, to write, lay in tatters.

So I retreated into long walks by the sea and drinking wine in my garden, listening to the birds singing their sweet September song.  I offered up my writing, like a bird held gently in both hands, and I let it go and watched it fly away.

And then, with gentle persuasion, I took Hubby’s hand and I flew away too, on our long-awaited holiday to Lake Garda in Italy.

lake-garda-sept-2016-116

Stunning views of the Alps, lakes and the Black Forest as we flew above France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria on this beautiful, blue sky day. The Stewardess knew something, as she returned with not one, but three gin and tonics – each! – with a knowing wink. It wasn’t just the hum of the plane’s engine that was buzzing… (c) Sherri Matthews 2016

From Verona airport, we travelled on for not quite two hours to the north-western shore of the Lake, where, against the backdrop of the Italian Alps,  sits the exquisite and historic village of Limone.

The name Limone is Italian for ‘lemon’, and lemons and other citrus fruits once grew in abundance in the now ancient lemon groves, dating back to the 14th century.  The terraced columns of the Limonaia del Castèl are still clearly visible.

lake-garda-sept-2016-68-editedDuring the summer, they are opened up by candlelight for visitors to tour, with lemon trees still grown, albeit in smaller quantities.

lemon-groves-1 But ‘Limone’ is also the Latin word for ‘boundary’. Lake Garda is made up of three regions; Limone is part of the Brescia province, in the Lombardy region.

Limone also, quite possibly, holds the secret to long life: In the 1970s, during a routine medical check-up, a man was discovered to have high levels of cholesterol but without any of the expected damage.  Doctors went on to discover that this man, members of his family and a small community in Limone, all carried a type of protein that keeps cardiovascular disease at  bay.  Hopes continue that this protein can be replicated for the general population, but so far, we wait.

The view from our balcony was truly spectacular.
To the right ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-284

lake-garda-sept-2016-286 lake-garda-sept-2016-288And to the left ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-141The ever-changing skyline transformed the mountains as a work of art ~

limone-mountain-views-4limone-mountain-views-2limone-mountain-views-5The walk down to the lakeside took us down narrow – and steep! – cobbled streets ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-198 lake-garda-sept-2016-131 lake-garda-sept-2016-77 lake-garda-sept-2016-419Past houses bursting with blossoming bougainvillea ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-76 lake-garda-sept-2016-85 lake-garda-sept-2016-412 And shops filled to the brim with every good thing ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-211lake-garda-sept-2016-192 lake-garda-sept-2016-193lake-garda-sept-2016-126lake-garda-sept-2016-195 lake-garda-sept-2016-417lake-garda-sept-2016-196 lake-garda-sept-2016-194lake-garda-sept-2016-210For a quiet place to sit, there is no lack of cafes, bars and restaurants ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-422And then we found the harbour ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-89limone-harbour-5 We walked along the beach ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-203 lake-garda-sept-2016-326 lake-garda-sept-2016-327 Places to dine, take in the view, relax, pop up everywhere in Limone ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-294And swans enjoy the lake too ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-100But even as lost as I was in all this beauty and tranquility, it wasn’t until we visited Malcesine across the water, only a twenty-minute boat ride way, that I found true magic.

The beaches and streets and harbour of Malcesine were just as gorgeous `
as those of Limone ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-178lake-garda-sept-2016-96limone-harbour-3-edited-2lake-garda-sept-2016-165But it was while walking around The Scaliger Castle that I felt a familiar stir, like a breeze, in that deep, silent place where my writing lay in tatters.

Not just the stunning vistas, but a glorious history ~

streets-of-malcesine-2 streets-of-malcesine-10 streets-of-malcesine-13The 13th century castle has been extended over centuries, owned by The Scaliger Dukes of Verona and later by the Austrians in the 19th Century.

As I climbed higher, the view became ever more breathtaking ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-36 lake-garda-sept-2016-2 lake-garda-sept-2016-19 lake-garda-sept-2016-21lake-garda-sept-2016-22lake-garda-sept-2016-35lake-garda-sept-2016-26 I reached the bell at the very top ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-34And then, as I walked through the castle, I read this, quoted from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era:

How I wish  my friends could be with me for a moment to enjoy the view which lies before me.‘  J W Goethe, from Torbole, 12th September, 1796.

I felt just the same way ~

lake-garda-sept-2016-102-editedWritings and sketches by Goethe filled the castle and I realised, to my thrill, that I was walking in his footsteps, for he had once visited this very castle during his ‘Italian Journey‘ in 1786. Forced by strong winds to take harbour at Malcesine, he wandered up to the ruins of the castle for some peace and quite, but someone crept up on him and stole some of his work.

It caused an outcry as Goethe was suspected of being a spy, but his ‘gentlemanly appearance and his power of oration’ won the day.    From then on, thanks to the high regard for Goethe and his visit, albeit an unplanned one, Malcesine became the tourist haven that it is today.

Reading about Goethe’s Italian Journey inspired me more deeply than I at first realised.  Stopping for a light lunch, we found a quiet place just off from the harbour ~

streets-of-malcesine-17-editedThere, I found a moment of rare and sublime contentment.  Enjoying a bowl of homemade minestrone soup and a glass of Prosecco, languishing in September’s Mediterranean warmth, I could not take my eyes off the green shutters facing me.

At the table in front of them, a family of three adults finished lunch and for a little while, nobody sat there.A man played a violin over by the harbour and two small children laughed as they chased one another down by the water, but through the world passing by, words tumbled out of the deep, dark place where they had slept inside me, undisturbed, for so long.

One would need a thousand styluses to write with. What can one do here, with a single pen?  And then, in the evening, one feels exhausted after so much looking and admiring.’  J W Goethe, 5th November, 1786.

And then, at the empty table, sat my dad.  Not a ghost, not a vision.  He was just there, smiling, telling me to enjoy my life, to laugh and love and to LIVE it.

That evening, back in my hotel room, I took out my single pen and notebook, unused for too long, and my writing returned.   I wrote ‘Green Shutters’, and I found the flow of my memoir, inspired when I least expected it by my own Italian journey.

lake-garda-sept-2016-329And I’ll say Buon Appetito to that.

lake-garda-sept-2016-200

About Sherri Matthews

While writing to publication of her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', Sherri has been published in national magazines, websites and four anthologies in memoir, essays, articles, poetry and flash fiction. Sherri raised her children in California, and today lives in England with her husband, Aspie youngest and their pet menagerie fondly called ‘Animal Farm’. As well as writing, Sherri keeps out of trouble gardening, walking, and taking endless photographs, a few of the better ones she shares on her blog A View From My Summerhouse.
This entry was posted in Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

198 Responses to An Italian Journey: Writing And Healing

  1. Your post of Italy brings back memories that will last forever. It seems to me no matter where people travel to Italy the scenery is beautiful but I think the Italian people make that country amazing.
    We visited my husbands family in Sicily for a month and the memories linger beautifully in my mind. I too took pen to paper and photos galore. You can take a peek at my book on Amazon its title is “The Italian Thing”. Our circumstances were different but the result the same.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip.
    Ciao.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad my Italian post has brought back so many happy memories for you Janice. I know just what you mean about the scenery and the people: both amazing. I just found your ‘The Italian Thing’ blog and will head over to Amazon. Thrilled to share our ‘Italian Journeys’ Janice 🙂 Ciao!!

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on The Writers Desk and commented:
    Join Sherri and her husband on a wonderful trip to beautiful Italy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lbeth1950 says:

    This must have been such a joy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jjspina says:

    This is a beautiful post with gorgeous photos. Thank you for sharing this marvelous trip to an amazing country. These memories will stay with you for a long time but when they begin to fade you have all these magnificent photos.

    My husband and I traveled to Northern and central Italy several years ago and to Sicily (southern Italy) last year. This year we recently returned from Madeira and Lisbon Portugal.
    The photos say it all how wonderful visiting Europe is – the Old World compared to the USA, a young country. Blessings & hugs to Sherri and Debby too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janice! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, lovely to see you again, and share beautiful Lake Garda with you 🙂 Your many travels sound delightful. Sicily is a place I long to visit, and Madeira and Lisbon definitely on the list. As you say, the ‘Old World.’ We experienced a taste of that particulary in Dubrovnick, Croatia, which is one of the posts dear Sally will be linking to as part of this travel archive series. Believe it or not, hubby and I are off to the Almalfi Coast in Italy very soon, thanks to winning a holiday there as a prize! I need to definitely not forget my camera! Blessings and hugs right back to you dear Janice! ❤

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  5. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Sherri this is so touching. What a wonderful place to visit, perfect timing I’d say. And every photo is delight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gilly! Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Perfect timing indeed…I will never forget that holiday 🙂 Off soon to Italy again, Almalfi Coast, courtesy of winning a holiday there as prize from Classic FM. Still pinching ourselves. Who wins those? Are they even real? Well…it seems so! A random draw which hubby won. I told him maybe we should finally buy a lottery ticket 😉 Have left a comment over at your pad 🙂 xxx

      Like

  6. Beautifully written and wonderful photos, Sherri!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely gorgeous pictures, Sherri. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  8. joylennick says:

    I have seen your fabulous photographs before and read your worthy descriptions of beautiful Lake Garda and surrounding towns and hamlets. I took a similar route with my husband and relatives in the 1990s and also found it all stunning and memorable. (https://www.joylennick.wordpress.com/
    Here’s wishing you many more happy days travelling and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Joy! How wonderful that you got to travel there with your family, so many wonderful memories and photographs by you, I’m sure! Unfortunately, I can’t connect to your site with the link you gave me, as it blocked me. I will try again later, if I can find another link. I wish you many more happy travelling and writing days also…lovely chatting with you! 🙂

      Like

  9. purpleslob says:

    Sherri, the first word that came to mind, while looking at all that fresh produce was “Mangia!” I think that’s how to spell it.
    When you said your Dad was there, it took my breath away.
    I am so very glad for you, that your writing began to flow once again. It’s a gift to us, that would have been sorely missed, if taken away! Your writing is so real!!
    Love, Melinda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha…yes, I think that’s the word Melinda! Aww…you’re so sweet, thank you so much for your really lovely comment, what a wonderful blessing and encouragement you are to me my dear friend. Lovely to see you, always… love and hugs to you! 🙂 ❤ 🙂

      Like

  10. So glad to find your post through Janice. Beautiful. Obviously healing. and you found your writing again! Best wishes. The photos, by the way, are lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

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