The Hillside Villas of Lucca, Italy

Gardens at Villa Torrigiani

Gardens at Villa Torrigiani

Wander out into the hillsides surrounding Lucca and enjoy a walk into the past–as you enter the Italian villas and gardens of the wealthy.

Check out my guest post on Italian Notebook.

During my Italy Retreats our visits to the gorgeous villas is an optional adventure, but so inspiring.


Guest Post on Italian Notebook: Lucca by Candlelight


Joining my Italy Retreat this year means you will experience The Luminaria in Lucca. It is a procession that lives on in Lucca as a traditional candlelit event honoring the Santa Croce, the Holy Cross.
Read my guest post and see more photos at The Italian Notebook.




Six Lovely Ladies in Lucca











Six lovely ladies enjoying their first meal in Lucca. Oops! The owner of Da Leo jumped in the photo. See if you can spot him. He was not part of the Retreat, but added to the fun.

Still traveling in Lucca after the beautiful women have returned to their homes and jobs, I am attempting to write a little about each day we spent in Lucca and the Italian Riviera.

The food in Italy is an essential part of the travel experience, so food will always be included in my writings. Below is a zucchini rotolini made of grilled zucchini slices, wrapped around ricotta, and stuffed with basil leaves. I actually don’t know the recipe used by Osteria San Georgio’s in Lucca, but it was fresh, simple and included local olive oil, which to me is a recipe for perfection.

zucchini rotolini

What’s the point of living la dolce vita was something we wrote about during the workshop part of the Italy Retreat, because that is the point of my retreats–how can we live la dolce vita, the sweet life, wherever we are? For life, for poetic freedom, like Marzio, our driver, said la bella lingua, the beautiful language of Italy is poetic, and with arms wide open, he sang, Anna bella, giving Nancy a new name, and pronouncing Pam as Pam Ella, and Eleanora.

To share food with friends, cook with them, not me alone in the kitchen, laughing, sharing delicious meals we prepared together–that’s part of the sweet life. Following my heart–a quiet walk in the woods where green meets the blueness of the sky, digging in the earth, planting a tulip bulb or chard for a late Fall crop. A cup of hot tea, a sweet book, open arms, a chat with a friend.

Travel  to sweet Italia where pesto meets the crucifix and a nonna helps Judy open the door, where our driver tells us his favorite ragu recipe as he drives, and Pam teaches me how to adjust the lighting on my iPad, and then shares her sense of design to help us shop.

And Marie and I laugh far into the night over our spa experience at Grotta Giusti. If you want to know more, you’ll have to call me. Then there’s Melinda flying across the globe to join us bringing Aussie humor, and some blister covers for my toe.

All with open hearts and a willingness to live more of la dolce vita.  That’s it–love like the Tuscan sunflowers (girasole) that move to face the sun–growing her seeds for us to eat and share with the birds.  The sweet life. And Nancy talking with the Italian nonna in the front of the van returning from our spa day. No idea what she’s saying, but yes some understanding with hugs, laughter and deep connection, because communication goes way beyond the meanings of words.

How will you live la dolce vita…the sweet life?

Cheese display in Lucca

Cheese display in Lucca

Lucca and the mountains beyond. Taken from the top of the Guinigi Tower

Lucca and the mountains beyond. Taken from the top of the Guinigi Tower


Traditional Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Traditional Tuscan Vegetable Soup