We’ve seen it enough in movies. The old country villa in France or Italy that some American falls in love with and leaves their hectic New York life to renovate it and spend their days trimming olive trees or growing grapes, surrounded by quaint country folk who teach them how to slow down and savor food, wine, love and life. Well, here I am in Santa Margherita Liguere at just such a place. High up in the hills overlooking the Liguere Sea, seated outside on a sunny morning serenaded by church bells, the distant sounds of children, morning birds, the tinkling bell of the resident sheep and no sounds of traffic or chain saws. The proverbial cat stretches in the sun, the butterflies flit around, the world is still and calm and inviting. The olive tree sways in a morning breeze, the cypress stands straight, the clang of breakfast dishes in the house above— it’s La Dolce Vita, not quite as Fellini meant it, but sweet nonetheless.
Country is country, but there is something different about this from a cabin in California or a clapboard house in Maine or a cottage on Lake Michigan. Something about the rambling landscape, the quaint (but not kitschy) little touches, the sense of antiquity and the sure knowledge that no malls are encroaching, no trailer parks are nearby, no survivalists are in the nearby hills amassing assault weapons. It has a character indubitably its own and though this is my first morning here, it wouldn’t take much to convince me to leave my life behind and retire gracefully here in company with fresh focaccia, buzzing bees and beckoning days with few demands. Like King Lear, away from the court drama of who’s in and who’s out, the malicious gossip and ignorant decisions that hurt without remorse, the 24-hour news feeding our fear and shining the light on human depravity. Time and leisure to be “God’s spies,” training our eye to bypass the whole catastrophe and reveal the glory and the beauty.
The church bell chimes, the birds chirp, the distant dog barks, the soundscape of serenity reminding this traveler to lay down his burdens and his successes and soak in the bath of the Italian countryside. La Dolce Vita.