In the home stretch of summer 2018, an incredible opportunity landed in my lap: a seven-day painting workshop in Tuscany.
I had learned of the trip, led by Charlotte artist Angela Nesbit, last spring but quickly dismissed it to my bucket list; one day maybe, but not this year.
July was not quite over and we had already enjoyed a very full summer. The last Saturday morning of July, a message popped up from a painting friend. She wanted to know if I was available to take her place at the workshop in Italy; she had paid and registered, but was not able to attend. I’d have to fly out Thursday—FIVE DAYS AWAY.
I was still recovering from our two-week family vacation in Rhode Island and a whirlwind trip to Atlanta.
The logical part of my mind said, no—are you crazy? You can’t even begin to consider going...the expense, the time, all of the things you’ve got to catch up on. But my heart said wait—check it out. Maybe this is from the Lord.
I prayed. I took a deep breath and told my husband. We talked about all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. But something wouldn’t let me dismiss it that easily. I prayed again, and began putting together the pieces of a puzzle that eventually fell into place.
Each roadblock I encountered became a new prayer request. Lord, if You want me to go—if this trip is a gift from You— please work this out. I took what logical steps I could, prayed again and waited. While running errands that afternoon, I bought a couple of travel accessories as “good faith” deposits.
Things began to move. I expedited my passport, which had expired last February, and it was processed within 24 hours. A friend obtained airline buddy passes for me to fly overseas at an unbelievably low price. My wonderful husband and four teenage daughters volunteered to step it up a notch in their duties at home to cover for me. I inventoried my painting supplies and obtained what I needed.
That Sunday night, we attended a church meeting where our pastor laid out his vision and implementation for a huge outreach/expansion project. His message was the story of how it began with dreaming and praying big, because we serve a big God who loves to give us good things. Ah, the timing!
On Thursday, August 2, I flew to Milan (was bumped up to first class!). Looking out the window at the amazing snow-capped mountains, I cried in stunned amazement at this incredible blessing I had received. I was arriving in Italy on a painting trip that had not been even remotely on my radar less than a week before.
Each destination presented new challenges—figuring out the train system, getting to Centrale Milano, finding the ATM to get Euros, obtaining WiFi so I could pull up my ticket—and again, He was faithful. A gelato and a 3.5 hour train ride later, I arrived in Masa.
I walked out of the train station in a daze, my mind foggy from very little sleep/lots of travel for the past 32 hours. How am I going to find Alessandro, our host? I do not know what he looks like, nor he me. Seconds after this realization, I a smiling man walking toward me, “Julia?” I smile, “Yes!” He takes my bags and we load up in the van with Chrissy, also a Montorno participant.
We arrived at the hotel in Querceta, nestled between the coast and the mountains. Quick shower and change, and off to meet the group in the lobby. I was warmly greeted by the group of eight ladies. Our host couple, Alessandro and Francesca, drove us to dinner at Montorno, their beautiful mountainside property in the town of Seravezza. Appetizers (a tomato tart, crostini with hummus, and big green local olives) and beverages awaited us on the front patio while we took in the amazing view.
Seravezza is known for its marble which is mined from the Apuan Alps. According to Wikipedia, harsh pressure transformed the limestone in many places into the Carrara marble (named for the nearby city of Carrara) for which the range is renowned.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give all the delicious details. Francesca is an amazing cook! Dinner that first night was a lovely pasta in a light tomato sauce; fresh bread; thinly-sliced chicken breast in a light lemon sauce; garden salad; sautéed spinach; strawberries and bananas in a light strawberry sauce with whipped cream.
An absolute dream! To be continued...
Pictured below: Montorno and the view from the house; the mountain range where Carrara marble is mined. Bottom right: A small painting I did of our wonderful hosts, Alessandro and Francesca, preparing dinner for us in their kitchen (Preparando La Cena, oil on paper, 9x12 inches).