A Daring Adventure

I am not a fan of driving in Italy. That could change. Or not. Most of my life is magical thinking so, sure, it could happen. I might end up loving the way Italians drive. (But probably not.)

“Live is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

With all respect to Helen Keller, I don’t believe this. I appreciate the general premise. That is, if what she meant was to approach every experience as a marvelous new discovery. But a daring adventure? Yeah, no.

Contrary to how my life looks to others, those who really know me know what I’ve really always wanted is a simple life. Not a life of adventure. (In The Lord of the Rings, I want to be Sam not Frodo.) But this is my life. This is the hand I was dealt. Or what I agreed to before I incarnated. Don’t misunderstand: I love my life. I have an amazing life. I am extraordinarily grateful for it – all of it. And, if I’m being honest, I constantly have to push myself to actually live it.

Perhaps this is the origin of my fascination with home. I’ve been compelled to move so many times yet, whenever I am home (wherever that is at that moment), I can be pretty sedentary.

Once I’m home, I have to push myself to leave it. (Or be pushed.)

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken my predisposition to an entirely new level. Sure, it’s sounds exotic that I’m in Sicily, but I’ve really just been in my apartment, looking out at the sea for ten weeks. Perfectly content just sitting on the balcony. The reality of the country beginning to open up caused me some anxiety. The opportunity to explore is mine again – Yay! Only, I wasn’t exactly excited. I’m inclined to stay put. While this could never be my home home, it certainly offers the fundamentals of home: shelter and safety. The lovely view and fabulous apartment, even a new friendship and a small sense of belonging, are the ribbon and the bow. Le Luminerie has been a gift.

But for nearly 40 years, my life has unfolded under the banner of a few wise words from Anais Nin: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

As I said in my last post, I’ve been contracting. So,

I rented a car. This meant I had to drive. And driving was going to take courage.

Driving in Italy is anarchy at its finest. Seriously. It’s absolutely insane, and yet, amazingly, it works. At least for Italians. All the rules here seem to be more of suggestions than actual laws. Lanes? Forget it. Cars straddle lanes, creating three where there should only be two. Speed? Italians love speed. The speed signs are just numbers, the don’t even say “limit” on them. If it’s posted 50, I’m going 70, and I’m passed by others going 90. If it’s posted 100, I’m going 120, and still I’m passed. And how they pass is hair-raising. Like an action adventure film, they are suddenly right behind you and just when you’re sure they’re about to hit you, they swerve to the left at the last minute. They ride your tail. Behavior that would have me cursing in the States (because it’s rude) just has me scared to death in Italy (because it’s the norm). Scooters on streets pass on both the left and right. Like mosquitoes, you don’t see them coming until they’re annoyingly buzzing around you. Right, left, in front, behind. Wait, there’s another one. Shit I’m surrounded!! (No disrespect to my Italian friends. You have to understand, I don’t even drive in Chicago if I can help it!)

Of course, as you’d expect, most roads are narrow. Round-abouts are the norm. And in Sicily, there are tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels. I never realized how much tunnels make me nervous, until I arrived in Sicily. And to be fair (to myself, of course) driving with prescription sunglasses is a challenge when you come to a tunnel. I’m in the dark with them on but taking them off is another set of problems.

Driving in Italy takes courage. And a constant stream of prayers.

Of course it’s been worth it. Trapani is grand.

Erice is ethereal.

Castellemmare’s coastline is stunning. Postcard beautiful.

And Sambuca di Sicilia…

Sambuca made me gasp. Sambuca made me weep. That’s not hyperbole. When I first saw Sambuca from a distance, everything stopped. I had to pull over and take it in. Later, I sat at the top of Terrazzo Belvedere, looking out over the green rolling hills and vineyards, and I cried. And I laughed. I lay down on the stone bench, looking up at the clouds, and I swear a saw a fetus in a womb above me. Yeah, okay, weird. And hugely symbolic. I think I could live in Sambuca.


I tend to overthink things. Even renting a car, I researched models to decide which might be the best fit. I always read reviews. I always read instruction manuals. A tendency to over-use my head. Ah, but then there are times when something hits me in the gut and I run with it. And that is almost always a good thing. Still, falling in love is always risky and I’m not quite ready to commit my heart to a town I just met. Especially after being in quarantine for ten weeks. If I stay in Balestrate to wait out this pandemic, I will pine for Sambuca like a lover. In other words, it’s time for me to leave.

This is going to take courage. And a whole lot of prayers.

On Wednesday I will relocate to a small cozy A-frame cabin surrounded by trees. The photos remind me of my favorite retreat in Michigan. This is what I need. Three days of pine-scented cool evening air, and no WiFi.

Then I will spend a week in an old stone cottage adjacent to Parco delle Madronie, home to some of Sicily’s highest peaks. Lush with a forest of beech trees, as well as several varieties of oak and ash, I will enjoy a view of land and not sea. I need green. I need the country.

All together, ten days surrounded by trees after ten+ weeks of sea. My spirit is begging for this.  

After that? Non lo so. I really don’t know.

As with every transition, there is trepidation. I’m giving up a really good thing here in Balestrate. A really good thing. I feel safe here. I feel protected. My landlord has become my friend. Coming here took courage. My life expanded richly.  But if I stay, my life will shrink. 

Is this the same as a daring adventure? Maybe. Whatever it is, as with all journeys, I’m just working my way home.

Earlier today, Nino took me up to Borgetto, above Partinico, to his little slice of wooded heaven. This is the landscape I’m craving. Thank you, Nino, for being such a wonderful host during this truly momentous time. And for being a friend.

16 Comments on “A Daring Adventure

  1. Incredible pictures that capture the beauty and nuance of Sicily. So different without so many people around. An unexpected opportunity to make friends in an unexpected twist of plans. Le Luminarie is a wonderful, comfortable place to stay. Nino is top shelf as a host. Now to the mountains for you and another adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan, Italy has always been like this for me–moving me deeply…through a magical power I couldn’t ignore…and – leaving me in places I never ventured to go, but found myself drawn. May your adventure take you far beyond where you hoped or dreamed you could be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So lovely to see, through your eyes and hearing about your adventures, (tagging along) plus proud of you, what an experience. lots of healthy loving hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed the update, pictures and description of driving. Madronie Park sounds like it will be a great variation on the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A Home-cooked Meal – Jan Peppler / HOME

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