My Italian grandmother, Olga, was my guide and she told me stories, immigrant stories, while I stirred the polenta in her kitchen, while I sat with her as she crocheted tiny bits of lace on cloth, as we listened to Pavarotti on the stereo.
These stories brimmed with courage. I wanted to be brave too. Until then, I had been confined in a religious cult and that first trip to Italy coincided with the suicide of my husband. It was a powerful catalyst that released me and put me onto a path of self-discovery and healing.
Years later, I made another important odyssey to Italy. My grandmother had passed away and I found myself confined again, this time in a stressful and soulless corporate career. I took her journals with me and started writing down her stories. Again, the bravery of ancestors who crossed the threshold into an unknown new world inspired me to change my life and create a more authentic one.
The result was The Stonecutter’s Aria, part historical fiction, part memoir and my way of honoring my ancestors’ legacy. Since its publication, I have been led to create workshops and visual programs that inspire people to do the same: preserve the stories, traditions and rituals that keep the connections to family alive, anchoring that vital sense of belonging.
And now, I take people to Italy, creating personal excursions for small groups that transcend sightseeing, opening the doors to beauty that were once opened for me.
I split my time between my hometown of Indianapolis, Florence and my family farm in Tuscany.I invite you to explore the pages of my website as an armchair traveler to Tuscany, but even better, join me this year on one of my Aria Tours.