Dreaming Your Dreams & Having Them Too - My Tuscan Aria

For the Women: Dreaming Your Dreams & Having Them Too

“Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too? And have we room for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?” Elizabeth Bishop

We are about to enter a new decade and this post from earlier this year rings true.  It was dedicated to Elaine Carter, whose birthday would have been this week.  She left too soon and for me, embodied the message of realizing our dreams, not just dreaming them.  What do you dream for yourself?

Happy New Year!

Magic happens every time I spend time in my beloved ancestral homeland of Italy.

Since one cannot plan for magic to appear, it is always an arrival out of the blue and is the result of some kind of question I have asked of life – from long ago or even in the last five minutes.

I am walking around Florence and suddenly realize I need to tell Alessandra something and my phone is dead.  How am I going to reach her, I ask?  Moments later, there she is walking toward me in the piazza.  This kind of thing happens to us all.  We are momentarily amazed and tempted to name it a weird coincidence.

But there are bigger questions.  In 2001, I was at the end of my rope in the corporate world.  The stress that induced an illness that hospitalized me produced these questions:  Now what?  How will I ever be happy again? What will I do?

I made a choice to retreat for a while.  I rented a home for a few weeks near Florence.  Many choices presented themselves.  I made one that for whatever reason felt right.  It was Alessandra’s villa and I discovered much later that her property had been owned by Michelangelo.

Landing there felt like magic to me and 20 years later, the wand keeps waving.

So, there was no grand plan.  But there was a choice and once I decided to do something that was completely a heart-based decision with risk attached, things started happening that expanded my life.  (Note:  many of these “gifts” came shabbily packaged.  The ride has not been smooth.  There have been many setbacks, tears, moments of anxiety and downright fear. But I wouldn’t change it.  I have gained enormous freedom, experienced profound beauty and deep satisfaction from doing my true work.)

In my encounters with women who I coach through life transitions (I have a private practice, the one thing I took with me from my corporate life), as well as women I meet in book clubs I am asked to appear at or women I meet through other events:  many are dreaming of being, having or doing something more or different.  Something is missing in their lives.  Adventure, possibly.  Joy.  Time.  Creativity.  Rest.  Passion.

There has been a divorce, or children leaving the nest, or a career issue or retirement.  Lots of questions.  What’s next for me?  When will it be my turn?  How can I fill in what’s missing when I have a partner/job/life that is not offering me growth or fulfillment anymore?  How can I not feel afraid of the unknown? 

I know that questions do not get answered by continuing to ask them.  At some point, one needs to listen.  Not to the advice of well-meaning friends or family who may be in fear of change themselves. (and believe me, their voices will be loud). But to your SELF.

“People dream. They talk about escaping from it all. Their friends and family diligently listen and politely ignore it when the ruminations fade into oblivion. So quite a few eyebrows went up when I made this trip a reality.” Kristine K. Stevens

And that means you have to get out of your head and into your heart.  Very difficult, but necessary.  Your mind is not hungry.  Your soul?  Most likely.  And it will demand action that will take you right out of your comfort zone.  Oh, yes it will.  Logic be damned.

"If you find yourself drawn to an event against all logic, go. The universe is telling you something." -Gloria Steinem

“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” — Ella Maillart

My soul nourishment comes from walking among olive trees, from sitting in the quiet and gazing on a lush landscape that is unchanged since Leonardo’s time.  From sitting down at the Italian table with friends, lingering, laughing, forgetting about the outer world and its strife and politics.  It comes from sleeping in the absolute quiet of the Tuscan countryside and being awakened by the crowing of a rooster.  It comes from hearing the peal of church bells infusing the air with an ancient call.  It comes from the sense of wonder at the beauty of a Michelangelo sculpture, the radiance of Raphael’s faces, the architecture of a Florentine Palazzo, the bursting sun-colored beauty of a Limonaia in emerald gardens.

When the questions I have about my life are not worrying me during these moments because I am completely absorbed in the beauty, I often am surprised that an answer to something, a new idea or direction may show up anyway. 

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

There are many ways to find nourishment and renewal for the soul, but travel is one of the best.

"You must go on adventures to find out where you belong." - Sue Fitzmaurice

"I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."

Mary Anne Radmacher

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

And this!

“I have learned this strange thing about travel: one may return to a place and, quite unexpectedly, meet oneself still lingering there from the last time.” – Helen Bevington

I cannot explain how choosing the “right” place in Florence in 2001 put me on a path of self-discovery that changed my life, but I meet myself in those places of beauty every time I return.  What place has long been waiting for you? 

“Traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. Most often, you meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime.” – Jacqueline Boone

“When life gives you twists and turns, Chique Yourself Up in Italy!” Barbara Conelli

The Aria Tour for Ladies Only in April

April 18-25 – The Aria Tour of Tuscany - $5,000 per person, double occupancy, all-inclusive except airfare.  My trips normally start at $6,600, so it will never be more affordable than  this.  Six wonderful ladies have signed on.  Four spots only.

Surprise people. Come on your own.  Soak up the beauty and renew your spirit, as a new decade begins!  Or come with friends and make lifetime memories.  We take care of everything else.  Contact me: [email protected] 

“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love


  1. Deb says:


  2. Cynthia DiTallo Starks says:

    Carol – This reflection is so beautiful. It reminds me of an old Robert Frost line, “And if you’re lost enough to find yourself by now…” from his poem called “Direction.” Aren’t all of us in need of going somewhere we can find ourselves?” I have often thought a great first line for a novel might be, “How is it possible to miss someplace you’ve never been?” Because that’s how I’ve often felt about taking the trip to my ancestral home in Campania. We are all lonely souls searching for the place we really belong. aren’t we? Thanks again.

  3. Alice Wolfe says:

    Thank you so much for including my sister, Elaine, in this beautiful story. I am sure when you’re in the olive groves she is with you in spirit. She loved her time there, you and the people she met❤️. My granddaughter plans to go to college for a semester in 2020 & we plan to visit.

    • Carol Faenzi says:

      Hi Alice
      It felt so fitting. I remember vividly Elaine saying before she cane with us the second time that she had lost a friend to cancer and she was not going to wait to do things. It’s so poignant- bittersweet. I am thrilled your granddaughter will have such a splendid opportunity and that you plan to come to Florence. Maybe we will meet!