Today I spent the day in the City shopping with Stephanie. Stephanie is a friend I have know for almost 15 years now…and as life leads us all on different paths, I have not seen her for a long time. Steph came to Manhattan to complete a course on exercise for Diastasis Recti. I was delighted to hear she was coming to NYC to study and wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to spend time with her again.
Stephanie and I met in Rome…and as is the Italian legacy, we fell in love, as only best friends can. We were introduced by her Brother very briefly in Australia, but really did not get to know each other until I hopped off a plain in Rome. Two blond 20 year old Australian babes (I can say this now, 15 years later) together in Italy, we instantly connected.
For a little over three months, we lived together, worked together, ate great food together, drank wine together, shopped together, and ran away from boys together…literally!
Steph had moved to Italy to be an Au Pair for a wealthy Italian Family for 12 months. I was setting out on a 12 month traveling journey through Europe and America and so Steph’s Brother suggested I call his Sister in Italy. By the time I was heading to Italy, Steph was almost finished her contract with the Family. From Greece I was in contact with her. Steph spoke to Eleanora, her boss, who kindly allowed me to stay as Stephanie’s guest. The Wife and Mother of the Family, Eleanora was an Italian Countess. The primary Family home was in Rome, on the corner of Ponte Sant’Angelo, with amazing views of Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Vatican City. A very historical prestigious area to stay in. From my guestroom I could look off the balcony and see the Bridge of Angels. In one of the photos I have included, you can see the house Steph lived in, where I was so very lucky to stay.
I Stayed with Steph and her Italian Family for almost a month. Although not the whole time at the house in Rome. In the remaining weeks of her contract with the Family, they went on Vacation. One week down to Sardinia, and another week to the country house in Tuscany (near the beach). I was invited to go with the Family to the Tuscan country house, and so off Steph and I went with Eleanora and her little 4 year old boy whom Steph baby sat. As you can imagine it was not alot of work for Steph and I to take care of one 4 yr old and so our days had plenty of time for riding bikes downs dusty roads surrounded by fields of sunflowers. We lay on the beach and sunned our buns, and in the evenings we went to discotheques with crazy Italian boys. Steph had a boyfriend named Pietro and I recall one night at around 10pm (as that is when the night begins) we drove to a natural hot-springs that had hot thermal waters running into a cool deep creek. There were loads of Italian kids (by kids I mean 20 year olds, us included) dancing in Summer starlight, drinking vino and swimming in the warm waters…oh my goodness, what young adult bliss! Another evening we went out to dinner with one of Pietro’s friend. His Family owned a beach and resort. Steph and I were invited to sit on his Family’s beach and order complimentary cocktails. Waiters served us as we relaxed on the blue wooden cabana lounges. Within moments of meeting me, this friend of Pietro’s proposed marriage to me, and offered me his gold necklace as a gift…of course I refused both his hand and the necklace…I did accept his offer of dinner, which was an extravagant meal at an amazing restaurant perched on a rocky cliff over looking the ocean. Lobster and clams, and wonderful Italian seafood dishes…wine and desert. We drove to and from the restaurant along narrow winding roads chiseled out of the rock face, in a very fast convertible! Oh my goodness, those Italian boys!
The property we stayed at in Tuscany consisted of several large Tuscan style homes on Family land. Each house belonged to a member of Eleanora’s Family. We stayed in Eleanora’s newly competed renovations of her farm house. I can remember so many details of this house, it was so very spacious and elegant. I remember the colour of the walls as the light shone on them, and the twin iron beds with red hand made quilts that Steph and I slept in. Eleanora’s Family had a private church on the property that the houses, with distance ,were built around. To this day it the most precious little church I have ever seen…can you imagine having a three hundred year old family church in your back yard that generations of your Family have been married in? I recall a Sunday lunch alongside this church, under a patio covered in vines. A long timber table with with white linen and large plates holding prosciutto, melon, bread and cheese, goblets wine…and a large Italian family enjoying a meal together.
After our time in Tuscany, we went back to Rome. From there Steph was scheduled to go on vacation with them to Sardinia to stay with the Husbands Family. Eleanora said she was not able to invite me to her Husband’s Family home, but while they were away I was welcome to go and stay in her Villa in Florence. I was delighted beyond words and accepted gratefully. I caught the train to Florence and followed Eleanora’s instructions. I came to a wonderful domed ceiling lofty apartment in the center of old Florence. It was in a castle like building with a center courtyard. The building belonged to Eleanora’s Aunt. There were two enormous wooden doors, that were two stories high that opened into the courtyard from the street. These doors would be open during the day time, and would be closed at night. There was a private guard that let me in a secret little door when I was home after the door curfew. I spent a week alone, wandering the streets of Florence, going to Galleries and Museums and gardens, shopping, eating and meeting interesting people. When the week was over, I was invited back to Rome as the Family had returned from Sardinia. Stephanie was now finished her Au Pair contract and so with much excitement I talked her into coming back to Florence with me. I was in love with this little City, and wanted to go there again, this time with my friend! Steph liked the idea and so the two of us, suitcases in hand, moved to Florence. We rented an apartment, found jobs and there we lived…for a while anyway. it was there that we shared many wonderful experiences…I recall holding her hand when she got a tattoo of a sunflower on the top of her foot. I recall her teaching me Italian, including how to swear in Italian to rid myself of pesky moped vroom-vrooming followers.
All good things come to an end, I reached a point of wanting to move on, to continue traveling and so of I went to Portugal. Steph stayed on in Florence for a few more months then moved on to Czech Republic. There are so many more stories of our time together in Italy the things we did, and some of the inspiring places we went, Pisa, Venice, Cinque Terre.
Today, while walking the streets of New York together we talked non stop of our lives, of the things we did together and what we have done since. Both of us look back on this time together in Italy as precious, and while it was only a few months, it was three months we shared together as best friends. It was such an amazing segment of our lives. To reunite and reminisce over these days is so special! While our recollections wove in and out, we both agreed on one thing, if only we knew then, how lucky we were!