The deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie is quoted by Mark Nepo in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen as saying that, since she can’t hear, she feels vibrations, saying they are one and the same. She points out that in Italian the word sentire means to hear and to feel. In fact it also means to smell. So it encompasses many of the senses, and in my understanding of the word does really mean all the senses.
This is a characteristic of Italy I’ve often tried to capture in words, always doing so inadequately. How perfectly Italian to have one word that expresses it all, though we have no equivalent word in English. I have only slowly come to understand sentire. Mostly it has been the ever-wise Suor Giovanna at our convent B&B, who has used this word and has slowly woken me to the multiple meanings of the word, to the all encompassing nature of it.
To truly experience the world in all its fullness we engage all the senses at once, what Nepo calls the one living sense. This is what happens to us and to those who travel with us to Italy – it is part of the magic that is that country. You can’t help but have all your senses engaged. It is partly an outgrowth of going slow, staying in one place for a week so you slow down, absorb the rhythms, let each and every sense become aroused. And partly this is Italy and Italians and how they live.
Nepo goes on to say, “Joy is a barometer that lets us know that everything is well tuned.” I love that. Just about everyone visiting Italy experiences joy. We certainly see it in those who travel with us. But I never moved beyond that to say everything is well tuned. Well, it is, and I think it is because we are not only hearing fully, we are using all our senses to take in the richness of Italy and of life. Well tuned in Italy – pretty nice!
Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations” to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets.
Learn more about Kristi and Bill’s trips. Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy on his blog Make Haste Slowly. View Bill’s photos of Italy, Orvieto, and other memorable places at steinerstudiophotos.com, and follow him on Instagram.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.