We are in Italy with our fall trips. Whenever we are here I never fail to be humbled by the grace and generosity we are shown. I think travel brings this out generally, but I think it particularly true when you travel slow – which is to say, staying in one place for a period of days. By remaining in one place you begin to recognize and be recognized by people. This in turn enables the development of real relationships. When that happens unexpected gifts flow, underpinned by a spirit of grace.
We stay at a convent Bed and Breakfast on our trips to Orvieto. It is nice because we have a garden, library, lounges, and scenic overlooks in which to spread out. We have begun asking the nuns to cook us our first lunch and for it to be a soup. It is homemade, and for those who are just recovering from jet lag, it provides a light, delicious meal – the perfect thing for a tired body recovering from the assault that is airline food.
Lunch is served simply, but we are always given the unexpected prepared with immense care and presented beautifully. A caprese salad of cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella. A simple dessert of cheese and honey. A sampling of aperitifs made by the nuns themselves and served with their own biscotti. A side of grilled vegetable. Homemade tiramisu.
We receive this kind of generosity throughout town, unexpectedly. The offer of a guided visit to the 400 museum quality medieval costumes worn in Orvieto’s most important community event – the Corteo Storico. A behind the scenes tour of the iconic Michelangeli workshop. An invitation to see one of the hundreds of Etruscan and medieval caves under the city in which a sculptor has spent 20 years carving the walls. The opening of a garden hidden behind the walls of the city streets. An invitation to see a local paper shop make marbled paper.
When you stay in one place and see familiar faces, when the locals recognize you and see you aren’t just passing through, they open themselves to you. For travelers wanting more than just the surface glimpse of a culture, it is an enormous gift. The generosity and grace with which it is given does humble, reaffirming our relationship with others as co-inhabitants of what is, in fact, a very small planet.
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.