Have you seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun?
Do you remember the scene when the bus is passing by the house outside Cortona and Frances gets off the bus, walks in and buys it?
This is just such a synchronistic, magic story.
After a long search, three years ago, one of my dearest friends in Italy found the home of her heart. It is tucked away up a forested hillside, enjoying total privacy while still just a couple of miles outside a small town, and with a glorious view of Lake Maggiore, in Northern Italy.
The house, originally built in the 17th century, used to belong to the sister of a famous Italian author (a woman). Unlike the house in Under the Tuscan Sun, this one was not in derelict conditions. The previous owners had upgraded it in 1964/65 and, on and off, lived in it before and since, though in recent years only as a family summer home. When a series of synchronicities brought my friend Adima to see it, it was love at first sight, and the love went both ways.
I first saw this exquisite house with its magical garden soon after Adima had bought it three years ago. As we walked from floor to floor and explored each room, she talked about what she was going to do with it, how she was going to upgrade bathrooms and kitchen, and enhance the other rooms while maintaining the feel and style of the place.
Let me tell you that Adima is a woman of many talents, with one of her greatest being a keen sense of style coupled by an impeccable eye for putting things together in interesting and harmonious ways. This translates to an innate ability as interior decorator, designer and stylist, even if, by a series of situations of the kind life often throws in our path, those have not been part of her professional life; until now.
Adima currently owns and runs a center for holistic healing therapies in Gallarate, the small town where both she and I were born and which is located about a twenty-minutes’ drive north of Milano. The center is called Opale, and how all of that started is a whole other magic story in itself, maybe for another time, but if you should be interested in knowing more about it, and if you speak Italian, you can click here to get to the website. Adima is certified in several healing disciplines herself, and she often holds sessions and teaches classes both at Opale and all over Italy.
However, something exciting and new is in the air! She mysteriously mentioned a new project last time I was there, and gave me a few more tips this morning via Skype. It definitely involves all those talents we talked about, yet merges with her current activities. We are both believers in not talking about new projects at the embryonic stage in order to not dilute the energy, which is why she has not volunteered more and I have not asked, but I can’t wait to see the results.
As the two of us explored on that first visit, I could feel that the house was truly happy to have her there, as if it had been waiting for her. I could feel the love and how embraced and welcome my friend was in it. There was no doubt that Adima had found her true home, both within herself and in this house.
The property also includes a fully grown and extensive garden, with a terraced rose garden and vegetable garden, and a semi-wild woods-covered hillside behind the house.
Since 2009, Adima has thrown every spare ounce of energy and time into her new home. Three years and a lot of toil later things are not quite complete, but the house has been refreshed and upgraded while maintaining its original essence, just like Adima had envisioned. Adima and her partner Claudio have been living there for most of these three years, dodging electricians, carpenters, construction workers… and you know what fun that can be.
During my recent visit, electricians were still polishing off work in the house while Adima gave me a fresh tour and then fed me a nourishing dinner in her beautiful kitchen. Before you ask: yes, there is a fireplace in the kitchen, and in the living room, the bedroom, and in every main room actually. Don’t you just love that?!
Once more I felt very strongly the spirit of place and the love that flows from it. There was a part of me that wished this was my home, and yet at the same time I didn’t, because it is very much Adima’s home, and I am thrilled that it is. I later realized that, for the first time in my life, I was allowing myself to wish for something like this of my own. This was a big turning point for me.
Adima and I walked around the house from top to bottom (three floors). Though I ooh-ed and aah-ed at every room, I did not take any photos of the interior as it is not quite the way she wants it to be yet. I did, however, freely snap away in the garden, at least until rainstorm chased us off inside.
The garden is magical, and I can’t wait to see it and photograph it in the spring. I am actually planning my next trip to Italy around the flowering season especially for this.
I was there in late September. Another month and it would have meant glorious colors, but, as you can see from the images, fall was already peeking through.
I live in beautiful Hawai’i, which is where I am writing this from, and though nature here is glorious, for months I had been yearning to spend time walking in a non-torpical forest, one with trees, flowers and birds more like those from my native land. Here is where I got my chance, even if only for a mere few hours.
Adima showed me all the upgrades and repair work done in the garden, the vegetables growing in the terraced area, and we even tasted some red grapes straight off the vine.
“Did you see the swimming pool?” she asked with an air of mystery. I looked around, confused at how I could have missed seeing such an obviously large blob of blue. She giggled, then walked me around the corner and there it was: a beautiful, old fashioned bath tub in a private nook of the garden, complete with an old and very tall shower faucet. I had instant visions of all the fabulous portraits I could shoot there in the spring.
As we headed around the back of the house, we walked through a portal and it was like entering a magical realm. It was not a portal in the sense of a doorway, though there is a rusty old gate; but I felt a definite shift in energy as we stepped through it. The Enchanted Forest is what I call the woods that cover the hillside on the back of the house, as I could feel the spirits, devas and faeries of nature all around. I swear one of them waved at me at one point. So I waved back. Here I found the nurturing I had been yearning for all those months, in the gently tidy wilderness of these fragrant woods.
Whenever I feel the same need, I just close my eyes and imagine myself there, just like I used to imagine myself in a glorious tropical island complete with lagoon and dolphins before I moved to Hawai’i. Now all I have to do is look out of my window.
There are not as many photographs as I was hoping to get because of the rain, but if you click on the larger image below you will pop the light box open and you can enjoy more images of this special place.
Adima and her partner do not quite live here alone. Some semi-feral cats have decided they like the place and Adima has made them welcome. They all have names, but there are too many for me to remember them all. Cookie, pictured in one of the images above, is the friendliest. He followed us everywhere and, like any cat worthy of his name, he kept attempting murder by tripping (getting in between our feet), and almost fell in the lily pond himself.
There is also a suicidal tabby cat – such Tartinette – who seems to have a knack for testing her seven lives by getting herself in front of moving cars – or behind if you are backing out – at the speed of light and completely unseen by the driver. So far she has survived all attempts. We think she may be trying to establish a record.
Several adorable little grey kittens live hidden behind pots and plants, or among the stack of firewood in the shed. All the cats are well fed and have a comfortable and warm place to sleep in, but they are also independent and free to explore and play wild-tiger-in-the-forest if the mood strikes them. I have to say, though, that Cookie is Adima’s sweet boy, he tries to sneak into the house every chance he has and sometimes she pretends she hasn’t noticed.
And this story would not be complete without a visual introduction of the Faerie Queen herself: my dear friend Adima.
During my first visit three years ago I only had my then iPhone 3 with me and took a few photos with that. Soon after I became hooked on Instagram and posted several of those photos after playing with them in various photo editing apps. Such fun!
Here are just two of them, one of Adima herself while stepping down through the terraced gardens, and one of the view of the lake. The image quality and resolution are not great, but I love these two images so I am sharing them here.
Here she is again in a quick portrait I did during my visit this past September when I had my Nikon and all appropriate lenses.