A Day in the Life: Cortona

16 May 2017

Until recently, I don’t think I realized or truly believed that it’s possible to wake up feeling peaceful each morning. Not only peaceful, but content and excited for my day and all that will unfold. I suppose I had always hoped this type of consistent joy existed but now that I’ve come across it, I am humbled to acknowledge that it’s mine for the taking and that I have a responsibility to invest in it day by day.

I am still trying to grasp the root of this fulfillment but I have become fully confident that my happiness can be situational whereas joy is something that surpasses circumstances. It reminds me of times when I traveled to third world countries and saw within the people a level of joy that I envied. Despite their lack of adequate housing or access to clean water or education, they were capable of embracing life and choosing joy regardless of their daily struggles. While my position in life is obviously in direct contrast to that, I’ve been convicted that I need to uncover a joy that transcends my daily comings and goings and instead is based on something truer and deeper inside of me. I am confident that what I am experiencing now, three months into my living abroad, is the start of just that.

The walk up to my front door

From a logistical standpoint, my life in Cortona is simple. I have rented a beautiful top floor apartment that looks out across the Tuscan hillside, just outside the wall encompassing the city. My place is small but I can’t seem to find anything that I need and don’t have. What an incredible reminder of the beauty in simplicity. After waking up and enjoying a work out, I bounce around to various cafes for my morning cappuccino and by mid day I’m ready for a handmade pasta from Tratorria Dardano or La Loggetta. Wrap that up with a scoop of camelized fig gelato and it’s no wonder why I suddenly embrace monotony!

The afternoons are when I go to “work,” and after a 45 minute walk to the property, I spend a few hours leading tourists from around the world on wine tours through the beautiful property of Il Falconiere. With a Michelin rated restaurant and world class winery on site, I’m fortunate enough to share so many of my favorite things with people who have come to learn about the Baracchi family. The tours last for around two hours and include a tasting from the winery cellar, along with the opportunity learn the art of Sabrage. It’s a unique experience for the guests and I feel selfish in how much I enjoy the opportunity to educate and then enjoy the wines alongside them.

Il Falconiere at the start of a wine tour

In the evenings, I get to dive into my creative space as I work on a unique business opportunity for Molesini wine shop, the largest retailer of Brunello di Montalcino in the world. More on this later but being able to type and dream and brainstorm while watching the sunset over Tuscany hardly seems fair. It’s a view and a routine I am quickly choosing every day.

View from my bedroom window at sunset

Finally, the nights vary as I spend time with new friends at any of a handful of incredible restaurants, usually followed by drinks at The Lion’s Well or Enotria. Thursday nights mean about 100 people turn out for a five course wine dinner held in the plazza and featuring a different restaurant and winery each week. In a town of 800 locals, my acceptance into the community of Cortona was fast and authentic. The moment people find out I’m staying here for two months as opposed to the average two days, they are eager to hear why I picked their village, what I’m doing with my days, and if I’ve found everything to be satisfactory. Their genuine interest in my story and willingness to drop what they are doing to simply talk with me is a gift.

Doing as the locals do!

Despite a true lack of Italian proficiency, I’ve been able to use my Spanish to understand a lot of what is going on in conversations. My elderly neighbor, Maria, can talk for about 30 minutes without needing a response and I’m thankful for the time to test my comprehension. Come to think of it, a lot of Italians can talk for 30 minutes without needing a response. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on the stairs at the entrance of Piazza della Repubblica and simply observe the locals watching the tourists. There are three rows of benches across the plaza that fill up with a handful of Italians over the age of 60 and I can only imagine the things they discuss as they watch the parade of foreigners streaming by and enjoying an aperitivo. It all feels so simple.

In all these daily activities, I am trying to determine the components that are leading to my happiness here as well as the reason for my underlying joy. I suppose I’m finally tapping into so many things that I love all at once — the chance to meet new people every day of the week, enjoying fantastic food and wine, utilizing my entrepreneurial spirit, having time to run through the hills, enjoying a space to myself where I can rest as I need, working with people who love their job, learning a new language, and being a part of a community that is based around family and relationships. I mean, truly, how could I not be happy, right?

Discovering Le Celle on one of my morning runs — only about 2 km from my house.

But again, I think these things all contribute to my happiness here. My joy is fixated on a deeper satisfaction and contentment and will persevere even when these circumstances pass away. I’ve spent enough time in prayer now to see that God is working in me and through my surroundings in an incredible way. He continues to open doors and send me down paths that I never would have uncovered on my own and it’s freeing to just let go of my desire to control the future. I think I’m on the verge of something truly life changing and I am doing all I can to embrace it and move forward, while also not thinking too much of the future. All I have is this moment and I continue to trust that I’m exactly where I need to be.

View while leading guests through the vineyards of Baracchi.

So as the days and weeks continue to unfold in Cortona, I look forward to seeing what comes. If this is as good as it gets, then that is enough for me. This place already holds an incredibly special spot in my life and it’s only just the beginning…