What does it mean to pass into beauty? To become part of it (and it part of you)?
As Lewis said, it is difficult to put into words. We know beauty when we see it, but isn’t it also true that we can touch and even hear beauty?
This is when beauty then enters the realm of memory. Think of a particular moment in your life when you experienced something of sheer beauty, one that still gives you pleasure to relive it in your mind.
Not limited to the sight only, you may remember who was with you and how you felt about that person even if it was decades ago. Maybe you were holding hands. Maybe you remember how your skin felt or a melody or voice of harmony that made you shiver. Perhaps you remember feeling expansive or grateful or connected to something larger than yourself.
These are the transformational moments that are eternal within us.
I created the Aria excursions to Tuscany because I wanted to share transformative moments with people, opening the doors to beauty that were once opened for me. And the results have surprised me!
The Aria Tour of Tuscany is not an 8-day vacation. It is not a check off on a bucket list. There are thousands of tours available through countless tour companies because lots of people want to visit Italy.
For many years, I have witnessed giant tour buses, large groups being herded and hurried through streets, museums and restaurants, guests packing and unpacking every couple of nights so people can visit all the great cities in 7-10 days: Rome, Florence, Venice.
And this is just fine. It is a way to see Italy. But it’s also an exhausting way to see Italy. And it’s a limiting way to see it.
I have no desire to be in the tour business. I do not advertise the Aria tour. I take between five and ten people because it is the only way to experience the Italian table in private fabulous residences of friends and family, the only way to listen to a private operatic concert in the tiny Puccini salon, or to visit a secret chapel under restoration in Lucca.
These are the kinds of things that I want to experience when I go to Italy and that is what I share with people: intimate, genuine, life-changing moments.
The big surprise for me in taking groups twice a year since 2013, is the number of people who have come back with me two, three even five times. I had not really expected that to happen. And while I do not repeat everything each time, we stay in the same Villa and see some of the same lovely people who open their winery or palazzo or archive for us.
But maybe that is why they come back: for the beauty of the landscape, for the people who have become friends too, for the lingering at the sumptuous Italian table, the quiet nights of the Tuscan countryside, or the majesty of marble mountains where Michelangelo’s presence can still be felt. Perhaps it was one of those transformational moments of beauty and connection that the heart continues to want.
(A Secret Chapel only we have the keys to)
People have told me that they learned how to sleep on the trip, or they reconnected with cooking or writing or allowed themselves to take a nap, disconnect from their phones, or became inspired to do something else creative. Oftentimes, they are surprised they have had this reaction. They don’t go home exhausted. They go home feeling nourished, renewed and joyful.
One of my favorite guest comments is this one: “Every day was an immersion into beauty.” (Thanks, Anne).
So, these experiences don’t end on Day 8. As Lewis said, we become united with beautiful things. They color our lives way beyond the time (and money) spent. It is an investment in yourself that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
The next Aria excursion is October 20-27. Think new olive oil, white truffles, lush landscapes with hints of fall color, crisper air, fewer people. Begins and ends in Florence.
Carol will be giving a 30-minute presentation on writing her book, The Stonecutter’s Aria, and her travels to Tuscany. This popular series is hosted by the Carmel Clay Public Library Foundation.
Carol will be donating a portion of the book sales to the Foundation.
Free and open to the public. Italian refreshments served.
One spot left. One beautiful room available with a view at the Villa. Only one chair remains to be filled at the table where our chefs will serve you brilliant Italian dishes. One seat left in the luxury Mercedes van. Room for one more to hear NYTimes Best Selling Author, Ross King (Brunelleschi’s Dome) tell the story of the Renaissance and in the very spot it happened. It’s not too late to join us. Single supplements are waived on this trip, so travel alone and meet new friends!