Michelangelo and Maurizio stand on the harbour with their fishing rods, waiting. The sun is just starting to dip and there’s that usual anticipation of a sky softly streaked with pink. I’m back on Isola Maggiore for the May retreat.
Next afternoon, the writers begin to arrive, stepping off the ferry with rucksacks, cases and bags, ready to stop the clock for a week. The days are filled with everything from writing to wandering, from reading to reflection. There’s a lot of gazing at the lake and deep, deep sighs of contentment.
The morning workshops go organic – we span from Angela who’s new to writing to Joe who’s on a novel – and pages quickly fill with plots, people, bubbling ideas. At eleven, cappuccini and fresh croissants arrive, then off we go again.
On two evenings, Giulia comes over from Abruzzo, here to lead aperitivo time sessions in conversational Italian. We drink prosecco, laugh a lot, and head for dinner ready to practice the phrases we’ve just learned.
Dinner goes off piste. Mariapia waves the menu aside, offering us fish fresh from the lake, swirls of steaming pasta and – her Mamma’s speciality – delicious salsa di persico. The spinaci is the best we’ve ever tasted – how does she do that? – and we can’t resist her tiramisu.
It’s a whole week of slowing right down, of taking time to savour food and new friendships, of exploring ways into writing and sharing words. For me, it’s the pleasure of knowing I’ve been of help, of hearing Angela say “I’m just so happy.”
“I sat, undisturbed for hours, thinking and writing. No interruptions whatsoever other than the noises of the island … The wind in the trees, birdsong and the sound of the water gently lapping.”