Prosecco, pasta and a different pace

Sometimes we take a punt on an adventure and it really pays off!

I was thinking about what sort of holiday I would like, when I saw the advert for Glynis’s writing retreat.  That’s it!  That’s just what I want to do.  My writing experience was limited to a rough draft of a short story and a few poems.  But there was something appealing about the adventure of finding my way by train and boat to an island in the middle of Italy and seeing whether I had any talent for writing.

Isola - Angela back

Glynis provided an encouraging, safe and fun place to explore writing potential.  Her short, playful exercises help stimulate creativity and there is a good balance between workshops, time to rest and do one’s own thing, with lovely treats mixed in.  These included an afternoon trip round the island in a boat and prosecco aperitifs one evening.

Mariapia, the hotel owner, is very welcoming and the dinners made by her mamma are gorgeous.  Even now I am salivating at the thought of Pasta Bolognese!  Together with a large glass of Merlot and good conversation, the evenings were a special way to end the day.

It was great to be away from the madding crowds and traffic and live life at a different pace for a while.

Thanks to Glynis and her capacity to critique in a constructive, kind and helpful way, I am now working on a second draft of my short story.

– Angela, May 2016

A look back at May

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.

Isola - Libera.jpg

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.”

 

Palm Sunday in Assisi

A humbling experience this morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but brought along my olive branch from Isola Maggiore – slightly wizened since I was there on the last retreat week – and joined the small crowd outside the Temple of Minerva in Assisi to have it blessed. As the bells rang 9.30 (nine heavy chimes plus two dings for the half hour) the short service began. The priest, dressed head to toe in bright reds and gold, invited us all to raise our olive branches. Mine looked quite sorry for itself by comparison, but no matter … it was from the island, and therefore very special.

Then, time to process up the narrow winding street to San Rufino, headed by men laden with sheaves of palms. I didn’t go into the church for the full service, but opted instead to go and write in the small museum garden in the sun.

On Isola Maggiore, services are kept for the Easter weekend itself, when a priest travels across on the ferry specially. But the handful of islanders will be marking this Palm Sunday in their own quiet way, and a little bit of Isola Maggiore has been blessed.