As I sit writing this blog post today, I have been home from Europe for about 2 months. I knew that I wanted to share my time at "La Dolce Vita" with you, but I was not sure how to adequately sum up my experiences this year. For those who are not familiar with it, "La Dolce Vita" is a week long women's retreat I co-host in Tuscany Italy with my friend Terri Brush. This year was our second year of retreats and it was, at turns, inspiring, challenging, terrifying, and affirming; just as any growth experience is. I guess the best way to share is just to jump in and get started. Let's begin with our home during "La Dolce Vita"...
Across the ocean there is a village where history and the present meld together in a beautiful tapestry. It is a place where I feel at peace, welcomed and sheltered within its walls. It is the home of my friend Paola, and her family. After spending so much time there over the past four years, I now consider it my Italian home. It is called Tenuta Bichi Borghesi, in the hamlet of Scorgiano. It is a heaven on earth, and the perfect setting for "La Dolce Vita".
Lucky us, we were there while the lemon trees were bearing fruit!
It was a blessing to spend 3 weeks this summer staying at the estate and its environs, and I continue to fall more and more in love with everything about it! Whether hanging out in our apartment, lounging by the pool, spending time in the classroom, or visiting with friends in the courtyard, Bichi Borghesi continues to seduce me with its authentic, rustic hominess. Each time I return, it further cements my love for, and bond to, the land, the property and the people who are lucky enough to call Bichi Borghesi their home. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I shall return to this estate again and again...there are few other places where I feel so at home, even though I am not at home.
"La Dolce Vita" is the culmination of many behind the scenes hours of planning, dreaming and working to make the big wheel function. A huge thank you and hug to my co-host, Terri Brush, who not only plans the retreat with me, but spends hours creating beautiful jewelry gifts for each retreat attendee. She also designed a killer sterling silver necklace workshop for them. 2015 was our second cycle to retreats in Italy together and it was a joy to see her enthusiasm for year number two. As many of you who follow us on facebook know, near the end of our first 2015 retreat, there was a bad kitchen accident in which Terri received second and third degree burns on her feet, so she ended up flying home to seek medical treatment. I know that it hurt her heart to leave, and I appreciate that after getting home and settled in, she continued to support me via messages throughout the second retreat week. Terri, I missed you, but I know that you were where you needed to be to get the treatment you needed.
My life has been blessed with the friendship of our retreat photographer, and girl-Friday Tiffany Kirchner-Dixon, who has a gift for connecting on a personal level with each attendee and is such a fantastic cheerleader to Terri and I. This girl has such a strong work ethic, which is just one of the many things I love about her. Thank you Tiffany for all you do, both seen and behind the scenes, to facilitate the flow of "La Dolce Vita" in Italy. You are a gem and I am so glad we are friends.
Photo on the left: (from left to right) Terri, Tiffany, Carolyn | Photo on the right (from left to right: Paola, Carolyn, Terri)
To round out our team, we have the incomparable Paola Mereu. As daughter-in-law of the estate owner, she is the guest hostess, and she brings Italian soul to "La Dolce Vita". She is an integral part of the behind the scenes mechanisms of what makes "La Dolce Vita" work. She is stylish (every year we have participants who want to steal her wardrobe), kind (if she can possibly find a way to accommodate a request, she will), and loves to laugh and have fun. Quite simply, she is the Italian big sister I wish I had. Thank you Paola, "La Dolce Vita" wouldn't be the same without you!
Because Terri went home for treatment, we were in the stressful position of needing to secure a "pinch hitter" jewelry instructor who could lead the attendees through the workshop Terri designed for our second "La Dolce Vita" retreat. Luckily for us, the absolutely lovely and talented Rochelle Gaukel was available and ready, on literally 3 days notice, to jump in a plane and come to Italy for 10 days. It was truly an answer to prayer that she was willing. Rochelle, THANK YOU for everything you brought to "LDV", we hope you enjoyed your time with us :)
I also want to publicly thank Spellbinders for their sponsorship of the fabric album workshop which I taught during the retreat. Their "A Gilded Life" product line is absolutely beautiful, and our attendees loved working with it!
"La Dolce Vita" has had four sessions now over the past 2 years, and none of the weeks have been the same. Each week has been different from the one before, in part because of how each attendee interacts with us, each other and the estate. We have been so blessed to meet women from around the world who show up with their hearts wide open to accept new friends, challenges and opportunities in the most wonderful way. This is what makes "La Dolce Vita" special...the women who set out on an adventure ready to embrace all that it is. For this, I am thankful - together we made some lifelong memories!
This year we had the time of our lives visiting antique markets in Cortona and Arezzo, exploring the estate and eating the fruits of our labour during our cooking classes with award winning chef Filippo Sapporito at Anqua, workshops in the ancient stable at Tenuta Bichi Borghesi, and a farewell pizza party! All these activities took place amidst lots of laughter and the encompassing feeling of sisterhood that sharing such a life-afirming experience brings.
A huge THANK YOU to all the women of "La Dolce Vita" 2015. Thank you for your joy, energy and enthusiasm for your retreat experience. It was a sincere pleasure to share this experience with each of you. Big hugs & love to you from both Terri and I <3
As indicated in a previous post, Terri and I are planning to return to Tuscany in 2016 with two more editions of "La Dolce Vita". While the heart and soul of the retreat stays the same year to year, Terri and I have a few fun surprises up our sleeve for 2016 and can't wait to share them with those who sign up to join us. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER. This will ensure that you will be notified when registration opens.