I’m in Italy as I write this, watching the sun set beyond the balcony. The farmhouse cottage in which I’m staying is named Rosa Dei Venti, a stone’s throw from the hill town of Cortona and the setting for a book and movie called Under the Tuscan Sun.
I am traveling though Italy with my dad, who owns a business called Experience Italy. Dad is what’s referred to as a “destination specialist.” He’s been providing experiences for people traveling to Italy for over twenty years. Whether you’re passionate about food, wine, music, art, history, architecture, or all of the above, he tailors an itinerary based on your interests, setting you up in places and with guides that he knows personally, through his countless excursions here.
But what, I wondered, if you’re interested in writing?
I’m a big believer in writing every day, the idea that slow and steady wins the race. I’ve never been a proponent of reclusive writing; that is, stealing away to some remote location and binge writing for days and days at a time. Yet now I’m beginning to rethink my position.
Places have unique energy signatures. Cortona dates back before the Romans, when the Etruscans populated this portion of Italy. Although the city that stands there today is not as ancient, there remains a powerful sense of history that you can feel as you wend your way through the steep and narrow streets.
It rained last night as Dad and I made our way to the restaurant in Cortona with the family that runs this inn. Old, wrought iron streetlamps illumined weathered and timeworn masonry. Rainwater flushed through drainpipes, cascading down ruts in the cobbled streets. The air was filled with the scents of wood smoke and wet earth and everywhere the whisper of falling water. Actually experiencing this energy in person leads to so many more places than simply making stuff up from the seclusion of one’s attic office.
Yet I wonder, would one want to travel all the way to Italy, then spend the time here writing? Yesterday I was shown a villa in the heart of Tuscany called La Selva Giardino del Belvedere. It sits in the middle of Chianti Classico country, where vineyards cover the land between quiet villages and rows of Italian cypress. There were several rentable dwellings on La Selva’s one hundred acre property, including an ancient three-story farm house with a view of the surrounding hill country.
I can imagine pitching in with a half-dozen other writers to rent the place for a week or two. We’d write during the day in the shade of the trees, taking walks on the property’s gardens and forest for inspiration. In the evenings we’d go into the quaint little hill towns nearby, sampling the local cuisine and the wine that’s produced in farms, big and small, all around us.
I like to think that I would somehow be more productive in such a setting. Perhaps my writing would be more vivid and expansive. Maybe I’d meet people along the way that would form the basis of unforgettable characters. Or maybe soaking up the vibes of such a rich, historical location would take me to places I’d never have traveled without it.
It’s unlikely many could afford to write this way all the time, but what an unforgettable experience it would be. Not just traveling, but staying in one spot and soaking up the environment. Could one write another Under the Tuscan Sun? Maybe. Maybe not. But it would be something special, without a doubt.
Who’s with me?
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats. URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com