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Hi, I’m Bianca

I have a hunch that the greatest things in life are not things at all. They’re actually experiences. And I think most of us are really screwing this up.

When did it happen?

When did we all decide that we needed to work like dogs, to get money, to get stuff. Like, don’t we all have enough stuff? Don’t we all crave a little reprieve, time off, and days without to-do lists?

I believe a rich life comes NOT from the things we HAVE, but the things we DO, and the experiences and people we meet along the way. 

If you can relate, let’s stay connected.

Life brings endless opportunities for us to create our own best case scenario. If a life filled with travel lights you up, then I’d love to meet you.

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How I moved to Italy.

Of course it was an intense transcontinental love affair.

What else makes a woman do irrational things?

Here’s the back story:

I went to Florence on a summer study scholarship at an international school. It was a decade ago.

It was my first time in Italy. Florence was epic. Moving. I loved every minute.

I realized pretty quickly that the school wasn’t exactly the heartbeat of higher learning.

There wasn’t a lot of verb conjugation going down. Our “study groups” toured Florentine nightlife, not libraries.

We started saying self indulgent things like, “the real way to learn Italian is on the street, not in a classroom”. Yeah, I know, nice excuse right?

The week before I was “supposed” to be leaving Italy, my pretty Irish friend suggested we spend the weekend in the Cinque Terre. She told me it was “the most romantic place on earth”.

That was a dangerous truth.

I met Alessandro within hours of arrival.

He was with his friend and I was with mine.

We met on the patio of the local hangout. It was a rickety wooden affair which looked over the tiny harbour dotted with boats and people who gather for the summer ritual of chatting and star-gazing. Oh, and chain smoking, cause of course we’re in Italy.

The odds were stacked against us. I mean, something was gonna happen. It was just too pretty not to.

As first meeting go, it was comedy. His English was bad. My Italian was worse. But we didn’t care. We just went with it.

That night, Alessandro suggested the four us go swimming. It was dark but the sky was a snowglobe of stars. We agreed. The next day he suggested we go boating. We said yes. Then it was dinner. Can you see a pattern here?

I was only planning to be in the Cinque Terre for the weekend, right?

My flight was scheduled to leave Rome the next day, so I packed my bags, returned my room key and went out for the final hurrah; a dinner with Alessandro near the train station. I was taking the midnight train to Rome to catch my flight the next morning. My backpack was packed and leaning against the wall but it stared at me the entire meal.

I never took that midnight train. I just couldn’t.

So I stayed longer — just another week.

When I eventually took that train to catch my flight home, it was one of those, “It’s been amazing…but have a nice life,” type conversations. I mean, I was Canadian, he was Italian, and it was just too complicated.

When I said goodbye I thought I’d never see him again.

But I guess life had better plans.

When I got home the phone started ringing. It was an Italian number. It was Alessandro, “Bianca, I think you should come back to Italy”. Me, “No, I really can’t. I’m a student. I’m broke. I can’t pull it off”. This went on for weeks.

One day I got a call that said, “I’m sending you a ticket. Come to Italy to see me over Christmas.”

Of course I said yes. And I thought a man who knew what he wanted was kinda totally sexy.

A semester later, after I graduated with my BFA, I ended up moving to Italy to live with Alessandro (our Christmastime meeting was obviously very successful). I stuffed my most precious belongings: my thrift store clothes, my sewing machine and a stack of fabric into two green 1970’s tweed suitcases.

I went to Italy. I immediately freaked out cause I had to get a job and learn the language. But I managed both.

I married Alessandro that year–we ran off to city hall to seal the deal and followed it up with dinner at mama’s house. It was the most un-fancy wedding in Italy. No photographer. No dress. No new shoes. My wedding budget consisted of one euro, the price of a sprig of baby’s breath that I poked behind my ear. There we were at city hall for an Italian civil service like two kids. Two kids running into their life without the brakes on.

I lived on his home turf for two years in a city called La Spezia. It’s in the northern seaside province of Liguria–just on the border of the Cinque Terre and just a skip from the Tuscan line.

It was kinda hard. And kinda really awesome. People who’ve lived abroad know what that means.

A few years later we eventually moved to Vancouver Island in Canada (which is my turf). We wanted to buy and home and have a baby. So we did. In that order. It’s been an adventure in a totally different way. Our daughter is named Flora and she is sunshine bursting from a halo of red curls and laughter.

The best damn thing about my time in Italy was the opportunity to learn the language, make amazing friends and see beautiful places that I would’ve never seen on my own.

Living in Italy with an Italian husband and Italian friends was really different than being on my own in Florence.

I learned things.  Nuanced things. Like how to eat like an Italian (it’s leisurely), work like an Italian (three hour breaks), the daily rhythm of an Italian (complain about the government), drive like and Italian (pedal to the metal), and live like an Italian (which means too many things to list here).

Italy isn’t a postcard even if it looks like a postcard. It’s so much more.

I think it’s the absolute best place to visit in the world.

I think Italy is a place to fall in love–with yourself.

It’s a place of big inspiration and big fun. And we don’t make enough time in our life for those two things.

We’re too busy.

And it’s turning us into unhappy stress bags.

I’m hoping to change that.

Which is why every year I take people to Italy with me to meet my places and people.

Our mission:  deliver you the most epic week of your life. Like wedding-epic and the birth-of-your-baby-epic, but without the stress and the stretch marks.

Does a week in Italy with my friends and I sound interesting?

See more about my small group trips to Italy.

Learn how to travel Italy beautifully with my best tips.

Xx Bianca

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Image credit: Leela Cyd Ross for Italian Fix, except above photo by Filippo Mutani