Tuesday, February 17, 2015


In the garden, the delphiniums were in flower. Through scented twilight the girl in the white dress walked with a step as light as a cobweb. That evening, she hadn't a care in the world.

Mrs. Delahunty, My House in Umbria

Mrs. Delahunty: I may be dead next month. The moon may have crashed into the earth. Who knows what dreadful things may come to pass? But at the moment, I'm happy. What else matters?

Colonal: Carpe Diem

Mrs. Delahunty: I'm never really sure just what that means.

Colonal: Oh. Seize the day. Embrace the present. Enjoy life while you've got the chance.

Mrs. Delahunty: Carpe Diem. I'll remember that.

My House in Umbria

Lately, I am aware that I have to do just that, carpe diem, because everything seems to have a feeling of impermanence. Not in a dark somber way but in the way that you feel that something's moving and changing.

I wonder why after you hit a certain age, you wake up with memories of people and places that you haven't thought about in a long time. Often fragments of youth-inspired dreams come back to your mind with a strong force. When I was a teen, I wanted to travel to Europe and it became one of my main goals to tour England, Scotland, Ireland as well as France and Denmark. After much saving, planning and determination, I finally was able to make the unforgettable trip. I think my early obsession with travel was connected to my love of romance novels. Though the love story obsession was left in my teenage years,  the enjoyment of other lands and people remained.

I think that's why I love Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria. The film is set in Italy, where she plays the lead character Miss. Emily Delahunty but (as she tells us) her name is not important. In fact, we learn that she has many other nom de plumes and we realize that she actively creates her own fluid identity. She's a writer of romance novels who feels most alive when she's helping others. In one scene, she invites a group of complete strangers to move in with her after a train explosion. Through her engagement with the other characters, we fall in love with her quirky personality. Whenever I want to imagine myself in another life this movie does the trick.

If you can watch My House in Umbria and not yearn to travel to Italy, you are a strong person.  If you are having an Italian themed movie night, you might watch Under the Tuscan Sun or go out to see Letters to Juliet. Both of these movies will make you feel as though you have been in Italy or that it's essential for you to go there now!

I have read the memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes), and found it to be richly satisfying. I loaned this book to a close friend who found it tedious with detail about the Italian countryside, garden restorations and house renovations. However, I like these details of ordinary life. I like to see how people make decisions and what occupies their time. I'm interested in both real and spruced-up life. (A little magic making fantasy is fine with me.) Another popular book made into film that has an enchanting section on an vacation in Italy is Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. (Julie Roberts plays the author Gilbert in the movie.) There is another saturate-yourself-in-Italy movie that I have already mentioned in previous blogs, Enchanted April, which documents a life transforming month in an Italian Medieval castle. Gorgeous scenery!

In the London Times, a small classified ad appears:

“To those who appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine:

To let for the month of April - a medieval castle on

the Italian Mediterranean shore.”

Photographs and movie review here.

If you want to explore Italy or imagine yourself there in real life, try Rick Steves' link to travel. Now I wonder, which movies you watch (or books do you read) that bring you into lovely romantic Italy? Have I missed any? 

Do you hear Italian music...


Waking up on the Island of Enchantment that is also know as Puerto Rico, I plan to bake a fragrant pan of vegetarian lasagna, toss a green salad and toast garlic bread.

I promise myself that at every moment I will carpe diem!

On a side note: my struggling gardenia bush finally bloomed after three years of waiting, hoping, and supplementing it with coffee grounds. 

I like to believe that this momentous occasion is symbolic, perhaps it's foreshadowing a trip in the near future?


  1. Now you're making me want to return to Italy, one of my favorite places. I love Maggie Smith. She's wonderful in Downton Abbey. I shall remember to look for this movie. Thanks for the recommendation! Enjoying the music too.

  2. Haha! Sarah, we both have the bug to travel to Italy! I hope it's soon. I need a good excuse. Humm...any ideas?

  3. HI Cynthia, Thanks for your kind words about my book on your blog. I hope we can meet one day soon too :) I'm heading to Australia for book research...just wrote a post about it. It's true, we do have so many options!

  4. Hi Katherine! Good to see you here! I will come over to read your post soon. Your research in Australia sounds fascinating!

  5. I've always had a desire to travel many places, and after reading you post Italy is obviously added to that list! Plus, I've always loved the concept of carpe diem! It's a great excuse to use when certain things aren't necessary to your everyday life, but they make life unexpected and a little more interesting :)

    1. Yes, sometimes you just have to allow yourself to experience something new and carpe diem!

  6. Traveling to Europe has always been on my mind and I hope that some day I'm able to experience it like you did! I've especially always wanted to go to Venice, I find it absolutely fascinating and beautiful! And it's true, we must always "seize the day" and enjoy the present because life can be so unpredictable.

    1. I do hope that you travel and realize your dream of visiting Venice, Ana!

  7. I was able to fulfill my dream of going to Europe at a young age too. For sure I agree with you that it was an unforgettable experience. I’m still hungry for more adventures in my life, more trips and more learning, for example Italy because I didn’t went there when I went to Italy, but is definitely in my bucket list next to Greece. Carpe Diem definitely is my philosophy of life, live and enjoy the moment in your hands.

  8. I have just identified with SO many things from this post! Not only do I love Italy and wish to visit someday, but also I have a desire to travel to many places (many of which, I might add, are in Europe). I'm also in love with romantic novels. I read them like I drink water! My favorite is Nicholas Sparks' "The Longest Ride". I don't know if he's your kind of author (some people don't like him), but it's a great story about love, life, and our journeys; this is why I think you would love it. Additionally, I've also been having the feeling of impermanence you describe here. One feels like everything changes, and you don't want it to change because it scary and uncertain, but you don't want it to stay static either because what fun would that be?
    All the movies (and books) you've included here just made my already very long list of "Movies to Watch" (and "Books to Read")! Thank you for the recommendations!

  9. I agree 100% with you! Talk to me about wanting to visit Italy and now even more that I'm learning Italian.
    The concept carpe diem should be one of the main goals of every human being, seizing the moment, the present. As Angeles Mastretta says, "Don't ruin the present regretting the past nor worrying about the future." Just live and get the most of the present. Definitely gonna see this movie.

  10. If we plan without taking further action, we miss out on these great experiences. At a young age, I've realized that time does fly by, as cliche as that might sound. If we don't take action and pursue our dreams, we might never get the chance to enjoy life at its fullest. I believe it's essential to enjoy all the time we have and dedicate our biggest efforts to that which makes us happy. However, we can't forget that to get to the good things we often need to go through the bad things. Maybe, that's what makes the joy even stronger in the end.

  11. Under the Tuscan Sun was one of the first movies that awakened in me an immense desire to travel the world, and Italy is definitely on my bucket list! Those types of movies that show what we would think of as ordinary scenery are always my favorite (one of the main reasons why I enjoyed "The Hundred-Foot Journey" so much!). This week I read Seneca's "On the Shortness of Life", and it made me reflect a lot about the way I spend my days. I have been working on seizing the day ever since, and I am looking forward to spending as much time as I can traveling the world.


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