Dear friends and family,

We are now just finishing the second of two 10-day Vipassana courses here at the Italian Vipassana centre near Lutirano, Italy. Our time in Italy has come to an end and we’re about to make our way back to Florence to fly on to Frankfurt and then home to Toronto.  It’s been a challenging but wonderful and rich experience. But we are ready to return home and get back to a daily routine in Toronto.  See our friends.  And find jobs, hopefully.  🙂 For more than a year and a half, we have spent no more than 5 weeks in any one place. That’s a lot of moving and change.

As you know, we spent the week in between the Vipassana courses with Scott’s cousin Shannon and her family in Florence.  Florence is an incredible place, made even more satisfying with the chance to spend quality time with family that we haven’t seen in 6 years.


Shannon’s son Echo is a pretty good artist. He is making us pictures for our fridge at home.


Making dinner with Shannon and Dani. Italy, what fantastic food you have. Even the tomatoes taste fantastico!


A closer look at dinner. Wow wow wow.


Another one of Shannon’s master pieces… she’s an amazing cook!

We also got a private tour of Shannon’s current work which is currently on exhibit in the gallery at the Villa Romana.


Shannon giving us the background on her exhibit.  Echo making good use of the open space.


Shannon’s latest project involved women prisoners, talking to them about the objects that are most precious to them. Shannon then had these items cast in bronze. This turned what would normally be very mundane objects (rolling tabacco, a cheap toy key fob, mascara and eye liner, etc) into precious ones befitting the attachment that the women prisoners had to these items. In prison, the smallest most mundane things become precious and among the few things that identify yourself from others.


Eye liner, lip gloss, and make up.


The bars you see are exact replicas of the actual window bars set at the same height in each woman’s own prison cell.

We have immense gratitude  to them for being able to stay in their beautiful Villa.  It was a real treat.  And, like most things in tourist season, the Villa guest rooms were totally booked up right through to the summer. At the last minute the beautiful room we stayed in became available during the dates of our visit. Amazing right?

Our last few days was in Florence included visits to the Ufizzi Museum (a must see when you are here), Il Duomo, and Dante’s museum (located on the site of his actual medieval home). Our favourite visit was to see the frescoes of Fra Angelico painted on the walls of the monk’s cells in the monastery of San Marco. These frescoes are awe-inspiring. Thanks to Gillian G’s recommendation we added San Marco at the last minute.  A very special place.


An “illegal” photo of the hallway at the Ufizzi museum. Oops. No photos aloud. Karen got shouted at…


Well, no photos of the art. It was ok for us to take this photo… Karen taking in the view from the top floor of the Ufizzi museum.


The top of Il Duomo from the cafe balcony at the Ufizzi museum.


Il Duomo – Michelangelo’s masterpiece.


The famous fresco of Il Duomo painted by Michelangelo.


Scott in heaven. Put a medieval history nerd in Florence and what do you get? Happiness. Here we are about to go into Dante’s museum.


Karen in the courtyard of San Marco


Courtyard at San Marco.

Florence - le Musee San Marco decore par Fra Angelico

One of Fra Angelico’s frescoes depicting the Annunciation.  Photo taken from the internet…. no photos at the museum.


A close up.


Wandering the streets of Florence among the Arno river. That’s the famous Ponte Vecchio in the background.

Our friend Brian says everything is so civilized in Italy… Actually what he says is that we live like savages in North America. People in Italy have it right: Time for excellent espresso, and food made with so much care and attention. People make the effort to look fabulous. We spent a lot of time eating (gelato), and yes… we drank lots more coffee.


The best pastry here. Wow. Great coffee is just an every day thing. No big deal. Perfect Americano everywhere. All the time. Every time.


Who’s a savage? Enjoying it so much, Scott can barely look up from his tasty treat.


Fresh food is a priority here. Not sure what they do differently, but vegetables even taste better.


What more can we say?


Having lunch, and coffee, with Shannon at Caffe Petrarcha, a local restaurant just down the road from the Villa (near the Porta Romana).


$32 gelato. We aren’t joking. Yeah, we got totally burned. But man, did it taste good.

While our time in Florence was wonderful and fun, we really feel the most gratitude for the opportunity to give our time for the benefit of other people.  Working in another language and culture is challenging at times. But the smiles on the faces of the students who successfully sat their first Vipassana course was the greatest reward. We feel strongly that our time in March was well spent.  Much better than sitting around our apartment in Toronto, worrying about finding work.


See you all very soon.

We look forward to seeing you all again when we return to Toronto.  We hear that spring is on its way?

with all our love and kindest thoughts,


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