What a difference a year can make, now the faces smiling out of the crowd are friends, people I am slowly coming to know. We came to the fair in our village last year and I felt like a tourist, with no real understanding of the lifestyle, heritage and traditions around me.
This year at the fair I felt relaxed, smiling and waving, nodding to the locals and getting a ‘Salve’ in return. We are slowly becoming part of the Valley, Living Italy, Australiani yes but welcomed wholeheartedly.
While Sam and his friend were off photographing the fair together, the kids (well just Luca as Carina took off with her girlfriends) and I were free to just wander.
I even sat and had a coffee with two lovely German men at the bar, they were on a ‘boys weekend’ and they couldn’t believe they found an Australian here in the midst of the celebrations.
The faces in these photos are no longer strangers, they are the ones who come over to ask after Carina, the ones who smile and nod at me, the ones who listen to my halting attempts at Italian, the ones who stop for a chat and a joke with Sam.
These are the people that our children go to school with, the ones who have invited us to their homes, to birthday parties, to become a part of the community and celebrate all that is so special and unique about our Valley.
Sam has found his mojo and is back behind the camera, we actually met whilst studying photography. He was taking the commercial stream and I was happy in the fine art department. Not a single one of our friends thought we’d last, yet here we are almost 20 years later and still together.
These ‘Live Italy’ posts will be a way to give you an up close and personal view of our life here in the mountains of Northern Italy.
Looking through the photos Sam took at the fair had me laughing at how different our style of photography is. With him being the chef in the family he tends towards the food, and I love the people. I hope you like this little glimpse into Sam’s view of the valley, it’s nice to get a bit of male perspective from time to time.
I’d love to say a huge thank you to our dear friend from Australia who helped Sam find his mojo again. We have big things planned for 2015 and will be filling you in as we progress.
As always I hope you are chasing your own dreams, and if you come to Italy you know where to find us.
Thinking of visiting Italy next year?
and the gang x
Portrait in Paris
For many years I have been missing, behind the camera instead of in front.
Convinced I didn’t deserve center stage,
Carla Coulson you helped me change all that.
Not only did I find my inner sexy, adventurous, spirited, passionate sense of self again.
I also gave the gift of myself back to my daughter.
A Mum who wears red lipstick, high heels and knows how to navigate the Metro.
One full of laughter, confidence, glowing with happiness that we get to share these moments together.
From the absolute surprise on her face when she caught the first glimpse of my transformation I knew I’d cheated her a little.
Our portrait in Paris was a chance to change all that.
We laughed out loud feeding the pigeons at Notre Dame, splashed in the fountains, shopped, danced and sang together.
Total ‘Girl Time’
It was long overdue.
My own Mum and I have an incredible closeness, she raised us after my Dad died suddenly at only thirty nine. I’ve long had a thing for preserving memories, I only have a few photos of my Dad and I together, I was only five when he died.
By taking myself out of family photos I really see how I just disappeared.
How my kids don’t feel they smile the right way for photos.
If I could give you a gift from my heart it would be to let yourself always SHINE.
To not hit delete if you don’t look ‘just right’ and if you get a chance to have a portrait taken go and do it wholeheartedly.
The day we spent with Carla for our portrait in Paris really did change my life, in ways I didn’t see coming.
She has such a natural, humble. easy way, a clear vision that she brings to life, and she carries you along with her passion and enthusiasm.
I have never felt this way in front of a camera in my entire life.
Swirling, laughing, yep even a bit of strutting……people pausing to watch us, it all seemed on the edge of my joy, hugging my daughter, a bouquets of flowers with their own special meaning for us, feeling like a million dollars.
I even did a few quick outfit changes in a little courtyard, and Boobs…..who knew I had those!
A complete and total contrast to how I felt only a few short months ago when I found out I had won.
I turned the camera on to video my thanks and everything went sideways.
I know the video and the post I wrote touched many people who also hide from the camera.
All photos copyright Carla Coulson
To the only man in my Life,
we share so much, laughter tears Renovating (enough said), you are still and will always be my HERO!
I might not tell you enough that I love and adore you
yet I do
with all my heart x
My beautiful butterfly girl.
You are my heart,
I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way when we argue but it will forever be true.
I love you more than a million red M & M’s, more than anything in the world, to the moon and back.
My little girl you are becoming a young woman and I am so proud of you!
You have such a special grace, an inner beauty, a rare gift of resilience, creativity, laughter, cheekiness, and such a Spirit.
I love you Sweet Heart, you are my JOY xxx
You gave us so much more than you could ever know.
Way beyond a Portrait in Paris.
Such a beautiful moment in time together, the grace of a girl becoming a young woman.
I’m incredibly happy that you were the one to capture these moments. I can’t imagine anyone else behind the lens, you have such a gift.
At the end of the day shooting it felt like we had just wandered Paris, soaking it all in, all of us laughing together as girlfriends.
I don’t actually remember you pointing a camera at us, how weird is that?
I just remember Carina in my arms, laughing, relaxing, a feeling of twirling, sharing, her hand in mine as we walked, lots of laughter.
Yes Life Changing in so many ways!
“Freedom, Sensuality, Joy, Movement, Adventure”
thank you Carla from the bottom of my heart xxx
PS Carla I will forever love your little cat, how clever he was to draw my name from that dish.
Give him a big kiss on the whiskers from us says Carina x
PPS Now the boys want to get in on the act….next time you’ll have the entire family LOL xx
and the gang x
A New Way of Seeing
‘My destination is no longer a place, but a New Way of Seeing’
Just over a week ago I received an Invitation from Di Mackey to attend a photography workshop in Genoa – A New Way of Seeing.
It felt like a ‘sign’
After much discussion regarding finances, and ‘who exactly are these women?’ with my dear husband, we agreed that I should go. Yep I’m officially menopausal so don’t mess with me. Luckily I have a great husband and he has a fantastic wife.
We packed up the campervan and headed to Turin with our friend Laura and the kids. Then spent a few wonderful days exploring the markets, listening to a fabulous jazz band in the park, and checking out the Egyptian Museum (which was the highlight for Luca).
Saturday morning at 4am Sam and I left Laura and the kids sleeping in the van and headed for the train station. My first solo trip since arriving back in Italy 18 months ago.
It’s been a long time since my backpacking days, I traveled all around Europe and America in my 20’s. A whole weekend to myself sounded like heaven, and it was. Sometimes a little solitude and ‘away time’ is just what the Doctor ordered. I navigated the metro, bought myself a cappuccino and brioche at Piazza di Ferrari and then set off to meet Di.
My weekend adventure had begun.
This is no ordinary workshop, A New Way of Seeing is such a unique combination of incredible women each complementing the other perfectly.
I am sure Di Mackey and I were sisters in another life, we just clicked, it felt like I’d know her forever. She gave me the gift of deep belly laughs, understanding, and freedom to be myself, each one I will treasure forever.
Helen Kerrison how can I thank you, every word was food for my soul.
Working with you over the weekend I reignited my passion for photography and regained a sense of my own place in the world. These were things I hadn’t realized I’d lost, your gentle guidance had me see for myself just how far I’d drifted away.
Together with Laura from Ciao Amalfi and Leah from Help! I Live with My Italian Mother in Law we laughed, shared, took a bus ride to Boccadasse for dinner on a terrace overlooking the ocean and even got a little tipsy on Limoncello.
Up until the weekend I’ve relied on my Fuji digital point and shoot camera, I take it with me everywhere and hadn’t used a SLR camera since studying photography (where I met Sam).
This was way before digital back when we processed our images in the darkroom, four years part time study and one year full time at RMIT and I felt like a total novice again.
I have to admit I was totally clueless and the number of times I had the instruction book out could have been embarrassing but it wasn’t. It was FUN, huge fun, I got to fiddle about with f-stops, and shutter speeds, depth of field, and ISO it was like remembering a lost language.
The main thing I discovered with A New Way of Seeing is that I have so much more to learn. That photography is an integral part of my language and it’s one I love sharing with you .
If you have passions follow them, keep dreaming, keep learning and keep laughing.
Being invited to stay with Di and Helen in a gorgeous apartment right across from this charming Pizzeria and it’s very proud owners was a highlight. Thank you both for taking me under your wings and showing me how to fly solo. x
Please note that the images in this post were taken on my point and shoot Fuji digital camera. the photos I took for the exercises are pretty bad as I hadn’t worked out how to preview them. If you’d like to see some gorgeous shots of the kind of work we did take a look at these ones from Laura Thayer.
and the gang x
We set off for Liguria with high hopes, expecting beautiful weather, gelato, family time, some much needed rest and relaxation. Each of these arrived in different ways, at unexpected moments, our maiden voyage in the camper van was an education for all of us.
We managed to survive without computers, no internet, no online games or movies to watch, I was surprised how quickly the addiction was broken.
We played Mastermind, Hangman, Join the Squares, drew, read, walked, made new friends along the way, and actually spent time with each other. In this stress filled world we live in, just bowing out for a week was a real treat.
Since returning we’ve fallen back into old habits, our comfortable routines, and our family love affair with the computer. Creating this simple life is a work in progress, one we are yet to completely embrace. I know and believe with all my heart that it will be the making of our little family.
exploring Albenga, Liguria
finding a friend in Veravo
looking for an agent in Albenga
Finding an agent for our house in Veravo was a little more challenging, a total change from the buying / selling process we are so familiar with in Australia. A number of agents wouldn’t take on a ‘Rustico’ and were luckily happy to put us onto an agent that would. So our house in Liguria is now on the market, yet I secretly hope we’ll find a way to keep it. The entire valley is gorgeous and so close to the beach and towns on the Italian riviera. Albenga is the closest town and she totally captured my heart with her Medieval walled center. So now we wait and see what happens.
taking a dip at Monterosso al Mare
Luca celebrated his tenth birthday on the road, was happy with the perfect gift found in a tiny souvenir shop in Monterosso al Mare ( a bag of prehistoric creatures which just happened to include a Gastornis!) we had a simple cake the next day with friends on the way home, a family we met on the road gave him a gift of a helium balloon and a golden Lindt chocolate rabbit complete with ribbon and bell. Just tiny gifts and special moments, he had a wonderful birthday.
heading home to Malpertus
With hundreds of images to sort through and share I’ll be creating resources on all the places we visited. Right now I’m off to bed, after a day at home I have managed to come down with the flu and am feeling rotten. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Break, I have lots of stories, adventures and ideas to share with you and I’ll be posting here with all the details.
If you have any thoughts or questions on anything I’m sharing I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
with much love as always
and the gang x
Time to Shine with Carla Coulson
‘Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye’
H. Jackson Brown Jr
I turn 50 this year in June, and I will be celebrating in Paris.
I will also be in front of the lens of Carla Coulson
and the beauty of this is that she will show me what everyone else has always known
……that I am beautiful and that it is my time to Shine.
Congratulations started coming in, my face book page was beeping all day, and when I saw my name selected I couldn’t believe it.
I turned the camera on to say thank you to Carla Coulson and that was the end of me. It was all just too much, a life changing dream come true, my time to Shine. I almost deleted that little video clip, kept trying to compose myself to make another one without the raw emotion. But in the end I posted it to Carla on my facebook page, the response was overwhelming.
The reason I didn’t delete it is because I never want my daughter to feel like this.
I don’t want her growing up without photos to capture the moments of joy in her life. I want her free and certain and glowing in front of the camera, I want her to always know how beautiful she is both inside and out, good hair days or bad…..make up or no make up, laughing crying and just the way she is. Isn’t that what we all want, to be seen, to be heard, to make a difference.
I still don’t look in mirrors, I haven’t since I was a teenager, especially if anyone else is in the room. I have been known to wait in toilet cubicles until those applying fresh makeup leave the room. I don’t like getting my photo taken, and growing up my Mum would always light the house in the evening with candles and she was careful to sit in the ‘best light’ how funny I had totally forgotten about that until just this moment.
At school and into my early 30’s I had severe cystic acne, I tried everything to make it disappear but in the end I see now that I disappeared a little at a time. In my teens and 20’s I wouldn’t go out if I was having a bad skin day.
Friends and family would greet me with ‘Oh your skin looks better today’ and old ladies would stop me on the street to give me the ‘cure’……my closest friend in high school turned on me (as can happen in school) and her favorite taunt was about my skin, she enrolled the entire school into her chorus (or so it seemed to me).
Actually now I think about it my brother hated getting his photo taken as well and it was a family sport to try to get a photo of him. We have many of him with his hand up to his face or with the finger up, I wonder what his story was. I never thought to ask him and it’s too late now.
I notice that Carina doesn’t give her childish beaming smile when getting her photo taken, she thinks her teeth are too big….when I got my wedding photos I ‘fixed’ them….and on one favorite I even slightly straightened my nose (thanks to the wonder that is photoshop). My Mum rang to thank me for the photos I sent her saying she’d never had such a nice photo of us, she never knew that I tweaked it a little first.
I remember when I was working for a photographer in Melbourne, she took packages at school formals and a Mother came in to her office enraged that she’d ‘taken out’ her son’s acne without asking first. I’ve been guilty of doing this same thing with photos of our children. Carina will think she never had a spot as a baby. We are so lucky to have this chance to put it right with Carla Coulson behind the lens.
How we see ourselves can become complicated
It’s time to give that story up…..it’s my time to SHINE with the wonderful Carla Coulson
and as always I will be sharing the journey with you x
Let’s SHINE together x
click here to see the portraits from Paris
and the gang x
‘She decided to start living the life she imagined…’
Last night I lay in bed thinking, about my big birthday next year and what I want to do on the day. In my mind I have been planning a huge bash in Paris somewhere overlooking the Eiffel Tower. I have already started hinting to my friends and family that this would be tres magnifique and they should start saving for a European holiday.
Then my inner version of reality kicks in.
My little voice that tells me ‘don’t’ be ridiculous’ and nobody is going to come all the way to Paris for a birthday….no edit that, I mean for MY Birthday. It is a dream that is totally out of reach and I am not worthy of such a big dream. It will cost too much, we don’t have the money, we’ll have to travel, I’m not important….my dream will be a fizzer and everybody will know.
Don’t tell anyone, if nobody knows then my grand dream can’t fail, I can’t fail.
And I let myself think this way.
I crush my own dreams, like the dream of writing a book, of having a voice, of making a difference. I’ve been taking about this dream for almost ten years. Taking one step forward and then no further, then another step and stopping, no further…gathering information, keeping notes, subscribing to writing blogs and comparing my journal to the polished finished books written by my peers. I’ve been Peer Gazing and crushing my own voice in the process.
So last night unable to sleep, gazing at the ancient beams overhead my thoughts shifted to my Brother, I was thinking that he only made it a few months past his fiftieth birthday. That right now if I were him I would only have one year to live. This exact time next year I would be in the garden finishing the weeding, packing away the lawnmower heading in for dinner, maybe whistling (I like to think of him whistling as he took those last steps).
I don’t know what dreams died unfulfilled with my brother that night, but I bet if he knew that he only had that one last year to live he would have whistled more often.
Dreams don’t need to be grand to live in our hearts, they just need to inspire us to be more than we are. My dream for our Italian life won’t happen by itself, being in Paris for my birthday won’t happen unless I decide it will, my first book will never be read unless I give up that little voice inside my head. Last night I decided to dedicate this year to my brother, to make it the best year ever, to make my life sing…..or maybe whistle.
As this is going to be the year that sings out loud, dances in the street, and culminates in Paris I’d love you to come along. Sing your own song, create a dream so big you can’t help but dance with the excitement of it, and then share it…..start here, with me, let’s do it together.
Go ahead….dare to dream x
Some French Inspiration
image left | right
With so much happening recently I thought it a good idea to catch you all up.
The Sydney Morning Herald
After some conversations with a journalist we were recently featured in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Yes we bought a bargain abroad and I still can’t believe the price we got our house for. I wouldn’t think many could say they got a cheaper liveable house in Italy than ours. After the story went live we had many new visitors to the blog and I’d like to welcome you if this is your first time here.
Journalist Christine Long…
Lisa and Sam Chiodo have done more than dream about buying European property. The Australian couple and their two children moved to northern Italy in March after they snapped up a ”liveable” three-bedroom house for €8000 ($11,500). Lisa says they found their mountain home on an Italian website while they were still in Australia, by tapping ”cheapest house in Piedmont” into a search engine. Although the Chiodo’s are old hands at the renovation game – this is their 12th project and their second in Italy – they found buying in Italy isn’t straightforward.
”In Italy the majority of houses are sold privately and often with only a sign saying: ”Vendesi” to let you know the property is for sale,” Lisa says. ”Often it is through word of mouth and most locals know which houses are for sale.” As she shares on her blog, Renovating Italy, it helps to have a local who can negotiate for you.
Visitors…. Mum’s …and the Trattoria
Since my last post we have had two lots of visitors from Australia, all long time friends and it was wonderful to be able to show them our little corner of the world. This has meant a stop to the renovations so we are a little bit behind.
We are still waiting for the window guy to come back and remeasure, if he doesn’t get these windows done soon we are seriously going to freeze through the winter. The heater is still to be installed but at least it’s in the room, it’s starting to get cold here in the evenings with extra blankets on the beds and a hot water bottle for me (I feel the cold).
We’ve also had a play date after school at a new friend of Carina’s. We spoke English all afternoon and I realized how strong my Australian accent is, it was a gift beyond words to be accepted and included by the Mum’s and asked around for the afternoon.
This was something I did many times in Australia and I missed having conversations with the other Mums about the kids and school life. Especially with Luca having the Autism and the drama and mix up with Carina those few days before starting school this was such a gift for me. Moving to another country is wonderful but it takes some time to feel like you fit, especially when children are involved.
I also had lunch this week with a lovely Canadian friend Marj at the Trattoria in town run by a fabulous woman who has been here many years from England. Seeing her always gives me hope that one day I’ll be an old hand at all this, know everyone by name and be at ease conversing in Italian. I’ve been walking up and down the mountain to be with the kids at lunchtime, so am getting fit and love the sense of independence I get just from having broken conversations along the way.
Both our children have settled well into school, the teachers are kind and I see them giving hugs as the kids come in the gate. It’s a very small school and classes are much more personal than we had back in Australia. Everyone knows who we are and I often hear the word ‘Australiani’ as I pass, this is usually followed by someone stopping us to say ‘ciao’ with lots of smiles and nods from both sides.
The house in Liguria is for sale
Many of you will know that we bought this house in Veravo some years ago while still living in Australia. It was the dream that kept us focused on our goal of returning to Italy. My husband Sam set off on an epic trip with a friend of his to find us a house way back in 2010, on the very last day before returning to Australia they found our house in the village of Veravo, Castelbianco. Surrounded by mountains and only a short drive to the beaches of the Italian riviera it seemed perfect for us.
It will be a beautiful restoration, and a perfect place to live out the Italian dream, and I know that the right person will fall in love with it’s possibility just as we did. It needs a total renovation and is spread over three floors, with terraced gardens and a huge terrace that overlooks the valley. Unfortunately our hearts are well and truly here in the wild mountains of Piedmont and another big project is just out of our scope right now. If you are interested please be sure to contact us for details.
The trip to France
Last week Sam said ‘Let’s go for a drive’ and we ended up over the border and into France. The drive was incredible, and once we crossed the mountains it was as if we’d landed on another planet the contrast was so stark. We spent the day at a fortified city, Carina and I took to the back streets leaving the boys to follow along behind us.
Incredibly beautiful and just so ‘girlie’ it was some much needed Mum and daughter time, and a chance to share this beautiful country with my little girl who has a French soul. That night we ended up meeting our Aussie friends in Pinerolo for gelati and a night market, I feel as if I haven’t stopped for weeks.
Now it’s time to knuckle down and get the house sorted before Winter sets in, to get some routines in place for the school year ahead, and to focus on my writing. Oh and restore that gorgeous chest of drawers x
I hope you’ll come along with us as we create this new life in Italy,
we’d love to have you. x
and the gang x