My Monastic Writing Experience in Orvieto, Italy

Writers attend workshops and retreats for various reasons.  Some wish to hone their skills of description or dialogue, others are seeking inspiration or direction, and then there are those of us who have something to explore within ourselves—something too difficult to sort through with our morning coffee while retaining a smiling face and carefree demeanor.

When I accepted Justen Ahren’s invitation to join his Monastic Writing group studying in Italy, we both knew I was part of the latter category.  My inward journey would be much more difficult than the procession of planes, trains, and taxi cabs I would need to arrive at the base of the cliff which had long protected the residents of Orvieto.

Orvieto - cliff “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”Nelson Mandela

A week in a medieval Italian hillside village of artisans, wine makers, divine architecture, Cathedrals, Italian food, all to be enjoyed during the spaces between writing class and reflection.  Delightful!

Boarding the funicular—a tram of sorts crawling up the steep sheer cliff-face to the ancient town—I sat at an angle trying to see over the edge across the vineyards and groves of olive trees before we ascended into the tunnel.  For a minute, I thought I saw him—my father—sitting at the base of the turnstile waving goodbye.  I had felt his presence with me nearly every day since his death when I was eleven.

Orvieto - villa in mist 2               Orvieto - landscape and monastery

Talking to the other passengers—especially the one I had just discovered was another member of our retreat—I tried to ignore the feeling of separation from him.  He seemed to be saying, “You have to do this alone kiddo.  I’ll be right here when you get back.”

A bus picked us up at the end of the funicular’s jaunt and completed the climb to the very top of the hill, squeezing through tight corners scraped by the previous mirrors and sides of trucks too large to fit through the narrow alleys.

Orvieto - Approaching Duomo “When you reach the top, that’s when the climb begins.”Michael Caine

When we exited, there was no doubt as to our being at the right place.  The famous glittering, golden-faced Duomo commanded the piazza, and every eye within its visibility.  Soaring skyward in the front, its sides in long rungs of greenish-black basalt and white travertine, it held a thousand stories within the sculpture-topped crevices of mosaics.

Orvieto - Duomo from side                       Orvieto - Hotel Duomo

The Hotel Duomo had to be nearby.  Slipping around to the striped-side of the cathedral, we spied the awning announcing its presence, and strolled into an adventure which began with a welcome reception of charcuterie at a local trattoria.  Sitting around wine-barrel tables, we got acquainted with each other and the famous Orvieto Classico, a white wine made from grapes grown in the soft tufa, limestone, and volcanic soil!  Then we moved on to some serious dining at a restaurant nearby.

Orvieto - salami                    Orvieto - restaurant 4

Being in Umbria in early November, truffles—tartufo in Italian—were abundant.  I could barely wait to dig into that first meal of gnocchi with spinach, bacon, and of course, truffles!  (As the week progressed, my dining would include pizza with prosciutto and truffles, pork ragout over polenta, stuffed zucchini blossoms, sausage with artichokes, steak and salad, and even a wonderful sandwich of brie and prosciutto on freshly baked bread, and a chocolate pyramid with ground hazelnuts.  There wasn’t a bad meal to be had in Orvieto, especially the night we convinced Chef Lorenzo Polegri at the Zeppelin Restaurant to give us a dining experience we wouldn’t forget.  Read about it here if you haven’t already.)

Orvieto - view from window                    Orvieto - vespa

My room at Hotel Duomo—206—also had a name: Simone Mosca!  And it was surprisingly quiet to be just around the side of the church.  I feared the bells would keep me awake, but they didn’t bother me at all.  And the huge windows could be tilted in or rolled open so that the view would be unfettered.  I adored it, the tile roof lines sloping toward me, and the cobblestone street below which was often the setting for nuns walking past, or a Vespa chugging along.

Orvieto - wood carving 1                 Orvieto - wood carving 2

Forget everything you have ever heard about European breakfast options of bread and coffee.  Breakfast at Hotel Duomo was wonderful.  Every cup of cappuccino was made fresh, capped with a serious head of steamed, frothy milk.  Anything I could possibly want was on the bar; boiled eggs, salami, ham, cheeses, croissants, toast, cakes, cereals, yogurt, and fruits—namely tiny clementine oranges so fresh the leaves were still attached.

Coffee!  Chocolate!  I was thinking I could handle this kind of suffering.  Not too painful so far.

Orvieto - Enoteca and Wine bar                  Orvieto - Wine bar

Even the first day of writing prompts wasn’t especially emotional.  We set our intentions for the week.  What did we want to achieve?  Here’s what I wrote:  “My intention for the week is to release the fear resulting from the exposure of my work to the written obvious page.”

Initially, sharing was easy.  Justen gave great prompts and our group was very productive, needing little incentive to delve into our responses.  He was also quite clever, easing us gently into harmony with one another and it worked.  Tiptoeing into the shallow end of the writing pool, I didn’t realize how deep the water was getting until it was over my head.

Orvieto - mist                 Orvieto - Duomo crown

It happened on the second full day.  Mist hung like snow clouds, obliterating the view from the top of the cliff.  Even the heavens seemed to be saying, ‘Don’t look, Renee.’

Justen took us into the Duomo to write.  Ancient and adorned with paintings, sculptures, mosaics, relics, stained glass, it existed so fully I could almost hear its breath.  Centuries of exaltation, grief, spirituality, life, death, art, undulated in the sacred atmosphere of the church.

I felt a symbiotic sense of unity with the Cathedral, as if I was writing in its womb, birthing a creation I had been gestating for many years.  Was it the beautiful, soft music?  The altar I was sitting in front of?  The sparse ribbons of light cascading through stone shaved so thinly it looked like stained glass?  The sculpture of Christ lying in his mother’s arms after the Crucifixion, his limp hand pointing toward me?

There are some things even a writer can’t find the words for.  There are some things that we become writers in order to make sense of.  I knew internally that somewhere between these two statements, a place existed where I would one day release a grenade of emotions onto paper and let it absorb the resulting shrapnel from the exploding shards of my memories. That place was the Duomo in Orvieto, Italy.

orvieto-cropped-duomo-from-clock-tower3.jpg

As we gathered back together in a circle of chairs which the church officials had agreed to let us assemble, Justen saw the tears in my eyes and patted me on the shoulder.  Looking away quickly, I didn’t want him to know I was crying.  I didn’t want anyone to know. When something has been locked away in the dark for a long time, there is a lot of fear and resistance to shining a light on it.  The eleven-year-old inside of me couldn’t bear it.  I couldn’t let myself become that vulnerable. It was about to get worse.

Orvieto - Justen and me cropped

Renee Johnson and Justen Ahren in Orvieto, Italy

Back at the hotel, sitting in what would become our usual spot, it was time to share.  There had been two prompts.  Both had brought up images and emotions so well-hidden and disguised I barely knew what to do with them when they surfaced.  Freshly wounded, the thought of speaking the words was too traumatic.

First round, I passed.  Second, I passed.

“Again?” Justen asked.

I knew he only wanted to encourage me, but I couldn’t do it.  The group rallied around me.

The next day, painful memories from other participants were shared and with their tears, my cowardice became evident.  I started to break.  Slowly, I peeled away one layer at a time, giving small vignettes to Justen—one very painful one about what I was experiencing.  He gently reminded me that I had achieved my intention; to release my fear about seeing the words on the written, obvious page.  I had confronted them and they had not destroyed me.

Orvieto - Duomo Square 1                       Orvieto - Justen in action

Time passed quickly.  Days of writing all over Orvieto—in bustling piazzas,

cliff-side overlooks

Orvieto - cliff scene                        Orvieto - church 3 san giovanni

with villas and vineyards below us, an outdoor garden space, inside dining room, staring across the moss-laden Etruscan tombs,                Orvieto - Etruscan tombs

as well as inside the Duomo—eating, walking in the rain,

Orvieto - steeple                 Orvieto - church 5

           in and out of old Cathedrals,

Orvieto - Church 2                             Orvieto - church 1

glancing over foggy vistas,            Orvieto - villa in mist

shopping for small things I could bring back in my carry-on luggage, tasting wines and

freshly-pressed olive oils,                     Orvieto - olive oil tasting Renee at olive oil tasting in Orvieto  Orvieto - wine bar kir

lighting candles for loved ones beneath fading frescoes, Orvieto - church 5 niche painting touring ancient grottos, peering into wells,Orvieto - street scene

walking backward through time in archeological digs with unearthed shards of the relics in one place and a reproduction of what it would have looked like beside of it,

Orvieto - archeological museum          Orvieto - Street scene 2

getting to know my new friends, climbing to the top of the Clock Tower,

Orvieto - bells of bell tower best                      Orvieto - church 4

meeting Geppetto at the Magic Shop, shown here with Jarita Davis**,

Orvieto - magic shop                         Orvieto - Geppeto and Jarita

waiting out a rainstorm after a mad dash beneath a portico,

Orvieto - Suit of armor Orvieto - Pinocchio

sitting on a bench in the piazza outside of the Duomo staring at the glittering face of her beauty.

Orvieto - Pottery                           Orvieto - Pottery 2

We wrote every day for three hours, had afternoons free to explore, and would come back together around 7:00 pm for dinner.  Sometimes we would share a piece we had written before we set off for another dining experience.  It was during one of these times I announced what I intended to read—the piece about the day of writing in the Duomo—the piece about the darkness following my father’s suicide.  I can still see Justen’s enormous, surprised eyes in my memory.  Would I be able to do it?  Would I cry?

Courage is grace under pressure.”Ernest Hemingway

I wouldn’t say it was easy.  It wasn’t.  But it didn’t annihilate me.  I didn’t cry, though I thought I was going to.  Suddenly, I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed by my emotions, even the dark ones.  Another of the participants had chosen to read a letter she had written on healing.  Quietly, she passed it to me after sharing her very thoughtful advice.

There are no coincidences.” –Jarita Davis

Orvieto - hotelier                     Orvieto - hotelier's wife

Near the end of the trip, our wonderfully expressive hotelier, Mr. Massaccesi, graciously agreed to give us a tour of his private cantina in the grotto beneath the hotel.  One of the highlights of the entire trip for me was watching Jarita as she translated for him.  He became so animated in his story his speech became quicker and faster and Jarita was no longer thinking about the words or even their meanings, just doing a side-by-side translation standing on a ledge beside of him.  It was brilliant.

“Il mondo é nato qui,” he said.

“The world was born here,” Jarita translated. I believed him.

Orvieto - view from window 2           IMG_2045

At the end of the journey, we all wrote a little note to each other, predominantly about what we appreciated most in the writing shared with the group.  And I kept a journal of the entire experience, including my favorite thoughts from the participants. Justen said this to me the morning after I revealed my heartrending piece

“Yesterday, you began to make a sound and a language for the unspeakable.” 

Thank you, Justen, for helping me to claim my voice.

Zeppelin entrance                Orvieto - restaurant 2

Zeppelin Restaurant on left, Antica Cantina on Right

We were quiet on the last evening—a bit tired, reflective, and still overwhelmed from the dining adventure at Zeppelin Restaurant the previous evening.  Packing for the return journey commenced.  I awoke early the next morning.  There had been some scheduled demonstrations in Rome with the Italian labor union which I wrote about at Writingfeemail.

Two trains were going into Termini Station from Orvieto, one at 7:30 a.m. and another at 11:30 a.m.  The bus for the funicular didn’t start running until 7:20.  I made the decision to leave before the sun came up; assuring myself the Corso Cavour had street lamps. Orvieto - sunset  There was little happening so early in the morning.  Besides stopping in at a tobacco shop to get the ticket for the funicular, I ploughed ahead, hearing my luggage wheels bump against the cobblestone as I hiked down the hill. Soft rain had begun to fall, mist collected in every cavity.  

Pay attention, I scolded myself.  Notice the pools of light reflected on the wet surfaces.  Listen for the bells, the thump of the newspaper cart headed to the various stores for stocking.  See the agile cat maneuvering the treacherous ledge of the cliff wall.

Orvieto - leather artisan Maria                   Orvieto - art reminder

I passed stores I remembered shopping in.  Smiling, I recalled Maria from the leather shop, the kind wine purveyor who remarked to me that he remembered seeing Jarita and me coming into town,

Orvieto - wine purveyor           Orvieto - Shields

the store where I had purchased a scarf from a lady proudly remarking it was reversible and hand sewn, the market whose baskets of fruits and vegetables were now locked down.  My hand slipped into my pocket, fingers caressing the chestnut given to me by the vendor, a token she could never know held a world of meaning.

Orvieto - market with oranges                Orvieto - market with chestnuts

“Dad,” I whispered.  “I did it.”

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”Sir Edmund Hillary

Later in the morning I slipped into Santa Maria Sopra Minerva,

Rome - SMSM exterior                  Rome - Santa Maria Sopra Minerva entrance

my favorite church in Rome, and the only Gothic one still in existence there.  With my journal and ink pen in hand, I found a pew facing Michelangelo’s statue of Christ and repeated the exercises Justen had taught us in Orvieto.

Write whatever comes up,” he had instructed.

Rome - SMSM Christ     Rome - SMSM ceiling

Alone in Rome, I was slightly fearful of what may surface.  I needn’t have worried.  What came up was joy, gladness, a happy heart.  I wrote for two hours, uninterrupted.  Then I laid it all to rest, my intention fulfilled.

If you read the previous post about Justen Ahren and his Approach to Monastic Writing, then you are familiar with his intentions as well.  His desire to open us up to the possibilities of receiving what the universe would have us write, devote ourselves to it, and use the tools we learned from him as a method of engaging in conversation within ourselves, had come to fruition.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”Kahlil Gibran, from On Joy and Sorrow  

**Jarita Davis granted permission for the use of her name and image here. 

*Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.  *

About reneejohnsonwrites

I have recently returned from University of Iowa's Novel-Writing Intensive during their Summer Writing Festival. Other credits include two stints at The Essoyes School in France, two terms at a writer's residency at Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha's Vineyard, and a retreat in Italy. Join me in 'writing the world.' -- Renee Canter Johnson, author of "Herald Angels", "The Haunting of William Gray", and "Acquisition" published by The Wild Rose Press. Coming soon--an international intrigue set in Venice, Italy--where adventure and danger are as masked as the characters.
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76 Responses to My Monastic Writing Experience in Orvieto, Italy

  1. thatemily says:

    Sounds like a really great place to visit and get some inspiration! Stunning photos as well!

  2. Rosanna says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. You were so blessed to have been able to participate…I hope someday I’ll be able to attend something similar to this. What a wonderful, heartwarming writing journey!

  3. Elyse says:

    What a wonderful experience this whole thing must have been. There is no place like Italy, is there?

    • Elyse, did you get to Orvieto during your stay in Europe? I’d love to hear about your experience if you did.

      • Elyse says:

        No, sadly. If I go back to Europe, Italy is where I most want to go. There are no bad places in Italy and no bad meals!

      • Oh my, Elyse! No bad meals indeed. Everything I ate was fantastic!

      • Elyse says:

        My real — very deep — regret is that we didn’t get to Rome. I can’t believe we didn’t get to Rome. It’s a very long story.

      • I adore Rome. You absolutely should go Elyse. I feel at home there. It might be the organized chaos, which reminds me of the inside of my head! But something wonderful always happens which leaves me feeling ‘awed’.

      • Elyse says:

        With my health issues, travel is now quite difficult. Sooooooo…

        My brother taught Art History for many years in college. In the summers he would lead tours. One summer he ran into a student a day or two before the course started. She started telling him all the wonderful things she’d seen, and how she really loved those signs all over Rome pointing out the wonders. “I just follow the signs and end up somewhere terrific!” My brother had no clue what she was talking about, so she showed him. They left the restaurant and she said “There’s one!” and pointed at the “One Way” sign on the curb. My brother’s moral from this story is that anywhere you go in Rome there are wonders.

        Sigh.

      • I’m sorry about your health issues. But this is so funny. It’s the absolute truth, Elyse. You turn a corner and ‘wow’, another corner and ‘wow’. Sometimes it is hard to get back far enough away from the sights and art and fountains to even get the entire object in the picture. It’s one of those great places that blends modernity and antiquity with such ease. I would go back to Rome tomorrow. And I had the best hotel right next to the church, behind the Pantheon. Can you tell how much I love Rome??

  4. Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Aquileana says:

    This is such a beautiful post Renee… I have italian roots … There is an italian town called Pedemonte which is,, by the way my Family name!… However I have never been in Italy… But each time I see photographs I feel I have already been there!!!.
    Thanks for sharing your writing experiences in Bella Italia with us!.~
    All the best to you. Aquileana 😀

  6. Italy is ingrained in the cells of your body. You must travel there. It is calling you! And the people…absolutely lovely!! Thank you, Aquileana.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this, Renee. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for you, sharing the piece about your father’s death…but you did it, and I’m so proud. I loved Justen’s words, that you recorded in your journal. What a powerful retreat this was on so many levels.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos too!

    • Thank you Jill. It was so many things…all at once. I appreciate your comment so much, because you have nailed it. It was often difficult…inspiring…painful…beautiful…and I had–still have–angst about this. I haven’t written about his death much, if at all. Alluded to it a few times, but not really spoke about it. Yet it affected everything in my life and still does. I told one friend I would likely lock myself in the closet after posting this. But it needed to breathe. And the beauty of it needed its time as well.

  8. What a life changing experience you had on this retreat, Renee! Thx for sharing it with us, along with all the wonderful photos. I truly love Italy, and the you had my mouth watering thru all the descriptions of the culinary delights you enjoyed. May your writing forever benefit from the positive vibes of that trip.

    • Thank you Doreen. If I managed to get your mouth watering, I’ll take that as high praise. You know how to whet our appetites for that oh-so-sinful chocolate. And thanks for taking this ‘journey’ along with me.

  9. This was so beautifully crafted. I could feel you carefully and determinedly edge toward the ineffable, explore and find it. Bravo, Renee. You did it on so many levels. All your quotes are so perfectly placed foreshadowing what’s coming. I was filled with anticipation as you led us through this ephemeral journey.
    I loved Nelson Mandela’s quote placed first. I like it so much, I think I will lift it and place it on my blog and nestle it in the Citations category so I can return and reflect on it. He’s quite right. When I write it reveals more, presents more and becomes overwhelming. I have to confess, I retreat unlike you who pressed forward in this monastic journey. Your descriptions were divine. You are an inspiration. Thank you again for generously sharing so much… dare I say substance?

    • Wow, Georgette! What a lovely comment. I’m touched by your response to this post. It was deeply emotional and inspiring simultaneously. Sometimes the toughest, most challenging climbs are the ones we claw through inwardly. Thank you.

  10. Please laugh along with me as I remember your A-Z post. All our posts reveal something about ourselves and I can’t help but think your tenacity came through then as it certainly does here on entirely different levels, of course.

    • It’s funny you should use ‘tenacity’ to refer to me. It isn’t the first time. *smiling* I even used it in reference to myself recently, as I was so determined to achieve something, I fell asleep with my kindle in one hand and cell phone in the other. LOL.

  11. (((((“Yesterday, you began to make a sound and a language for the unspeakable.” ))))

    I have so much to say, but I’ve always believed “”””LESS IS MORE!””””

    Brilliant. Amazing. Profound.

    This entire post, experience, and even THE BELLS, took my breath away.

    XXxxx

  12. restlessjo says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, Renee. I was cheering you on all the way 🙂 What an emotional roller coaster. And how wonderful that you got there so successfully.

  13. I just finished the book «Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway» by Susan Jeffers. And that’s exactly what you did in Orvieto. Congratulations, you were very brave. Besides the emotional side of everything it seems like you had a great time there (and I believe the emotional relief was good, too 🙂 ).

    • Wow, Otto. I think that may be required reading for me. It is usually my motto, but this had been left to marinate for so many years it was hard to imagine writing about it. Thank you so much for this lovely comment!

  14. Sherri says:

    This is a beautiful and profound read Renee, not to mention your gorgeous photos. I’m so glad I am at last able to spend the time to read, slowly, all you share here, straight from your heart. As a memoir writer, writing through some difficult times from my younger life, I know how nerve-wracking it is to at first reveal these deeply hurtful and painful memories on that written ‘obvious’ page. But then, I’ve discovered, as you find your voice, so also you find your freedom. Where the pain has lain hidden for so long, as you release it onto paper, healing light and deliverance floods in and illuminates those very words in the sharing with others. We do make ourselves vulnerable but in that vulnerability we find great strength and courage. As you did and have and as it helps you in your writing and along your path today, your voice ringing out clear and full of the the story that is yours, the one that you own. As you said to me about my poem, the answers are always there. I am so glad you found yours Renee. I am deeply moved. Thank you so much for sharing this ❤

    • Oh Sherri, thank you for sharing this comment. I did say that ‘the answers are always there’ to you, didn’t I? Wow.

      When I first hit the publish button, I thought I might throw-up. It is hard to reveal it all, but the promise of this blog is the truth in my journey. What good is another voice on the internet, if not for exploring all of the vulnerability we have experienced.

      It is your truth we respond to, well, that and your lovely writing. Thank you, again!! You are making me feel better! Hugs!!

  15. jakesprinter says:

    Amazing remarkable photography my friend ….Excellent post.

  16. What an amazing experience. I can see why that place is so conducive to writing, and I can also imagine spending weeks there if not months. I love your photos which help to put us right there with you. What absolute fun, what heaven. Btw, that photo with “Pinocchio” on the bench, I know that store. I’ve been to it (not the same exact one) while in Florence and also while I was in Austria. It’s such a fun place, seeing all that whimsical woodwork. Wow, you did well for yourself by going.

    • Thank you, Monica! How fun it is to know you’ve been there! Fantastic. I can tell you would be a joy to travel with and I’m so glad you liked the pictures. I think the people of a village are super important!

  17. Renee, this is a stunning piece of work! What an adventure! I felt every word, and the beauty of your words and images brought tears to my eyes, but not sad tears. It’s the feeling I get when I see a glorious painting for the first time, or hear that opera sung by the most gifted soprano ever. I love this!

  18. Such a journey told with such intense beauty and joy.
    A magical place…really. Any place with a magic shop is a place where wonders happen.
    Remarkable surroundings – like a different world – perhaps designed to bring all of you into this one. Well done – and cheers!

    • Karen, I have to tell you about the magic shop. He actually took my hand and said ‘make a wish, magic is all around you.’ As I did and waved my hand, music started to play and the whole shop came to life. It is magical indeed. You would love it!

      • Wonder if the guy from Estes Park relocated there…no, that wouldn’t be possible – would it? The whole place looks enchanted – might be hard to leave once there.. So glad you got to experience it all

      • And, to make it even more mysterious, the buildings are so old that most have some secret artistic treasure inside, whether beneath the surface in the grotto below, or frescoes along their inner walls. Our hotelier was disappointed because he wasn’t able to provide us with a private tour of a friend’s house–scheduling issues–where some spectacular paintings were on the walls–literally, not framed and hanging but actually painted on the plaster they lived with every day. Magical indeed.

      • It’s the buildings that would speak and draw me there. Simply other worldly and ancient history at the same time. All those stories waiting there. Very cool

      • Food, too! Being in Umbria the truffles were divine. I want to go back and do a truffle hunt with the chef of Zeppelin–Lorenzo Polegri!

  19. Justen Ahren says:

    Renee,

    what a moving and beautiful piece. I am so impressed with your, as another put it, “tenacity!” In Orvieto you could have turned from what you needed to write, but you didn’t. And now you’ve turned your experience into beauty to share with all of us. That is truly ART! I am feel so honored to have experienced parts of this with you. Writing is a journey. You answered the call. Now we are rewarded with your words. Also, I feel indebted to you for illuminating the writing we are doing in Italy. In deep appreciation, Justen Ahren.

    • Justen, we pass the gift between us. (Someone wise said this to me.) You have given much to me and are now, and forever, part of my journey. Art must be inspired. You have been that inspiration for me. The gratitude is mine. I was ready and the teacher appeared. Always…

  20. Lara says:

    So beautifully and tenderly written, Renee. This sounds like a tremendous experience. There is nothing so wonderful as such a deep, life enhancing, experience.

  21. Sheryl says:

    The writing retreat sounds incredible. What a scenic locale!. . . and the writing and sharing process sounds like it was organized wonderfully and in a way that created a safe environment for you to share a very difficult experience.

    • Yes, Sheryl. That is the beauty really. If you read the previous interview with Justen, you saw the quote about us all being parts of each other’s dreams. I was fortunate to be with such a supportive group. Thank you.

  22. This is beautiful Renee. I enjoyed experiencing the journey with you and imagining myself visiting, but I mostly enjoyed the wonderful and touching way you described it.

  23. megtraveling says:

    What is it about Italy that makes it so special? Thank you for sharing your amazing experiences in Orvieto – I was there and I recognized some of the places in your pictures. Your memories must be very sweet…

  24. jennypellett says:

    What a wonderfully told account of a very personal journey, Renee – I almost feel as if I’ve eavesdropped! Sometimes doing the brave thing like you have here, getting it all ( or a lot of it ) out, is the way to self preservation. Well done and I wish you well on your writing journey.

  25. A beautiful and enriching journey of the heart and soul. This had me reflect on the many times I too set aside so many things I wish to say or write but fear overwhelmed me instead, “I started to break. Slowly, I peeled away one layer at a time, giving small vignettes to Justen—one very painful one about what I was experiencing. He gently reminded me that I had achieved my intention; to release my fear about seeing the words on the written, obvious page. I had confronted them and they had not destroyed me.” Today, you inspire me to take courage and face my fears. To seek adventure and travel life’s many exciting roads without holding back.Best of blessings to you and your family.

  26. Rosanna says:

    Reblogged this on Writing on the Pages of Life and commented:
    I am delighted to reblog this post by Renee Johnson, where she shares with her readers what she learned about writing, the beautiful sights she saw, and other personal experiences during a writing retreat in Orvieto, Italy.

  27. Pingback: JACK SONNI — ROCKER, WRITER, GENTLEMAN CHEF! | Renee Johnson Writes

  28. Pingback: Jack Sonni » New Interview – Writer, Rocker, Gentleman Chef!

  29. ladyfi says:

    What an inspiration and adventure! Your shots are gorgeous too.

  30. I don’t think I would have written anything – would be too busy eating and sightseeing. Would have brought my sketch pad though.

  31. pattisj says:

    What an experience this must have been–and to leave much lighter on one’s feet than upon arrival.

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