The Sweet Life

Last week we visited family in Vida, Oregon.  My parents grow hazelnuts in the McKenzie Valley.  Together with my aunts and uncles’ orchards next door, they cultivate over 100 acres of trees.  We figured that a short stay on the farm could serve as a reunion with what we love about Italy: local, fresh food, family crowded in every direction and, of course,  il dolce far niente (the Italians’ poetic motto meaning “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness,” literally “the sweetness of doing nothing”).

It was a week of inspiration and creation.  It was a tribute to the food and lifestyle and culture of the Italians.  It was a canvas for remembering our favorite parts of the year abroad.

When we arrived, we took a sunny passeggiata around my parents’ place.  Then next door, my Aunt Heidi and Uncle Tom brought us to their Italian inspired terrace which they named, the Piazza. Later, we toured the gardens before settling into the kitchen where we made many of our favorite Umbrian (and Oregon) recipes including six different gelatos, daily pasta dishes and a tribute to roasted Umbrian wild boar.

The terrace with a thousand details (all made by hand).

The new Piazza with a hundred Italian details.

Our favorite corner of the piazza was the copper griffin that Tom made in honor of his experience in Perugia.

Our favorite corner of the Piazza is the copper griffin which my uncle made by hand in honor of his experience in Perugia with us last winter.

A crop of fagioline, the prized legume from Lake Trasimeno.  (Tom and Heidi snuck home a handful for their garden.  I was amazed with the result!)

Out in the garden: A crop of fagioline, the prized legume from Lake Trasimeno. (Tom and Heidi snuck home a handful to plant in their garden. I was amazed with the result!)

Similar to our Sunday excursions in Italy, this trip to my parents’ provided opportunities to practice the concept of farm-to-table:

Similar to our Sunday trips in Italy, this excursion provided for many lessons in practicing the concept of farm to table. Aunt Paula taught Ray to fish.  He caught a trout for dinner.

The McKenzie River flows through their backyard.  Aunt Paula took Ray fishing, and he caught a trout for dinner.

After knocking apples off the trees, we pressed and canned 42 quarts of apple cider and left one large jug to ferment.

Fruit trees line the driveway.  After gathering apples, we pressed and canned 42 quarts of cider and left one large jug to ferment for a breakfast buzz.

Heidi fills jars after the guys press the fruit.

Heidi fills the jars while the guys press a wheelbarrow full of fruit.

My mom picked blackberries and made many pies with the boys.

My mom picked blackberries and made many pies with the boys.

When the temperature drove us out of the kitchen, my dad took the boys to his orchard for golf lessons, archery and paint ball.  Later,  Tom and Heidi led rafting trips down the river.


We concluded the week with another late dinner on the Piazza.  Additional family members joined us.  In remembrance of Luke, we illuminated the table with candles which we brought from some of our favorite churches throughout Italy.


The “Year in Perugia” was really over in June.  These lingering articles are just my arms reaching back for a little more.  But honestly, it’s time to sign off.

Thanks for following.  Thanks for checking in.  And thanks for being a part of it.  It was exhilarating to have so many readers.  I loved the comments and emails and all the appreciation.  I savored each compliment and treasured each word of encouragement.  Without feedback, it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.

With a bittersweet sigh and a thousand memories of la dolce vita . . .




36 thoughts on “The Sweet Life

  1. I am going to miss your posts immensely, Jill. The only upside is that I get to see you whenever I want. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your year with us in such a beautiflly rich way. xoxo

  2. ugh. I’m all choked up and have a bit of a pit in my stomach. “Final” anything is tough. BUT what a wonderful visit with family and how nice to know they are just a drive away. I Love the Piazza.

    Although ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’ has never been my strong suit, I’d love to try a bit more. What a blessing this journey has been. I am so glad we got to share a bit of it with you. Looking forward to sharing more stories, meals and wine together. Here’s to living la dolce vita together.

    • I can’t believe you are headed back already. You’ve created such a great life between Italy and Seattle. I hope to see you back in Florence someday soon.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jill. I looked forward to and have loved reading your blog; the laughter, the tears the joy…it was wonderful, just like you. You have a special gift…love, Joan

  4. 100 fine posts ending on a high note. And the way I look at it, life only gets better from here. But then again, that’s the way I look at everything. Funny that. T

    • Tom, I’d like to try looking at life that way too. But when I fall into missing those ancient walls, I know you will understand like very few others. Thanks for all the words of wisdom during this transition.

  5. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words, photos, and insights of this incredible year. Your family has been such an inspiration of living la dolce vita…even when la vita wasn’t so dolce or semplice. Your transparency through the challenges and your expressions of the many moments of incredible beauty and connection to the people and culture of Italy have given us such a gift. How fortunate we have been that your family has had this experience and that you are the amazing and talented writer that makes it so difficult for us to accept the finality of your “One Year in Perugia” … Salute! Ti amo.

    • My dear friend, thank you for those words. I miss Italy so much, as you know, but it is so wonderful to be closer to you. Thank you for loving us through this past year and for the great February visit. Your photo book will be ready someday soon. I promise!!

  6. I’m going to miss your blog. It was like having a little piece of you with me! Loved seeing you in Vida and sharing a meal on the piazza! I hope you keep up your writing and photo taking; you have a talent for both. Love all you guys, welcome home!

  7. It sure was fun reading about your exciting adventure. The food, trips, history, people, and all you learned about along the way. Your a great writer. I would like it if you started something new I could read.I don’t know about what, but if you wrote it, I would be fun to read. Take care and great work. Thanks,Todd.

    • I would love to write something new (or finish something old). We’ll see. This blog was very fun, and I always loved hearing from you and Kris’s family. Love you guys so much. xxoo

  8. Dear Jill (and Matt, Ray and Tom)
    I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed your journal. It gives me chills to write this “parting” message. You know that I am hoping that you will put this in book form so that we can savor it all over and over again. This last blog about your family gives me a clearer understanding of your love of food, nature, beauty and love of family. Bless them for giving you to us:-)

    • Karen, It has been such a pleasure to get to know you this year through the blog. Your comments were so uplifting. Thanks for understanding what an important year this was for us and thanks for being a part of it with your insight and encouragement. Lots of love to you.

  9. Thank you for sharing Perugia with us! I loved each visit I experienced through your blog. The photos and your descriptions remain vivid in my mind and I have put a visit to Italy on the top of my wish list! Much love to all of you!
    P.S. Where can I buy your book? 🙂

  10. Wow. It looks and sounds like you had a rich trip. The piazza looks so cozy and romantic. Wow. I love the photo of the apples. Beautiful. I forwarded on to my mom and sister. They enjoy your posts too. We will all miss them.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Yes, that piazza that Tom and Heidi made is SO COOL. Between your awesome deck and their terrace, I am so inspired to create an outdoor space worthy of a long summer night talking about life with you. I’ll continue to take any of your suggestions. xxoo

  11. A hundred thanks for a hundred beautiful, creatively written, inspiring, fun, touching, and always fascinatingly educational blogs…..every one being the highlight of Dad’s and my day. For the first half of your year there, we couldn’t wait to join you in Perugia. Then, for the second half we wished we were still there. Lighting those lovely candles in the piazza, collected in Italy’s splendorous churches, was a perfect melting of one world into another. Thank-you. Love, Mom

    • Thanks, Mom. Your enthusiasm with our adventure was the catalyst for so many of these posts. And your great visit in the spring was inspiration for some of my favorite pictures and stories. xxoo

  12. After having followed your blogs for the year, and just finishing them tonight, I want to tell you what a joy they have been for me to read and I’m sorry you are discontinuing your blog. I hope you will start a new one; I would tune in faithfully. You have brought the family a lot of joy. May you continue to find peace and love, Aunt Joan.

    • Thank you, Joan. Your frequent comments to us in Italy (from the opposite end of the world) have been so encouraging. It’s been a great way to keep in touch. Lots of love to your whole family.

  13. Jill, you are a gifted writer and I loved reading your posts. It allowed me to have a hint of insight into a country I had little knowledge of, and it allowed me to enjoy a brief “Italian vacation” of the mind through your writings. Thank you for sharing with us! I will miss my vacation!
    Francie H

    • It was nice having you along for the year, Francie. Thank you for reading and being a part of the experience. These posts really helped me see what we were experiencing, too.

  14. I have always been proud to be a part of this family and to be your cousin, but I felt particularly special to be a close friend of yours during this blog. I felt insightful and adventurous by proxy! You are wonderful, your family is awesome. Your week in Vida (vida! of course the place our extended family beats a path to and from means “life!”) sounds sublime – Tom and Heidi’s piazza is so very…them. You already embodied aspects of la dolce vita before you lived in Italy – now you are an ambassador for it. What better place than the Pacific Northwest than to live on, eat well, and remember fondly? I love you – I am so glad you are back! 🙂

    • Yes, nothing beats our places of beauty and memories on the McKenzie River. We are so lucky! And I often thought to myself, “La Dolce Vida” when we were there. I’m glad you made the connection. It wasn’t by accident. Thank you for all the comments and insights this year. According to WordPress, 61 comments from you! You rock. Love you so much, sweet cousin.

  15. Ah Jill, you are just ‘pausing’. It is so clear from your writing how much of Italy you have brought back with you! I am confident you will continue to live Italy each day! I look forward to getting together with you soon!
    Thanks for the journey!

    • Jenny, I can’t wait to see you, too. Following your daughter’s blog through the Pacific Crest Trail has sparked many questions. I’m looking forward to a long afternoon or evening together. I’ll send you dates for our “date.” Thank you for reading about our year.

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