Lea McKnoulty, born and raised in Australia, was in her 50’s when she realized she was living ‘everyone else’s dreams but her own’. On her subsequent journey towards self-discovery, she wrote and illustrated a mindfulness book for children and adults, created a business around mindfulness, women and children and started hosting creative self-discovery workshops for women. Since buying a property in Cortona, she now divides her time between Italy and Australia and shares her thoughts on the ‘Italian chapter’ of her life.
It’s hard to say when I first fell in love with Italy. I first visited in 1982 and have been a constant visitor since 2007 when I first stepped into the Italian property market in a tiny village in the Marche region neighbouring Tuscany. My husband Paul and I now own a cosy apartment in the historic centre of Cortona that we call home for half the year, living dual lives between here and Brisbane, Australia since the end of 2021.
What is it about Italy that has pulled me here, motivated me to leave my place of comfort and knowing? Why am I prepared to overlook certain things (you know I'm talking about the bureaucracy don’t you?) in favour of welcoming the joys of others?
There is no uncomplicated answer. Italy is full of richness on any level and those of us who are called and subsequently succumb to its charm have our own reasons for being here so this forthcominng series of articles is a sample of some of mine.
On every level Italy is beautiful. Living surrounded by beauty has been uplifting the human spirit for as long as man has existed. So, it comes as no surprise therefore that I have been drawn here for that reason. My own love of being in nature sees me appreciate the mountains, valleys, coastline, forests, natural springs and lakes as nature’s gift to Italy that we can all embrace and enjoy.
Riserva Naturale Statale Goio del Furlo - Le Marche
I marvel too at the manmade beauty of Italy's architecture, its duomos and churches, its masterpieces of art and song, its sheer majesty of scale.
But there is an obscure ‘something’ that I find particularly beautiful and grounding about the Italian built environment. There is a Japanese aesthetic called Wabi Sabi that you may be familiar with. It praises the perfection of imperfection and for me this is one of the great wonders of Italian beauty.
A streetscape back in my other life that included unmown edging, unfinished guttering, patches and streaks of faded and peeling paintwork would be called unsightly and be ‘rectified’ to reflect the ‘perfection’ we find comfortable. Here in Italy there is breathtaking perfection in the imperfection of its buildings and streetscapes. It is a stylishness that surpasses simple symmetry and instead leans on the subtle hue of colours to unify and create a meaningful whole. A series of streaks in paintwork somehow become a piece of art and never a shabby mess.
Streetscape - Milan
A collection of cars and scooters parked in impossibly irregular and incoherent spaces become a stylish display of enticing machines that somehow enhance the streetscape rather than detract from it.
I can and do love wandering the streets and laneways, marvelling at the freedom from convention that this form of beauty offers.
It is one of my favourite ways of exploring new towns and new parts of loved favourites.
I am yet to decide if this freedom permeates into all aspects of life. At this point in time, we are navigating the often exhausting and incoherent (to a foreigner at least) aspects of formalising our lives in Italy. For now, the beauty we also live with is holding us in its arms and this beauty, often of unconventional depth is most certainly a large part of what keeps us here, forging ahead so we can fully lead this dream of a dual life in Italy and Australia.
Lea Woods McKnoulty is a writer, poet and workshop facilitator. You can explore more of Lea’s work on her website at www.womenshining.co
and on Instagram and Facebook at womenshining.co