Just across the valley from Montesole, up a steep road (barred for heavy vehicles beyond 3.5t, which always makes us a little nervous about rickety bridges or jack-knife turns, and it was indeed tight, but manageable) lies Laura’s beautiful house and garden, Il Giardino di Pimpinella. Roberto the violinmaker had insisted we go and see her, and then struggled to describe either Laura or her project in full, which had made it even more intriguing.
A little track leads off the road to two very beautiful houses, overlooking the valley in a south-easterly direction. We arrive at the same time as Roberto with his Hang and Chrystal Bachet, which he sets up in the front house. The houses date from the 13th century and they are beautifully restored and decorated. Inside, they are modern and homely, open plan, beautiful and comfortable, with lots of wood, vaulted ceilings and easy furniture. Both houses have big ceramic ovens under the stairs in the centre of the house. In the back house, Laura is running a workshop making medicinal potions from winter plants. When they stop for dinner, we give them a little improvised concert with the Hang, the Chrystal Bachet, and I join in with the Bandoneon and Frank with some over-tone singing too. After a delicious dinner, we all go up to the field where Laura’s son has prepared a fire. It’s a little early for a midwinter celebration, but nevertheless, Laura asks everyone to write on a piece of paper anything we would like to leave behind, anything we want to shed, and throw it into the fire, before embarking on a new year. Somehow nothing comes to my mind. In preparation for this tour, I have gone through so much ‘letting go’ that I really have to dig in my soul to find something! Just as I have found something, Frank voices the same feeling. Having got rid of ¾ of his possessions during the clear-out of his house in preparation to renting it out, he feels there’s nothing left to leave behind!
It’s lovely to stand by the fire in the starry night, to talk to people about their lives, to meet in this magical place and to share a few songs around the fire – in four different languages. I feel toasty warm, wrapped in the beautiful sheep-skin coat that Ines recently passed on to me.
The next morning, Frank goes out for a sunrise photo-shoot, and it really shows the magic of this place!
We feel very welcome here in this peaceful corner of the earth. I spend the morning practising the violin and tidying up Emma, while Frank gets involved in the kitchen, helping the cook prepare a vegetarian meal for about 20 people. Laura is busy teaching her workshop, but nevertheless, we have a lot of contact with her, chatting to her during mealtimes and in between. She has a very interesting and full-on project on her hands, and it is indeed difficult to describe exactly what it is. There are two houses and a beautiful piece of land, where Laura has grown herbs for a number of years. She has a room that looks like an alchemist’s laboratory where she transforms the herbs into tinctures and essences. She runs many different workshops on natural cosmetics and herbal medicine, as well as workshops to do with the seasons and the land. Some people are just beyond description, you just have to meet them, and Laura is one of these people. She has a lot of knowledge and a passion for passing this on, but more than that, people it seems, gather around her just to be in her presence. There is a softness as well as a strength in her, a joy as well as a sadness and vulnerability, an openness to life in all its forms, that draws people to her. It makes me realise that when we meet each other with an open heart, we can be mirrors for each other. When we truly look into the heart and soul of another person, we find ourselves reflected.
On the morning of our departure, Laura tells us to go upstairs to see the Mandala. Some years ago, a group of Buddhist monks stayed for a retreat at Pimpinella. There was about a month of preparation, involving a lot of prayers and meditation, grinding stone and adding natural colours before the monks set to work, creating a beautiful Mandala in five days of painstakingly detailed work. This is a medicine Mandala, and each image has a story behind it. Normally, Mandalas get destroyed as soon as they are complete, but this time, once they’d completed it, the monks decided to allow Laura to keep it so that many more people may see it and benefit from it, and so that it may contribute to the healing that takes place at Pimpinella. There are only very few of these in the whole of Italy. The whole Mandala is about one meter across.
Pimpinella is humming with good energy, with Love.
Laura is at a point in her life and with her project, where she is looking to involve others, to share the joy and the work-load. For someone interested in herbs and healing, and living a life connected to the earth, plus communicating this passion to other people, this would be an ideal project to be involved in. Laura has a lot of knowledge and practical experience to share. If you are interested in being part of this project, for a while or for longer, get in touch with her – she’d love to hear from you! To get in touch and for info on her courses, check her web site. As you can see from the photographs on flikr, it is a very beautiful place to be in.
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