On 4 April, 2012, with a distinct sense of trepidation, a racing heart, and sweaty palms, I clicked on the “Publish” button that made public the first post on this blog. It was titled “Puglia Bound” and was a brief introduction to our decision to move to the “heel of the boot.” As the blog evolved along with its readership, it became as much dialogue as diatribe. I heard from many of you, some simply appreciative of the stories of how an American couple copes with the expat life in southern Italy, but a number who aspired to trying something bold in their own lives. They spoke of being inspired by our story and some have even taken the step of acting on their aspirations and making their dreams of moving to Puglia come true.
Not a single reader ever wrote to me and asked me to write a book based on our story. Undaunted by the lack of demand (or even interest), I have published “Soul of the Heel.” It’s not just a compilation of the blog, although you’ll recognize some of the stories, but is a more intimate telling of the story of Jessica and me and how we came to make our home in “the heel of the boot.” Here’s the synopsis of the book that I sent to a whole bunch of agents, all of whom summarily rejected my proffer. (Can you believe that?)
Soul of the Heel
There is an old Yiddish proverb that Scott and Jessica would have done well to heed. Mensch tracht, und Gott lacht. Man plans and God laughs. They thought that quitting their jobs, leaving a comfortable penthouse in Pittsburgh, saying good-bye to family, friends, and their mother tongue and moving to a little olive farm in Puglia, the “heel of the boot,” would be as easy as breaking a really expensive wine glass. And God laughed.
So begins The Soul of the Heel, the story of an American couple that dreamt of an idyllic life in Italy but found that getting there would require patience (little of which either of them had), perseverance (which they both had in abundance), and money (of which they barely had enough). At age fifty-eight, Scott felt bone-weary of the corporate life he had endured for over half of his years. He took a leap and suggested to his wife, Jessica who was twenty-three years his junior, that they consider leaving their lives behind and move to Italy. Their jobs were wearing them away much like a chisel wears away marble and they had been talking about how the next chapter in their lives would read. Jessica bought the idea of moving to Italy like it was on sale at Barney’s. They jumped on a plane to Puglia, a place they had never been, visited thirty-three properties in four days and picked one to be their new home. Like a raft on Class 5 rapids, events moved from there at high speed, sometimes out of control, and frequently encountering obstacles that threatened to dash their dream to splinters. Fortunately for them and their vision, they met Colleen and Francesco.
Colleen was born in Ireland and had lived in England, Canada and France before finally settling in Puglia. Francesco, on the other hand, had spent his entire life in the “heel.” Tall, blonde, and lissome, Colleen seemed to glide from one thing to another. Francesco’s staccato movement and tendency to freneticism was a stark contrast, as was his dark hair and matching complexion. But, in all ways important, they were of like mind and spirit. It was Colleen and Francesco who introduced Scott and Jessica to the property that they would call Villa Tutto and were the Virgil to their Dante, guiding them through the circles of Hell currently referred to as “Italian Immigration,” “the Italian banking system,” and virtually every other Italian institution. It was they who dedicated themselves to the goal of making sure that these naïve Americans, these two brave and silly souls, saw their dream of living in Puglia become a reality.
On the two-year journey from making the decision to move to Italy and Scott and Jessica’s first night together as residents of Cisternino, they encountered a cast of characters that taught them that Puglia is not just about delectable food, voluptuous wines, and astounding scenery: Michele, the rotund, ever-smiling contractor they hired to do the renovation they swore they would not undertake; Pierino, owner and executive chef of Il Capriccio, a Cisternese icon who occasionally serves up porcupine for dinner; Roberto Angelini, one of Italy’s most erudite wine merchants; Pietro, the former owner of Villa Tutto who continues to believe that the place is still his; and, a parade of Italian bureaucrats hell-bent on preventing Scott and Jessica from fulfilling their dream of abiding blissfully in bel paese.
As the story of their quest to move to the heel of the boot unfolds, Scott and Jessica, with Colleen and Francesco at their side, take on the challenges set before them, one-by-one overcoming them until they are finally together at Villa Tutto beginning their version of la dolce vita.
And there’s a little video of the introduction to the book on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcwUV9UElaw. You may even want to subscribe to it.
If you’ve enjoyed the blog, you’re going to love the book. You can find it in both eBook and paperback versions at Amazon.com.
Oh, and check out our latest adventures at www.worldwideeyed.com.