When Italy Steals Your Heart {Again}

As I was making my way to my plane at JFK my mind was focused on a sick boy at home, camp details I was missing, empty arms that I wanted to be in and just the tug I feel anytime I leave my family.

I had a nine hour plane ride ahead of me with the other teacher and at this point we were basically strangers.

By the time I got to my seat Stephanie Ackerman was already there and we had our first nervous exchanges which quickly turned into conversations and then laughter.

{photo stolen from Stephanie Ackerman}

Women are so good at this. We don’t realize sometimes the beauty of our easy conversations and our ability to get down to the good stuff.

{photo of Stephanie’s Bible journaling}

By the time the plane landed we weren’t strangers anymore and that time together had bonded our hearts together in sweet ways.  We were better prepared to teach the women waiting for us in Italy.

{one of my classes}


By the end of the trip Stephanie had made me laugh harder than almost anyone had in my life.  Laughter is my jam and this girl delivered.

This was my third summer back along Lake Como teaching for Laura McCollough and the familiarity of Bellagio was so easy to fall back into.

The next 7 days would be filled with incredible food, afternoons by the pool, laughter, creating, art covered hands, cobblestone walks, feet dipped in the lake, wine glasses lifted high, cappuccinos and cafes and excursions that made us feel like we were locals.

{photo by Laura McCollough}

Even those all of those things were like treasures to each of us this retreat felt so different for one specific reason.


There was an instant closeness and intimacy because of the beautiful combination of art AND faith.

Our mornings started with opening the Bible and sharing our hearts, time praying with and for each other, dreams spilled out and hearts lapping up the sweetness of vulnerability, looking at our gifts and seeing each one as indispensable, each woman so different but the group as a whole coming together seamlessly.  It was a dream.

One of the last mornings Laura asked if as a group we could share pray requests so we would all have the honor of praying with and for each other long after we had gone our separate ways.

What started off with gathering the requests of the group became the women coming around Laura, Stephanie and me and praying over us.

It is still so sacred in my heart that the details don’t need to be spoken publicly but it was the evidence of the week we had spent with these amazing women.

The last night as we were ending our time together as a group and listening to the voices of the local Bellagio choir I turned behind me to Laura.  As I reached for her hand with tears in my eyes, “Thank you for allowing this to be a part of my life over the past three years”.  Laura’s heart for this area and the people that live here is contagious.

Laura has brought Bellagio and the people along Lake Como into my heart and I find this one of the most gorgeous places in the world. I know I will be back to Bellagio with Laura in the future but until then I will smile knowing that so many of you will be going yourself next year and experiencing the beauty of Bellagio and Lake Como.

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  1. Ivy Newport

    What a magical journey! You captured it beautifully, both in your words and your photographs! So very happy for you and the amazing experiences you had! xo.

  2. Barbara Steele

    What a wonderful memory to recall when the fast pace of life becomes overwhelming. The scenery is tranquil and beautiful!

  3. Ginger

    Truly beautiful all around. I would have loved to join you. Perhaps next year. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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