Katie and I enjoy Vin Santo

Katie and I enjoy Vin Santo

Wow, it’s been WAY too long since I’ve written a Gratitude Sunday post, but as many of you know I’ve been on a whirlwind European trip that included hosting the first annual Writer’s Renaissance retreat.

I am still marinating in the memories of the trip, and there will be more to come about the retreat and the experience as a whole. In the meantime, there are so many people who made the trip extraordinary that I wanted to dedicate one post just to thanking them.

The quotes this week are not about gratitude exclusively, but they embody the spirit of Writer’s Renaissance. They come from icons of Florentine history — da Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto and Dante. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Quotes on Gratitude

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo da Vinci

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

“Take pleasure in your dreams; relish your principles and drape your purest feelings on the heart of a precious lover.” — Giotto di Bondone

“As flowerlets drooped and puckered in the night turn up to the returning sun and spread their petals wide on his new warmth and light — just so my wilted spirits rose again and such a heat of zeal surged through my veins that I was born anew.” — Dante Alighieri

Gratitude list for the weeks ending April 20

  1. First and foremost, the blue ribbon gratitude award goes to friend-extraordinaire Katie Davis, who not only led two
    Keep Calm and Make Friends with an Italian! Thanks Tommaso!

    Keep Calm and Make Friends with an Italian! Thanks Tommaso!

    outstanding sessions at Writer’s Renaissance, but also kept me sane and happy throughout. Thank you for enduring emotional outbursts, late nights, afternoon naps and a constant obsession over the schedule. I could not imagine having more fun than we did. “Bye, bye wine!” 🙂

  2. Thanks to Tommaso at the Hotel Davanzati for riding in on his Italian horse and helping me find two more restaurants for WR after I was treated abysmally by two others – both on the same night. I’m sure it’s not often he has to contend with a grown American woman bursting into tears in his lobby, but he handled it with much patience and grace and, truth be told, some tough love (paraphrasing – “get over it and get back out there”). Thanks also to you and your father Fabrizio for allowing Katie and I, in the words of one of your other guests, to “objectify you” for purposes of our promotional video. 😉
  3. Speaking of restaurants, Grazie Mille to Enzo at Osteria del Porcellino for hosting WR so beautifully and enthusiastically for our first dinner, but even more so for your friendship, for the dancing :-), and for bringing me into the Porcellino family for the duration of my stay in Florence.

    2013-04-06 21.06.38Enzo

    With Enzo at Osteria del Porcellino

  4. Authors Lisa Clifford and Mary Hoffman christened the WR retreat with fabulous sessions in the gorgeous Boboli gardens and Brancacci Chapel. Your books have also kept me wonderful company these past months, so thank you for writing them! And Mary, as promised, I still chuckle at random times over the dirty joke you told in the chapel cloister. Only at a women’s writing retreat would that happen, right?!?
  5. Andrea, the chef at Badia a Coltibuono and our cooking teacher, was
    NO Canned Beans!!

    NO Canned Beans!!

    responsible for capping WR with a grand finale that couldn’t have been improved even with canned beans. 😉 The food “we” made was otherworldly, but even better was the sound of the constant laughter echoing off those ancient walls. Wow!

  6. To Esther, Carolyn, Laura, Cory, Margit and Mary Alice: I meant what I said when I called us the WR family. You ladies will always have an honored place in my heart as the first of those who went on this adventure with me. We packed enough laughter into one week to last me a year, and I will be forever grateful for your trust and friendship. Alla prossima volta! (til next time)
  7. To Cristina, Daniel, Maria, Martina and yes, our dear Lorenzo, plus all of the other wonderful staff at Antica Torre


    Tornabuoni. During our stay with you we felt, not like guests, but like treasured friends.

  8. My dear, dear friend Diana and her husband Renato hosted me again for a couple of days in Milan after the retreat. Diana and I are soul sisters separated by an ocean, and while no amount of time is ever enough, we always seem to be able to make the most of what we get. Thank you for the heart-to-heart, the wonderful food and simply for being you!!
  9. Thanks again to Mary Hoffman and also Lucy Coats for adopting me in London and helping me find my way out of the book fair. I might still be clanging around in there if it weren’t for you guys!! You two, plus new friends Michelle, Anne and Diane were so wonderful to include me in your festivities.
  10. Thanks to my long-lost friend Pietro for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule to reconnect in London. It never ceases to amaze me how, with old friends, you can pick up where you left off as if no time had passed. In our case 20 years had gone by, and yet it could have been yesterday. As you get older, those touchstones into the past become all the more precious, and there is nothing quite like spending time with someone who knew you in your youth – for better or worse. 😉
  11. Last, but most definitely not least, I must add a bonus item to this week’s list to thank Nancy, Phil, my mother and Laurie for making it possible for me to do the trip in the first place. Knowing the kids, the house and the dog were in good hands made all the difference!!

Forgive me if this post is overly effusive. I’m simply overcome with emotion by all of the blessings that were bestowed upon me during this trip, and this list barely scratches the surface on the total.

Writer’s Renaissance is all about helping women fill their lives with creativity, passion and purpose. As the title suggests, it’s about rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal. Regular readers of this blog know that this past year has been an exceptionally difficult one for me. How amazing to find that in the pursuit of my goal to help other women transform their lives, so too was my own transformed.

The past year has indeed been full of many dark days. But now I see the light at the end of the Ponte Vecchio!

What are you grateful for this week?

True Renaissance Women!!

True Renaissance Women!!

Categories: Authors, Books, Children's Books, Cooking, Creativity, Family, Florence, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, I Need Wine Pronto!, Italy, Picture Books, Poetry, Travel, Travel Writing, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. Fabulous! I’m grateful I got to meet you and Katie and find out you are real, live people. I’m also very grateful to have met the other ladies, but especially Cory, my pal from David Harrison’s blog, and Esther Hershenhorn from TeachingAuthors. What a couple of great ladies! Thank you for having me, whirlwind that it was. Here’s hoping the next time will be S-L-O-W-E-R….ha! 🙂 You did good, Julie!!!

    • Renee, it’s me who’s grateful that you included us in your very busy week! I hope your show that night went well and that you eventually got some sleep! Next year we’ll take more time for sure. Thank you again! I cannot WAIT to see the post!! 🙂

  2. Glad to hear so much joy – and relief – of a retreat-gone-well!

  3. Thanks for this wonderful website. It means a great deal to me (still working full time) to get this breath of fresh air in my life and to have the support system and writing thoughts and just to be able to connect in this way. It is so encouraging to watch you get contracts and go off to Europe and keep the site up and running. I do so appreciate the agent connection – their thoughts and advice. Your website is a great gift to all of us. Sorry too for the hard parts of your year – maybe there will be silver linings in some of those clouds. You are an inspiration.

  4. Lovely to hear about your retreat, Julie! It sounds just what you needed – absolutely wonderful!

  5. So happy to hear about your trip! I wish I could have gone!!

  6. What an unforgettable time you have had. . . Enjoy the memories!

  7. You are truly blessed. Congratulations on a successful retreat!

  8. Julie, thanks so much for sharing all of this with us! Hiccups always occur on trips no matter how much planning is done beforehand…glad you had the support to be able to continue on and provide everyone with what was obviously a fantastic retreat. 🙂

  9. Grateful the retreat came together so beautifully. Very happy for you and all the attendees. Will need to plot on how to get there next year. … hmm. Proud of you for all these accomplishments and the ones I’ll be reading about in the future (I know there will be more).

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