I played hooky last week. Skipped off school and went AWOL. Or, as we say in French, went to ‘bush’ school.
That’s not really true but it is how it felt. I signed up for a week’s retreat on the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria with a group called Wide Open Writing (WOW).
It was a chance to go off the path and enjoy a holiday break while devoting time to myself — and to writing. Not the PR work I do for a living, or the blogging I do here, but in pursuit of the storytelling muse that lives inside us all.
For a week our group enjoyed the rugged beauty of this volcanic island that is actually closer to Tunisia than Italy. That did not mean warmer, however, as it was windswept and chilly a good part of the week. But when the sun came out it was wonderful!
All week long we met twice daily to think, write, read our work and share thoughts. The idea wasn’t to critique each other’s writing so much as to give positive feedback. It was an experience at times intense, hilarious, emotional, beautiful and moving. I found a sense of kinship with this group of writers from all walks of life and at different stages of finding their voice. There was also yoga and meditation for those so inclined.
I stayed in a dammuso, the thick-walled stone cottages unique to Pantelleria. They are designed with domed roofs to capture the rain water.
Water so essential for irrigating the capers, olive trees and vines that grow here…and these days also for more leisurely pursuits.
Walled gardens are also part of Pantelleria’s unique heritage. This one in a vineyard was built to protect the precious lime tree growing within.
On our last day we visited the Donna Fugata vineyard where a variety of the ancient Muscat grape called Zibibbo is grown to make the island’s famous Passito, a sweeter apperitif wine, among others.
Throughout the week, we also ate and drank copious amounts of Sicilian food and wine.
This dessert is called bacio pantesco. It’s a kind of waffle pastry filled with delicately perfumed ricotta.
One of the things I love most about living in France is how close we are to so many amazing places. It wasn’t easy to get to Pantelleria, as it involved three flights via Rome and Palermo. The last one on this Air Mistral plane operated by the Italian Post.
You can learn a lot when you skip school, or ‘faire l’école buisonnière’, as the French call it. It was a bit of a splurge, but well worth it. Besides, getting away is good for the soul.
Do you remember skipping school?