Italian Gods are Smiling
Written by Aziza founder, Laila Ghattas
On my last day on the Liguarian Riviera in northern Italy I was contemplating where to spend my time. When I discovered the train to nearby towns ran one hour apart, I decided to mobilize my energy, gather my day trip stuff and hurry to the station rather than dilly dally around the hotel or linger writing in my journal. Time to move. I could write on the train.
A month before when I was on retreat in Bali I’d asked a traditional Balinese Shaman if he had any guidance about my upcoming trip to Italy. He suggested I make contact through prayer with the local Gods of Italy upon my arrival and ask for help while I’m there. He said it was good spiritual etiquette to pray to the Divinities in local areas as I move around the world and at home.
I have a great relationship with this Balinese Shaman who has counseled me well over the last few years. I followed his seemingly novel suggestion upon landing in Genoa for the purpose of attending a conference and then staying on for 3 days of sightseeing to spectacular coastal area.
As I had each other day, that last morning of sightseeing in Italy I asked for help to make it a great last day, and to choose well amongst my options. My strong impulse to catch the train felt absolutely right to follow.
As I hurried along the sidewalks striding the 10 minutes to get there, I calculated that I had a few moments to spare and would indeed make the scheduled train. However an elderly gentleman at the ticket counter ahead of me was asking many questions, and my precious few minutes of buffer dwindled to nothing. As I impatiently waited my turn there was an announcement about a delay in schedules and I hoped that it was my train, but the ticket agent told me my train was there now. So I ran.
When I feel I’m following some kind of larger guidance that my intuition is picking up, I’m usually fairly confident about fulfilling the impulse I’m following. It was with great confusion then as I ran up the stairs to see the train getting smaller as it snaked out of the station away from my platform. I was confused that all the energy I’d mobilized to avoid lingering in this town for an additional hour was unrewarded and that now I had to figure out what to do to make it a worthwhile hour to spend locally.
I walked back down the stairs and passed the validation machine that I distractedly noted I hadn’t used to stamp my ticket. Oh well. I walked by the ticket booth as I approached the station exit and decided this current picture of finding something to do for the next hour didn’t feel right. I was supposed to be leaving this town and starting my sightseeing.
Utilizing that feeling of discrepancy between what felt right and what was, I bothered to challenge the given, to question the way things looked at this moment- despite what my hotel told me earlier that morning about no other trains running between the hourly schedule- information that originally made my decision to dash to catch it.
I wanted to leave no stone unturned in my quest to meet my desire to leave sooner than later. I asked another ticket agent if there were any other train options to get me to St. Margherita. She checked the schedule and was about to say no when she remembered the delayed train that I’d heard being announced earlier. It would be there in 5 minutes and was stopping at my destination!
I recalled a more intense situation on my way to California last October when I missed my plane and had to find a way to my destination in order to meet my clients and begin my retreat. This felt thematically similar in that the way things looked didn’t feel correct, or aligned to my desire, need or vision.
So I questioned with an open ended heart, open to find a way that was not yet in sight, something I could not necessarily come up with as solution on my own. My intuition guided me to ask the right agent who remembered the delayed train and spoke enough English to communicate the solution to me. My original ticket agent did not speak English. I felt a warm affection glow for the Gods of Italy taking such good care of me!
As I walked calmly to the new train platform I decided I’d better validate my ticket this time. A couple of minutes before the I got on train pulled into my destination, the conductor came into my cabin and asked to see my validated ticket!!
Saint Margherita is a beautiful coastal town that is the stop from which to visit nearby Portofino. It’s the namesake of my late mother and I was pleased to meander its tree lined boulevards and gaze upon the pink, yellow and lavender spring blooms in the public gardens. The sun shone steady in a cloudless sky and warmed my shoulders.
Originally I’d wanted to take the ferry to Portofino, but my hotel made a phone inquiry and was told no ferries were running. However there was a boat ticket office open at the harbour across from the statue of Christopher Columbus. As I did with my missed train, I decided to make the effort to question the information I’d been given and sure enough, in an hour there was a ferry service to Portofino! I could ride these perfectly calm Mediterranean waters and get a coastal view of the picturesquely famous town.
The statue of Saint Margherita near the ticket booth was lovely with arms outstretched in protection over the harbour and a serene benevolent gaze my heart was happy to hold.
As I lingered in a nearby park, two American sisters asked me to take their picture beside the statue of Columbus. They were so relieved to find an English speaking tourist that we ended up chatting on a bench as I waited for the ferry. Eventually the topic of my work and my retreats came into conversation and one was quite interested to have my business card to consider attending a future retreat for some grief support after the series of losses she’d recently suffered in her life. I felt my mother smiling down upon this auspicious happenstance in her namesake Italian town.
As I strolled the cobblestone lanes of the beautiful town of Portofino while looking for a restaurant I’d been recommended but which was closed, I stumbled upon a sweet little wine bar that had a perfect view of the larger harbour. It was there I later spent a few very happy hours sipping a gorgeous vintage of Luce, a complex velvety Tuscan wine. My host, Manuela, was beautiful, gracious and served olives in a small bowl with toothpicks that had tiny shells for handles. She also offered plates of assorted tiny cookies- melt in your mouth heavenly sweets- and later a plate of cheese and sundried tomato on a grated cheese wafer. After each snack the olives cleared my palate enabling my undisturbed pleasure in the wine.
The Mediterranean waters stilled to a voluptuous glistening mirror in the golden hours of the afternoon. The sun bathed the white cruise ship off in the distance, and sparkled on the masts of sailboats swaying in wait for the start of the season. A school of fish came to the surface and with mouths open roamed for insects. An American couple who had found each other in middle age had come to the wine bar to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary. They’d been at this wine bar on their honeymoon and Manuela was delighted to know they hung a picture of their fond memory of her bar at home.
Manuela said she’d had a life and career elsewhere in Italy, but fell in love with Portofino on her first visit. She quit her job, left her home and created a brand new life using her extensive knowledge of wine and her passion for sharing her discoveries when she opened this little shop. She was very happy and clearly living her bliss. She said she was gratified to see people take pleasure in their experience of her wine selection while gazing at the harbour. Her courage and vision had been well rewarded and I told her I’d share this story upon my return, perhaps inspiring my readers.
A friend and patron of her shop came by, a striking elegant elderly woman who spoke in low caramel tones, and together they enjoyed a bottle of white. We chatted and she informed me the patron saint of Portofino was St. George. This was the cherry on my delicious day. My father’s name is George. To have the patron saints of these neighbouring coastal gems reflect my parents names was simply too wonderful!
This was the perfect ending to my three days of touring the area after attending the Crea Conference in Sestri Levante. The blessings of my time in Italy came in with each gentle lapping wave. The Gods of Italy were kind and generous, just like the people I’d met along my way.
The exquisite details of each unfolding adventure wove into a beacon of encouragement. Encouragement to continue to listen to intuitive inspiration, to reach for that which feels correct, to act on curiosity about the given- no matter what.