As traveling usually starts with great anticipation, mine was no exception. Italy is one of the countries that I love the most. Initially, it was because of the love for classical arts but it later grew into something more…
I painted and took a language course in Florence; traveled to Rome to visit art exhibitions and galleries; and visited my artist friend and his family in Pietralunga, an ancient city in the Italian region of Umbria.
One early morning, I hopped onto a train from Florence to Perugia Ponte San Giovanni, where I took another train to Umbertide. My friend and his wife were waiting there to receive me and together, we drove to their home in Pietralunga.
Then while waiting for the next train in the little town of San Giovanni, I walked into a café, ordered a piece of cake and a cup of hot coffee, and sat down in a quiet corner. The waitress and I started a casual conversation. After learning that I had come from afar and had been traveling throughout Italy, she and her customer paid for my meal.
“We just want to say thank you for loving Italy. This is our Italian hospitality!”
“Grazie mille (Thank you very much)! And, I will return your hospitality with our oriental way of gratitude,” I said as I bowed with my hands placed together.
With heavy hearts, we bade farewell.
I took the next train to Umbertide where my friend and his wife welcomed me with warm, open arms.
“Friendship: A work of art that each of us, regardless of culture or differences, is able to produce…”
Upon arriving at their home in Pietralunga, I learned that they had prepared their son’s room for me as their son had gladly offered to stay the night at his grandparents’. I insisted on staying in a hotel but the three of them exclaimed together, “We want to thank you for visiting us. This is our Italian hospitality!”
I told them about that little moment of friendship I had earlier encountered and how I was told that same phrase. We all shared a good laugh and couldn’t have agreed more about that.
The next day, I left for Florence. As the train was arriving, my friends and I gave each other huge teddy bear hugs. I left with a heavy heart; a heart that was filled with enormous gratitude for all that strangers and friends from a different culture had blessed me with.
I love Italy for their classical arts and the imaginary ghosts of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo rubbing shoulders with me on cold, wet rainy nights as I strolled alone on the streets of Florence. But, some things are not imaginary – like friendship.
I have gathered many stories along my art journey. There’s one art that I searched for and I finally found. A work of art that each of us, regardless of culture or differences, is able to produce…
It requires only one simple ingredient.
Huifong is an author, painter and a poet. Her book “A Cup of Simplicity – mixes poetry with her art to depict the art and pleasure of simple living. She is an intuitive painter whose works are sometimes painted without a model, a reference or a photo. Beyond Brunei, Hui Fong’s work has been exhibited in Italy and Singapore. She is also the recipient of the Premio Speciale award from Biennale of Art, Umbria.
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