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This last year I enjoyed reading the blog posts from G.G. Vandgriff while she was in Italy working on her books. (This photo is from her gallery. Click on it to see the amazing detail.) I am delighted to have her as a guest blogger again today. Last week she gave us part I. Enjoy the rest of her story about the love she found in Italy:

Vague remembrances of my Western Civilizations class stirred, and I recalled Plato’s word for this amazing kind of caring that I hadn’t ever met with before. Agape. I looked it up on line and found many definitions, which really boiled down to “Christ-like love.” I had to fall on my face before I understood the theme of my book—that agape, or charity, is the ultimate healer.

Then there was the shrunken little Italian at his booth in the outdoor market, who at the conclusion of my purchases (and his excessive flattery and discounts) said, “You, you are like family to me, so I give you this ring. For free.” It was a valuable turquoise and sterling silver ring, the size of a robin’s egg. I was speechless.

There were too many instances of agape to count. My Italian family drew me close to them, inviting me to a family birthday party in their apartment, taking care of my health, buying special foods for me, and charging me only a fourth the cost of my room.

Perhaps the most amazing experience with these Italian angels came the night I thought I was going to the Opera. Again, an exerpt from my blog:

Why All Florentines Will Go To Heaven
This blog has been full of posts about the kindness of strangers that I have met with in Florence, but I think that last night must take the cake.

It started with the opera that didn’t happen. The taxi dropped me at Senshall Theater in a part of Florence that is new and chic, where I have never been. The theater looked like a Nuclear Power plant, which should have been my first clue that something was “off.” My second clue was that the stage was filled with all the instruments of a rock band and a very advanced technical system was on display immediately inside the doors to the theater. Clue #3: Everyone was dressed for a rock concert. This wasn’t going to be The Magic Flute as I knew it, that was for certain. Then I remembered that nothing about Mozart had been mentioned anywhere. It was very late for me. I nearly dozed off, despite the chatter. When the concert or whatever it was, still hadn’t commenced thirty minutes late, I obeyed the little voice in my head which had been telling me to go home to bed. I was feeling steadily unwell, and the idea of a rock concert was not at all appealing to me at that moment.

So I went out to the lobby to ask for a taxi to be called. Well, you never saw such a furor. Italians: “Why do you want to leave the concert?” Me: “I’m not feeling well.” Italians: “Ah! You need a doctor! We will call a doctor.” Me: “No, no, please no. I will get better. I just need to sleep.” Reluctantly, one promises to call a taxi. A few moments later, a beaming Italian approaches me. “You go outside to wait! I get for you Milano 25!” “Milano 25?” I repeat. “Si Si! Go. Go.”

Milano 25 turns out to be the most famous taxi in the world. Before you find out more, let me just say that that little Italian man at the concert hall gave me the best gift he could under the circumstances, all because he was so terribly concerned about the Signora who was too unwell to go to the concert. It is a gesture I will never forget.

My latest Florentine angel proved to be called Catarina. She bowled me over in her enormous pink hat with flowers that looked like something from Alice in Wonderland when combined with her purple cape and her gracious bow. I really thought I’d gone “through the looking glass” when I entered her cab: plush pink upholstery, video screens on the seat backs and dashboard showing Bugs Bunny cartoons in Italian, an overpowering smell of roses, and at least a dozen footlong pink plastic pigs! I, of course, pretended like I rode in taxis like this every day. Caterina, spoke to me in soothing if sparse English, “We will get you to your home. You will lie down on your bed. In the morning you will feel all better.” When we arrived at my B & B, the fare was half what my government-controlled taxi fare had been on the way to the “opera.”

I told my Italian “son” Cosimo about the extraordinary experience. “Oh, you have been very lucky. Catarina is on TV, on the Internet, even they make a movie about her. She get the taxi from her fiance when he die of the cancer. She use it all the time, every day to help people. Children who are sick with the cancer and must go to the hospital for treatment. Anyone with a problem, Catarina will make them feel better.”

I went to bed with my mind in a whirl. What would it be like to be young and beautiful and to choose to live such a life? The Lord had unmistakably let his wishes for my writing be known. Agape is the balm that would be applied gently into the weary souls of my Crazy Ladies. Slowly, they would transform while embracing this virtue. It would bind them together and put them on the road to recovery.

In the night, I received the title to my Crazy Ladies Book: “The Only Way to Paradise.” In the last chapter, MacKenzie (my alter-ego) will say for me, “There is only one way to Paradise and that is love. I found love in Italy.”