Posted by: Kara Luker | October 18, 2022

Under the Tuscan Sun

There were many specifics I left out of my last post on our very magical European trip for the sake of space and time, but there was one experience that I intentionally set aside so I could share it here, in its own special space…

As we approached the home of Candida Bing, the instructor who would hopefully teach us to cook a scrumptious Italian meal, I recognized it as one of a few John and I had passed on our walk the day before. We had wondered aloud what sort of people owned these houses along this small road in the hills of Tuscany, whether they lived there full-time, part-time or rented them out, what they might do for a living.

There was such a quietness, a peace, as we wandered past the ivy-covered stone walls of the 17th century farmhouse and through the courtyard lined with lemon trees in large terracotta pots to where Candida stood in her apron, sweater and sandals, a basket of freshly picked vegetables hanging on her arm and fresh herbs held loosely in her hand. She welcomed us without fanfare but with warmth, as if we were already friends – or maybe even grandkids who had come by, as usual, to spend the day gathering from the garden to make something delicious for later.

She led us through the meandering garden, pointing out vegetables growing in raised beds, a grove of trees from which she harvests her own olives for oil, rose bushes climbing up trellises and filtering the warm light. We wandered through this eden, informal and intimate, 40 years in the making by this humble woman who shared it freely with us. Sheree followed her closely, asking questions as we walked, but I hung back, listening and absorbing her presence and landscape. Overwhelmed by the beauty, spoken in what must be the language of my heart, tears kept rising from a rarely tapped well within. It felt strange to be so moved by this person and place I hardly knew, but I couldn’t seem to hold it back, nor did I want to.

There was no rush, no timeline, unlike back home where time is money and everyone has somewhere to be. We breathed in the sweet slowness before eventually making our way through the patio into her kitchen which, though having been renovated, still felt like it belonged to this old, rustic home with open arms and stories to tell. There was an antique oven, well loved and beautifully maintained, a couple of hutches holding various glass items and Candida’s collection of classical CD’s, and more open shelving than I thought possible, not boasting perfectly curated decor but piles of plates and cooking vessels and jars and cookbooks, easily reached without fussing with doors. In the center of it all was a large wooden table that said “Yes, we have work to do, but have a glass of wine, dip your bread in some olive oil, and stay for a while.”

Which is just what we did. At perfect ease in these surroundings, we took turns layering coffee-drenched ladyfingers with mascarpone and topping the rich tiramisu with cocoa powder while she alternated between instructing us, praising us like small children and playfully teasing us for our mistakes. She recruited us to chop broad beans and shell peas, responding all the while to questions we threw her way, not giving her whole story away at once as though it had been rehearsed, but revealing with openness the pieces deemed relevant by our curiosity. Over the hours, we listened and we learned – about her time in the States when she was younger (which explained her excellent English) and the successful high-end hat company she ran with her father (which explained the fascinating room full of hat molds), about her grown children and the 500 rose bushes she had grown at one point, about the way Italians approach life and cooking, about how it gets so hot in August that they don’t do anything but exist. We talked some more and we laughed, sinking ever more deeply into the warmth of our surroundings, pausing now and again to take a sip of wine or respond to the crackling of the sambiocca, demanding more liquid in the pan.

When the cooking was nearly complete, Candida shooed us outside so she could finish a few final details and plate our food. We adjourned to the large table on the patio, kept cool beneath its covering; held close to the stone and brick walls of the house. We squealed with delight with the appearance of our first course and each one that followed; this humble feast that made our taste buds dance and our pride soar. Conversation continued, a little deeper than before and perhaps more subdued, as we rested in that gorgeous setting, seeped in love and goodness, full of the best food, topped off with Candida’s homemade limoncello. 

Even though she had guests coming to stay that evening, she didn’t rush us off or rush off herself. It was as though she knew everything would get done in its own time. I couldn’t quite grasp that; the lack of awareness – or care – of a ticking clock and the stress that goes with it. When we finally got up from the table, she reiterated that we could stay as long as we wanted… to enjoy the garden, explore more of the property, wander through her art studio. And so we did, trying to capture with pictures what we were experiencing with our heart and senses, knowing they could never do it justice. At last, more than six hours after we’d arrived, we decided that it was time to head back to our villa, tuck this sweet, sacred memory away and continue on with our adventures.

I have thought of that day often and pondered what made it so special. Part of it, I think, is that although Candida had achieved things that might appear more significant, it was here in this quiet, hidden part of the world where she devoted herself to the cultivation of her home and land that we were so deeply touched. It makes me wonder if sometimes the same could be said for us; that in devoting ourselves in the quiet, unseen places we find ourselves – our homes and families, our neighbors and jobs – that we too have the ability to make an impact on others far greater than anything we could accomplish through the achievements that look more important. That maybe we could set aside some of the things that seem so pressing to be present with others. To learn from each other. To swap stories. To laugh together. To share a meal. To invite each other to settle in and stay for a while. Just a thought. But one that speaks powerfully to me. I would love to hear what has been speaking to you.


  1. Beautifully written Kara. Thank you for sharing. I must agree that He invites each of us to live in this place of unhurried grace so we can truly appreciate the incredible beauty that surrounds us in our everyday lives.

    • Thank you Kim! You said it better than I did 😍

  2. How God has blessed you with word pictures! The pictures you took were lovely but the word picture you painted for all of us is precious. Such a good word sweet lady!

    • What a sweet encouragement! Thank you Pam! 😘

  3. What a blessed time you all had! Thank you for sharing it.
    Noticing Candida’s age, I think it’s one reason you found her and her home so enjoyable and so moving. For the person of peace, the aging process (time and experience) produces its wonderful effect, first on the person themself and then on those whom they meet. Especially those who are likewise of peace.
    The peace of God working upon us! How it seems to help us find and settle in our ‘place’ – even if it takes decades! 😄

    • Well said Jim! That is an incredibly warming thought, especially with the way we resist aging these days when it can carry such treasures.

      • Well, not every feature of aging is pleasant! 😅
        That peace I mentioned is the key. It’s God’s peace – the gift He promises to give to the person who comes to Him for forgiveness and grace. We don’t make it ourselves, right? Being ‘in’ Christ makes us that person of peace. First things first!

      • Haha true about aging but also true about us being people of peace! Definitely can’t make it ourselves but I do see the surrendering that happens with time and trust helping that peace to make it from the inside to the outside where other people can be blessed by it. 😊

  4. “In devoting ourselves in the quiet, unseen places we find ourselves…we too have the ability to make an impact on others far greater than anything we could accomplish through the achievements that look more important.” Yes. It seems you took the heart of Candida’s life experience with you, Kara!

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