All Things Renewed

I’d always wondered if spending an evening on the canals of Italy would be as picturesque as it looked. Since riding in a gondola in Venice sitting beside a romantic date wasn't possible on this trip, walking through the Navigli canals on a food and wine tour in Milan seemed the next best thing.

I didn’t think Milan was located near any water so I asked a friend of mine who lived there for years what she thought of the canals. She didn’t recall them and asked me if they were newly built.

When I told her I thought they were constructed around the twelfth century, she didn't know how she could have missed them. 

But apparently these centuries-old waterways were easy to overlook.

It seems the canals were abandoned and eventually covered over by the 1930s, and only in the past few years have they been revitalized into a trendy nightspot. 

Tour books I read said that although eateries and art boutiques have sprung up, the area is still a bit edgy in places so I was glad I'd be part of a group.

We were gathered at the city’s oldest canal when our leader arrived.

He was a part-time tour guide, part-time flight attendant and former model. 

When he mentioned eating pasta at his mother’s house and joked about his age, which just happened to be exactly the age I am, I made my way to the head of the pack to investigate his background a little further. 

I moved my walking speed up a notch to keep pace with him, laughing at his jokes, and nodding attentively as he told us his tour-guide tales. I noticed that he rolled his eyes when almost everybody opted for the same wine to sample — a safe kind that sounded familiar to them. 

So when it was my turn, I chose a local wine and caught his eye. I preened when he winked at me and applauded my choice.

I found it a little hard to concentrate on what he was saying about the history of the canals because I was trying to think up my next clever comeback as I chatted with him in between tour-stops. 

He talked about Leonardo devising engineering plans for the canals in the 1400s, and pointed out where the local women washed their clothes until the canals were drained and covered up. 

These canals of Milan were quite the picture for the word I'd chosen for the year, way back in January when I hadn’t even the slightest inclination of traveling to Italy this summer.

My word for this year was renew. {You can read my post about it here.} 

These canals were once-vibrant, once-lovely, then lost and forgotten.  
But not everything that looks dead is. Not everything that is abandoned stays lost. Not everything that looks finished is over. 
I think this might be true for cities and relationships, friendships and families, dreams and hopes, too.

Might there be something in your life that needs uncovered and brought back to life? 

Maybe it’s not too late for an infusion of inspiration to breathe life into it.

At our last stop, our tour-guide-flight-attendant-model offered to walk us back to the Milan train station. I grabbed my bag and sprinted to his side as he asked where I was headed. 

When I told him I was boarding a bus for the curvy road to Lake Como the next morning, he said he’d be riding his motorcycle to Lake Como the next day too, to lead an all-day tour. 

He scoffed at my uneasiness about the winding road and said I'd be fine. So we said arrivederci at the train station. 

I think my evening spent sampling wine and olives, meat and cheese as I walked through the revived streets and over bridges of the canals in Milan might have been more fun than floating under those bridges in a gondola. 

Unless of course, someday I happen to be riding in a gondola beside a romantic date. 

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image if you'd like to read more encouraging posts.


  1. I love that you made your way to the front of the group, sampled the finest of the local fare, stepped bravely right out of your comfort zone into the culture you found yourself immersed in, Valerie.

    Everytime you write, my borders get enlarged yet once again.

    A pleasure to travel vicariously with you, for sure!


    1. Linda,
      I'm afraid my motives for marching to the front of the group were just to see if the guide was single and/or available! :) But whatever it takes to give me courage, right??!! Love having you here, as always, friend!

  2. I am smiling so much at your tour guide tale... and I love the last picture of you and your... rosy camera strap ; ) Truth be told I certainly needed your refreshing message of renewal today!!! I'm feeling a lot like a covered up canal...! Happy Wednesday sweet friend ♥

    1. Heather,
      Haha -- I didn't think the photo was the most flattering of me, but the tour guide looked great, didn't he?! :) I truly believe there is much in both of our lives to be renewed and reinvigorated, don't you, friend?! :) Here's praying for that!

  3. So bold and adventurous! You are constantly stepping up your travel game. I love it!

    1. Brittany,
      Oh yes, staying in the travel game takes quite the copious amounts of energy, but I'm finding adventure, aren't I?! :)

  4. Valerie, you have inspired me today with your tale of the history and renewal of the canals. The lost and forgotten can be renewed to become vibrant and lovely again. I smile, too, at your adventurous spirit. Love the pics, especially the one of you with such a lovely smile. :)

    1. Trudy,
      I'm glad you enjoyed the canal tale! (I love that!) The adventurous spirit isn't always evident in me, but a little wine helps! :) Your words are too sweet about the photo since I think I look a little worse for wear after a hot sweaty day of touring around Milan, but I couldn't resist adding his photo! :)

  5. Hi Valerie! I love your photography paired with your writing! They are two loves of mine as well! Your trip sounds like an incredible journey! Thanks for sharing it with us! Visiting from #CoffeeforYourHeart today

    1. Hi Pam,
      It was a pleasure visiting your blog today and I'm happy you're here visiting my little corner of the online world! The trip to Italy was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience!

  6. Valerie- I just love this and all the pictures- esp the one at the end of you at the tour guide- :) I am curious too about the little bagel looking things? wonder what those were. Anyway I just love this line you wrote- "But not everything that looks dead is. Not everything that is abandoned stays lost. Not everything that looks finished is over. " Oh how this has spoke to my heart tonight in a very deep way and has given me hope. Thanks so much! Always like a little vacation for me when I visit! xox

    1. Susie,
      Yes, they were little bagels -- bread to go with the meat and cheese! :) Isn't that so true about some things that just need renewed to bring them back to life? Especially when God brings them to life -- I love sitting on the edge of my seat to see what he will do! So glad you enjoy your virtual travels with me!

  7. Hehe I love the story and the smile on your face in the last set of pictures! :)
    Great pictures of renewal!

    1. Glad you liked the photos (all of them!) Sarah! :)

  8. Hi Valerie, I enjoy reading your travel stories.
    By the way the pictures are so beautiful.

    God Bless Valerie

    1. Hi Ifeoma,
      Thank you for your kind words! Traveling is always an adventure! So glad you stopped by.

  9. Debbie and I were rooting that you would exchange information! We saw the sparks flying-it was fun to watch!


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