The Heart of a Home

Last summer I found myself standing in the entryway of Villa Monastero in Italy, a house constructed in the twelfth century and a former home to nuns, a noblewoman and a couple of businessmen. 

I'm here for a tour of the house and gardens and even though I live through Florida’s scorching summers every year, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite this hot before. 

It seems I’m visiting Italy during a heat wave of historic proportions. The locals say it’s the steamiest summer they’ve had in more than a hundred years. 

And everywhere I go, air conditioning is weak or non-existent, especially in my historic hotel that never saw a need to install it.

I took a ferry to get to the villa, where I sat on the top deck in the blazing sun for the 20-minute ride from my hotel. 

I walked uphill over cobblestone steps and winding streets and I’m pretty sure sweat has glued my clothes to my skin {perhaps permanently}.

And now I'm standing in the muggy lobby where a grand staircase diverges into two flights to tour opposite wings of the villa. 

Even though traipsing through old houses is my favorite thing to do when I’m on a trip, the single thought soaking into my sweaty head is how much longer until I can get a cool, refreshing gelato.

Christie Purifoy writes about the heat and the cold and the changing seasons in her book Roots & Sky after she moves to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania called Maplehurst. 

She first sees the house on a day of record-breaking heat. On that sweltering day, it didn’t feel like the home of her dreams at all. 

But she felt as if her dreams started rearranging themselves when she stepped across the threshold.

Chronicling her first year at Maplehurst, she slowly settles into the rhythms of the seasons, hosting her neighbors, planting her garden and savoring her ordinary days. 

When her son slides down the banister of the staircase, inflicting a long gash in the woodwork with his belt buckle, she realizes that her dream and everyday life meet head-on within the walls of the house.

Christie’s writing is poetic and lyrical, evocative and expressive, sometimes poignant and often elegant. 

The house is the constant framework, the abiding presence in a year, in a life of changes. 

The house inspires her journey home. 

It houses her growing family. 

And it opens the doors to usher her into God’s dwelling place.

Her first year at Maplehurst brings joy, heartache, the end of seasons, a new life and a new beginning. 

And for so many of us, isn't that what home is all about?

I manage to breeze {while dreaming of one!} through the villa’s rooms of ornate furnishings and head back through the cobblestone streets toward the ferry. I spot a sign for gelato on the shutters of a rather ordinary looking door. 

But as I step inside, I notice I’m in a little cove-shaped room with walls of gray fieldstone and white plaster and a white-bricked chimney in the center. 

Unexpectedly dangling from the wood beams in the ceiling is an elegant chandelier. 

It’s extraordinarily charming and I find it more enchanting than the grandiose villa I've just left.

Sometimes there's more to find inside than might be evident from an exterior facade. 

Our stories, our lives, our hearts -- much like a house -- are waiting to be shared, discovered, opened.

Longing for family, adventure, love. Willing to get a little dirty, weather scratches, show off a former grandeur.

Swing wide the doors, fling open the windows, unhinge the shutters. 

For I think there's nothing quite so inviting as an open heart and a welcome home.

My gelato revives me and I board the ferry for the ride back to my hotel. 

And for the first time on my trip, I found myself longing for my Florida home where even though it's hot outside, I can savor the frosty breezes of my trusty air conditioner.

I'm part of Revell publisher's blogger review tour for Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but the opinions are completely my own.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista


  1. I keep hearing about this book in so many contexts! Thanks for your review!

    1. Hi Michele,
      Thanks for stopping by -- I really did love this book!

  2. Ah ... the vibrant blues and reds, corals and golds. Even in the blistering heat, your photos come across as refreshing.

    But this here -->'Her first year at Maplehurst brings joy, heartache, the end of seasons, a new life and a new beginning.'

    I felt you wrote this just for me. I am refreshed.


    1. Hi Linda,
      I've often heard it said that what we feel are endings are really just the beginning of a new chapter in our lives and I'm holding onto that hope!

  3. This sounds like a lovely book! But I share your concerns over being wilted in the warm climate! Our houses and our lives often bear the scars of living and we all have a story to tell. The quote you shared from her was beautiful and poignant. We do long to have that homecoming feeling- within our homes and in our relationships. What a great parallel to draw that I've never thought of. And the chandelier reminds me that there are treasures to be found when we open the doors of our homes and our hearts to one another. ♥ Lovely as always my dear ♥

    1. Heather,
      I love books that I can savor and this was truly one of those! Journeying home is so symbolic, I think. The chandelier in that little gelato shop was one of my favorites! Artful images were around every corner there, and so many times surprised me!

  4. That gelato room with its rounded walls and chandelier looks so cosy. I'd rather sweat than shiver, but it sounds like that heat was extreme. I'm glad you could still enjoy sightseeing. I love how you compare houses to our stories "waiting to be shared, discovered, opened." Blessings and hugs to you, Valerie!

    1. Hi Trudy,
      This book made me think about the parallels of our lives and the houses we live in and since I'm fond of history, I could really relate to it. It is a lovely book!

  5. Oh, I really appreciate you sharing your experience. The photos are gorgeous and I will check out the book!

  6. Valerie- I loved hearing about your adventures and this book! It sounds really good. I love old houses and the stories they hold. I like thinking about my life as one and the hope of undiscovered treasure. Thanks so much for sharing all this. You have such a beautiful way of words and a gift for capturing moments with them, and your amazing pictures. As always I feel like I have had a little vacation after reading this!( and I needed that in the midst of power outages and sick kids!! ;) Thanks for blessing me!! sending hugs

    1. Susie,
      Oh my in the midst of power outages? I hope you pulled through the storms -- I heard they were quite intense! I love old houses too. I imagine what went on within those walls during the centuries and I so often wish that walls could talk! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and hope the kids are on their way to recovery! xo

  7. Stunning photos! You somehow have me craving gelato, a trip to Italy, and good ole' Florida air conditioning all at once!

    1. I always thought it would be a nightmare to live without air conditioning for a night in the middle of a Florida summer but I discovered that I could live without it and still enjoy my vacation!

  8. Beautiful photos friend! Your eye is so good. And there is simply no place like home.

  9. Such beautiful photos! Loved the story. I'm pretty sure my mind would be on cool, refreshing gelato as well...I really don't do well in high heat! Thanks for sharing your travels with us! Makes me feel a little bit like I was there :)

    1. Judy,
      Thank you for accompanying me virtually on my travels -- glad to have you along! :)

  10. Yes, home should be where we long to be-where we feel safe and loved. Sounds like a great book!

  11. Thank you for sharing your day in Italy. I love all the pictures and it is so true, that there is so much elegance we can miss when we don't step inside. And thank you for the book review. Must add to my TBR!

  12. This sounds like a wonderful book for a summer read! Love your photography as well. Thanks for sharing Valerie.


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