The view was stunning: the entire experience surreal. In a moment that will be forever frozen in time, I heard words of wisdom that will last a lifetime.
In the beautiful, rolling Tuscan hills south of Florence in Italy, there is a little town on the top a hill that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. The Medieval City of San Gimignano was once one of the most powerful and wealthy cities in Italy. The walled city can be seen from miles in every direction, as all medieval cities were elevated for defensive purposes. It rests on an ancient Etruscan road, later a Roman Road, used by Peter and Paul, and then it became one of the most important pilgrims’ roads that led all the way from Canterbury, England to Rome, the Via Francigena.
In medieval times rich families would build towers to display their wealth, the more money you had, the taller the tower. At one point there were 72 towers in San Gimignano, including two identical twin towers that the architects of the Twin Towers in New York City studied. Today there are 14 towers remaining. From a distance, the towers rising from the walled city give the appearance of a fairy tale castle. One of those towers belongs to a friend of ours, a charismatic, charming man by the name of Pierluigi Giachi.
A number of years ago a large group of folks from Lexington traveled to Italy. We covered that exotic country from the gorgeous lake country in the north to the ruins of Pompeii in the south. The trip had many amazing highlights, but no one will ever forget visiting a lovely Tuscan winery and meeting Pierluigi. He charmed the ladies, he entertained the men, and we left feeling like family. Joyce and I found Pierluigi when we returned to Italy in 2010 and he welcomed us like long lost friends.
Last month with a small group of friends we reconnected with Pierluigi. This time he invited us into his home which resides in a 1400 year old tower in San Gimignano. After socializing on a gorgeous terrace overlooking the valley below, he invited us to climb to the top of the tower.
Someone has said, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” This was one of those moments. As I stood on top of the tower, surrounded by indescribable beauty, listening as my magnanimous friend regaled us with his story, I recalled the happy experience, the laughter and delight we enjoyed the first time we met this consummate Italian. And then I remembered three dear friends who shared that experience with us years ago: Bob and Marge Team and Bill Delapp.
I told Pierluigi how special moments like this were and shared with him that three of our close friends who were with us on the first trip had passed away. He paused for a moment as he processed my words. What happened next can only be described as “Hagia Sophia” (Holy Wisdom).
Looking at me with tears in his eyes he said, “Ray, we all live under the sky. Every day is a gift. We must “Carpe Diem” –Seize the Day!”
Wow! His profound words are still reverberating through my mind and heart. I will never forget what he said and I hope I will incarnate his words into my life each day. I can seize the day by living a life of gratitude, generosity, and service. I can be positive when others are negative. I can be redemptive when others are judgmental. I can be kind when others are cruel.
We are all children of God, we all live under the sky.