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Book Review: Up at the Villa by Linda Dini Jenkins

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If your typical travels center around tourist hotels and planned agendas, you’ll enjoy the vicarious thrill of traveling with author Linda Dini Jenkins. Her new book, Up at the Villa, combines a fresh mix of personal essays, travel narrative and touching poetry inspired by her travels. The poetry is a wonderful way for one to remember the feelings and flavors of life’s experiences.

Following Jenkins and her husband on their travels, you’ll learn a bit about some European cultures, and useful language prompts so you’ll be more prepared than Jenkins who, at moments, laughs about the approaching “language danger” when attempting a conversation with a merchant. Those of us who are equally challenged trying to speak a foreign language to pay for a small purchase or buy a train ticket can empathize.

The book includes high-quality photos and lovely illustrations, making it a relaxing experience to browse, or to plan your next adventure.

Based on her travel experiences, Jenkins also offers coping strategies for group travel. It’s a great way to combine visits with friends, and shared experiences, such as when renting a villa, but we all know the realities of living with different people require great understanding.

Up at the Villa includes memories of the author's trips to Paris and to Brugge, Belgium, but most of the travel is within Italy, including Tuscany, Lombardia and Liguria. There are a few abrupt shifts to other random places, including Bermuda and Idaho.

Collapsing many years of happy travels, memories and experiences into a charming flashback of life’s travels, Up at the Villa is a pleasure to read and its factual details are easily absorbed along with the personal adventures.

You’ll notice the anecdotes vary whether on an escorted tour of the Almalfi Coast or the more intimate experiences traveling as a group without a guide. You see lots more with a guide but nothing so unpredictable as what travelers can do unescorted, in a foreign country, with a bucket of snails.

Jenkins' poems tell it best:

"We were happy here, his conversation fusing with the sound of the waves, with the brush of his broom on the steps
Fading in and out, like the best kind of dream, just behind your eyes,
Just before you blink and it is gone.

Jenkins, like many of us with travel in our veins, eventually interprets what “sense of place” means and how “home” can be just where you are at the moment. Up at the Villa will leave you aware of the importance of noticing, slowing down, seeing and being open to opportunities. Tomorrow, they may be unavailable or you may be moving on to other stops on the road ahead.

“…We are an inauthentic part of it, of something better, simpler,
More pure. At least that’s how it feels. Up at the villa,
We pack our treasures well, hoping to keep the lessons
Safe for the impossibly long journey home.”

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