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May 31, 2013

Italian for Beginners

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The morning after our first guests left La Bandita, we swam in the infinity pool (it took two years to get permission to build it), relaxed in the Turkish steam room, then took baths in two of the rooms. Just because we could. We owned a hotel in Tuscany with a pool!

After that first insane year, things settled into a more livable routine. Now, instead of taking the crammed subway to Times Square, we walk to a café opposite the Renaissance cathedral before I go to my home office on a medieval alley to write. I know at least by face, if not name, the 2,000 residents of our town, where my 3-year-old blond son, Jacopo, is basically a local celebrity. I once worried that I would feel isolated here, sitting in a park with no other new moms because of Italy's notoriously low birth rates, but 23 babies were born in Pienza in 2010. Along with those moms, I made friends with an architect with two daughters, a transplant from Milan, two sisters in their 20s, and a Polish woman who first looked after Jacopo before becoming my confidante.

Our life is not a rejection of New York. Some of our dearest friends are there, and we visit at least twice a year. I miss walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, my yoga studio, sushi, diner food, impromptu cocktail dates, and the diversity of the people. But our lifestyle now is of a different caliber than we could ever have had there.

We've just opened our second project, a 12-room hotel called La Bandita Townhouse, in a 16th-century former nunnery in the town of Pienza. In hindsight, the risks and the unknowns we took 10 years ago all seem worth it. But the process involved a great deal of stomach-girding faith. I was pushed in many ways to make the jump, but confronting that fear made me realize how taking gambles empowers you to make the changes that lead to greater happiness. And you never know what things from the big city will arrive in Pienza. A juice bar opened around the corner from the new hotel, and I have just come back from my first Zumba class at the community center!

"Moving meant truly committing to someone and taking a big gamble on the future."

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