"We take some of the questionable, possibly 70 year old wine we found hidden under the casks upstairs for a taste test…better than expected."

"She was the American study abroad resident's assistant. He was the local Italian leather-worker. They spent hours in his shop teaching each other their native language through friendship and stories. Then came love."

This sounds like the synopsis to a new summer rom-com, perhaps a sister story to Under the Tuscan Sun, but it was real life for Hannah Armbrust, my RA and apartment-mate during my study abroad time in Orvieto, Italy in the spring of 2012. Of course there's all the un-romantic logistics that come with all "love stories", especially ones that are cross-cultural, but we'll skip all that for now.

My fondest memories with Hannah in Orvieto were walking around the Rupe - the walk around the whole small town that is set on a hill and talking about being the oldest siblings and the strange feelings of responsibilities that come with it coupled with the desire to be independent and be somewhere else. She called me something to the effect of a "sun-seeker" because I was always seeking out and soaking up the sun in whatever patches we found it.

My favorite conversation we had was one afternoon in the palazzo courtyard. I had been mulling over this predicament of being someone who loves traveling and wandering and so fiercely loves community and home-making, and knew that she felt the same so I asked her how she dealt with that, especially being away for a couple years now living in Italy. She said she had (has) the same questions and tension and recently had a conversation about it with Roberta, a woman whose farm we often frequented to help harvest and plant on the weekends. Roberta and her husband had lived many places for various reasons and were experts on this balance of someone with wanderlust and nesting syndrome. She gave the best advice I've heard that Hannah shared with me and think about nearly every day:

"Everywhere you live, live as if you're going to live there for the rest of your life, even if you're only there for a couple of months. Make the repairs on the house. Invite neighbors and friends over to dinner. Make plans. And then, when it's time, be ready to let it all go and leave."

To which Hannah added (something to the extent of): "I would even add live there as if you were only going to be there for two weeks. Explore. Look at everything as if it will be gone soon". Which reminds me of something that our program director, Matt Doll said the first week all of us students were there and he challenged us to look at and name things that we saw, "Anyone who says they have seen something twice is not really looking", which may echo Ernest Hemingway when he said, "All my life I've looked at words as if I'm seeing them for the first time".

I could spiral into an endless "he said-she said" quote reference if I keep going, because these patterns of thinking were so engrained in me during those 4 months in Orvieto, but I'll cease here and let it stand that Hannah will always be one of those people who reminds me that life is more than the fast-paced, success and profit-driven endeavor the majority of the States paints it to be.

Once Hannah married Federico, she joined him in his leather-working business where they make strinkingly beautiful and well-made Italian leather goods - seen here. They recently bought and continue to fix up their new house in the countryside just outside of the town of Orvieto. Readjust the pace of your day and read Hannah's hours below:

a couple original poems written by hannah:

Interview with Hannah about life as an ex-pat coming soon to the CoateRak blog.