Hello, Displaced Nationers—or should I say ciao in honor of our special guest, Chandi Wyant, player number three in our Expat Author Game?
Born in California, Chandi has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland, and England, but of these, Italy easily stands out as her favorite. Her passion for the boot-shaped country began when she lived there in her late teens, a commitment that has only deepened over the years. Having learned Italian, she went on to earn a master’s degree in Florentine Renaissance history (giving her an excuse for plenty more visits).
And now she’s living in Italy again! Back in America for a while, Chandi relocated to Lucca a few months ago, a city on the Serchio river in Italy’s Tuscany region.
I ask you, who wouldn’t want to be displaced in Lucca? As Lonely Planet puts it:
“Lovely Lucca endears itself to everyone who visits.”
But life for Chandi hasn’t always been an Italian idyll. When she reached her early forties, her marriage of 10 years imploded, and she was struck by a debilitating illness from which she nearly died (in an Italian hospital!).
Her solution to this mid-life crisis? To take a 40-day-long walk along Via Francigena, the historic pilgrimage route that runs from France to Italy. She reasoned that, although she had been weakened by illness, she could still walk. And, like pilgrims of long ago, she hoped that trekking over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany until reaching Rome, would help to restore her in body and spirit.
To find out what happened on her solo adventure, I urge you to read her newly published memoir, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy.
Hm, for an author who has withstood so much pain, including having to do most of her epic walk while suffering from plantar fasciitis (that’s what walking on asphalt for several days, with a pack on one’s back, will do to the feet), I wonder if Chandi might find our Expat Author Game a bit of cake walk?
In any event, let’s see how she handles Part One: namely, developing an algorithm for her new book. (Part Two is available here.)
If we like Return to Glow, which movie/musical/play/TV series would we also like?
The first two movies that come to mind are Wild and The Way. In Wild you’ve got a single woman on a long-distance walk, so that’s the same as my book, although mine takes place in Italy and is on an ancient pilgrimage route. So then The Way comes in because it is on a European pilgrimage route—albeit in Spain, not Italy, and the protagonist is a man. Now, to add a movie that honors the sensuality of Italy, I would choose Stealing Beauty. It’s about an American girl’s summer in Tuscany and it’s very visually lush. Bertolucci is masterful at bringing alive a sensual and sybaritic Tuscan summer. My pilgrimage was not at all sensual or sybaritic, but what Bertolucci captures in this film is also what captured my heart when I first fell in love with Italy at age 19, and what kept me returning there for the past 30 years.
What meal or dish would go well with reading your book?
If I may, I like to reference a post I wrote for my blog, Paradise of Exiles, about the three best dishes I ate in Florence last year:
1) Arista di maiale con salvia e rosmarino (roasted pork loin with sage and rosemary)
2) Tagliatelle con porcini e nepitella (pasta with porcini mushrooms and calamint, aka basil thyme)
3) Pizza bianca con asparagi, cipolloti primaverili, fiordilatte, e pecorino Romano (pizza with asparagus, spring onions, fresh mozzarella, and pecorino cheese)
Any of these three dishes would go wonderfully when reading my book!
If your book had a signature cocktail, what would it be?
Vin Santo, Tuscany’s dessert wine.
Are there any special clothes/headgear/costumes/accessories we could wear to put us in the mood for reading your book?
In a museum on the pilgrimage route I saw a replica of what a pilgrim from the middle ages wore, including the long staff that was carried with a gourd tied to it (the medieval Nalgene bottle!). You need a cloak, a seashell hanging around your neck, and a long staff with a gourd.
If we wanted to take a mini-trip to understand your story better, where would you recommend we travel and which one or two sights should we take in?
Pick any location on the Via Francigena in Italy! Or take my suggestions in this post of four small places found along the route, that are perhaps less familiar to tourists, and that contain historic sites worth discovering:
1) Pontremoli, a town at the base of the Apennines, on the Magra River.
2) Bagno Vignoni, a town in southern Tuscany where the main piazza is a pool of steaming thermal water!
3) Bolsena, a town in the region of Lazio, near the shores of Lake Bolsena.
4) Sutri, a town in northern Lazio that was one of the last strongholds of the Etruscans.
* * *
So, readers, tell us: Has Chandi come up with a winning algorithm? Does the thought of slipping into a medieval travel cloak and taking a swig of Vin Santo from your gourd while trekking along the Via Francigena make you want to buy Chandi’s book? How about supping on pizza bianca while recalling the excitement of reading/watching Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and/or imagining yourself immersed in the relaxing thermal baths at Bagno Vignoni?
If by now you’re starting to feel your inner glow, be sure to check out Chandi’s author site and its companion Facebook and Instagram pages.
And STAY TUNED for Part Two next week!
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Photo credits: Book cover and other photos (supplied).
Absolutely, she has come up with a winning algorithm. Very clever way to expose the beauty and interest of Chandi Wyant’s writing. Once again, I can’t wait to return to Italy and look at it anew through the lens of Chandi’s experience.
Thanks Melisa! Hope you get back to Italy soon!
Return to Glow is a great read. Chandi’s journey is brave and sometimes difficult for her but it is fascinating for the reader.
How nice to hear that you enjoyed the book. Thanks for reading it and for your comment here 😀
Yes definitely- she has it!!
What an informative post! Really look forward to Part 2 and to reading ‘Return to Glow’. By pure coincidence I watched ‘Wild’ for the first time last night (inspiring); I wonder who would play Chandi in a film of her walk…?!!
A fascinating set of connections – I look forward to reading ‘Return to Glow’. By the way, I happened to see the film ‘Wild’ for the first time last night – inspiring stuff (I wonder who would play Chandi in the film of her book)?!!