It took four decades for me to become it, but I am an official lover of morning.  At home, I get up early and follow the same routine every day: coffee, Bible, journal, planning.  I need and hour or two of sunrise and solitude in order to function well the rest of the day. Mornings are also when I do my best work creatively – all three of my books and nearly every blog post has been written in the early hours.  Occasionally, on vacation or days off, I’ll sleep in, but I almost always regret it.


I went into sabbatical not knowing how I would do mornings.  Would I want to switch it up and become an afternoon girl?  I didn’t know, and I left myself lots of room to decide in the moment.  But now, eight days in, I have a routine and I can tell it’s going to stick.


I usually wake up around 4:30 (I’m hoping that will change as I acclimate more to this time zone) and make myself stay in bed until 5:00.  Then I go out to my kitchen, open the big doors on the terrace (and the city is soooo quiet at this time) and make an espresso.



True story: I’ve never really liked espressos much.  They’re delicious, but so little.  I want more time with my coffee than that.  However, I’ve grown to really like these little guys, made in the Nespresso provided by my lovely airbnb host, Judy.


I sip my espresso and go through the daily page in the journal that I created for this trip. It’s sort of like a ‘solitude map’.  It asks a different “three things” question each morning and then goes on into meditation, reading, priority-setting and self awareness (that part isn’t shown on this picture.)



This process is not at all work to me; it’s so fun to have some time to connect to the big purpose for my life and to establish some small steps for achieving it.  Sometime during this part of my journaling, the church bells chime 6:00 and the city wakes up and when it wakes up, it gets big and loud very quickly. Shop doors start opening, street sweepers roll through my alley, voices rise through my courtyard filling the air around me with several languages (mostly Italian) reminding me once again that this globe is packed with people who are loved by God and I am one of those people, but only one. The quilt of cultures I’m experiencing here in Italy is breathtaking and beautiful.


When the bells chime 7:00, it’s time for a phone date, which is one of my favorite parts of the day.  It’s amazing how next-door everyone sounds even when we’re a world away. (Aside: since posting about the church bells, I have heard from several who are church bell annoyed and I do not understand you people.  I will defend your right to dislike them but let’s agree to never talk about this at parties.)


After that, I usually write for awhile, a blog post or poetry or more focused journaling in my computer.  When I feel out of words, I get ready for the day and go in search of yet more coffee.  Mostly, I make myself do this so I don’t become a hermit during my time here, also because I love seeing the city in the morning. And also because I love coffee.



This is the pretty entryway to my apartment.  I love it so much. And I even love the statue, though I don’t know who that guy is (I’ve got a pretty light grasp on art history).  And see that white chair in the photo by the table?  It doesn’t belong there, but that’s where I keep it because this is an old apartment and the fuse blows a couple of times a day. It’s an easy fix, but I’m a short girl, so that chair saves my bacon every time.




Aw, this is Via della Condotta – the street where I live.   It borders Piazza della Signoria (undoubtedly the busiest piazza in Florence where the fake David  and Neptune lives), but it’s filled with shops and restaurants that I visit every day and I love it – but its not my very favorite street.  My very favorite street is Via dei Neri and that’s where I’m headed.



Via de Neri has loads of lovely things to see and taste and experience.  Ditta Artiginale is so far my favorite place for coffee.  It’s the one place I’ve found so far that serves a “filtered coffee” (American = pour over) and it’s delightful and makes me feel closer to home while also being far away.  I  keep hoping Dave Beach will walk out from behind the counter, but that keeps not happening.


This routine of coffee/quiet/listen/write/coffee is working for me.  I know it’s working, not because I’m producing cool things, but because I feel myself becoming more myself as I move through this adventure.  I feel thoughts taking shape and dreams being born and seeds of plans being planted during this time and I’m so grateful for it.


This morning I woke up thinking about some of the old hymns my grandmother used to sing. Maybe it’s being here in all this history, away from all-things-modern America, but it inspired me to write something old and new. I know this isn’t what I usually write and it’s not particularly profound or well-constructed, but something about it connected me back to the foundations of my life, my truth, my love for Jesus and the people who taught me to search for Him everywhere.

In heavy gray
And filtered fog
When all the maps seem
Your hand becomes
my stronger stay
My hope on darker days
When shines the sun
with stubborn cheer
When all is bright and
Your hand remains
my stronger stay
My hope on cloudless days
Though I can’t see
what lies beyond
what lives within
the waiting
Your hand will be
my stronger stay
My hope for
all my days


So, that’s today’s update. Mornings in Florence. They’re crazy beautiful.


With hope,




Oh!  P.S:  My oldest, blondest daughter, Whitney,  and my sweet friend Mekenzie, get here in about an hour!  How excited am I?  Infinity excited!


And P.P.S: Thanks to my dreamy, dreamy boyfriend for getting so many Sterns to the airport this week and remembering to take pictures because he knew I’d want them.


  1. Boo to the church bell haters. Church bells and second hand smoke are in my top 5 favorite parts of traveling.

  2. I’m loving reading about your time in Italy Bo. Would you tell me where you got your pre-printed journal?

    • Hi Vicki, I created the journal for my trip, using some ideas my daughter had given me from her journaling strategy. I had it printed and bound Office Max for $4 and it’s one of my favorite things ever! When I get back home, I’ll try to remember to make the pdf available for others to print. I think it would work well for anyone in any season.

  3. I love church bells. Our college campus had lovely church bells, and I loved hearing them ring. I used to go down to our kiosk in Tumalo around 10.30 on Sunday mornings so I could hear the church bells ring at the little church there. But, admittedly, I also love the beautiful, lonely sound of trains in the night.

  4. Oh Bo, this is just the post I needed today. I’ve been scrunched over my computer for a week squinting as I do some design work, some writing, and lots of reading and I finally STOPPED and reset my display to the setting “Intensely Huge Font for Ancient People” and so I can see your lovely photos and ready your honest words and even peek at that amazing journal page (please sell those, ok?) and oh how I love your hymn/poem. I’m copying it to read over and over.

    Blessings as you sit and stay “within the ellipses”

    PDX Karen

  5. Bo, I second the journal request! I’m inspired to begin this practice again, thanks to your one little post! I love all that you’re sharing, the pics, recaps, it’s kinda like a little travel blog with bonus inspiration for the win. I could relate to the 4 am wake ups and how I actually kind of simultaneously enjoyed those while also trying to get switched to my regular schedule. Usually took about two weeks to straighten itself out. I’ve never woke up to church bells but that sounds lovely (tho I have woke up to the call to prayer from the mosque loudspeakers many times and grew to like that as well.) Keep soaking it all in and thanks for sharing!

  6. Love reading about your adventures. Love church bells, too as they remind me of sitting on a porch swing at my Grandma’s house listening to beautiful hymns played by the church on the corner. It is a blessing to hold those early memories! Enjoy Florence. I was there with my family two years ago!