When our intrepid wordsmith, Susannah, decamped this summer for a six week artist's residency in Tuscany—to go write songs with her musician husband Andrew and their two-and-a-half year old daughter Lois Rose—she had a very specific packing list, the barest essentials:
Infinite scarves, straw hat, accordion, a little notebook for songcraft inspiration on the go, a copy of "Wild Swimming: Italy", and (of course) a Turkish Towel.
Upon returning from a trip to Ephesus some years ago, my mother gave me a Turkish Towel as a gift, alongside a hammam mitt and some black soap. At the time it was most certainly an exceptionally-thoughtful-and-relevant-to-her-travels present, a token of an exotic experience she had that she wanted to share with me. I don't think she knew (and I didn't at the time know) that the gift would turn out to be LIFE CHANGING for me. I love to road trip, to adventure, to wander, to toss all of my dresses and other sundry belongings in a dusty carpetbag, hit the trails, and dip my bones in any suitable (and some less-than-suitable) waters that might present themselves to me—the colder/hotter the better, lukewarm ain't for me. On an adventure, a Turkish Towel became a constant companion.
Hanging to dry on rosemary.
Small folding, quick drying, easy washing, practically indestructible, generously sized, effortlessly stylish... the Turkish T does everything you want done well on a wander. The obvious: a towel. For swimming and showering, for deeply spiritual experiences bathing in strange, beautiful claw-foot tubs, bubbling natural hot springs, and weird heart-shaped-motel-en-suites alike. But it also does the miraculous: riverside picnic blanket, privacy screen in populous campground, extra layer under a sleeping bag on bumpy ground/over it on chilly nights, seaside sarong, train pillow, laundry bindle, shoulder shawl for goosebumps during full moon dinner parties that stretch into the shivery hours, modesty covering upon entering sacred spaces—from Koutoubia to the Hoh Rain Forest, humidity shield for blown out hair in big city rainstorms, headwrap for smalltown apres-shower cocktail parties. Tablecloth, shade sail, changing table, babe fort. What can't it do?
The perfect place for morning sun salutations.
I am an evangelist. So much so that I have switched out my everyday towels AT HOME to Turkish Towels. Why not have the magic wonder of the road in your everyday? A Turkish Towel is my go-to gift to every young graduate with a note outlining the above. Go forth and DO THE DAMN THING I say. The world is yours for the taking. Eat it with both hands. Dive deeply into the cool, crystalline waters of all that is possible. Also, allow me to impart my infinite "grown up" wisdom: no one likes a damp butt.
At the ready, poolside lounging.
When we were leaving for Italy this summer (wonder of wonders!) we had specific packing requirements: banjo (for my husband), accordion (for me), 4 more sundresses than were technically necessary, everything a child might need for six weeks in the wild unknown, homemade bug spray, and, of course, Turkish Towels.
Sunset aperitivo in the medieval ruins of Toiano, at the Villa.
Situated at the top of a mountain, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards on all sides, replete with wild boar mamas and honeybees, our artist's residency (at the insanely beautiful Villa Lena) was a potent creative space in the heart and heat of Tuscany.
Lois' reading fort in our room in the 18th century villa. LOOK. AT. THOSE. FLOORS!
We would take turns with the babe every day, writing songs solo in the morning and trading off in the afternoon. Weekends were for adventures, picnics, wild beauty, and, naturally, swimming.
Waterfall picnic at Candalla Falls.
The Candalla Waterfalls, bounding down between the ruins of an old mill in Camaiore, the hot springs of Petriolo, a Heironymous Bosch font of cascading pools, and Bagni San Filippo—a white whale of calcite deposited by the steaming waters.
All wrapped up and sun shaded, cleaning off sacred stones at the Petriolo Hot Springs.
The residency was interdisciplinary, we were the only musicians in our residence class AND the only family. We played music every night with the other artists while Lois ran around underfoot, charming her way into eating everyone's olives and constantly toting a tiny purple leather elephant purse two of the other residents brought her from Florence (hi, Anousha and Amanda!).
The perfect wrap when it unexpectedly drops into the chillies when the sun goes down.
We returned with malachite in our hair, mortadella in our bellies, dusky sunset in our eyes, wild blue-edged feathers behind our ears, and 10 new songs under our belts. It was heaven, manna, and the dreamy quotidian, all together.
I won't say we rode there and back on a magic carpet of woven Turkish cotton, but it was close.