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The Art of Pruning & How Italy Teaches Me To Live Luxuriously

"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity."

– Coco Chanel

Friends come to visit me often in Rome, and they ask me the same question over and over.

"What do you love most about this city?"

I feel a bit silly every time I answer. "Well... the trees."

Not the pasta, the forever-blue skies, or the sleepy summer afternoons, but the trees. If you visit Rome, it'll be one of the first things you notice. Exaggeratedly tall, skinny trunks with widespread umbrella-shaped green leaves that shoot seriously high into the air.

Rome's famous stone pines, or the Pinus Pinea.

These pines are so striking, and many of them are taller than the buildings. Here's a picture:

Taller than the Colosseum!

I always liked to imagine that it was a magical being's job to wake up at 3am every day and climb all the trees in Rome to trim them to perfection before we all wake up. Sort of like the Santa Claus of Italian beauty.

How else do they all grow and blossom so perfectly, in uniform shape? I even gave this magical being a name: Umberto. And every time I sit on my balcony sipping on my espresso before the day begins, I look out at all the pine trees and silently thank Umberto for keeping them so beautiful.

Well, a few days ago, I spotted him.

I saw Umberto!

I was out for a stroll a few streets away from my house and there he was. A man 60 feet high into the sky, balancing on some scaffolding, trimming the trees! It may sound silly to some, I know. But never in my wildest dreams did I think Umberto was real.

Today, there are around 60,000 pinus pinea trees in Rome and every single one of them is perfectly pruned.

I stood there for a few minutes, looking up at Umberto snipping away at the forest-green leaves, trimming here and there to create the perfect mushroomy shape that I love so much. An elderly lady looked at me funnily, and I suppose I looked a bit silly.

"I didn't know it was someone's job to trim the pine trees", I said to her. "Did you?"

She shrugged and smiled. "It's just to keep them beautiful. Better for us to look at, no?"

And it's what I adore about living in Italy. Beauty lies in the little things here - in Umberto up in the sky, making sure the trees are pretty for us before we open our sleepy eyes every morning.