As I traveled over the past 20 hours, from car to plane to train to car to feet, I considered the layered stages and vehicles necessary to move from one place to another across the world.

I marveled at how relatively easy it was to go from the beginning of my journey at 10 am Monday in Seattle to eating a peach as I type on my iPad in the kitchen of Il Nuovo on Tuesday at six pm. (Thanks in no small part to Tony Costa Heywood, who not only picked me up, but had my 47-pound suitcase brought up the hill on the motorized cart.)

The interstitial tissue of our transportation systems ultimately unites us across the world at the same time that it divides us: the more car-centric our urban centers become, the less obvious we become to each other. The less obvious our world becomes to us.

So, what does it mean that in 2010 I’m studying architecture, urban design, Italian food and a slower lifestyle in a secluded Italian hill town? Why is this work relevant to anything?

When I arrived, NIAUSI intern Jonathan showed me around my new home and within seconds we were in Tony’s garden, where 5 cats and several turtles reside – in addition to rows of tomato and pepper plants and herbs of all kinds. As we talked, I met two neighbors who are interested in cooking meals together.

I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly 10 years, and nothing like that has happened to me – even when I owned a single-family home. Living for about two seconds in Civita, many things become more obvious, people being the primary element.

There are also bells that chime out hours, echoes of tourists discovering the alley behind my house, birds chirping, tomatoes ripening in the sun, bees buzzing in the garden, a breeze that floats in through the open window behind me.

These are simple, enjoyable things – the elements of life. These are things that we overlook in our everyday lives for many reasons: jobs, cars, deadlines. Yet, we are continually drawn to spend time in places like Civita – and to preserve these places – because they feel special and real to us. They are a reminder that, when we pause to allow things to become more obvious, life is really rich indeed. In fact, I see us as a society moving closer to more people- and experience-focused lifestyles as the economy and urban growth patterns continue to shift, and things like mobile chow-downs are evermore in demand.

I’d dare say that, actually, the lessons I’ll learn in Civita may be more relevant than ever, as we begin to rediscover ourselves as a human society.

Here’s to pulling back the first layer and seeing what lies underneath. With that, I think it’s time for dinner…