‘A fascinatingly-detailed account of how a love affair with the mandolin became a love affair with Italy as well. It shows the lengths to which an excellent musician will go to become an even better one.’

Louis de Bernières, author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

The mandolin lesson
A journey of self-discovery in Italy

Videos: One Quest — Three Journeys

The Journey

My quest was simply to play the mandolin more beautifully. To do so entailed three journeys all of which were intertwined. The first was the physical journey of commuting from London to Padua once a month, first by train and later by air. As I embarked upon the apparent madness of re-learning the mandolin I also experienced an array of adventures as I travelled each time. Nothing was ever quite as it seemed and each trip presented its own set of challenges in a world that didn’t yet have emails and mobile phones, low cost fares or even a Channel Tunnel.

Italian Life

As time went by my trips seemed to be as much about the Italian way of life as about learning how to play the mandolin. The two things were inextricably linked. Unexpected friendships helped me to discover the customs, habits and way of thinking in the country of my chosen study. Italians are passionate about food, family and life, and they also seem to have a flair for knowing what is aesthetically pleasing. As a nation they have excelled in art and design, music, architecture and fashion. My experience and deeper understanding of a different culture nourished my quest to play the mandolin more beautifully.


The first journey was travelling to another country and studying music. The second journey was a cultural exploration. The final journey was an interior journey in which I became comfortable in my own skin and learnt to trust the process of life. I had been brought up in a world that believed doing what you enjoyed was somehow selfish. Eventually I found the confidence to do what I loved — making music — and to become absolutely okay with that. In a moment of epiphany I realized that it was not possible to bring joy to others from a place of fear. This journey is a journey we are all on — a journey to reconnect with our spirit.