Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A DRIVE IN TUSCANY ( Bagno Vignoni)

In Italy, Autumn can take you by surprise with an
astonishing amount of rain, which means that you don't
take the sunny days for granted, you make the most of them.
Since Tuscany is only a twenty minute drive from Panicale
Elizabeth and I decide to 'fare una gita', take a day
trip to the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany.

The road between Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia is not just getting from point A to point B, it is a panoramic theatre
at its very best.

Come here in Spring and the Tuscan hills are green and lush
with new growth.

Return in Autumn for the desert like expanse
punctuated with the oasis of green surrounding villas
dotted with Cypress trees.


There are places, if you are fortunate, that find you 
on just the right day.
Bagno Vignoni is just such a place. It's a
Terme (mineral water bath) where people have been
coming to to 'take the waters' for thousands of years.
Relatively recent Italian luminaries such as St. Catherine
of Siena, and the Florentine Lorenzo d'Medici ( Lorenzo
the Magnificent) have bathed here.


The main piazza is dominated by a large rectangular
piscina (pool) where , fortunately, nobody is
allowed in the water.

There is a smaller more private pool with  a small shrine
to Italy's Patron Saint, St. Catherine.
If one wants, there are numerous spas in the hotels that are
around the town.

St. Catherine's pool

But, as always, now it's time for lunch. We walk to our
favorite restaurant here, Osteria Del Leone
for some 'al fresco' dining.
Pasta and grilled meats or fish.

Osteria Del Leone

Autumn in Tuscany

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


AUGUST 24th, 79 AD.

Mt. Vesuvius is a sleeping volatile giant ready to reawaken at any moment.
It looms above the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum, named for Hercules.
 Standing at the rim of the
excavation site one can view the haunting remains of the town, once prosperous 
and flourishing, it is now a ruin. A town that lay buried under 60 feet
of volcanic ash until its rediscovery in 1709.

Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. 
I find it nothing short of remarkable that through letters of Pliny the Younger, who
witnessed the eruption from sea, along with archeological excavations, the
eruption of Vesuvius can be dated to 
August 24th, 79 AD., to the day.

Herculaneum is on the Western side of Vesuvius, where as Pompeii was 
located in the path of the prevailing Southeastern winds on that fateful day.
Herculaneum was subject to extreme temperatures  and buried in ash from the blast, as 
Pompeii suffered vast destruction and loss of life from the pyroclastic volcanic material, fires, ash, poison gases and extreme heat ( 500 F.).

Herculaneum was build at the shore of the Bay of Naples and was largely residential.
In general it was a wealthier town than Pompeii.
Walking through the site we find remains of once elegant homes, surprisingly intact,
with remnants of decorative wall paintings and mosaics.

Romans used public baths, divided between men and woman, so Herculaneum being a Roman town, had baths and the structures can be seen here. There are remnants of pipes and plumbing (lead),
 that brought water into and out of the baths and homes.


The homes must have been exquisite with their patterned mosaic floors and finely painted
decorative walls.
Many of these homes were designed in a Roman fashion with rooms off a central atrium 
which featured an open roof directly above the pool. The rainwater  that was collected by
the pool  then went to a cistern beneath the room for household use.
All quite civilised and inventive, as well as being very beautiful,
Form and Function.

Typical patterns on the floors at the site.

I must say, I found myself surprised that in many of the buildings visitors are allowed to walk on these wonderful and ancient mosaic floors, as we moved from room to room.

Fragments of color in these frescoed walls is eye-catching. 
The dominant colors are, red. blue, yellow ochre, white and black.

The first excavations at Herculaneum was in the 18th Century ( 1738).
It is interesting to note that during the 'Grand Tour' wealthy Europeans, on returning home after visiting the site, brought the idea of these wall colors into their own homes creating a new fashion.
'Pompeii Red' was especially popular.

The artists first incised the design into the plastered wall. Design motifs might
include architectural elements such as columns, pediments and door casings. most 
being geometric in design.

Elements from nature, such as birds were frequent subjects as were mythological
motifs, gods, figures and even still life images can be viewed on what remains of these decorative works on walls and ceilings.

A wall once pristine and finely painted now abstracted by the 
cataclysmic event.

I was struck by the beauty of this painting. Its elegant design and use of color is stunning.
It is possible to walk right up and get a close view of the details of vines, figures and decorative elements, as if you were a guest at a banquet.....which indeed you are.

The scale of this atrium is grand. The upper portion is decorated with columns.
As it is with other homes, one enters through a foyer then into the atrium, with pool. 
Off the atrium are smaller rooms, such as bedrooms, that would have also been decoratively painted in a such a wealthy household.

The Enoteca.
Here is the place where wine was stored.
Wine as important then as it is now!

And finally....The Fish and Neptune ( Poseidon) floor mosaic.
This is the one James wanted to see.
Thankfully, this is roped off and cannot be walked on.

A few thoughts from this visit...
First, James and I recommend a visit to Herculaneum, which is now a 
UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Excavations continue, but now more attention is being paid to the human and environmental impact 
on the buildings, wall paintings, mosaic floor tiles, etc. Preservation and conservation 
issues are being addressed.

It is thought that only 25% of Herculaneum has been excavated. Also, originally it
was believed that everyone had escaped the fierce last phases of the eruption, but human remains have been found in more recent excavations, yet nothing like the human loss at Pompeii.

The last eruption of Vesuvius was in 1944, causing minor damage.
No one know when the next eruption will happen.

 The negative human impact, graffiti.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


I have been thinking about this for some time now, a new Blog focused on Umbria.
Today was the  day to get started.

The new blog is called:

There is so much to be said about this extraordinary place that I felt a need to record it here with words and pictures as my journal of Umbria. This is an ancient land of beauty, kind people,
 food, wine, art and a long history.

Sunset over Lake Trasimeno is an event in itself. The warm glow creates
a softness across the farmland that sits below the hill town
of Panicale. This is a place James and I feel so at home.

Follow along on our journey :

Saturday, August 11, 2018


The More Things Change,
The More Things Really Change

Still Life with Oranges  in a Basket ( detail)
James Aponovich

Years ago ( By that I mean anything more than last year) in the 
New York art world, Summer meant that come July or August the
galleries closed and everybody fled town. New York became a
ghost town. Now, with the Internet and Art  Fairs everywhere it
is business 24-7 / 365.

Hirschl & Adler Modern, the gallery that represents me, 
decided to organize an exhibit of  current gallery artists and pair them with
artists from the past of their collection. 
The show was curated by
Lauren Riggs and Yarden Elias.

Severin Roesen (1815-1872)
Two-Tiered Still Life with Fruit
oil on canvas,  30" x 40"

They asked me to select two of three artists who have influenced me.
Hmmm. Since they didn't have any Giovanni Bellini's I decided on three American artists,
one being Severin Roesen.  The curators then asked me to write a few words about Roesen's 
influence on me and my work.

This statement is hanging between  the two paintings, mine and Roesen's

Little known fact: This painting, Still Life with Oranges in a Basket,
was done while I worked on a portrait of my friend, Robert O.

Portrait of Robert O.
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

Still Life with Oranges in a Basket
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

By the way...

Hirschl & Adler
is now in The Fuller Building
41 E. 57th St.
New York, NY

Copyright 2018 
James Aponovich

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Our hands have been in the dirt for the past few weeks.

With the gift of good weather  James and I have set out to
work in our gardens. This year it is somewhat of a different task.
While we were away in Umbria eating all the foods that were in season there, likewise, here in
New Hampshire a woodchuck was dining in our garden. It ate well.  I
discovered this caper on my first real look at the perennial border. Something was wrong,
I observed large gaps where by this time in Spring young plants should have emerged.
The first big clue..... all the missing Tall Garden Phlox, there was without doubt a
critter in the picture and it was most certainly a woodchuck. Phlox is a known  delicacy to
those garden raiders.

Strange, I though, other plants were also  on the Missing List; a large stand of Astilbe,
Baptisia, and Coral Bells. Were these plants lost due to winter kill, collateral damage caused
by this digging varmint or  simply eaten by it?

A garden restoration project was at hand. The damage was done but to keep from allowing any more James put up a critter fence, above ground and below.

We visited our favorite nurseries to replace plants, then got ready to get our hands dirty.

First on the list was to clean up the mess, filed holes and then prepared to replace plants.
Once the restoration was complete, then the usual weeding, edging
and mulching was left to do.

With the work complete it is time to share the view.

This is a private garden. It is tucked behind a wall and the house with a gate at the entrance.
It is an extension of our house and can be viewed from all of the windows on the southeastern side.
This garden is an intimate space where stepping out the back door lands you right into it's
midst and like any room it can be walked through. A  small bench in the shaded end of the border  provides a quiet place to sit. This is a very private place that requires an invitation.


On the other side of the gate is another area under a stand of hemlock, this
is the Shade Garden. James and I ( mostly James) have been gardening
in these beds to stay cool and out of the sun.

Again I would say that this area is an extension of the house yet it goes beyond that,
inviting itself to be visited. The cool shade welcomes you to  refresh
yourself and to sit and rest awhile.

After marathon weeks in the dirt, we have taken back our garden.

Time to take a break in the shade.

Favorite Nurseries

Walker Farm
Dummerston, VT.

Spring Ledge Farm
New London, NH

Wentworth Greenhouse
Rollinsford, NH

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

VENICE....Small Bites

The palazzos of Venice float on the lagoon and canals, or so it seems.
A city that seems impossible. It is easy to find that you have walked miles, crossing countless bridges over charming canals, that at times are clogged with gondolas. Gondoliers duck under these bridges and somehow negotiate through the other boats.
Narrow alleys lead to open piazza's where people fill cafe's and benches while children kick soccer balls or chase the pigeons.
After all the walking it is good to duck into a bar for  a glass of wine and a bit to eat.

Our favorite place for Cichetti is in Dorsoduro, canal side.
It is called Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi.
A perfect stop for a late afternoon snack.

 If you plan on sitting outside along the canal they will give you plastic.
If you are staying inside (no seats) real glasses and plates are in order.
On this day, we stay inside. Take a look in the case and decide what you want, then order up a glass of wine.

Smoked Swordfish  with a drizzle of Balsamic and a large caper, Tuna with
horseradish and a drizzle of dark chocolate, Whipped bacala, Gorgonzola with walnuts,
Cipolle with Anchovy.......on and on.
 Small bites on toothpicks!

Refreshed! Back out to do more exploring in the magic of Venice.

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi
Fondamente Nani 992