Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Postcard from Umbria ...Panicale Wisteria

It is raining at the moment, but the weather has been splendid. The wisteria and roses are in bloom. There are red poppies appearing along the roadside and the broom is about to become yellow with flowers.

Panicale is alive with wisteria, along ancient walls, on trellis' and over arches.
So graceful and fragrant.
Of course, now I want a wisteria covered pergola in our garden.
James, well he is not so sure.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dream Garden of La Scarzuola

Have you ever gone to a place and then afterwards
 said to yourself, "well, that was something different!"

The other night we were at a garden party at Stew's, and after too much wine, Elida said she was going to show us all a surprise tomorrow.
After a harrowing half hour drive, we arrived at La Scarzuola, outside the town of Montegabbione.

Elida's friend Marco gave us a private tour. He is the nephew of the architect, Tomaso Buzzi, the designer of this miniature fantasy city based on the celebrated Hypnerotomachia Polifili, a nearly incomprehensible
(did we say nearly?) philosophical romance written in 1499.

Believe me this is not your typical outsider crackpot that builds entire cities out of bottle caps.
It is all constructed of local tufa and tile, and it was designed to decay. To become a ruin.
It is all about referencing the past, to be in the present while anticipating the future.

We leave La Scarzuola, through a tiny key hole door.
We did not dream at all that night.

Photos courtesy Stew Vreeland and his amazing technicolor camera.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


A beautiful sunset over the Umbrian landscape. We were on our way to Il Pelicano, a pizzeria, to meet friends, when we came around one of the many hairpin turns to find this.
James was driving so I took a quick shot of this grand sunset and the cloud above.
Looking back at Panicale I noticed it was awash  in a golden color from these last bits of sunlight.

Elizabeth & James

Thursday, April 10, 2014


One of the materials we use in painting is turpentine, in Italian it is called Trementina, with the stress on tina. Although Elizabeth and I bring some supplies from our studios, we thought that the airlines and T.S.A. would have a dim view of carrying flammable liquids on board an aircraft. So, we only packed a few panels, paper , pencils and brushes, and the rest we would purchase in Italy. We thought we would be able to buy turpentine in any hardware store......not so easy! After asking around and being told we would have to go to Perugia, again, not so easy, Johnny Apodaca, a fellow artist, said that there exists
 an art store in Deruta, and they they probably sold turpentine.

Grazie Johnny ( and Janelle) per l' informazione!

That was good news since Deruta was on our list of towns that we had never visited and it is the leading ceramic center of Umbria, and that there is a very interesting church just south of town. Monday was a sunny day with warm breezes coming up from Northern Africa, we decided to take a day trip to Deruta.

There is Janelle .....up there in the window!

The Business Trip ( per gita affari)

Usually we try to avoid driving on the large highways due to congestion, trucks and crazy high speed drivers. Instead, we studied our map and decided to take back roads. 

It was a beautiful drive  through the Umbrian countryside, and after getting lost a few times we arrived in Deruta and after finding the wrong place after a couple of times, finally ended up at what looked like an abandoned factory....but there it was Mondo Ceramica, and they carried trementina, "Hooray!"
plus a whole bunch of other stuff. Artists turn into children in candy store when let loose in an art 
supply store.

The Shopping Trip ( fare la spesa)

Elizabeth and I are big fans of Italian maiolica and own a small collection of vases and a variety of plates. We decided that  on this trip we were going to start building a dinner service.
We saw Elizabeth Minchilli's book on Deruta ceramics, and then her blog post on Deruta and went directly to Sberna, one of her favorite shops.


After wanting to buy everything we calmed down and zeroed in on a pattern we both loved.

The woman that assisted us was very helpful. She showed examples of how to 'Mix and Match' these plates with pasta bowls etc. Sounded like a fun idea for table setting.

We are very excited about our purchase.
Little by little we will build a set.

The Pilgrimage (il pellegrini)

Chiesa Madonna Dei Bagni (Our Lady of The Baths)  or in one translation it is , Our Lady of The Small Bathroom, is a few kilometers south of Deruta. The story, in short, is that in the 1600's a farmer , Christofono,was going to town to buy medicine for his gravely ill wife. On the way he found a ceramic voto of the Madonna with Baby Jesus and picked it up and placed it in the crotch of an oak tree. When he returned home to his wife, guess what? she was well again. Your standard Italian miracle.

Behind the glass a plaque to Christofono and his wife, along with the oak tree.

A church was built on the site with the oak tree still in the ground inside the alter. The sick and injured have been making a pilgrimage to this church seeking and finding a cure . As thanks, they had commemorative ceramic votive plaques made in Deruta and put on the walls of the Church .

This has been going on for three hundred years. And what a story they tell.

injured in a fall

shot by highway bandits

 gored by bull

lightning stike

injured in battle

afflicted by demons

injured in a fall from a tree


Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Every now and then I thought it would be nice to send a picture postcard of Umbria.
Yesterday James and I took a drive over to Deruta. We stopped along the way to take photos of the magnificent spring landscape here in Umbria. Here is one of those photos.

Primavera has arrived!

James & Elizabeth

Friday, April 4, 2014


After enduring a relatively pain free and surprisingly quick overseas flight
 Elizabeth  and I landed at Rome's Fiumicino Airport Around noon.
We opted to take the train from the airport to Rome's Termini instead of renting a car at the airport. Our plan was to take a train from Rome to Chiusi and rent a car there.

Rome's main train station is called Termini and it was quite chaotic with lots of people wanting to help us out...................not so fast. When Italians see these 'helpful' people they would look at us and put their index finger to their right eye. Romas! Or as we know them, gypsies. 
Anyway, we made it to Chiusi, rented our car, drove about 20 minutes and pulled into Panicale around sunset.

The first thing almost everyone does upon arriving in Panicale is to go directly to 
Aldo and Daniela's Bar, Bar Gallo. It is the local hangout for everyone from kids to older adults. Nothing like a birra grande to wash away the airplane dryness!
Aldo phoned Katia , she soon met us at Aldo's and after a huge abbraccio (hug) she gave us the keys to the 'Pink Palace", where we found a basket of fruit and a litro of her families olive oil .  She took our passport information for the Carabiniere. Time to wash up and get ready for our first dinner here  at  
Il Pozzo del Gallo, owned by Simone and Lorena Gallo.

It seems the older you get the more difficult it is to shake off jet lag. It didn't help that we were awaken by the 'thump, thump' of a disco beat that lasted until 2:30 .This  we found later,was a special night for the kids in town.  Buono notte!!!

The first full day in Panicale was spent filling our larders by facciamo la shopping.

It is not one-stop shopping, although you do find large supermarkets open all day but in Panicale you still shop the old way. Fruits and vegetables are at the fruitta e verdura where Yolanda is proprietaria. Artichokes are in season as is wild asparagus and fave beans coming in soon.
Next Elizabeth and I shop at the maccelleria to see if Guilianna has any porchetta.
The last stop is Marconi Bottega where where we fill in the blanks. Linda kindly hand cuts , a mano, proscuitto. We fill our hand basket, pay and head back to the villa. We run into Andrea, part of the family owned Massolinos Ristorante. "Hey Sportivo ! come vai? " Man hugs ensue.
We are home.