Thursday, December 31, 2015


In New Hampshire the landscape has turned a frosty white and gray. The wintry mix that fell, and continues, is like concrete mixed with slush on the ground. The snow that clings on tree limbs 
creates a lace like and lovely view from our windows.

At last, we have a new range top in our kitchen so we can really cook once again! A duck ragu is simmering on the flame...............that takes me back to Italy 2015 and a pasta we had several times while we were there. I am not one to pass up a bowl of pasta!

PIENZA ( Tuscany)

I don't remember exactly where I had this dish of pasta, but since the pasta looks to be pici it was likely in Tuscany somewhere. My guess is Pienza at Latte di Luna.

Pienza, as it turns out is a favorite town of ours with it's Rossolini designed Renaissance piazza along with the Piccolomini Palazzo and garden with its commanding view over the Val d' Orcia of Tuscany.

This year our friend Stew, took us to a place that we had never visited, just outside of the town center. Biagiotta is a workshop and  retail shop, that we might call artisan blacksmiths.

It was fun to go back into the workshop and watch pieces being created in this family run business.
The answer to the question is yes, we did buy two sconces and one hanging light for our house here in New Hampshire. A reminder of our Tuscan adventure and in the evening a beautiful addition to the lighting in our home.


We made it a point to spend a large amount of time out drawing on site. We were both attracted to the 'ruins' that dot the landscape around Lake Trasimeno and the small villages that surround Panicale.

James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 2015

 James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 2015

I left my sketchbook in Panicale. I must return so that I can add to it!


a Birthday/ Garden Party


Music in every piazza , park and church!

Panicale's Campanile at the top of the town. A landmark that in profile defines Panicale.
A sight that always stops my heart.

Photo op....... James and Stew on our way to  Sant Antimo and Montalcino. Just love Italian road signs. And these two look like they are ready for some mischief, no!

 Stew's photo......Montalcino through the wine glass. No, not Brunello on this day.

The landscape that surrounds the church of Sant Antimo. Things are greening up and days are warming up in mid May. The church was "closed for a feast day" but a service was going on so we all stepped in and there was a mitre capped bishop speaking. We somehow found out he was the Bishop of Siena??? Quite an animated speaker and to top of the ceremonial quality there were Carabinieri in their finest uniforms flanking him!


And, while I have Tuscany on my mind, we made a couple of visits here to Bagni Vignone, a town we had not visited before. There are thermal baths here that have been an attraction for centuries.

A perfect place for a coffee and with warmer weather we are dining outside more often.

James Aponovich
Pencil on paper, 2015
Bagno Vignone


The people of Panicale are kind and we grown  quite fond of them and their piccolo paese .
We have made friends here, Italians, Americans, Brits, Canadians, etc., some live here others return as we do.

Sharing Prosecco before dinner is an often repeated ritual.

Hanging around the piazza just socializing.

Friends, Katia, ( with bambino and Massimo..a great family! Bar Gallo and the piazza are family gathering places as well as a meeting place for friends, or a quiet corner to yourself (sometimes!)

Cin- cin Janelle! and Johnny!


For James' May birthday I gave him a cooking class at Il Falconiere in Cortona ( Tuscany).
The instructor was Chef Richard Titi , master chef here at the Michelin Star restaurant  and resort.

A lesson in making pici pasta. Perfetto!

The end result...pici with fresh tomatoes and fave.

And, can't forget the glass of wine that came with the lesson.......and the lunch that followed!

We didn't know that we would be served  a lunch of all 4 courses we prepared in the lesson, paired with wine from Il Falconiere's vineyard, but we were pampered and enjoyed every sip snd bite.

Here is "our" Fiat 500L parked under an arbor of wisteria with a vineyard beyond.


The terrace at Masolino's is open at last!
Yay...time for an outdoor dinner there, hope Bruna made duck ragu!

At Masolino's Andrea refers to this as 'James wine!"

Flowers appear throughout town.
It was so colorful and welcoming.
This is where we do much of our shopping, at "Linda's!"


Katia and Massimo planned a surprise birthday party for James!
So sweet and fun.


We spent much time in this kitchen cooking meals here in the "Pink Palace!"
Cooking and shopping for food is one of the things we love about Italy.
Food is so seasonal that seeking out local ingredients is not spring it is wild asparagus, artichokes, fave is all fabulous.
Ciao! Panicale
ci vediamo in primavera.



 We spent a couple of days in Rome before leaving Italy. Lately we have been staying in the Monti neighborhood which is close to the Colosseum and Forum.

Many good restaurants, small shops and tiny streets to explore in this ancient neighborhood.

Arrivederci Roma......and Italy.....for 2015


HAPPY 2016 !

 Montalcino and Garden party photos: Stew Vreeland

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

WHY ITALY? PERCHE NO! ( Part I, March& April 2015)

It is late December and the first snow has created a landscape of white out my window. The winter has been kind so far, but we still have January and February in front of us to trudge through.
Memories of Italy fill my head and heart as I hear from friends and go back through photos from our spring months spent in that beautiful place, Italy.
So, if you don't mind I am going to share some of the riches of our time in Panicale, Florence , Rome and places that fall between....oh yes, and  friends too.

Our "home" when we are in Italy is Panicale (Umbria), a medieval hill town that looks over Lake Trasimeno.

Looking down from Panicale to the white road 'strata bianca' that cuts its way  through crops of wheat, across the plain. This is what early spring looks like, a welcome carpet of green.

Up and out early, here we are ready for a day out, but first cappuccino Bar Gallo....always!
"Ciao Daniela"!  "Buon giorno Aldo!"


Deruta Workshop

Handmade. James watching  as a craftsman in this workshop carries on a tradition in ceramics

I love driving down this road under the pines back to Panicale.

Aldo makes a killer Aperol Spritz!


Ponte Vecchio on a clear and still spring evening.

Alberti's stunning facade on Santa Maria Novella, which contains numerous masterpieces,one of which is Masaccio's groundbreaking Crucifixion.

Ghirlandaio's masterful fresco with this  procession of women.

a detail from the Spanish Chapel

time for refreshment!

Le Volpi e l'Uva
A favorite enoteca in the Oltrarno and  we  always know ( at least hope)  if we hang out here long 
enough the doors of Santa Felicita will open and a wonderful Pontormo painting will be there for us to see.  But while we wait.....


Here are the friends James and I are meeting.....Mark, Andi and Giuletta!

Knowing we would not have time for dinner in a ristorante  before a concert we were all attending that evening, someone suggested room service. Perfect and luxurious. Ah , so it was burgers.

The evenings entertainment was very American....James Taylor in Florence !
Getting a taxi home afterwards was a bit of an ordeal, but with Mark's phone and James' Italian , we all made it back to our hotels!

Meantime, back in Panicale....

a foggy morning walk

and the artichokes are in season!

That is late March and April in Umbria and Tuscany.
Are you seeing any common elements running through these memories. It is becoming clear it has something to do with, art, people, food, wine and a beautiful landscape.

May  2015 will be next, we  will see if that trend continues!