Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's a lovely day in the neighborhood!

Thees eez my friend 'Suzanna tutta panna'.
Thees eez from a leettle Italian nursery rhyme and means creamy.
Luana at the fabbrica calls Susie thee-sa because of
her white skin and hair.

I have been making up a little story about my friend Suzanna.
She likes to cut-a the heads off of dee sunflowers with her knife-a!
She keeps dee chickens, and she dresses in dee clothes
of her dear departed Mother.

She is the talk of Umbria!
And in her spare time-a, paints dee pottery!
Dee maioliche.

Obviously, I have too much time on my hands tonight.

We went to Orvieto today.
When I download the photos I will tell you more about that.

We have-a new neighbors as of yesterday. They are traveling with a leettle bird, and I have-a to keep an eye on Suzanna to make-a sure she doesn't confiscate it, and turn it into a pattern at the fabricca! She says he ees a CUTIE, but I know she has dee ulterior motives for thees-a 'Ricky Bird'.

Our neighbors tonight have given us some bread that the wife has-a made. It is very hard roll-like bread! The husband tells us how to prepare thees Italian specialty. First you take this hard-a bread, and sprinkle a leettle, very leettle water on it. Next, you place the sliced pomdori on top. Add some olive oil, salt and some pepper, and voila! You eat it happily.
Suzanna tutta panna, would like to also add a little basil,
but no one has provided it yet today.

We have been lucky with people giving us food. Ubaldo has provided us with fresh tomatoes from his garden. Luana has given us fresh eggs from her chickens, and now this bread comes out of no where. The neighbors also insisted that we take some tomatoes that they brought from their garden, and they also offered some hot peppers, which I will particulary enjoy.

We will have this for breakfast tomorrow. I will make sure to take some photos of this.

Their little bird is a love bird. Its partner passed away, and the bird is now on the road on vacation with the family. My sister used to have a pair of love birds. The coloring in this Italian one is slightly more different, more yellow green, and pale pink cheeks, and a lovely turquoise, called celest - sky blue, on its back when it spreads its wings. The bird is called Ricky!
And he likes to sit on the head of Suzanna tutta panna.
So that is what is going on in our neighborhood.

Strada dei Vino Cameria

Such a gorgeous bunch of grapes.
I stopped at a winery this morning on my way to Montefalco.
It's somewhere bewteen Bettona and Bevagna
along the Strada dei Vino Cameria.
I dropped Susie off at the fabricca and decided to just take my time driving to Montefalco. I said to myself, today is thhe day that I will stop at the Etruscan Tomb, at the foot of the village of Bettona. Bettona has a gorgeous silhouette, but I haven't got a photo of it yetl. That is a goal for me. Maybe tomorrow.
The tomb sits right on a curve in the road, and is always upon me before I know it. But today, I slowed down and stopped on the side of the road.
Here is the entrance, which was locked.
There were also quite a few cobwebs between the grating. But I stuck my camera through the holes, and here is what was inside.

Stone sarcophagi. Emptied of their contents.
And 'loosely translated', it seemed that all the gold and silver
was taken to the museums in Perugia and Bettona.

Bavagna was the next landmark village on the roundabouts.
Susie had taken me there our first day here.

I didn't drive up and into Bevagna, just around it. Below was a flat valley with lovely farms, each and every view was paintable. The morning sun is relentlessly bright and my eyes always feel a bit fried.

I fell in love with this farm, which doesn't look like much here. I intend to paint this someday from a photo. I did contemplate painting it from life, but the road was a fairly busy one, and I was pulled off in a precarious place to take some photos, and also made a rather quick sketch in my book.

Not far from there was the entrance to a winery.
One can see these trees all lined up for a long time before making the turn to get to this entrance. I drove up, having already pre-decided to buy a bottle of Umbrian wine.

I tasted three red wines from Umbria. The strong blackberry-flavored wine, Sagrentino, was the most unique and tasted the best. The woman said, "forte". It is forte, and the only place in the wrold the frapes are grown is in Montefalco.

I paid 17.50 Euros for the bottle and went on my merry way.

As I pulled away I saw was greeted with a view
that I think everyone feels they will see in Italy.
It was lovely in the morning sun.
I continued to climb higher and higher past outstanding views
of farms, olive groves and fields of vines.

I arrived in Montefalco about 10:30 am.
I parked in the large parking lot just outside of town, and walked up and in through the wall. Not too far up the road was a church on the left. I went in.

More gorgeous statues, and frescos.
I really liked these small frescos, each about 8 x 10" in size.
What fresh and wonderful color in these angels.
And I love the look of dread on the face of the guy with the hat!
And who went around hacking of the face of Christ!?
There were three reasons that I decided to visit Montefalco, the local wine, the Museo di San Francesco (used to be a church), with a 6 Euro entrance fee, to see the 'sumptuous fresco cycle of Bennozo Gozzoli on the life of St. Francis' Rough Guide, and also one fresco by Perigino, among many others. No photos were allowed inside.

And the third reason was,
St. Clare, not the one from Assisi.

Just read what the Rough Guide has to say about Saint Clare,
and tell me that you wouldn't want to experience this!
'Probably the most bizarre sight is the mummified body of St Chiara, which languishes in the otherwise dismal church of the same name, five minutes walk from the San Francesco in via Verdi . . . ring the bell, and if the nuns are not deep in prayer, they may show you around the adjoining convent - a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at monastic life, where you can see the remains of the saint's heart and the scissors used to hack it out. The story goes that Christ appeared to Clare, saying the burden of carrying the cross was becoming too heavy; Clare replied she would help by carrying it in her heart. When she was opened up after her death, a cross-shaped piece of tissue was duly found on her heart. Other strange exhibits include three of her kidney stones and a tree that miraculously grew from a staff planted in the garden here by Christ, during one of his appearances to Clare; the berries are used to make rosaries and are said to have powerful medicianl qualities."

So, fortified during lunch with a little Sagrantino wine, I went in search of the church and St Chiara. It was easy enough to find.

Here is the church, and below a poster near the door.
There was information about two events that
took place earlier this month. DRATS!

I walked all around the sides of the church that were accessible, but no bell anywhere. There was this knocker and sign on the door.

and beside the sign, this knocker.

I knocked loudly, three times, but no reply.
I wasn't the only one disappointed, but I expect that the nuns are tired of the knocking.

I liked this little iron door in the wall. Just about 5 x 6 inches. Don't know exactly what might have been passed in and out of the convent through that little door, but I can tell you that there was a piece of crushed up paper stuffed behind it, most likely by some pesky tourist, or a cheeky teenager.

Susie wanted to know more about St. Clare, so I went online last night and did more research on her. Wikipedia has quite an article about her life, and there were numerous sites from the Catholic Church. Info is out there. I found one photo of a mural with Christ planted that cross in her heart, and one picture of her heart in a reliquary.

But not to leave you disappointed, I am posting three photos of a mummified person that was in the first church I went into in this town. let me tell you, Umbria is not for the faint of heart. And Montefalco is home to more Saints than any other town in Italy!

I think I still prefer the burning ghats of Varanase.

I did go on to investigate the term 'incorrupt body', which is what they described St. Clare as having. That is another thing to investigate on your own, if you are interested. It's the state where the body doesn't decompose after death. No smell, and the flesh is pliable. Evidently, according to one article that I read, this state only happens to devout Catholics. The research is out there if you have a need to know.

The things you learn traveling!

I got very lost coming home yesterday. I just couldn't find the small sign that said Bavagna and drove around for way too long trying to get back. I did get this lovely view of Trevi, and a nicer way to end this entry.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Catching up!


Here I am with the 'custodian'  of the church at the portal of the church in Torgiano that I wrote about yesterday. The folder in his arm is a family history of his two sons that are living in America. One son is a policeman in NYC, and the other is in the legislature in Buffalo, NY. He is showing me an envelop from one of them with the NY address and pointing out his address in Italy.

And here is the painting that I did.

Susie and I have decided to buy this place and make it our 'scuola' in Torgiano.

I am sure that the new atelier is
as old as this wonderful tree trunk!

And just down the street from 'wild boar pasta'!

Tired tonight. I had a full day of touring, eating, shopping, a little drinking, and of course getting lost on my return from Montefalco.

And to calm down, Susie and I cooked a great dinner,
and had some white wine from Cantina Tundernum.
Grecchetto di Todi
I read that this is now the rival of the Orvietto.

I think I bought it when we returned to Todi to get my sketchbook.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Torgiano Adventures

I am sitting in Susie's room, at her desk,
drinking my last glass of:
'Aglianico del Vulture'
Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Cantina di Venosa
Venosa - Italia

I bought this bottle at the Deruta grocery.
It was a toss up between a rosso wine called Violet 2011,
or this 2007 'Vulture'.

Of course, Vulture won hands down,
but I haven't forgotten the Violet.

What to write about this evening?
The trip to Firenze - we didn't go into Firenze,
been there, and had a mission to go on,
someone to meet.

No, not tonight, even though
we did stop in Cortona on the way home.

I have no photos downloaded from yesterday, and no photos downloaded from today, so I will post photos that I like while I tell the story of today. And since I know that Audrey likes the coffee and pastry photos, Audrey, these are for you, from the same wonderful local shop with the apple pastry.

This outrageously wonderful cake had star fruit,
and berries and leaves.

Wouldn't you love to be able to whip out a
cake like this at a party?

And the espresso ristretto.
High test. No more than 2 tablespoons.

Today, Susie and I decided to go and paint. She didn't want to go far, and we decided to go to Torgiano, just north of Deruta. They have a great tower that we look over at each and every day, several times a day. Actually, they have two great towers. One is fortified and large, restored, or as the guide book mentions the Italians are doing, overly restored. It is impressive from the road, but I like my antiquities a little less restored.
The second tower is the campanile - the bell tower of the church.
Together, they make for a wonderful skyline.

Simonetta in the front and Laura and her fine Roman nose in the back. We were dicussing our respective ages and Simonetta was making the sad face over her age. That was until I told her my age. She looked at me hard and said, "Well preserved."

I realize that this entry will sound a little disjointed, but hey
'the Vulture' is in charge, I think.
Talk about your Vulture!
I took this photo in Assisi.They were having a medieval fair.
You know I wanted to buy one of these masks,
but I didn't even ask the price.

Now, back to today.
Susie said she could just paint a view that we passed of the village up on the hill, with the trees and vines below. She said I could drop her off. I turned the car around to look for parking. She said I could park on the side of the road, but I am not officially Italian yet, so I thought I'd park in the church lot across the street.

Turned out to be a great place cause we stood in the shadow of the church,
and there was shade the entire time from the church.
Of course in the first few mintues we were there, up pulls a car with an elderly man in it. He rattled away in Italian to me, and of course I had to confess to him that I had no idea what he was actually saying. Still, I figured he wanted to know what we were doing. Once we explained, in English, that we were painters, he gave us the green light to stay there and paint. He drove off. So you see, he doesn't need to speak English, and we don't need to speak Italian, and it works somehow.

From the church in the old town of Deruta.

Susie painted an 11 x 14" canvas, and I did an 8 x 10".
Of course the old guy had to come back. He had done the official thing in the car, and now he was coming to visit! And another old guy showed up as well. The man in the car was the custodian of the church. He talked away and away to me, and I just nodded and said "really" or "si" and he keeps talking.

He is telling me some history of the church, and takes me to the building itself to show me some graffiti where people have carved the age of the church. 1625. But carved there beside it is 1267.

Finally I say to him with my hands,
"You can show me inside the church?"
He says he can.

I figured he'd let us paint for a while. But he was back with the key quickly, along with his  daugher and granddaughters. She spoke great English, and we learned that the church is only open for special occasions now. Weddings for sure, as we saw lots of confetti, or sequins that they must throw at the couple as they come out of the church.

From the church in Old Deruta.

When the custodian opened the door to the church and spoke
with his resonant voice, I could already hear
the echoing of the sound inside.
It was a lovely church indeed.
chiesa SS. Crocifisco (sec. XVII)

For some reason, I stepped inside and just had to sing one note, just to hear it. My Father, many years ago was in the basilica in Pisa and said the guide sang a scale for them to hear the acoustics. Eight notes. Daddy said when the singer was on the last note, he could still hear the first note in the air high up in the space above him.
This acoustics in this church were very much like this.

I asked the daughter if it was alright if I sang a song. She misunderstood and started telling me something about the church. So, when she finished, I asked again. She said it was fine.
I was very nervous, but I sang three verses of Amazing Grace. I sang softly and very loudly, and it was wonderful to hear the sound in there. 

The custodian and Susie got out their cameras and phones and recorded it, and the church. I haven't seen or heard any of that, but it was a very special moment for me, and I think for everyone there. Oh to sing in a space like that!

We finished our paintings and went up into the village itself. We went into a little place for pizza, but no pizza today. Not enough traffic to warrant firing up the oven on a Sunday. So I had of all things, pasta, yet again. But this time, I got it with wild boar!

I have been wanting wild boar every since Jeff told me he had some in Tuscany two years ago. This one, Jeff, was in a red sauce, and quite good. The surprise for me was that the lady told me small noodles, and it turned out to be large hose-like noodles. About half the size of a manicotti, cooked al dente, and to perfection.

I was really tired after eating that.
Must be why they take a siesta.
I end tonight with a photo of the screaming kid in Assisi.
I hope that his Mother took him home and loved him.
Or, I hope that he kicked her all the way home
to teach her a lesson.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lemon Topiary Design

Above at the left, you see the first, and best,
oil painting that I have done here in Italy.
"Lemon Topiary", 8" x 6" on RayMar Panel
Copyright 2011 Debra Joyce Dawson

I have only painted four oils in this past week. Pretty sad on the oil painting side, but I have done several nice watercolors in my sketchbook, and also spent many days painting in the fabricca.

It all started because Susie felt I was here and should at least paint something as a keepsake. We combed through the bisque ware and I chose a round pot that I would use for pens or small brushes. I needed inspiration for a design, and the only thing I could think of was my lemon tree topiary. Below is the pot with that design on it.

It was painted effortlessly and without much thought. As I have already said, I did a lot of ceramics in the 1970's when my daughter was small. At age two, she was also in the shop painting some pieces alongside me and my Mother.

The next morning we went to the local market, and I found a lemon with some branch still attached and bought it. I took it into the fabricca and painted it on the back of this piece.

The back of the pot. And at the top you see the indentation
where Riccardo holds the piece with some pliers.
This is all fixed at the end after it's painted.

Just a freehand lemon applied with no sense of importance. The last touches were to add some stripes. One in green and one in bright orange. On tihis piece I did it myself, after watching Katia do it for Susie. I thought, "How hard can it be with a little wheel to sit the piece on and just touch the brush to the edge?" It wasn't too bad, not perfect, but okay, and I left it as a record of what I could do at that time.

Next day, in comes Ubaldo, the owner. He says to me, "This is very nice. You should do it on a plate." I asked, "A small plate, or tray?" "No," he said, "on a dinner plate. One in dark yellow and one in white."

So it was now back to the bisqueware. I painted two dinner plates, this time letting Katia do the stripes. I took her advice on color and placement. After all, she is an expert at painting and also at maioliche, and she would be tasteful about it. The finished plates looked great, and they have also been sitting forever on the sidelines, on a board that when filled with our stuff would be carried to the kiln.

The hand of Katia painting a boar design.

I had the afternoon now to kill, and a little rectangular plate to paint. Katia suggested the a holly branch from the tree outside. She picked one for me, but I felt the design too complex, and in the end, not really what I wanted. I sketched some olive branches with green olives, but Katia didn't like that too much, most likely cause it was all grey green. So, I walked around the workroom searching for something to paint, and taking photos of the women and what they were painting. On the sidetable were a set of plates with the designs pounced on them. One had a duck, another a rabbit, and much to my excitement, a boar, on the third! Katia was working in this set of plates. She applied all the striped first. I took my drawing book over to the table and sketched the boar in my book. That was what I was going to paint. She had a catalog sample for colors, and the orange background just made it that much more exciting for me!

Her linework was fine and sure, but she has a brush with just a few hairs. I will have to post the picture of one of the brushes they use for line work. We don't have one of these few hair brushes, bit it would help. At anyrate, you see the thickest of her line, and here is mine!

My happy boar!

A woman from Holland, who now lives in Italy, said she liked mine better because the pig had character, and a smile. Not that it's a contest. I was just thrilled to be inspired by this old design. And I will have a new soap dish that makes me very happy.

And my pig all finished and ready and waiting to go into the kiln.
He was carried away yesterday to the kiln, and they will fire on Monday.

Yesterday, we learned that the light yellow that Susie said 'was the white' that Ubaldo wanted wasn't correct, so I painted four more plates, as some of the plates will be left with Ubaldo. He loves my design (of course we haven't seen it fired, so who knows) and is going to take the samples to new York and show them to the buyer at Bergdoff Goodman!
Yikes! Wouldn't that be fun for something that started as a keepsake.

Sorry if there are lots of mistakes,
we are off to find a place near Firenze.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Assisi or Bust

Apple tart with cappuccino on the way to the fabrica.

We got up late. DRATS! My plan was to get up early, but, it didn't happen. Afterall, we didn't go swimming until 10:30pm. And I said I was going straight to bed, but I did the blog last night. Susie said she was up at 4:30am doing email, and then back to bed at 6:30 and she got up when I did.

We had some cereal, cashew nuts, I had yogurt and she gave us each a half a fig and half a red plum for breakfast. We have no coffee here, and we usully get it at the fabricca when someone offers it. But today, I said I was taking her to the place that I stopped at on the way to paint a pear orchard.

Here is yesterday's cappuccino, after two sips.
I knew there was writing in that cup.

I ordered, "Due cappuccino, per favore." in my best Italiano! Yeah right.
Susie spied the apple tart; I dare not look at those things.
She asked if I'd eat half of one of those if she got it.

I ate my apple thingy, and took my coffee in hand to look at the other pasties.
You can do the translating on this one and the next.

This one is a mystery, so if anyone knows what it is, please let me know.

I dropped Susie at the fabricca to do what she came here to do, work on her pottery line. I decided I needed to do what I came here to do, landscape painting.

I headed in the direction of Bettona, where Susie had taken me the afternoon we arrived in Deruta. You can see Assisi from there, and the hills are covered in olive trees. There is an Etrusca tomb on one bend that I'd like to stop and see, but I can't figure where to stop to see it. There's also 'old stuff'' like Roman mosaics in the town itself.

There are some safe pull offs at the edge of an olive orchard,
and that was where I decided to set up and paint.

This is what I attempted to paint. It looks so simple in this photo, but it wasn't.
I wasn't totally dissatisfied with my painting. I sure did do battle with it. I will have a look see tomorrow and decide if I think it's got any of the character of this place.

It was shady and cool where I stood to paint, but I was extremely thirsty at the end of the painting. I downed my small bottle of water fast on the short drive uphill to Bettona. Instead on going inside the walls of the town, I drove around the outside of the wall. There was a lot of parking available, and several spaces directly across for a view I admired. I parked and got out with my sketchbook. I decided to paint, but I felt tired.
I should have had an espresso! But I didn't think about it.

It was all there: parking, shade, and a view; yet, Assisi was calling me, and I wanted to see if I could actually get there and back. I got back in the car, thought about it, got back out of the car, and in the end, got back into the car, and started the drive to Assisi by the back roads.

Susie said she didn't think it would be good for me to go there by myself. But I did it. The trip there was easy, all roads lead to Assisi, or to Rome or to Perugia. I navigated the roundabouts easily to Assisi.

The parking was a different story. I actually was motioned into the 'smart parking lot', the first one I came to, downhill, or below the church. I actually went into that parking lot, got my ticket, and decided that wasn't the one that I needed. It was indoors, with elevators, and I was unsure. So I left that lot. It didn't take any of my money, maybe because I was in there a minute or so. Now I was switch-backing up the hill to the top of Assisi. Little did I realize I would end up at the wrong end of the town.

I parked with no problem,
and had to walk all the way downhill to the
Basilica San Francesco.
Centro of Assisi, with the fountain!

Before I reached the 'centro' of Assisi, I stopped to ask a man how far to the basilica. He said it was straight ahead, only one way, about 12 minutes. I kept my mind on the time as I had to get back to get Susie no later than 6pm.

Yes, downhill and sometimes steep. (Thank heavens Brad, our old trainer, had made us do so many stairs! It sure did help me today.) When I reached the centro, I looked around to make sure which corner I'd come out of for my return trip.

There was a medieval fair going on.
Here's what I found interesting there:
Leather masks!
this Rembrant-like artist.
Had I known, I'd have brought down my easel
and joined him as he painted.

I followed the signs and finally came out at the other side, and there she was!

No photos are allowed inside the basilica. No entry fees either! I entered and found myself taken back to my first visit here, walking around with a graduating senior, and ancient studies major. She was a Giotto fan, and we walked around the murals together and I listened to the passion in her voice as she talked about these masterpieces.

I visited the tomb, and viewed the relics. St. Francis died in the 1200's, and they have his habit in a glass case. It's in pretty good shape, with lots of patches. There are several other items there, one that I found an oddity. It looked to be a piece of skin, like someone had cut it from aorund the eye socket of someone, and included some of the cheek skin. I haven't yet read the phamphlet that will tell me what this was.

I left the basilica satisfied that I'd seen the Giotto murals,
and that I'd driven there without problems.
I took this photo just outside the church.
Call or visit this website.

I climbed back up the hills, some harder than others. Along the way there was a screaming little boy. He was Asian in decent and the way he was crying I am sure that most everyone thought that he was lost. However, his Mother, or guardian was standing right next to him.

A passerby woman tried to comfort him, and he reached out for the woman standing there with her arms folded. I could only see the back of her, but her body language was of disgust, and when he reached for her in fear of the stranger, she backed away from him. She was showing no mercy in the shadow of the basilica.
I wondered what the story was, but I didn't want to watch it.

I took two photos of them and continued my climb to the parking lot.

Once there, I got out my parking ticket and tried to insert it in the macine to open the gate. I figured it would show me how much i had to pay, and I'll put the money in the slot. NO! I had to ask someone that was coming in. He was very sympoathetic to my cause and tried to help, but in the end he asked the car behind me to help. Two young men, and after a little discussion, they said I had to go to the kiosk at the other end of the lot and pay and then come back with my stamped ticket. That was a small price to pay to have them help me figure this out.

I was driving the route I'd come in reverse now.
Things were moving along fine, but I wasn't seeing the signs for Bettona at the round abouts. I got off into a town where I didn't want to be, and finally asked a young man how to get there. Simple he said. he pointed and explained in limited English.

I found the roundabout and it said Bettona, it was straign ahead, but so many roundabouts and none of them from then on saying Bettona. I floundered thinking that I was missing the sign somewhere, and so I found a man in his garden and stopped to ask.

My opening line is, "No Italiano." If they speak English, they do as best as they can. I just show the map and say with a question in my voice, "Bettona?"

He motioned to go straight ahead, about 2k, and pointed to the mountain, mentioned a bridge and he was correct on all accounts. Nice little man.

So I was back to get
Susie at 5:30pm.

Whew! I am not proof reading.