Saturday, May 31, 2008

Arezzo, Cortona and Fish Night

May 29-30-31

Oh my....what to say, what to say! So much to do and what to pick to talk about. The day after the trip to Florence, we did laundry, rested up and made a reservation with our hosts here at Casa Rondini for "fish night". Previously they'd called it mussel night and we'd gone somewhere else. I'm fairly unsophisticated when it comes to various seafood you might say. But, what the heck, we decided to go anyway. We ended up with an insalada with eel, and something else that skips my brain right now. I was shocked that this dish was so good so I perked up some. The New Zealanders dining with us that night pronounced what we were eating or I mostly wouldn't have known. Well, I say that I still would have known those baby octopus and I think I spied a snail. We even has a cuttlefish,crawfish, mussels, and some anchovies.........oh me, if I hadn't been too embarrassed I would have passed on the anchovies. I went ahead and got out two of them...Probably the best anchovies in the whole world if I could eat two. .They had a lot of garlic, oil and spices so that helped. The fried calimari was good. Wish I could remember what one of the other main dishes was with all the veggie stuffing but I can't. We had a lot of courses including the wonderful torte with ice cream. One of the people from New Zealand informed us our host, Franco, had been a chef in, how lucky can you get!

Can't wait for Pizza Night sometime before we leave.

The next day we made a drive to Arezzo and found a good parking place, walked around, ate again (of course) and happened upon a great little art supply store where,of course, we found a few things we couldn't live without. I KNOW I WILL PAINT GREAT WORK WITH THESE PAINTING KNIVES. Or they will become a good souvenir of the trip. . We then stopped at an outlet mall on the way back that we heard of....but mostly USA brands. I did find a Moka pot to take home that was a good deal.

Today, we took our time getting out and about and then headed for Cortona. You have to go to the town where "Under the Tuscan Sun" was filmed, huh! We found a good place to park..........and lo and behold, a neat little shop with art glass jewelry. Woo-woo....just couldn't pass up that lovely bracelet and Carolyn got a great, unique ring. Nice young artist guy there, too, to tell us about his work.

We did another of the wonderful lunches there...........this time the Bistecca Fiorentina...very delish. Then since we had all that food, we had energy for another marathon climb to another church, Santa Margherita. Mass was being held so we could only glance around inside this beautiful Romanesque-Gothic church.

I did make a few pictures in Cortona, none at Arezzo but decided to share a picture of one of the many rose bushes right here at Casa Rondini. There are wonderful beds of roses and other flowers all over this place. I told Carolyn I never knew Italy loved roses like they do here. They are everywhere you go, from the lowliest to the fanciest homes and businesses........even the gasoline stations.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Firenze, Italy

Florence/Firenze..........May 27-28

Hum, what to say, what to say! What can you say about places with such a long history. I'd visited briefly before and went to the main museums (Uffizi and the Academia) but really didn't know or see that much but take in the old city near where we stayed.

This time I stayed at the same location just off the Doumo Piazza but had Carolyn with me. She teaches art for sure, I had a font of knowledge right there with me. She's also been there many times in the past.

So we made the rounds...and I do mean rounds and at about 92 degrees and many miles of steps we were bone tired by the end of the two days.But, I digress as I'm prone to do . Carolyn had never been to the Santa Croce cathedral so we went there that first afternoon. The next morning we set out for another place she's always wanted to see and hadn't......The Basilica of San Miniato Al Monte (top of the mountain to you, and especially to me. I thought I'd never get to the top of the steps that seemed to go on to infinity. If there is a place like this worth the effort of the climb, this one could be included. It is so beautiful, this 1000 year old church.

The night came and we decided to go to Il Latini, a restaurant my daughter and I had a good time at previously.We shouldn't have as we were so tired we felt ( or I did anyway) it an effort to eat and smile. they seat you at a table with 4-8 people communal style. Our bad luck was to get seated with a young woman who looked about 15 with her boyfriend who looked over 40. She was from Kent England she told us...and did not deign to make another comment even when prodded (graciously of course )...her date was nice and the other people on the other side were too far away with her in the middle to converse with much.

So .........early in the morning we got up never dreaming we would have the energy and headed up to the Basilica mentioned previously. We're doing pretty good for two old (nah) broads. And, we got in a little leather shopping running around as well.

On the way to the train station to return to Umbria, Carolyn took this picture of me in front of the Baptistry at the Florence Cathedral. And I took hers.

By the way........Carolyn's blog for this trip is located here. I'm sure we'll have some overlap but much with a totally different perspectiv.

May 26 addendum Al Fresco

Later that evening of the 26th, we cooked a chicken breast cutlet, made a salad with some fresh peas from the garden here, walnuts, tomatoes, leeks from the garden and a vinagarette, and a pasta with tomato and percorino. Carolyn also steamed a couple of artichokes from the garden here. We served it outside on our front terrace with some of the house Bianco. to Florence in the morning on the train.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Video experiment

My friend, Carolyn, took my two little camera videos and sized them down with some program her son gave's in I-phone cell format so it should be easier to show up on the internet..........hope I loaded it. We will see with this experiment...

Montegabbione and environs

Sunday, May 25

We spent much of Sunday with laundry, trying to get on the internet to upload a blog entry interrupted the previous day. Finally, I got my entry and pictures uploaded but was in the middle of an IM sessionwith Cynthia when it went out again. No more internet for the rest of the day/night and none this morning on Monday as well.

We were talking with our hosts and accidentally (and fortunately for us) found out there was a celebration of some kind (religious) in the little town down the road...Montegabbione. They outlined all the major central streets with chalk and filled in the spaces with flower petals to "paint" symbols of Christianity. We got there early before a procession of some kind would wipe them out and took pictures and generally just took in the sights and preparations. Very beautiful, indeed. And so interesting to find the continuance of celebrations such as this that have come down probably from the ages to the present day.We left before the procession to head to Citta Della Pieve (one of the favorite towns for us around here) for another "celebration/procession" there. We found an ideal observance point in a small bar with outside tables right across from the main staging area. There was supposed to be jousting somewhere but we must have misunderstood the timing since we never found/saw it. We were there to record on two short two minute videos the procession through the streets. Men wearing robes........all religious, etc, children (some so small to have their mamas escorting them, and the men having to bear the weight of numerous crosses and symbolic heavy decorations of all kinds. Forgive me for not knowing what much would mean as I'm not grounded in Catholicism at all....nor in art history. The videos are almost 200 mg each for two minutes each. I have no knowledge of compressing them so they can be up/downloaded so will have to figure that out at some point. The little Canon camera is great for these little short recordings. As an aside, we met some nice people from Cheshire UK there for a choir performance...but it started too late for us to hang around and still get back early enough to have something some dinner on the way back to the apartment.

We went back through Monteleone d' Orvieto to stop at a place known to our hosts for barbecue and pizza, La Tana del Gufo (OWL) Wonderful thin crust Capricciosa pizza for both of us and a small bottle of the house Bianco. I think we may go back there again before leaving Umbria as this is on of the little towns we can see from our back terrace.

The rest of today (if no internet returns) will be spent trying to figure out what will fit in the small rolling laptop bag (sans laptop) for the trip by train to Florence early tomorrow morning. Or maybe also to just wander around as we are prone to do. The sun is shining ...or comes and goes and we can hear the tractor and our host hard at work on the place.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Surprise on the way to Deruta

Sunday, May 25

Yesterday I was able to get through to the Residenza Proconsolo and make a reservation for Tuesday night. We can also stay an extra night if we decide to. Will take train from Fabro station near here to Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence. We should have a 10 minute or so walk to the B & B. Having stayed there before, I know you only go out the front door and walk a block to the can even see it from the window of the room. We'll be missing my Mississippi Art Colony friends as they will be arriving the day after we leave. Maybe we can still meet up in Assissi after the 31st.

We decided to make the drive to Deruta yesterday........known all over the world for their ceramics. When we were driving along...........whoa, suddenly the road filled with goats. It was a large herd with its own "shepherd".........a herding dog. The dog barked at them to get the move on and over to the side of the road and barked at us for taking pictures of his "babies".

Deruta was nice enough but we stayed a short time as they were preparing for a big celebration right there where we were for their soccer team's big awards/celebration for wins.

We didn't really see that much of Deruta probably since the town was preparing for a celebration/awards ceremony for their young soccer players to celebrate a big win. We did see quality work (according to my non-knowledge of ceramics) there in several shops we went in. One had PR posted on the wall about their work's quality.....from the NY Times, no less. One other shop sends work to Neiman Marcus and to All Things Foreign in Snyder Plaza, Dallas, TX. I'll have to remember to look for this in both places later on down the line. AND the prices were better for Olio bottles there than in Siena. I'm in the market for a new one so will keep looking as I broke one of mine not long ago.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our Place In Italy & stuff

Gosh, it's Saturday again..............May 24.

We've not been early-birds around here.....but why should we be unless we have to get somewhere early or make a connection?

I'm sitting here with my little espresso at internet this morning again. (Are you getting tired of that old refrain?) I wanted to check out the weather forecast for this coming week in case we want to go to Florence (Firenze) for an overnight there. The sun is shining this morning, birds chirping and it looks like a beautiful day to come. I think we've had some kind of drizzle or mist at some point every day though so things could change.

I hear from home that the farm house now has a new roof...minus the captain's walk. It is hard to picture it without it but I'm sure before I know it I'll be used to it. Curry says the grand- kids will be with him some as their sitter is going for some college courses. They will be good to keep him company and they have so much fun over there.

Maybe later I can get through to the Residenza Proconsolo to see if they have a room next week....then a trip on the train from Fabro to Firenze.

In the meantime, I finally got a picture of the entrance to the lane lined with olive trees.........our home away from home, Casa Rondini.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Friday, May 23

We planned on having an internet catch-up day today and making cannelini beans. Without the internet coming back on (wonder if they close down the router at night), guess it will just be the beans.I just chopped some garlic and onions, added sliced up proscuitto to some olive oil, added the soaked beans and a dash of pepper, basil,etc. and am cooking. Guess we'll know how they turn out later. Wondering if I can throw in a handful of rocket (arugala) from the garden here just before serving.

Left for Perugia about 2pm since nothing is open from 1:30-3:30pm anyway. Had another nice trip to the capital of Umbria...More traffic here of course, but we made it through. It takes driver and navigator and sometimes a few times around the round-a-bouts. Good thing those round-a bouts.

When we got home Carolyn's daughter was IM-lng with her and asked if we bought chocolate...Darn it I forgot Perugia was famous for chocolate. At least I ordered chocolate in my caffe while there.

I took some pictures but found my own shadow arresting as I scanned around looking for something to shoot...........maybe I should call it my self portrait.


Thursday, May 22

Still no internet this morning. Good thing I had my bills mostly paid before I left but I need to do some other financial tracking as well as all the mail piling up. Surely nothing major has happened or I would have gotten a call. Also no way to check the weather forecasts or check train schedules or make reservations for an overnight if we want to go to a place out of our driving range.

The idea for today is to go to Siena..............or maybe to the abbey at Mt. Oliveto I visited the other time.

Wonderful trip to Siena. I found the perfect bag for my camera and long lens, too. Since I brought all this camera stuff in a rolling laptop bag with the laptop, I really didn't have a good way to haul it around while out of that bag. Woo....this red bag can hold my XT Rebel and the 70-200L lens. You can't see the shape here but it can be used as a small back pack or over the shoulder bag. Carolyn got the yellow one....aren't we Italian now with our smart, colorful bags!

We also had some sun for a change.....yaaay! And a gelato again on the way out to the car. We allowed NUVI to guide us some of the time. When we decided our route (without the toll road) was best, we just didn't listen to all those "recalculating" messages. I may have a new painting next year called "Recalculating".

WE HAVE INTERNET at to wade through 500+ emails, contact people, etc.I did the usual bank stuff, talked in a fashion on Yahoo Voice with Curry..and IM with Cyn. After our Bruschetta supper with Chianti...we went back to the internet and it was GONE.......


Wednesday, May 21

We decided to head to Todi today. We're hoping the internet will be back in service by tonight when we return. When we got down to the parking spaces, some of our neighbors had company who had just come from Todi and it was raining. We set out anyway in the hope it would be cleared by the time we got there..........NOT. We also could not find a parking spot except down outside the walk UP UP UP.........whew this was the steepest climb so far for walking to a duomo. Everything was closed at first but finally opened up. Not much of a picture day with all the drizzle. I took some shots without the telephoto of the panoramic views and a few in the piazza....none allowed in the duomo when we go in. We had a good sandwich and beer at a bar as all others were only of the expensive hotel ristorante kind.

No internet when we returned.

Pasta night

Tuesday ...May 20

Progress on internet connection...I don't know! I saw Bozena on the roof of the building where I think they
have Ethernet connection, placing/looking at cables. But it could be we had a storm last night. WAY in the night I vaguely remember hearing what could have been high winds and rain. It's hard to hear that sort of thing here inside the buildings with the tile roofs and thick stucco. We have some rain collected on one terrace but it has receded on the other....a bit brisk, too, it appears so out will come the under-silks this morning.With the rain like this we may be doing laundry and making a run later for the supermarket.

Tomorrow will be one week since we arrived and still "unconnected". My server may be over loaded....MAY, I must say PROBABLY. I should have gone no-mail on all my yahoo groups and still would have been overloaded.I hope my art dealers aren't trying to email me with expectance of my quick reply as usual.

When we talked to Bozena she said that everyone in this area with the wireless company is having the same trouble. The IT people won't even answer the phone as they don't want to climb up on the clay tile roofs in the rain.It is not good for any of their business any more than it is not good for our communications with people from home.

We are fretting that we can't share our pictures and fun time. Oh well, that's the way it goes sometime.

The pasta night was great as expected. We all made our pasta as Bozena instructed with 100 grams flour, 1 egg and a pinch of salt and then ran it through the pasta machine (hand cranked). Then we used the ravioli crimper and used a ricotta and spinach filling.Franco served them with three different sauces...a tomato based, a sage white based, and garlic and basil. We also had bruschetta as a starter. Our dessert was some sort of tart with only 1 tablespoon flour with ice cream. Wooooo..way more food than I'm used to consuming on a regular basis.

Our upstairs neighbors from Wales, Andrew and Wendy, will be leaving in the morning. Some of the other group are going to be doing a walk across UK for two weeks. We will get new neighbors today.

May 19

Nothing really planned for today (Monday) other than trying to find a bank for the last traveler's checks and paying the parking ticket at a post office. Since they both close after 1 pm, we headed out. No bank we found would cash AMX or any other traveler's checks but did find a posta for the ticket. Then we just meandered back to Citta' della Pieve to see cathedral to see the Perugino, Alfani, di Paolo pieces there.

Then on to Montepulciano .....looked around there at the cathedral, ran into people from College Station,and had a late lunch at a cafe for a "touriste" menu that was a much better deal than some we've been finding. Fantastic bruschetta, ravioli with spinach and pine nuts for me, lasagne with asparagus, artichoke and shrimp for Carolyn, vino of the house ) rosso di Montipulciano and caffe. We bought a bottle of the house wine (Le Berne Rosso Di Montepulcino 2006) take back to the apartment.

Got a sudden playing of Margaritaville (my cell phone ring tone ) but didn't answer as I didn't recognize the area code of (+1 501)..........hope it wasn't anything big.

Still no internet......really perturbed about that as we'd counted on having connections, at least most of the time. Will have to check with Franco and Bozena later to see if they know anything about when it will be back on.

Drizzly day today, but wonderful views......EVERYWHERE! They don't call this the green center of Italy for nothing. We could do with a day to do laundry and internet.


Orvieto duomo is absolutely stunning. That's about all I can remember of this post from May 17th that I couldn't upload due to the internet service being down here so long. Must have hit the wrong key when cutting and pasting it from my computer program diary just now.............light indoors from lamps in Europe is never good as they use small wattage lamps, etc. and I don't have a lighted laptop keyboard.

Take it from me, it is a beautiful place.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Yesterday was spent just driving around the immediate area. There is a painting in every curve in the road or corner you turn here. While roaming to Citta della Pieve we stopped for a very late lunch at a bar in town .....................and for dessert?? you guessed it, GELATO.

Don't you wish you were here?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Learning new skills

This is one good reason to have internet access at your agritourisimo in Italy.

We we're sure how to use the only coffee maker in the kitchen.........a small stove-top expresso maker, called a Moka pot. When I got online I found this you-tube video.

it's great to have wireless although right now this one comes and goes. Hopefully, it will be ON all the time later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Italy 2008... wow-wee

I'm not leaving home, I'm taking it with me. Or that's the way it looks as I pack up my clothes, laptop, and electronic/camera stuff for a month in Italy.

So far nothing has been written in stone about what I'm taking. It's just all laying out here on the guest room bed waiting to be closed and finalized for sure. You ask.....didn't you say one time you're never taking two (2) checked bags to Europe again? Well, yes, I did, several times. BUT, in thinking this over with the 50# rule for checked bags, I decided that a small bag extra would be a good idea for possible overflow coming and going. It will also come in handy for trips on a train (ask me how I know that one). Okay, okay, it's just an excuse, but a very plausible one as big bags on trains are not a good thing.

Being there for a long time, we may want to go farther afield a time or two and stay over night so the smaller bag will work.........and if not, then it is easy to loop the handles over the larger bag with wheels. The laptop bag holds the laptop, all the camera gear, toiletries and a t-shirt. Who knew how many extras you can have when you have to have all those chargers that go with the Nuvi with European maps, I-pod, phone, two cameras and lenses. Hum...gotta fit in all the vouchers and other stuff that pertains to the trip and a book or two..............where oh where is it all going?

We leave here for the Houston airport Tuesday morning for an afternoon there is a little time to take stuff out if needed, or heaven help me if I think of anything more to add.

Casa Rondini, here we come!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Colony Painting

I finally got the pictures out of my camera last night of the work I brought home from colony. I haven't had a spare moment to try to get through with my last canvas. Boo Hoo...with the ways things are going it will be here waiting for me when I return from Italy mid June.

This particular on is the one I mentioned being a little different from my usual paintings. In that I don't have such a direct landscape reference. I tried my darndest to NOT have a horizon line but when I turned it around as I painted it just looked better this way and seems to still have a horizon of sorts. I have no idea where some of these come from. Our visiting artist who comes around while we're painting to discuss our work with us, thought it suggested American Indian or western symbols. I suppose in some ways she might be right. You have to look close at images like this one on the internet to see the pencil markings and tracings running throughout some areas. AND, what could the big circle denote? I could go looking/searching but I know that many civilaztions used circles as symbols.

SO, with that said, the tentative (man, I hate being tentative) title for this 40 x 30" acrylic on canvas is Symbol Tracings. Also, noted..maybe a tiny bit got cut off at the bottom of the image.