Saturday, July 31, 2010

Italian Adventure Part Three - Tuscany

If I had to choose just one place from this last trip to visit again, it would be Tuscany. Spectacular scenery, delicious foods, world class wines and a laid back attitude so appealed to me.

Our first stop in Tuscany was Montalcino. We parked the Cinquecento outside the city walls and walked in. (In most of the tiny Tuscan towns, only residents are allowed to drive in the town itself). We had lunch at a spot recommended by our guru Rick Steves, and of course, we were not disappointed! Anchovies with pesto, local pecorino cheese served melted with honey, gnocchi and a delicious salad. Very yum!

We drove on to our agritourismo, just outside of Pienza. Podere Poderuccio is a working farm with 4 beautifully appointed and modern villas for tourists. For just 60 euro, we had our own air conditioned apartment with a kitchen. Wow! This is a shot of the outside of the villa. Erika, the agritourismo proprietor, wasn't quite ready for our arrival, so we drove into the next hill town over to spend the afternoon.

Montepulciano is a quaint wine town; quiet, inviting and beautiful. When I think of my family living in Sicilia, this how I pictured things. Below you will see one of the first places we visited as we walked up into the city.

Do you see the name above the door? Ok, so it says "Cacciatori" and my family name is "Cacciatore", but it was exciting! I took a lot of pictures of doors on this trip. So many beautiful wood doors with unique looking knockers lurking on every street.

Matt and I walked around Montelpulciano for a spell and then settled into the outdoor cafe in the town piazza. They were playing the World Cup match of the day (England was slaughtered by Germany!) on a big screen. As I'd mentioned prior, it was fun to be in Italy during the World Cup and be amidst people who respect soccer as much as Matt and I do. The weather was mild, the house wine was tasty and they kept bringing us snacks. Pretty heavenly!

Before heading back for the night we found a little place to eat with inexpensive wine and enticing looking antipasto. Matt (who is allergic to pork) indulged me and let me order a cured meat extravaganza. I have never seen cured, salted pork in so many different forms! Proscuitto, salami, a jerky of sorts, plus three other porkie products I'd never even seen before. Amazing!

We struck up a conversation with the owners of the restaurant, a friendly husband and wife. It turns out that the husband is originally from Sicily and his last name is Torrisi. (The mom of my soon to be stepson Jack is a Torrisi. Small world!) The Torrisi's told us how much they'd like to live in the US and we told them about how much we'd like to live like they do in Tuscany. The grass is always greener I suppose.

I leave you with a shot taken from outside our villa at Podere Poderruccio. There's nothing quite like the Tuscan countryside. I promise that I will finish up my Italian travelogue in the coming week. Last stop: Roma.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wish I Could

Matt is away with union work, so I have had much time to catch up on art making. Besides the Greenwich Village show in September, it looks as if I will be doing two holiday shows. I've got to build up that inventory.

My love affair with the Bic pen continues. So many different marks can be made as well as a full range of values can be made. Plus, I just think its pretty darn cool to work with such a mundane material.

I've been inspired by Matt's Scandinavian design book, copyright 1961. I'm drawn to the clean lines and sparse spaces depicted in it's pages.

As soon as I started this last piece "Wish I Could" I knew it was going to have a melancholic feeling. There is an empty chair that seems to look out through the curtained window. The weather appears bright and sunny, so why are you inside? I wonder.

I don't think that this original piece will be listed for sale on Etsy. I'm keeping it for Greenwich. But, if you just have to have it, please let me know. I'm sure we can work something out. "Wish I Could" will be listed on Etsy a large 12" x 15" print shortly.

Speaking of "Supersized" 12" x 15" prints, have you entered the giveaway yet?

P.S. I promise I will finish up my recap of the Italy trip soon. I just got a little distracted.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Supersized Giveaway!

For years, patrons have requested that I "supersize" my work. I finally did it!

Meet "Meant to Be", my first 12" x 15" print. This is a big print of my original "Meant to Be" collage. This sucker will cover some wall space! I am really happy with how my original 8" x 10" work translated to this larger size.

"Meant to Be" was printed with my fab Epson printer using archival pigment based inks on 13" x 19" artist quality matte paper. The image is centered on the paper with a white border for your matting/framing convenience.

To celebrate my jump into jumbo, I'm giving away a "Meant to Be" print! (a $40.00 value)

Want to enter?

Just follow my blog and leave me a comment. If you already are a blog follower, just leave a comment.

The winner will be chosen at random from all those entered on Saturday morning 7/31, whenever I get my butt out of bed. (I'm so official aren't I?) The winner will be posted later that day.

Meant to Be is available for sale in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Italian Adventure Part Two: Verona & Florence

After 2 days in Venice, we rented a cute little Fiat Cinquecento (500) and headed to Verona. Matt was in love with this car and relished maneuvering the tiny thing on the crazy streets of Italy.

With the help of the GPS program that Matt had loaded onto his Iphone, we made it to Verona. I would highly recommend a GPS to anyone planning on doing any driving in Italy. Streets are confusing and not all that well marked.

We spent just a few hours in the city center of Verona, hometown of Romeo and Juliet. The "downtown" is centered around the Roman era Arena di Verona. Large scale productions like Aida are still held in this smaller scaled version of the Colosseum in Rome.

After a hot night without air conditioning or even a fan, we made our way to Florence. What a fancy place it is. Capri Moon, our bed and breakfast shared a street with Gucci, Burberry, and the Versace store. I couldn't get over the fact that one minute you could be luxury shopping and the next you're standing in front of a renaissance era church.

Florence is the birthplace of the early Italian Renaissance, so there was lots of art historical goodness for me to soak up there. The one thing that you can't really ever grasp via pictures is scale. Florence's Duomo is just enormous! I wish there was a way for me to bring all of my art history students to all of the places we study for this reason.

I could go on and on about the art work we saw here - Donatello's Mary Magdalene, Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, The Orsanmichele, the most extensive collection of the work of Botticelli in the world. It was an art lover's paradise!

The Caprimoon was one of our favorite accommodations on this trip. We were livin' it up with a TV, fan and an attached bath, all of which are not standard in Italian hotels. Every morning, we were treated to a great little breakfast in the dining room. I fell in love with "spready cheese" and salami on bread. Let me tell you, the cured meats in Italy were like nothing I had ever had before. You would be amazed at the vast array available.

After 2 days in the packed, tourist encrusted, and bustling city, it was time to head out to the country. Tuscany was our next stop....

More next time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Back!

Ciao Friends!

I've been home from Italy for about a week now, and am finally getting back into the groove of things. What a trip!

Our Italian adventure started off in Venice. Such an interesting city - no cars, just sidewalks and canals for boats. I loved the layers of age visible on all the buildings. Matt and I enjoyed walking around the Island and sampling the local foods like sarde en sour (sweet, pickled sardines). It sounds awful but really does taste delicious! Our travel guru Rick Steves recommended that we order "misto" plates when dining in Venice. A misto plate is basically a combination a restaurant's antipastos and boy was Stevie right on the money. One night we ate octopus, sardines, grilled polenta and mussels.....and that was just the appetizer!

On two separate occasions while in Venice, I ran into Travel Channel personality Andrew Zimmern. He was nice enough to take a picture with us. We didn't get to talk to him for very long, so we don't know what he was shooting. We'll be watching Bizzare Foods to find out.

Something else quite newsworthy happened in Venice....Matt and I got engaged! We're so very excited and so is the rest of the Mullin and Johnson clans. We are planning a "destination" wedding in California wine country for June 2011.

After 2 nights in Venice, we rented a car and headed south. More on Verona and Florence in my next post.