Welcome to the Online Art Gallery For: Deamer
  
 

ARTIST:




Marian Dunn

La Romita Staff


Enza


Ben


Edmond


Sandro
2010 Class

Alice


Andrea


Betty


Carol Dixon


Carol W


Diana


Dorris


Elaine


flora


Irene


Jack


Lisa


Pam


Rosemary


Sarah







Italy/La Romita Blog

La Romita School of Art, Umbria Italy
Click Here to Visit the La Romita Web Site for more on their art workshops in Italy


For all of us who have had an opportunity to attend a workshop at La Romita School of Art in the last 40+ years, we have all felt its magic touch our lives. It is a place to discover Italy, Umbria, Art and so much more. If our group is any indication, La Romita is a place that draws exceptionally interesting people who are a joy to be around and learn from.

View Deamer's Music Digital Art Video: Umbria Italy in Digital Colored Pencils



All of us have special times in our lives that we cherish for the rest of our lives. Most of us have special memories with our children and our parents. Some of us have had the opportunity to travel in Italy, which has left unforgettable memories for so many. In 2010 my mother and I shared an opportunity of a lifetime by attending the La Romita School of Art together, she as the teacher/leader of our group and I as her assistant. It was so special to spend this time with my mother who is not only an exceptional teacher but also a really fun person to just hang out with.


As wonderful as it is to visit all the hilltowns of Umbria, it is very special just enjoying the structures, gardens and inhabitants of the La Romita property. Whether it is walking through the olive trees, visiting the sheep, petting a cat, painting in the chapel, sketching in the courtyard, interpreting the various hanging art and frescos or simply having a glass of wine and visiting with each other in the library. The storms and sunsets can be spectacular with the observation advantage of being on the hillside overlooking the valley of Terni. The grounds and the fantastic meals are a couple of the reasons that a lot of non-artists also come stay at La Romita. To see images of the food and a brief description, see the end of the blog.


I think all of us hope to come back to La Romita and I really encourage anyone thinking about taking this adventure to go for it. To share this experience with a loved one will take your relationship to another level. If you bravely venture to La Romita on your own, you will not only find a fresh direction for your life but you will also leave with a whole new set of loved ones.


Having an adventure like La Romita so far from most of our homes, not only gives you the incredible memories like I share in this blog but it also connects to others in a way that is difficult to imagine when we set out on this kind of adventure. First of all, any experience in a country not of your origin, has a way of connecting you to the whole human race not just the citizens of your community or country. Secondly it gives you a new connection to those who care about you but are not with you for this excursion. Most of us do absorb some of the joy when those we know participate in something special like travel and our world also seems a little better by living at least a little vicariously through their adventure. When I ran off on my own in the late 1970's to the Swiss school of Franklin College, Lugano Switzerland, my long letters to and from my mother were epic moments in time. Now with the incredible luxury and immediateness of the internet, writing the blog not only connected me with many of my friends spread throughout the world but it also linked me to a lot of my extended network of customers from my restaurant who were on my mailing list. I am still getting surprised by how many people picked up on the blog and enjoyed vicariously the adventures of mine and my La Romita classmates. I had a great time sharing the experience with my girlfriend back home with daily emails and updates.

Click Here to Visit the La Romita Web Site for more on their art workshops in Italy

Rome (a few days in Rome before going to La Romita)

Of course I think of great art and history when I return to Rome, but I don't really feel I have arrived until I've had a pizza for dinner and then a cool gelato on a warm evening. What Seattle has in coffee houses Rome has in Pizzerias and Gelato. You could crawl from any Pizzeria to the next nearest and hardly stain your knees anywhere in Rome. It also seems the tradition of the forno, hot pizza ovens has been so passed on through the generations and the competition is so strong, that it is really hard not to get a good pizza anywhere in Rome. There is something about eating a Roman pizza that particularly returns me to the time 30 years ago when I lived in Europe. The way the Roman pizza comes whole, never sliced, makes me take it on with knife in the right hand, fork in the left and begin eating it one bite at a time with the European style of eating. It is a great comfort to return to eating a pizza like a European pressing my fork into a bite and then folding it over with my knife so it easily slips into my mouth. Ah, the thin almost burnt crust and the underlining olive oil flavor that separates it from a pizza in America. The pizza here is always so perfectly light and crisp, I think the climate actually makes a big difference-just the right amount of warmth and humidity in the air. There is something very comforting in knowing an inexpensive, delicious meal is around every corner and always available.

Gelato and warm Roman evenings are like clothes and walking. One without the other just seems wrong. Gelato may be the one thing more prevalent than pizza. It is virtually everywhere. In a bar, in a pizzeria, in the fine restaurants and there are lots and lots of shops specializing in gelato. Though plenty of gelato is licked, nibbled on and eaten during the hot days, it becomes the number one prop on warm Roman evenings as tourists, kids, grandpas and everyone of the walking and sitting families and groups, grasp onto a cone or cup of this smooth intensely flavored ice cream treat. Gelaterias are as famous here as any restaurant and the argument of which is the best will always be a heated discussion in Rome. For me the one that pops up right when I'm in the mood is usually the best. And like pizza in Rome, it is hard to find a bad cup of gelato.


Resting at my refuge, the roof top terrace where I have breakfast. On Thursday I took a take it easy day and stayed all morning writing and creating home made watercolor postcards

Rome2:

I've never been to Rome in the summer before. One noticeable difference in the summer is how many street musicians are out in the evening. The area around the Pantheon is particularly rich with musicians filling the historic narrow streets and grand piazzas with tones that gently bounce off the timeless stone and filter through the ally ways. These street artists fill the air with joy much like I remember in my trips to New Orleans in the 1990's and how they give life to the Paris metro. I like to carry a pocket of coins to pass on to these men and women who color our world as we pass them by.

Another difference in Rome in the summer is the size of the crowd around the Trevi fountain. I was a bit shocked when I saw the mass of humans surrounding what is perhaps the World's most famous fountain. It is an event in the summer time as people jockey for space so they can get their pictures of each other with the delightful array of water splashing behind them. Rather than being disturbed by these masses I just turned it around and enjoyed all the human interaction. Like the twenty something girl who sat kind of slumped against the wall in her well formed to her young shape of an opaque light green dress. She and her boyfriend talked freely and acted very relaxed as they shared a cigarette. What really caught my attention was how her whole body language changed when her man asked her to go pose by the fountain so he could take her picture. I watched her rise from her slumped position on the wall and walk to the waters edge like she was a professional model. As she found a comfortable position sitting on the fountains edge she once again raised her whole body including her lips into a radiant smile. I was amazed that I was looking at the same girl who a moment ago just kind of blended into the wall. Now, with a kind of vanity of posing in such a sought after visual delight and the appreciation she felt that her boyfriend wanted to take her picture, the girl of a moment earlier now looked like a beautiful woman.

I also appreciated how despite all the mass of tourists flooding the piazza surrounding the fountain that day, you could still see a lot of Romans enjoying a moment in this refuge. It is not only the beauty of the water display but all the grand varied architecture that surround the piazza. I enjoyed looking at a pair of obviously well to do Roman women with their filled shopping bags who were still able to take a moment in the sun and the peaceful chaos. And a very handsome well dressed dark skinned Roman man in his 60's who also was taking a moment away from the office or whatever place that made him dress in a suit and tie.

Perhaps the most interesting man was the thief. Just the way he moved gave away his unsavory intentions. I felt nervous just watching him. The way his head never stayed still as his eyes darted throughout the crowd, dancing around, checking every direction. He would even stop for a moment so he could check behind his self as well. He then slivered up to the fountain edge and starred intently into the water and its coins tossed in willingly for luck and a dream. It was at this point that I realized his general unkemptness. The scruffy unshaved face, the dirt spotted jacket and the tear in his shoulder bag. Once he was satisfied with his target he scanned the crowd one more time. It was later that I realized he was looking for any sign of a policeman. His next action was as sleek and precise as a heart surgeon. He pulled from the back pocket of his jeans a folded up car antenna that remarkably folded out to about 5 feet and had some sort of magnet on the end. In two quick precise movements his homemade thieves tool pieced the water and snagged two previously identified coins. In just as quick a movement his antenna was collapsed, back in his rear pocket and he was off quickly melding into the crowd. It all became more real when he reappeared 10 minutes later and repeated the whole scenario again.



Rome 3 - Trastevere

South of the Centro Storia part of Rome and across the Tiber river is the neighborhood of Trastevere. I have never had the opportunity to visit here before but when the suggestion was made for a rendezvous there, I jumped at the chance. Alice Strike a fellow attendee of La Romita School of Art joined me early in Rome and we had some fun adventures together. She had an acquaintance living in Trastevere and we agreed to meet her for dinner. This gave us a chance to explore this neighborhood of interesting history. It is as old as most of Rome but stood outside the walls and housed much of the poorer and less privileged folks centuries ago. It is now one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Rome and has been compared to a Roman version of Greenwich Village in New York or the Latin Quarter in Paris. In the day it houses a lot of artists American students--there are two American Universities in Trastevere, and people who just like to live in a neighborhood with a 'vibe-a certain energy.' At night it comes alive with packed restaurants, more clubby like bars, brightly lit gelato joints and a plaza full of street musicians and people just hanging out. The streets are narrow and wind around in circles and funky angles. Even residents get confused wandering the streets but no one seems to worry much about it because it is all a part of the fun of living there. Our local is not sure how the street graffiti got started but it has become quite the tradition as some parts of this 'artsy neighborhood' are plastered with street art from the road and walkways up to about 6 feet on all the walls. It is fun and disturbing at the same time.

It was really cool dining and touring the area with an insider. Alice treated us all to a great meal and we had a special Roman experience feeling like we belonged.

Umbrian Adventures


Magic at Carsulae

Carsulae is nestled on a high plateau on Mount Torre Maggiore. It was a rest stop on the Via Flaminia Roman Highway. At least that is probably how most Romans felt about any city outside of the all mighty Rome. There are enough ruins in this preserved park to imagine the Romans, their horses and their belongings enjoying a night or longer of restful replenishment and entertainment. The small village had a basilica, an amphitheater and a stage theater and it was a major stop on the Roman Highway that pierced Umbria. I spent and hour sitting in the remains of what was once a grand theater. Little did I know how appropriate this would be, but that is in the next paragraph. What is left is the basis of a strong circular foundation system, which supported a high arched vaulted ceiling. This must have been a very dramatic circular space, which supported the drama performed inside. The basic foundation structure and even some of the circular stone seating are well preserved. The structure was around 60 to 70 feet in diameter. The preserved seating is a well-formed semi-circle of six levels that probably sat around thirty people. Hard to tell what the remaining seating was like but I'm guessing it was made out of wood and maybe they whole theater housed around 70 to 80 patrons. The circle of brick and mortar foundation piers reminded me of a circle of old shoes. I climbed one and settled down and pulled out my travel paint set for a little work on some of my under paintings. This relatively brainless activity gave me a chance to imagine the life of the Romans and what this scenic spot looked like then. I also watched my fellow artists navigate the hillside and the ruins and enjoyed photographing those who settled down to sketch or paint. Later I witnessed the Shepard and his flocks settle into a nice grassy field for some sheep grazing and Shepard resting. The couple of black sheep in a heard of about thirty added a beautiful contrast to this sublime scene. The Shepard's trusty black and white sheep dog danced back and forth between the flock and the shady resting place of his master under the shadow of a beautiful grand oak tree. What a marvelous vision in this now peaceful preserve that was once a bustling center for a conquering culture.

As I gathered up my materials and headed toward the other side of the park, a magical, musical sound of young women began to fill the air. At first I could not see any of them though I could tell I was walking toward this clearly scripted dialogue. I was so entrenched in the beauty of these young Italian voices that I didn't even think of the irony of a play being performed today in front of me when I just left the remains of an ancient theater. As I got closer, figures emerged from behind some bushes and headed toward me. Ten, twenty something Italian women were practicing a play clearly designed to twist and turn around the ruins of Carsulae. I settled into the grass and wild flowers under my feet and began to film this most magical site heading toward me from the slight slope opposite my well-placed seat. To my luck and great joy, they wound themselves directly toward me and soon were dancing and uttering their scripted words all around me. These women were clearly professional for they all projected the words precisely and moved with the grace and fluidity of someone with a confidence only achieved through experience. Who ever choreographed this play really understood the way to have them cover so much space with an eloquence and playfulness. They moved for the most part in circles with a kind of soloist moving towards the center and making a kind of announcement or just a focal point for the troupe to dance around. As they paused for a moment to grab a role of yarn for their next scene, a joyful, beautiful long wavy dark haired girl, who had obviously witnessed me taking photos of them and enjoying their rehearsal reached out to me her camera and asked me in Italian if I would continue to photograph them as they continued their rehearsal. Though I did not make out much of what she asked, her smile and gestures made it clear what she was asking and I gladly said, Si, Certo, yes, of course. They continued for probably another 10 to 15 minutes doing a scene where a kind of leader emerged and stepped up on a large stone ruin and like Caesar addressing the crowd, she protruded words of authority and then grabbed their prop of yarn which had nine leads so the others could each hold on to an end while they all spun around the anointed figure of authority like a merry-go-around. The woman of the center continued to bark out words of I'm sure great meaning and the troupe would add a chorus of musical chants when she paused. The play was clearly a farce, set to a cadence that reminded me of Shakespeare's Midnight Summers Dream. As they slowed for some direction my mother called it was time to go. I held up the camera and almost as magically as their performance was, the appropriate Italian words flowed from my charmed tongue, “Mi dispiace, ma, andiamo ora.” I'm sorry, but, we go now. My new friend jogged over with her effervescent smile and thanked me profusely. Then before I could turn and walk away, the whole troupe broke into applause and cheer, which pulled a deep bow from inside me lead first by my left arm and since the applause continued I gave another deep bow lead in the other direction by my right arm. What a great way to start my Umbrian adventures.

Truly an Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame that rivaled my standing ovation from 500 drunks at 2am in Cabo Mexico, but that is another story. As I retold the story at that night's dinner many wondered if my left over pneumonia symptoms or drugs had caused me to imagine it all. If I didn't have several witnesses, I would have agreed with the doubters. Crusty New Yorker Jack, always quick with one liners, cursed under his breath, “Deamer walked into a flock of beautiful young women and go figure all that appeared before me was a flock of sheep!”


Cesi

Cesi sits up on the side of mountain with breath taking views of the valley below and the some good peaks at the slightly north hilltown of Sam Gemini. It is a one-bathroom town, an important measure for travelers. As you walk up from the parking area, the little restaurant/market houses the bathroom and also functions as a popular place for the locals to greet each other and have a quick catch-up on each other's families. One thing I've noticed in these small Italian towns is a quick greeting and a few questions about someone's family can turn into an hour discussion. I think of how different it is for me when I'm running to the store for a couple of things. I'm always in such a hurry that it is almost like I don't want to see anyone I know. Maybe this trip will finally help me understand what is really valuable.

I had a bit of a slow start as I started up the hill to the first of Cesi's two magnificent churches-yes I think it is a tradition if not mandatory for a hilltown to have more churches than public bathrooms. The first two people I passed and said “buongiorno” to did not respond at all. This made me a little self-conscience but I kept on exploring this adorable town. It is rather small. I'd say you can walk every street in an hour. Cars do slink their way up and down Cesi, but they are few and far between. The few cars are not intimidating for the streets can only be navigated at a slow speed. As I circled up one of the staircases I came upon a younger woman walking a quite older woman for whom walking was very difficult. I got a couple of good photos of them walking away from me framed by a typical Cesi narrow street lined with window flower pots. I then continued up another direction enjoying the nooks and crannies of Cesi and the glimpses of the farm patchwork in the valley far below. When I hit a dead end and retraced my steps the vecchia, old woman, was now on her own just shuffling her feet a little and facing me. She seemed to be trying to walk a bit on her own but had stopped for a break. As I approached her she looked up at me and we made eye contact. Suddenly a enormous smile lit up her tired and “I have lived long” face and she bellowed out a beautifully warm “buongiorno.” The beauty of this greeting from this woman who was probably not far from 100 years old, shot through my inhibitions and wrapped around my heart. She continued to beam at me as I returned her smile and her Italian greeting. I think it felt equally good for both of us to connect even for a moment with someone of such a different world.

Many of the workshop participants had pulled out their sketch book and gathered around the benches at the bottom of Cesi or in the Church courtyard just above with its spectacular views of the valley below. I first joined those down below and enjoyed a ciao and a nice smile from a lovely blond local as she and her wiry little white dog passed me by. When I joined the group at the church I had a special moment when I looked at my mother and all the other artists sketching away at the beautiful view and a group of locals. It has always been my dream to be surrounded by other artists doing what they love to do.

In the center of the church courtyard there is a bench, which encircles a tree. On one end of the bench was a man in his fifties reading quietly reading his morning newspaper. On the other end sat a well-dressed couple who were locked in a conversation with my lovely blond lady and her little dog and one other female local. Their grouping was very photogenic which inspired several of our group to sketch them and their joyful grouping also drew out my camera. What a marvelous scene of artists and some of the citizens of Cesi gathered together in a fabulously beautiful location. Ah, Umbria…


Valle San Martino

This little hilltown is hidden away from just about everything. As Edmond, the La Romita manager, put it, “I really don't know how it survives as a town.” This is another one bathroom town within its one restaurant. Apparently the bathroom is not always available so our Italian bus driver immediately checked with the restaurant to see if it would be open. The good news was yes but only from 10am-Noon. Since it was 8:30am, we all tried to take our mind off a bathroom break for a while. Since my lungs are still recovering from pneumonia, I try to get the highest climb out of the way first so I headed into the heart of the town and headed up. San Martino is really small in structures and amounts of people. The streets were very quiet though I heard a person here and there through their open windows. This town is really vertical. Virtually every house is on top of the one below. I took my time climbing up by stopping often to look and take pictures. I can't imagine ever getting tired of the romance that exudes from these century old hilltowns. In general the living spaces are very small by and privacy is at a minimum. The awe of the aged stone and various unchanged old artifacts blend so dramatically with the new additions and the prevalent show of floral displays. All the flower window boxes and the delicious pots and plants around doorways fill the stone walkways with magic. Reaching the top of the inhabited part of the town my eyes were not only rewarded with brilliant views of the surrounding hills and valleys, but I was also greeted by a marvelous stone wall covered with a variety of vines including grapes and blackberries. The grapes looked like a Riesling variety and I couldn't resist a taste since they looked ripe. Delicious. I was then greeted by a barking multi-colored mutt about the size of a small suitcase. It took awhile, but he finally calmed to my soothing words. It was then that I spotted my next old woman friend. She was slowly making her way toward me up a slightly sloped road that came from the woods toward the town. My lungs immediately bonded to her trials of only being able to walk about 20 feet before she had to stop and take a little rest. She was a tiny woman of about 5'. I continued to look around and take some more pictures. I turned my attention back to her when she was only about 10 feet from me and I greeted her. Her frame straightened up and she began to talk to me with words I could not grasp. I walked up to her trying to be courteous and hoping I might be able to understand her if I was closer. She continued to talk and I continued not to understand so I decided to take the offensive and try to tell her why I was there. She listened but I could tell she didn't understand my explanation that we were artists come to see and paint her town or the explanation just did not resonate with her. I looked in her bucket and saw she had eggs. It clicked that she had just come from the source and her words now started to make some sense to me. I recognized an expression we used as students while learning Italian 30 years ago when I lived in Europe: che fai - 'what are you to do?' I think of this expression kinda like what you might here from a New Yorker who goes on and on with some of the classic complaints of life in New York but finishes with, “ah but whatcha goina do?” I realized she was telling me how difficult life was for her as an old woman in San Martino, but “che fai,” what are you going to do. I still didn't understand much of what she said in between her utterances of che fai but I was able to node my head, give her a look of sympathy and add my own che fai. With a smile and a node of her head she tightened the grip on her cane and started her decent down a rather steep walkway toward her home. I fearfully watched her perilous decent and tried to imagine how many times she has made this climb and decent. I also wondered if her sixth sense could feel the pain and strain in my chest and that is why she spoke to me of her challenges. Whatever the reason I was very happy she smiled and spoke with me. I then started up the road to the chapel that sits above the town. My lungs burned a little but che fai.

Assisi

Assisi is one of the great pilgrimage towns of the world. This St. Francis guy has quite the following. I wonder if animals attempt the trek to Assisi as well, since St. Francis could speak to them and he did such a good job of educating us on the fact that animals also have a soul. If there is a city anywhere else in the world that has more churches per square foot of city, I would be amazed. Assisi has got to be number one. They pop out at you around every corner. Even Starbucks would envy this dominance. Although Assisi is Umbria's number one tourist town, it handles them well since there are so many churches, beautiful streets and amazing walkways.

I had a different priority mission as we headed to Assisi. While sick in bed the week before coming to Italy, I looked through my Mother's photographs of Umbria. I particularly liked a photo of a climbing Assisi walkway that was surrounded by great stone architecture and whose steps were taken over by some well placed travelers. In other words this scene had a lovely feel between the temporary inhabitants and its timeless structures. I went as far as to lay out the whole scene on a Bristol board and carried it with me so I could paint it in Umbria. Neither, my mother or any of our other veterans from past La Romita workshops recognized this place in Assisi so I was on a mission to find it and to at least part of the day work on it while in its presence. Once again bowing to the limitations of my weak lungs I decided to eliminate the high roads first so that I could work my way downhill. I passed through some wonderful walkways and roads and I took some great photos. I made yet another cat friend, this fury friend was all white except for some beautiful spots around his tail and head. He was very happy to have rub down. I came across a couple of kids making their way home, one carrying his bike. His colorful bike made him quite photogenic. It didn't hit me till latter that owning a bike in this up and down only town seemed like a true oxymoron. Eventually I got a little more than I was looking for when I climbed one very steep walkway and was actually above almost all the town. I didn't want to have to retrace my steps, a kind of an embarrassment to an exploring traveler, but I was uncertain if I could get back down to the town because this particular high road was all private villas with fenced off private yards. Just when it was looking helpless there appeared a sliver of a break between two large villas, which did in fact turn out to be a path. The path was narrow with a stone wall on the uphill side and rich greenery on the downhill side. So narrow that it would be a little tricky if someone was coming at you from the opposite direction. Its relatively gentle sloop appeared that it might not reconnect me to Assisi proper until perhaps the very end of the town. This would be a clear violation of me finding my painting spot but oh well, it would have to be a good adventure. The stone wall, like most of the structures was filled with the pinkish rose local stone that gives the whole town of Assisi a beautifully elegant shine. I never did see anyone as I walked on my private walkway toward an uncertain fate. It turned into a twenty-minute blissful walk where I could run my fingers through the foliage and across the beautiful stones of Assisi. I was also rewarded with occasional dramatic glimpse through the foliage of Assisi and the valley down below. Fortunately the path eventually cut back towards the heart of town near the end and I ended up in a good spot to continue my quest for my painting scene. My casual journey took me through some more romantic passageways and one block of particularly old stonework that had been rather taken over by pigeons. As I entered the narrow walkway I noticed an extra ordinary amount of pigeon poop lining the pathway. It took me a moment before I realized this meant danger, danger, beware of flying droppings. I then picked up my pace and I was thankful that I had on a hat. With some courage I glance up and at first I could see no pigeons or even ledges where they might be hanging out. Thus I stopped and really started to look over the silent but eerie walls. After a bit I started to make out a few pigeon heads and realized this spot had become such a pigeon apartment complex because the old stone had worn so many holes that they had just moved into all the crevasses. I managed to take a couple of photos and happily escaped cleanly.

I went down one more street which ended into a walkway that on my right headed down to a grand piazza and when I looked to my left I did a double take because on the upper side of the walkway I saw a familiar looking double door glass entry that was topped with a semi-circle piece of glass. I knew that door because it was the door in my picture. I swung my head back to the right and my excitement cooled, as the lower side of the walkway didn't not seem to match-up the vision in my head. I then swung my head back and forth until I was certain it was in fact my walkway, that my doubt was created because it had substantially changed in 15 years. I made my way to the bottom and looked back up from the angle of the original and then I could count off all the changes, but my mission to find this place had been accomplished. It got even better when I saw there was a couple tables from the café at the bottom that stuck out so you could sit there and have just about the exact view of the original photo. And as luck would have it the couple sitting in the corner table started getting up as I approached. I quickly slid into this dream spot and ordered a cappuccino. I proceeded to sit down and work on my painting right there as I had hopped. Shortly after I had settled in, I heard the echoes of boys singing. At first I thought they were coming from the church across the piazza but then I realized they were walking toward me on the street. Again I was in amazement of the magic of Umbria and Assisi. Earlier when I was exploring one of the zillion Assisi churches, a group of about 20 travelers suddenly broke into song that filled the church with incredible beauty as their words bounced off the century old walls. The boys looked like some sort of scout troupe and they stopped in the piazza, regrouped, and then started to again fill the air of Assisi with tones of joy. Magical!

I got so entrenched that I didn't have time to go to the Chiasa di Francesco, the church of St. Francis that people from all over the world come to see with its beautiful frescos and its older church underneath the newer one. I may have been the first tourist to visit Assisi who did not go to the Francesco Basilica. Good excuse to come back. Do you want to join me?

Casteldilago & Arrone

Two hilltowns east of Terni, our base city, are only a few miles apart and face each other. We visited both one morning. They are situated in really green and beautiful little valleys. It is really cool how you get great views of one from the other. It is difficult to get shots of the hilltowns from distant viewpoints when you are traveling by bus with a group, so the combo of Arrone and Casteldilago was a real treat. Casteldilago, castle by the lake, is now a misnomer because there is no lake any more. It is a really cute tiny town that we spent just enough time to climb to the top and back down. We were all enamored with the fig trees that grew right out of the ancient wall as you enter town. I don't think I've ever seen a fruit tree grow wildly out of something like a wall and still bear fruit. But these did and the figs were delicious. As I got near the top I met Luis, a white haired little dog about 2' long 18” high. He was a little barky at first but he calmed down and enjoyed a bit of a petting. Later when Andrea caught up with me, we met Luis's owner who proudly showed off Luis's ability to catch a plastic bone thrown in the air. He also showed us the way to see the high church and gave us a lot of explanations in Italian that we did not understand but we did enjoy his friendly enthusiasm. Then as we were quickly leaving Casteldilago for Arrone, Casteldilago is a zero public bathroom town, we met Ocherimo. Ocherimo, who spoke good English, explained his name means 8 Rhinoceroses, which duly impressed us and gave us all a good laugh. He is an electrical engineer who had done some work on the most damaged town in the big earthquake a few years ago. He was very interesting and we were sorry that we had to rush off.

Arrone has expanded quite a bit with modern apartment buildings and villas surrounding the original hilltown. This makes for quiet a bustle on the main road and a fare amount of commercial activity for such a small town. The climb to the top is kind of a workout, but well worth it for the serenity and the views of Casteldilago and Montefranco to the east. As I wound my way to the top I enjoyed a collection of 3 very old fiats. A 4 door sedan, one of the cute 3 wheel mini pickup trucks and one that resembled a mini jeep. These miniature cars are so adorable. As I neared the top I spotted the only villa so far that screamed at me and said buy me and make me beautiful again. It was across on the opposite hillside of Arrone. A beautiful 3 level stone building missing its windows and in general state of neglect. But it has beautiful views and is still only about 100 yards from the main road. I took a couple of photos so I could play with this dream house later. The highlight of the day was when a group of us ended up in the outdoor seating of a couple of restaurants and a gelatateria overlooking the main road and its busy market. The market with some of its fruits and vegetables nicely displayed outside made a good backdrop to all the interesting shoppers and store keeps. It was a great scene as we sipped cappuccinos, sketched and shot photos. We also had a bunch of the male locals hanging out near by giving the whole scene more depth.

We have my mother as our master teacher and Edmond the La Romita manager as our leader as far as arranging everything, getting us from place to place and passing on information about the places we explore. But every group needs a spark plug and our emotional fire is Andrea from Sun Valley Idaho. Andrea is fearless in speaking to the Italians in her rather good Spanish, which amazingly gets through to enough people that she has been really connecting with the locals. It is fun for all of us to watch her go and to be included in her discussions with the residents. We all become locked into the scene across the street at the market. For a long time an old man sat very still in a chair with the fruits and vegetables on both sides of him. He alone and his interactions with other shoppers were great sketching material. Gradually we got to know from our safe distance the market owner and the two young women who worked for her, especially when a baby appeared and everyone got into the role of surrogate mother. Andrea, being Andrea, finally went over to see what the store looked like inside and to try and talk to the family so she could understand the actual family structure and learn more about Arrone for all of our benefit. Another beautiful day with some more quality adventures. Umbria is magical.


Spoleto - Thousands of years Old and a Quest for the Moderna



Perugia and Spoleto are the two cities of Umbria that have a history of ruling this region. For a short time Spoleto even ruled the papacy. There are still some medieval buildings standing but most of all what you find in Spoleto right now are construction zones, especially in the upper city. It is difficult enough to dodge people and cars in the narrow streets of a hill town but when it is filled with scaffolding, cranes, and piles of construction materials in can be a real hassle. There seems to be a tradition in Italy that it is very important to start a construction project but very unimportant to finish it. I think I can say with full confidence that there are more construction projects started but unfinished in Italy than anywhere else in the world. Whoever sells the government cranes and scaffolding must have the best balance sheets in Italy. Ben the architect and co-owner of La Romita fully agreed with my diagnosis. Ben also offered me some additional insights into the building regulations here. He said there is basically a code against building anything but of course they are nowhere in writing so it is all about patience and making relationships with the code interpreters so you can get them to interpret in your favor.

In Spoleto, the Duomo piazza and the fort overlooking the town offer places of tranquility as well as beauty. Spoleto, more than any other hilltown that we have visited this trip seems to thrive on blending the modern with its ancient history. You see an Internet café with modern furniture hidden in a several century old building, restaurants with classic cuisine but abstract paintings on the walls, modern sculptures strategically placed and even contemporary opera in the century old opera house. As a restaurateur I could sense that Spoleto has a whole different life in the evening. It even felt like the city had a hangover in the morning and that it needed time to wake up.

After negotiating our way through Spoleto's construction zones in the daytime a couple days ago, we returned for a night at he opera on Sunday. What an experience. The first treat was seeing our motley artist crew spruced up for the affair-very nice. The experience of driving up to the opera house, feeling the anticipation in the air, entering the grand building and being sat in one of the balcony compartments was worth the price of admission.

According to my rough math, the theater has a capacity of over 1200. About 250 sit at the floor level and then as many as 200 on each of the 5 levels. Ticket prices are according to level with the stage level at 40 Euro, then 35 for the first level ext., with the top floor going for 15E. My mother and I checked our money and decided to go conservative and go for the 20 Euro third floor. Since the floor levels go straight up and encircle the stage, I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. Each balcony level is broken up in to compartments of 5 chairs. Three chairs are placed near the balcony while two taller chairs are behind allowing those behind to see over those in front. We ended up with just three of us in compartment #18 so we were all able to sit next to the railing. The white walls encircling the theater were covered with elaborate gilded gold decorations and a brass railing. The compartments and chairs are lined with lush burgundy velvet that matches the enormous curtain that protects the stage. The orchestra is seated in front and just below the patrons on the stage level. I have never been in a space that so gave me the feeling of how things uses to be and how different it was to go to the theater in bygone eras.

From our higher advantage point we had a marvelous view of the orchestra of which I counted 25 musicians and the conductor. Beautiful music written centuries ago by Domenico Cimarosa, who was a contemporary of Mozart, filled the elaborate room. The Opera on the other hand was a contemporary farce with 6 opera singers and 9 actors. As the enormous curtain revealed the stage we received our first indication of what we were in for. Bold primary colored props filled the stage with a feel of the whimsical farce we were about to see. The stage also housed three beds and several couches, also an indication of the type of romp about to unfold. Even if it was a classic opera we would have had trouble following the Italian singing but as for following this crazy affair we were left with our own elaborate guesses. At intermission Alice ran into an English couple that explained the major points, which she passed on to us. We had guessed some the plot correctly and the roles of the principle 6 opera singers but as far as the role of the 9 supporting actors, their wild costumes, and their wild dancing and prancing, their roles were open to everyone's own interpretation. We had some good laughs discussing our interpretations and the things we noticed during the play such as Alice put it “all the humping,” underneath the strategic large coverings.

Second only to the thrill of entering the opera house and feeling its majesty and traditions was watching and mingling with the other patrons after the show. Looking at how the different patrons dressed and watching how the residents of Spoleto greeted and spoke to each other from the sophisticated to the artsy was an incredible pleasure. What a privilege to be part of their world for even a few hours. I even laughed at myself for actually enjoying the variety of cigarette smoke that swirled around all of us as the many smokers left the opera building to visit on its grand entry portico. Many visual memories will stay in my mind from this experience, like the beautiful granddaughter in her late 20's so patiently escorting her very feeble grandfather to the opera. They both were dressed to the nine's with everything on him including his ascot placed perfectly. My eyes quickly left the vision of his struggle for every step and landed on how handsome he still looked and how beautiful was the genuine love and respect his young decendent showed with every slow step she took and with every methodical gesture she used to make his walk and pathway feel regal.

Art and Us

Umbria is so rich in beauty that art has been bursting out of all the participants. It is so inspirational to be surrounded by other artists with so much talent and with such a variety of styles. We are so lucky to have Lisa who has taught here 8 times and this time has the freedom to just paint as a participant. What fun to see the joy she felt in our critique today when showing off her venture out painting where she let go of her proven style and colors for a more stylized and eccentric approach-and we all loved it. We have Sarah who does all her work with colored pencils. It is such stunning work and it was so interesting to hear her compare her process to the watercolor process. Her artistic precision fits her scientific background and she has such a cute personality that we all have grown to appreciate. Jack, a veteran of sketching does beautiful ink sketches while we are out and then adds color and composition when he returns to the studio. His technique gives his work a joy that is so easily lost when one is concentrating on an actual scene. In addition to the fun in his work he is an exceptional joke teller, which has been a savoir on many of occasion. Pam, like Jack, is so good at mixing watercolor with ink, which gives all her scenes depth and contrast. Flora, Carol, Betty, Rosemary and Doris all have unique watercolor styles and techniques that have given me great joy discovering and studying. All these women's art shows such a delicate completeness that I have never been able to perform. Both Betty and Doris do some really interesting other types of art as well. Flora's friend Elaine, our only non-painter in this group gives all of us a welcome additional perspective on our daily adventures. We also had Pam's friend Irene, who had never painted or sketched, join us for a short time and she produced a great first sketch and had fun trying watercolor. Alice's ability to try different things is very cool. The paint is not even dry on one of her paintings, and she has started sketching another. She has been very brave in changing her subject and her approach while here and you can see it paying off in bringing back to life all the talent that she has not been tapping in recent times. Carol Dixon, also from Salinas like me, has also been brave in trying the techniques of our master teacher Marian. It is so great to see her nerve in trying these new techniques and to now see them pay off in the quality of her work. Andrea has been busy not only with art and working through the recent loss of her husband but in being the spark plug of our group. In addition to my mother, Andrea has given me the most feedback, which I crave and really appreciate especially since I'm doing so much experimenting while here. Diane and Rosemary's numerous life experiences add a great dimension to our group and I have really enjoyed talking and listening to them. It is truly great moments in life when you are a part of a group of people who come from so many different places and backgrounds.


As someone who took up painting without first learning to sketch, everyone of these artists ability to sketch leaves me in awe. It is so fun to see where everyone decides to setup and pull out their pens and paint when we are walking around the amazing settings in Umbria. It is equally fun to see how the residents and other tourists react to all these artists invading with their sketchbook. My mother has given workshops to non-artists on how see and enjoy the visual world more by looking at it more like an artist. Artist or non-artists would love to tag along with this group to better appreciate what we see, feel and experience. Umbria is an amazing backdrop. I really hope everyone has a chance to visit Umbria.

San Gemini

San Gemini is a gem of a small hilltown. It is not to high on the up and down index since it sits primarily on top of its hill. It is not too crowded which makes for very nice peaceful wandering. It does have its share of the romantic narrow passageways and beautiful viewpoints. It also has Mariana, whose garden is a magnificent display of greens and floral color. I wandered into her place on my own but later found out my mother has been dropping by and saying hello for years. Mariana is a woman probably in her 80's but she still gets around enough to treat all the pass by with a visual treat. I found her sweeping away some debris from the storm in the night of which she complained a little but agreed with how the rain made all her plants happy. She beams with any complements passed her way; she obviously takes great pride in her garden.

The principle bathroom is housed right in the main piazza in a café with delicious gelato and cappuccino. Like most of these types of café's, they also have small sandwiches and other sweet treats. Most of all it has a large area of outdoor seating with all the visual treats of its great piazza. There is the Church, which is very handsome inside, some classic old buildings in excellent condition, a beautiful peaceful fountain that you can also sit around and a group of the local man would hang near the café day and night. All great sketching material and many of us ended up at the café after exploring this adorable town.

We were able to return to San Gemini last night for a free concert in the beautiful old church by a trio consisting of piano, clarinet and bassoon. Most of us jumped at the chance when we heard at least two of them were members of the orchestra at La Scala in Milan. We figured anyone associated with probably the most famous opera house in the world would have to be talented. They far exceeded our expectations. To hear and watch the effortless beauty that burst from these three exceptional musicians in such an incredible setting was an unforgettable experience. We were also blessed with a beautiful warm evening, which made our time in the piazza before and after, a delicious treat in people watching. We even had a low in the horizon moon strategically placed over the church.

Grief and Art

As artists we suffer grief on a regular basis as we give birth to artwork that doesn't work out. Some times we are able to take the grief of life and put the power of this emotion into our work. Grief and misfortune can also lead people to art both as a solace and as a salvation.

Grief will probably always be a part of the La Romita experience. La Romita as an art retreat was founded 44 years ago and it has seen its share of grief and loss in those who have participated and those who have helped it operate. There is a lovely shrine on the property dedicated to those who helped La Romita be so important to so many of us. Many widows and those suffering from other types of grief have discovered La Romita and Umbria to be places where they can find some peace and inspiration. Our group has several widows and Andrea's recent loss has made us all think about grief and how it has entered all of our lives. Everyone of our group is old enough that we have all felt the grief of losing people close to us. I lost my father and my mother lost her husband to a plane crash when I was 13. This forced me to deal with death at an early age but as I told Andrea I didn't really deal with my grief and its affect on me until I was in my early twenties.

Grief is a strange egg. It is always around us but most of the time for most of us, we successfully ignore it. Then it comes up and bites us in the ass and shakes up everything about us. Grief damages us. We can candy coat it all we want, but it damages our mind, our heart and our soul. All we can do in the short run is try and cloud the damage with the beautiful memories that were so special that we now grieve at the loss of this person or animal. In the long run we have to make some sort of peace with their death and we rebuild ourselves by adding more quality memories. I don't think the grief goes away. I think it just finds a healthier place to reside inside us why we build new good memories.

I will never forget, or undo the damage of losing my father, but his loss is now a part of me. A part of who I am. By becoming a part of me, his loss has also become a part of everything good that has happened to me since he tragically left this world. There is comfort in that and comfort in the fact that I carried on enough to honor the life we did know together.

Fortunately for me I have not known the loss of a spouse. I can only imagine how it feels to those who have. I can feel the pain Andrea feels and I've felt the tears that have formed in some of our other widow's eyes when they listened to her talk about her pain. A part of me sees any deep feeling as beautiful but a part of me also fears such deep emotion. I think we all wonder if it is tougher for those left behind, of this we will never really know. But for those left behind, for all of us who keep on living, we have the ability to make good memories. Art fills our eyes with powerful visual images that can build strong memories. Creating art tests our imagination, which frees us from our physical limitations and allows us to transcend the ordinary routines of life. I know that everyone of our group is thankful that we have art in our lives and we are thankful to be around people who appreciate art. We are also very thankful of people like my mother who help art become an even more positive experience in our lives. I hope that everyone can find a way to have more art in his or her life.


Orvieto


Orvieto is a marvelous walking town and it has fabulous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. The way is sits on top of a plateau makes it a hilltown you could actually ride a bike in. It has such great panoramas because there is a drop from its plateau to a valley and then the earth rises again to more hilltops across the valley from the Orvieto plateau. Thus Orvieto is kind of like a bunt cake pan with Orvieto being the center of the pan, surrounded by the valley of the pan and then the sides rise up like the mountains around Orvieto. It is so spectacular looking over its edges and down into the valleys and then you also have the surrounding mountains and all their patchwork of orchards, vineyards and villa to look at. Ovieto's internationally known white wine also adds distinction to the beautiful patchwork of vineyards and olive trees. It is so fun to zoom in the camera on some of the vineyard villas and imagine what there lives must be like and what life would be like for one of us if we had a vineyard villa in Orvieto.

Orvieto also has one of the most beautiful Churches in Europe. It's Duomo rivals the Florence Duomo with its alternating black and white marble. We happened upon a wedding taking place in the Duomo that added an additional magic to this beautiful building.

We came to Orvieto on a Saturday so we could photograph and sketch the open market in Piazza di Republic, which filled the gray stone plaza with brilliant colors. Orvieto has a few streets that are very crowded with residents and tourists, but most of it is very charming and peaceful. There are a number of cars to dodge as Orvieto is an important regional city, but you are never far away from a peaceful enclave and the staggering panoramic views. I came up with a bit of a quest when I decided on the bus ride to walk the perimeter of the city to start my day. This was a real joy for the first quarter of the journey as most of the north side of the city has a promenade walk that allows you to walk the cliffs edge and enjoy the beautiful views. The northwest corner of the city tested my lungs as I did some pretty good up and downs to stay near the perimeter as planned. I also encountered some great nooks and charming apartments along this route. I made a couple more cat acquaintances and peered into some century old churches.

Andrea gave herself and the group a thrill when she announced that she had rent an apartment in Orvieto for the two weeks following our La Romita time so she can stay a little longer in Umbria, do some more painting, sort out her grief and gather her thoughts for her future. I think she made a great choice on the town she chose, though in actuality I think the town chose her. I am very excited for her and like most of us in the group we are also filled with some envy. I wish everyone in the world could experience the richness of our two weeks in Umbria. It will be very sad to leave, but Umbria will always to in our hearts.


Torgiano & the Lungarotti Winery

I made use of my wine connections to set-up a half-day in Torgiano, one of the major wine towns of Umbria. We had a quick winery tour at Lungalotti winery who is the Mondavi of Umbria. After doing some investigating, it was clear to me this was the winery I wanted to visit. The tour was quick and interesting, perfect with a group this size. We got to see some gorgeous Trebbiano grapes tangling from their vines with their gigantic five star leaves. We got to see first hand an interesting Umbrian pruning technique, which had all the grapes hanging on the lower half of the vine. The quick tour of the facilities showed how state of the art Lungarotti is with their operations. Sabrina our guide has been with Lungarotti for 10 years after traveling to several wine areas including Napa Valley. She and Enrica who hosted the tasting for those of us who participated gave us all a nice personal Italian experience.

The bonus turned out to be how much we loved the town. A really lovely town with views of the vineyards and the patchwork farmland surrounding the town. The wine, olive oil and balsamic museums received rave reviews and those of us who walked the town loved its charm. And those of us who partook in a gelato to finish our day in Torgiano it was the best price I got in all of Italy at 1 Euro and piled high. Yummy! I'm definitely going to go through gelato withdrawl.

I head home today though I have a couple more entries for the blog to prepare so stay tuned...

Todi

Back before the recession Todi received international attention for being noted as one of the most livable cities in the world. This press and Todi's position on top of a hill with spectacular views brought a lot of foreigners to Todi and it became known for having a strong “ex-pat” community. Todi's beauty has not changed but I did note that more than any other city we visited it has the most amount of real estate businesses and homes advertised for sale. Though I did not notice any other indication of possible problems from the worldwide recession, I wandered if it had already changed the tone of Todi. Italy like most of the countries of Europe did not have as much of a bubble as the U.S., and consequently did not have as much as a busting of the bubble as in America. But their banks like most of the European banks were sucked into the international banking crisis. This has translated into a slowing of business due to tightened capital and the global weakening of exports. We do see a group of unemployed men hanging out in the main piazzas of practically every hilltown we visit. In some towns it is just the more elderly hanging out like their ancestors have for hundreds of years. I saw plenty of community visiting in Todi but it was more spread around its different neighborhoods.

Todi's grand piazza is magnificent just in its size. Easily the largest piazza I've seen in Umbria, it is also graced by a set of beautiful buildings including one of its two large cathedrals. Cars do buzz through it in all different directions but they do seem very mindful of us pedestrians. Just off of this grand piazza is another pizza that is a battleground for prime parking but also has a spectacular viewpoint with some well placed benches. Wandering Todi's side streets is yet another romantic show of ups, downs and circular entanglement. All of the stone patterns and well-placed flowers and plants makes for a rewarding adventure. I passed one house placed on the edge in the process of being remodeled. Like any remodel in these ancient towns, it is quite a project which seems to usually involve a complete gutting of the interior, removal of all the windows and sometimes the roof, and then they slowly secure and refurbish. It is fun to watch the operation for two reasons. First it is cool to see the smaller trucks, wheelbarrows ext. that are necessary for negotiating the terrain and the different techniques of the craftsmen than I have used in remodeling houses in the U.S.. Also it is fun to imagine what it would be like if this was a home being prepared for me or for you. How would we furnish it? What would be most important in what for most of us would be a much smaller footprint than we are used to. And in the case of this house, what would it be like to wakeup in the morning on the edge of a hilltown with the incredible view of the Umbrian countryside looking back at you.


Labro & Lake Piediluca

We headed south to the tiny hilltown of Labro, which is just across the border of Umbria with a lunch picnic planned at the nearby lago di Piediluca. The way Labro sits on top of its hill is really picturesque. It also has a fresh quality since so much of it has been remodeled recently. Some Dutch architects purchased most of the town and have helped refurbish it. Like most of the side streets or what is better referred to as pathways, they seem so quiet most of the time that we wonder if people do in fact live there and where are they all? In one part of Labro some Vivaldi snuck out of one of the windows and danced around the stone nooks and crannies. More magic. For those of us who reached the top we were rewarded with beautiful views and a chance to meet Jerry and Karen from the Tohoe/Reno area. They were staying in the monastery down the road on a work & stay program. This adventure turned out not to be the best match for this 40-50 year old couple. Their work was to assist through cleaning, making supply runs, and helping feed a group of performers. They ended up with a group of really young people sleeping in a tent and wondering what they were doing here. When we found them they were enjoying a moment away from the monastery feeling the sun on their face in a spot with a spectacular view. We enjoyed talking with them and later felt guilty for not kidnapping them to our beautiful retreat.

Tripod is the name we fondly gave the black and white wiry dog of Labro who has just 3 legs. He seems to spend his day showing off that being short one leg has not affected him at all. He kept showing up wherever I was always smiling, panting and moving at his best speed. It appeared he was doing laps around the up and downs of Labro all morning long. He slipped and slid around a bit like the rest of us taking on the obstacles of a hilltown but with the same kind of determination as those of us searching out beauty, Tripod kept moving forward.

We also met the friendliest cat of all our hilltown adventures. This beauty of orange and white loved being rubbed all over and rubbing up against anyone who paid him or her attention. Diana got a lot of photos of the two of us rustling around in a momentary love fest. Everyone in our group loved how picturesque Labro was but several thought it too quiet and remote to spend much time there. I on the other hand imagined parking myself for 6 months and writing a novel and routinely visiting the towns 5 restaurants. Bliss.

Our picnic at Lake Piediluca was delicious and lovely. We got a little concerned when we realized the whole town had practically shut down following its busy tourist season. That meant no bathroom to be found for the ladies and no cappuccino and no getlato, which left me feeling cranky with withdrawal symptoms. Antonio our trusty bus driver relieved all of us by pulling the bus into a gelatateria café with bagno to all of our relief and delight!



Stroncone

We were all happy when we pulled into Stroncone and realized there was an open market in the piazza as you enter Stroncone. Like a lot of the hilltowns that are big enough to have a market, the collection of venders is quite diverse. Today's venders included a house wares dealer, a seller of all kinds of chairs, a linen/fabric seller, a cheese seller with gorgeous wheels of all kinds of cheese, a woman's clothes seller with a very odd selection and a shoe seller with an amazing number of shoes. A flower seller made an early stop and a fishmonger made an appearance for about an hour around noon. The café on the piazza was busy all day putting out coffees to the shoppers and our group of busy artists. A lot of sketches were produced in our half-day visit to Stroncone. Not only was there a lot of activity around the market but the town of Stroncone is filled with scenes worthy of a page of an artists sketch book and/or a photographers lens. Shaped in an oval like a smaller Orvieto, Stroncone commands a strong presence. Most of its historic exterior wall has survived though with many younger repairs. This makes its footprint feel grander than those cities who have lost much of the walls that gave them a first line of defense. Stroncone reminds us that the hilltowns creation was a matter of defense, not to enjoy the beautiful views we enjoy today.

One thing I loved about Stroncone is how unique is its paths and sections. Despite its size, there is a sense of a variety of community neighborhoods around its various piazzas and viewpoints. It is a really fun town to walk around and not to demanding as much of the town is on a kind of plateau making the ups and downs not so severe. I also liked the sense of town pride with its community black and red flags found throughout the town. There were a number of peaceful places to pull up and sketch or just imagine what it would be like to live here. I was particularly intrigued by a couple of decrepit but incredibly scenic houses facing the mostly uninhabited lush green mountains rising on Stroncone's west side. Once again my imagination wandered seeing myself spending half a day remodeling one of these romantic, scenic stone homes while working the other half of the day on my next novel. Of course there would have to be time made for lengthy meals and cappuccino/gelato breaks.

Speaking of gelato, our group just about completely wiped out the meager remaining stock of the café's gelato. It was a two cappuccino morning for me, a glorious thing to start and finish a hilltown with a cappuccino and yes, I had some gelato too. Both my mother and I were fond of the lemon and melon combo we chose from their remaining 4 flavors. And what a delight was the community around the café. Instead of us having to reach out to the town's members, we found ourselves approached by several of the very friendly men. Though our conversations didn't go far with our limited Italian, we were grateful for their warm attempts. This set a great tone and we ended up all rather entwined with the locals who were not only not bothered by our sketching and photographing them as they visited and played cards, but actually seemed to enjoy our short invasion of their world. The goodbyes were warm and we loaded our bus with a good feeling leaving our last stop before we were to leave Umbria the next day. But I think that once you have visited Umbria, you may leave it but it will never leave you. As an artist I feel the visual treat I've experienced the last two weeks will not only stay within in me but will color all the future art and writing that comes out of me. It has always been my dream to spend some quality time entrenched with quality artists. La Romita and this group and its maestro, my mother, have allowed me to experience this dream. A dream I hope to repeat again and soon.


Mamore Falls


Have you ever heard of a spectacular waterfall that can be turned on and off by a switch? I had not and you can imagine my surprise when I learned the largest waterfall in Umbria and one of the largest in all of Europe, has an on off switch. Our second Sunday at La Romita we took a take it easy day. The only thing on the agenda was an optional visit to the nearby Mamore Falls. We had caught glimpse of the falls when driving by to other towns so most of us were eager to visit them. They are spectacular.

A relatively new feature is the walkways they which allow you to walk up the hillside, crossing some of the falls waterways and a closer view and feel of the falls. Closer meaning you have to be willing to get at least a little wet as the breeze and mist from the falls swirls all around you. The power this falling water creates is amazing. To see and feel the powerful wind created by the falls is another beautiful reminder of the power and awe of nature-even if controlled by a switch. The Romans created the falls as part of their Qwest of bringing water from the mountains to their growing populations. Its flow is turned on and off according to a published schedule, to satisfy the needs of tourists and the power company alike. It was kind of fun to go to a local tourist attraction. Beside our group I saw only Italians, which gave us kind of an insiders feeling. With the exception of Assisi and to some degree Orvieto, I found Umbria so free of tourists that it felt like everything was very unaffected by tourism. In the hilltowns of Umbria visits feel like a special insiders ticket to a life so different from what we know in America. A life, which still reflects a past so rich in history and so filled with community. Unlike large tourist attractions, walking through these communities makes me reflect not only on the lives of the residents but also on the life I live.

The sound of the falling water is powerful enough to eliminate the sounds of conversations or any other distractions. So even though there are a lot of people there you feel a kind of one and one bond with this dramatic environment. A loved the sound so much that I recorded some video thinking that maybe these soothing sounds could help me fall asleep or meditate once back to the reality of my real life. My favorite moment was ordering a cappuccino and sipping it at a table near the edge while layers of mist kept splashing across my face. Something about hearing the sound of the water falling and about sipping the hot frothy beverage while feeling the delicate but cool mists was very tantalizing.


The Food of La Romita

For most of us, when we are on vacation our meals become real highlights in our day. For attendees of the La Romita School of Art, the meals go beyond highlights in that the quality and variety is so marvelous and the atmosphere of dining together 3 meals a day is such a joy. We all eat together, the attendees, the staff and even the cooks. Some meals we are even fortunate enough to have guests from the community join us and share some stories from the local community. Bravo to all the cooks for putting out such a variety and so overall healthy dishes. I so miss having my meals catered to me with such loving care and I so miss the amazing company.











Nelina









View from the hotel room towards the tree lined street Via Veneto - Home to the US Embassy, and a lot of Luxury Hotels and Restaurants

Piled high Gelato!


Rome Streets at Night


Trevi Fountain Crowd


Fresh Fish


Narrow winding streets of Testevere


Some people loiter in the daytime in the piazza
At night it is packed with people



Testevere Graffeti


Carsulae


Alice Sketching & Painting


A new friend and her helper


Not a bad spot to read the paper


Typical Cesi Walkway


Valle San Martino


Another brief but special friendship
with her fresh eggs


Delicious Blackberries


One of a Zillion Assisi Churches


One must carry a bike not ride it in Assisi


The long narrow path I discovered in Assisi


Assisi passageway of my painting


Casteldilago


Luis Protecting Upper Casteldilago

Arrone


Arrone Market


Spoleto Duomo and its Piazza


Spoleto


Spoleto Roman Aqueduct


Spoleto Opera House


Art Studio in a 500yr old chapel


Jack at Work




San Gemini Garden


Pre-concert San Gemini









Orvieto


Open Market in Orvieto


One of the Fabulous Villas around Orvieto


Trebbiano Grapes


Torgiano


Torgiano


Todi Piazza


Todi

Todi Church Mural

A Todi Promenade


Labro from Lake Piediluca


Tripod doing his laps around Labro


Making friends in Labro


Stroncone





It's all about the cheese!


Mamore Falls


Rainbow Magic