October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Flight to Dubai from Melbourne was over 14 hours long. After a four hour stopover in Dubai we resumed our journey, the flight to Roma Fiumicino Aeroporto was on the enormous Airbus A380, its the first time I fly on this plane and what a plane it is… more like a ship! The ride is smoother and quieter than anything I have ever flown on, but what really impressed me is the quality of the air, so much fresher and free of your fellow travelers farts! The cabin is pressurized to a point that almost equates our terrestrial needs. I was able to put my shoes on without thinking that my feet had grown two sizes on the long journey from Melbourne!
The courtyard of the Domus Australia
Looking down from the window of our room on the Courtyard at the Domus
We arrived in Rome on a rainy afternoon and checked into the Domus Australia owned and run by the Australian Catholic Church. The original Church and Cloisters have been completely restored to the highest standards. The breakfast was fantastic, our room large and filled with light. I had two showers and unlike most Hotels in Roma [and indeed Italia in general] instead of the water filling up to my ankles, at the Domus the water flushed away … a miracle! Recommend this Hotel to all.
As we do whenever we are in Roma we made our way to Augusto’s in Trastevere, had our favorite “Coniglio” [rabbit] con patate e’ insalata . After dinner we walked back across the Tevere, the night lights reflected in the soft rain polished cobblestones. We took in the sights of the Eternal City, its magic made more intense by the wood fired crusty bread and “Coniglio” still curling on our tongues.
The next day we hired a car and drove to our friend Neil Moore’s who lives in a medieval tower in Umbria. We were awoken in the morning by the crowing of a Cock and the clucking of hens, so much nicer than something digital! We rose with the light streaming over the mountains had our coffee and then decided to take Zeus Neil’s enormous St Bernard for a walk in the countryside. We breathed in the perfume of wild herbs brought by the breeze coming up the valley which somewhat ameliorated the pungent earthy smell of cow shit. As we walked to Zeus’s heavy breathing, my eyes were drawn to the designs tilled by tractor into Zen like patterns in the deep soils. The whole landscape has become a wonderful tapestry woven by the result of man’s intervention in the natural world.
View from Neil’s terrace
August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
We had our cafe latte and brioche, hugged and kissed Michael and Shona and left Bagni di Lucca, we took the freeway past Livorno and Grosseto heading towards Tarquinia a beautiful city, sitting atop a hill with views over the Mediterranean. It was the chief of the twelve cities of Etruria, it has a very different climate to the humid mountains of Versilia, its hotter and drier.
The Vitelleschi Palace, home to the National Museum of Tarquinia.
Guiseppe Buzzi master ceramicist creates faithful copies of the originals, dating back to 600 BC. he hand makes using methods and techniques that the Etruscans employed.
August 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
Everyday has been extraordinary, when you step out of familiar patterns and into the unknown, start mixing… it is amazing who you meet and what you see. Something happens, slowly inexorably a shift within… my whole organism feels different. Glancing back over the past week have been constantly on the move, Bruce Chatwin lived his pronouncement that “Man’s natural state is nomadic” Chatwin ruminated that he felt most creative had his best thoughts when he was walking….
Saturday night at “Ars Apua” a bed and breakfast run by the delightful Katzuko a Japanese woman who created this most beautiful place to stay, the mornings and evenings particularly, amazing views to the quarries. Katzuko frequently organises cultural events, concerts, exhibitions etc. Took in the views and cool breeze coming up the mountains, ate sushi and listened to great music performed by a holidaying Japanese concert pianist.
Cinzia and I spent several afternoon’s at the Bagni in Marina di Pietrasanta. The beach experience is so different to what we Australians are used too. Stretching up and down the coast are a whole series of “Bagni” privately owned business’s that provide umbrellas and “Tende” set out in a perfect grid pattern, replete with beach chairs recliners, towels. You can eat in the restaurant and bar. Change rooms, showers, table tennis, every commodity is available. Women of all ages and shapes on mobile phones parade themselves in the briefest of swim wear. These women work seriously on their sun tans, the young women look gorgeous the older ladies a bit overcooked.
Last night invited to the break up dinner of Fonderia del Chairo. What an experience the front courtyard transformed into a magical space, candles soft live music Artists and all sorts of interesting people including artigiani, politicians and lawyers mingling and enjoying the elegance of the occasion. Waiters dressed in white jackets constantly moving about and serving great wines and apertivi. A really spectacular buffet greeted us as we came in. This weekend begins the mass exodus by Italians for the beach its “Ferie Augusto” the sumner holidays.
Looking thru the front door at Michael and Shona’s
Cinzia and Michael chatting…
July 28, 2012 § 2 Comments
For the last two weekends we have visited our friends Michael Cartwright and Shona Nunan who live in Bagna di Lucca. They are both Artist’s who we have known from our student days. Nine years ago they relocated to Italy, they followed their passion and live a life they love, its is great to be with them.
Bagni di Lucca also happens to be close by to “Rocca” where our dear (Melbourne friends) Aldo and Naomi Pierini originally came from. Actually Aldo from Rocca and Naomi from Borgo a Mozzano, un paese vicino. I think everybody who gets to know Aldo and Naomi falls in love with them! Aldo is well known for his amazing wood carving and gilding.
On impulse I called Aldo ands said guess where I am?… I’m looking down upon the “fiume” river Lima in Bagni dig Lucca. Aldo told me he had not been well recently, but I could feel his excitement when he realised where I was, close to where he was born.
He said I’ll call my “parenti”family in Rocca, you can go and meet with them. So the next day we set of to find “Rocca”. Dating back to the Middle ages the village is built on a rocky outcropping, with the remains of an ancient fort atop the highest spot. We asked one of the locals and were directed to Iliana Pierini house Aldo’s niece, we were invited in and shown out on to a terrace, it was hot and sweltering afternoon made pleasant by a breeze that came up from the valley below. We met with more of Aldo’s delightful “Parenti” and drank wine with our Macedonia and gelato, later on we were taken on a walk around the village. In my heart I felt Aldo and Naomi where with me, my eyes contemplated their ancient and beloved birthplace. I am really glad we came.
The Rustic bell tower of the Church “Chiesa di S.Maria Assunta”.
With Aldo’s parenti on the terrace overlooking the valley below a tuscan paradise, still wild and untamed.
Iliana told us these carved frames with photos of his parents, and base relief were some of Aldo’s first wood carvings.
July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
The other day Alessandro who is the Grandson of our great friends Joe and Ivorna said to us to come up to the “Cave” (quarry) where he works Cave 89 way up above Fantiscritti, Cinzia and I decided we’d go up and have a look at the quality of the stone coming out of this quarry. To get there you make your way to Fanticscritti ( image coming when I find it) and then you keep climbing and its all in first gear! It is an awesome experience. The road up the mountain gets steeper and steeper, from the drivers seat it began to feel like I was driving on a giant dragons tail, a glance to the side reveals drops of hundred of meters! To be honest I really began to shit myself! The dust, the savaged landscape, the huge trucks swinging around bends with drops of a hundred meters or more, it is “impressionante”!
We found our way into the quarry and found Alessandro who introduced us to Simone the Capo Cave, who spoke in the slow and deliberate manner of the Cavatore “Carririn”, measured solid like the mountains from which they draw their living from. These men move nonchalantly around the mountains, and it is an environment that to most people would find terrifying! It still is a dangerous job, when people get hurt it is often really bad, so a certain fatalism has been born into these two legged mountain goats. With my feet firmly planted on the marble backbone of these huge outcrops the Apuane Mountains, I felt a surge of emotion I relish being here…I feel part of something raw and powerful, Carrara is a place of tough bastards! As we bid our farewells Simone grabbed a bottle of Aqua Minerale out the back of his 4WD and gave it to us, it was what he had at hand, he wanted to give us something. Every day we experience generosity, acts of kindness that make being in Italy amazing!
July 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
Last night “Vitamina” organised and cooked for about twenty people as he loves to do, and I was on my second plate of spaghetti al frutti di mare, chunk of bread in hand mopping up the last of the “sugo” when our attention was drawn to lights gently ascending into the night sky from the area over “centro storico” [the historic centre]. I left the table telling my friends I would soon be back and went into Piazza Alberica to see what was going on. It was the night of the “Lanterne del Desiderio” when you light a lantern and make a wish. Piazza Alberica was full with with Carrarini… out in force, music pounding away, families and their children, young adults dancing, a marvellous event to have been part of. I’ll upgrade my blog and post a video I took.
July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
We picked Paul and Amanda Sumner up from Aeroporto di Pisa late in the evening and then drove to Pietrasanta, by the time we parked and walked into Piazza it was getting towards 11.00 pm, the night was warm and humid. This is the summer holiday period and Pietrasanta is buzzing with people, at the moment there are six monumental bronze sculptures by Fernando Botero in the piazza, “la bondanza” of his forms.. huge ample generous and affirming statements…I wanted to show Paul and Amanda this at night, magical grazie a’ maestro Botero! The Commune of Pietrsanta is honouring Botero with an exhibition of sculptures and drawings on his 80th Birthday and 35 years of years of “ativita”as a sculptor living and working in the city.
We had something to eat at the “Gatto Nero” just outside the city walls, after a little while all tired satiated and happy we autostraded back to Carrara agreeing to meet for an early breakfast and start to the day. Coffee and brioches we consumed perched on the roof top garden, all glass and spectacular views…the Apuane Mountains the quarries of Carrara. We started with a drive up the winding road to Campo Cecina the highest point, at the top Amanda exclaimed WOW! what a place! And it is incredible sight, these rugged mountains and their treasure of marble. It was hot in the valley but at the summit it was fresh, the moisture laden air became clouds licking over the plateau area below the pinnacle of Mt Sagro. On our descent we narrowly avoided jousting with a one of the huge trucks speeding to a quarry to reload another junk of the mountain. Into the Ravaccione and the magnificent epic devastation wrought by man on these noble mountains, giant steps cut and unbelievable quantities of rubble, Michelangelo himself trudged these parts! We went to Studio SGF where I am carving works for my show with Paul, a quick walk to Piazza Alberica the Doumo of Carrara [mentioned in 1035 AD], Piazza D’Armi the Academia and then lunch at Nerina’s. After back to Pietrasanta drinks with friends Michael Cartwright and Shona Nunan reading the sign where Michelangelo signed contract to supply marble for the San Lorenzo facade. We relaxed sipping on orange coloured Spritz Aperol’s before sprinting back to the Aeroporto di Pisa all leaning in the background terracotta roof Piazza die Miracoli out car side window.. appointment at Paris flight and goodbye to Paul and Amanda! Drove back to Carrara light headed, a full full day!
View from Campo Cecina