Last days in Pietrasanta

December 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


Cinzia and I on our way to lunch

Cinzia and I on our way to lunch

Spaghetti alla Scampi

Spaghetti alla Scampi

Un bel "cazzo" chiselled into a marble balustrade. Here graffiti is done with a chisel!

Un bel “cazzo” chiselled into a marble balustrade. Here graffiti is done with a chisel!

In front of the Duomo di Pietrasanta

In front of the Duomo di Pietrasanta

For the past three months I rise early, get on my bike and go down to the bar, take my cappuccino and paste sfoglia alle crema and then peddle off to the Del Chiaro foundry where I have been working.

The day is punctuated by “pranzo” lunch at either of two places “Port a Luca” or “Croce Verde” both Trattoria’s that offer the typical working mans midday meal of primo and secondo, bread, vino and strong black coffee to finish off, basically hearty good meals that are inexpensive.

Its so wonderful to live in Italy, I find myself  absorbed in a poetic flow, a caressing of the soul. It doesn’t take long before you enter into relationships that become like family, this combined with the “Art Refugees” and I describe “us” the travelling band of Artisti from all over the world as such, because we are drawn here for very special reasons: we love being in Italy, love the culture and  the Italian people.

In the time we have been here we have been to gallery openings, gatherings parties etc. We have made many new friendships and we will miss our new friends.

We watched crews of workers with trucks and cherry pickers putting up lights and projectors. The result is a very beautiful “Evento per Natale” in about a dozen places around the city, a history of City the people and times of Pietrasanta unfolds, using a scrawling calligraphic hand writing, poetry and verse has been projected on the city streets. In the Piazza’s photographs of locals artigiani, of cooks and working people etc well known to the city are projected this is interchanged with video’s of  a local dance  group performing  dance movements projected on walls and over shuttered windows with families inside, strangely ritualistic…. Pietrasanta seems at night like a wonderful stage set. My heart is profoundly stirred by the poetry and sensibility of this “Installation”.

The facade of San Agostino with video projections

The facade of San Agostino with video projections

The verse constantly changes with the text enlarging and moving

The verse constantly changes with the text enlarging and moving

I have finished the full size clay sculptures for the “three runners” commissioned work for Melbourne High School, and so am at the stage where its now time to wrap things up and get ready for the journey home to Melbourne.

Verses of poetry projected on the Piazza

Verses of poetry projected on the Piazza

The street to our Apartment . I like the feel of the white pebbles under my feet, texture punctuated by a row little leds

The street to our Apartment . I like the feel of the white pebbles under my feet, texture punctuated by a row of little leds

Pisa at dusk

November 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Campo dei Miracoli” is the complex made famous by the ludicrously leaning tower of Pisa, ludicrous because how is it possible that this great stone construction hasn’t collapsed yet. This grainy fuzzy iphone snap is all I have of  the magic dusk light that illuminated the “Campo”. Over the years I have been to the magnificent buildings of the Baptistery the Duomo and the Tower many times, I never cease to be amazed by how wonderful this place is. Often my nervous system reacts to powerful aesthetic stimulus buy producing in me the desire to chew.. I assimilate the experience by masticating! So here I was walking around grinding my teeth, specially with the ornately carved Carrara marble exterior  of the Baptistery…crisp washed luminous wedding cake lacework. In contrast the interior of the Baptistery is quite austere. The great arches that support the dome set up a striking visual rhythm, years ago in the pouring rain I went there , at that time a rather shambolic looking guide in his unpressed faded uniform took us in and then unannounced broke into song to demonstrate the extraordinary acoustics with his beautiful tenor voice. I wiped the the rain that was dripping from my head onto the baptistery floor, they could have been tears….

Batistero Pisa


Magical Orvieto

November 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

On our last day with Neil, we decided to go to Orvieto, to get there we drove west and after half an hour from out of the mist “Todi” loomed crowning its hill, swifts scythed through the air reminding me of Brett Whitely’s wonderful painting “Tuscany”. Continuing on following the snaking Tevere river through the increasingly mountainous and wild country, Neil related how in times gone past the area was infested with Brigands who’d swoop down upon merchants and travellers plying the river in boats, before disappearing with their stolen loot back into the untamed valleys and ravines that still distinguish this landscape today.

“Chiaroscuro” made famous by Caravaggio means light and dark.. the term signifies something far more complex than the way this Artist used light and shade, the term evokes the spiritual, ethical, political aesthetic complexity of the Italian way. Italy has given  to the world of some of the most glorious expressions of being human, it has also been a place where horrors have occurred, where darkness has blotted out the light. And there are parts of Italy that are strangely unnerving for me, perhaps something of the past reverberates through time, driving through this area was that for me and then you get to…..

Orvieto is built on top of a huge rocky outcrop, there is evidence of human settlement going back to the bronze age. This town was an Etruscan city and one of the last to fall to the advancing Romans from the south. Today there is little evidence of the Etruscans on the hill top but below you can view their Necropolis below the festooning above.


Entrance to an Etruscan Tomb. The Etruscans spoke a unique language and some words entered our language via the Romans. The Etruscan language has been difficult to analyze, due to its being an isolate. Bonfante, a leading scholar in the field, says “… it resembles no other language in Europe or elsewhere ….Although many inscriptions remain the language as yet has not been deciphered.


View Across the “Necropolis” on the road up to Orvieto

The first time I visited Orvieto I knew nothing about the city, I turned the corner and came into the piazza and was dumbstruck by the beauty of the facade, the design is vigorous alive, inside Pope Innocent III proclaimed the Fourth Crusade in 1201. Nothing prepares you for the Luca Signorelli frescoes, they are outstanding!





One of Orvieto’s great traditions beautiful ceramics




The Romans had to starve the Etruscans into submission it took a year before Orvieto was taken, it was recorded that the inhabitants were treated brutally.

Giorni meravigliosi in Umbria

November 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

On our second day with Neil he suggested we go to an area called “Valnerina”.  We stopped along the way for a coffee and a brioche at a bar and sat next to a bunched up group of “Cacciatore” Italian hunters dressed in their traditional gear. October is hunting season, I read in the news that 35 hunters and one mushroom hunter had died in shooting accidents, there were calls for the government to tighten up the rules, but I doubt if this will come to anything after all this is Italy!

We left the mens gathering who by now were playing cards and drinking wine and  continued up and over a high mountain range and then descended into the “Valnerina” a beautiful secluded mountainous area covered with forests. Wolves and Cingiale reportedly still roam this area.

We made our way to “Leonessa” on the border with Abruzzo  Neil new of a great trattoria where we ate an excellent lunch. we walked around the town visiting the beautiful Piazza ….every town in Italy has a beautiful Piazza everyone unique.

From here we drove to a small town called Monteleone ( Mount of the Lion) to see the extraordinary sixth century BC gilded bronze Etruscan chariot, what we saw was a reproduction made by the Italian Sculptor Giacomo Manzu in the 1980’s, the original is in the Met in New York. It is a truly magnificent work of amazing artistic skill illustrating the Iliad story of Achilles and his battles with the Trojans. The original was discovered by a local peasant farmer in 1902 who apparently sold it for scrap.

Over the next couple of days we visited Spoleto, Spello and a blur of other Umbrian wonders culminating in a “gita’ to what was the highlight for me… Orvieto with its amazing Duomo resplendent with Luca Signorelli frescoes. At the end of the day returning to the magic of Neil’s 12th century tower house with its views across a landscape of tranquilizing beauty. How much delicious food and amazing art can you take in!

View across the aqueduct looking towards Spoleto

The beautiful Frescoes in the Duomo dI Spoleto by Fr Filipo Lippi


Niel took us to a place high up in the mountains in the Valnerini called San Pietro In Valle one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too, a monastery originally founded in the 8th century by Faroaldo II Duke of Spoleto, sacked in 996 by the Saracens rebuilt and then enlarged over time, it is now a luxury Hotel. I have promised myself to go back to this extraordinary place and stay in the spring.

Rainy Roma

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

Spring in Melbourne – Autumn In Pietrasanta

September 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Spring in Melbourne is a wonderful time. Cinzia and I have our coffee in the morning and can look out from where we sit in the bay window out over our garden ablaze with blossom . We have been back home in Melbourne for quite a few weeks, we missed our boys and our families so it was great to be able to hug them tell them of our experiences in Italia, even though you know you can only try to convey the poetry of the place and the beauty that is Italia. In two weeks we leave again for Italia. The journey continues…..


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.

Tomba della Fustigazione(Flogging Grave), an Etruscan burial site dating to the end of the 6th century BC. Two men are portrayed flagellating a woman with a cane and a hand during an erotic situation.

Etruscan City

Commune di Tarquinia with marble fountain.

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.

Foot loose and Fancy Free – Wanderings in Versilia

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.

 Watched as a young woman carved, sliced and chopped this massive watermelon or “cocomero” in Italian into this ornate beautiful flower design.

With Novello Finotti, one of Italy’s most significant contemporary artist’s. I first met Novello 20 years ago at his extraordinary home and studio near Verona.

Looking thru the front door at Michael and Shona’s

Cinzia and Michael chatting…

La Rocca

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 Ancient Church of Chiesa di S.Maria Assunta “Rocca”Image

With Vincenzo atop the “Rocca” where once stood one of the communication towers [apparently in an earthquake the whole tower toppled down into the valley below] that date back to Roman times when news was sent across the mountains from tower to tower by what must be the precursor to morse code, using fire instead of radio bleeps.


The bright beautiful splashes of colour that are carnations, found everywhere in Italy like the people themselves, hardy and frugal. ImageImage

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.

Cave di Carrara

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!


With Simone “Capo Cave” young man who runs the quarry. Looking at these images they do not convey how steep the roads are, you really should make a trip yourself here one day!ImageImage