Archives for category: Italy

Popo — that’s me — visited Italy for the very first time in October 2012, then again in 2013. Last October I went to France, and this May I’ll be sightseeing across Canada by train!

This is my travel blog. Popo, while an Italian name, means Grandmother in Chinese, and though our granddaughters aren’t Chinese, I am. You’ll see.

“2012 – First Trip” records an uncommon trip to Italy in 24 little stories.

“2013 – Italy” is about taking my adult art students from Hawaii to a villa in Tuscany. Painting lessons, cooking lessons, and train rides into Florence comprised the first two weeks’ experience before I moved on to the Cinque Terre, Rome, and Pozzuoli.

Viking River Cruises took me to see Paris and the Heart of Normandy in 2015. Below this introduction is my 2016 adventure in Canada!

Chef de Cuisine Ricky of the Viking Rinda at the market in Conflans

Chef de Cuisine Ricky of the Viking Rinda at the market in Conflans

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While it feels like home when I’m at Villa Minghetti where I’ve stayed with family and friends twice in one year—in Spicchio village outside the small Tuscan town of Lamporecchio—there is no place like Hawai‘i, my real home.

I write from my studio in Ka‘a‘awa before daylight. Paint and prepare for an art show planned for November after sunrise. I have time to reflect on the recent journey to Italy and the beautiful extended family we all got to know.

My friend Debbie sums it up: “Over there, they adopt you.”

The experience designed for my painting students is unforgettable:  the keys from Federica to the three-story house, garden, and swimming pool for two weeks; five days of oil painting lessons by her husband Agostino Veroni; Tuscan cooking lessons by Franco Mazzei, chef; meeting their children and parents; free time to take the train to the glorious city of Florence and elsewhere; and the chance to enjoy Italian hospitality and experience the culture.

I want to return the hospitality in Hawai‘i. When would be a good time?

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Federica, Agostino, and baby Giulio

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

Our painting teacher Agostino Veroni showed us how he paints from start to finish in about two and a half hours. Amazing!

This family works hard to run a cottage industry, literally. The villa is on an olive farm where Federica’s grandfather had grapes planted once, but wine making is more labor intensive than getting oil from olives, so now it’s just olives. In a back room we watch Agostino bottle the olive oil as it runs out of the spigot of a big vat, one of five. The oil is from last November’s harvest; we were there when they shook the olives from the trees last year! Federica caps and puts on the labels.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

Agostino uses a power rake to harvest the olives last November.

The olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer's order (our order).

Olive oil is stored in stainless steel vats and bottled by hand to the customer’s (our) order.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Federica carefully applies the labels.

Every day he can, when he isn’t personally marketing his work on weekends or helping out with the property, Agostino paints. The land inspires his original oil paintings en plein air. Sunflowers, poppy fields, olive groves, mountains and the sea. His gallery agent has arranged to show his art in Naples, Florida, in February. Would I come? Federica asks. How far is it from Hawai‘i? She has little idea it is half a world away, only that it is “paradise.”

Agostino paints while daughter Giorgia, 7, watches

Daughter Giorgia, 7, watches Agostino paint sunflowers.

The artist's working studio

The artist’s working studio

And, of course, Federica manages and cares for Villa Minghetti, part of a family real estate business. A private wing that is a former servants’ quarters now houses the painter’s studio, viewing room, and kitchen. We have great fun baking pizza from scratch in the old, old olive-wood-burning oven!

Agostino selected the exterior of his studio, formerly servants' quarters, to demonstrate how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in real life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

Agostino selects the exterior of his studio, formerly the servants’ quarters, to show how to paint a textured rock wall. It looks plain in life, so he decides to add wisteria flowers.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He liked this one a lot.

This is the finished oil painting by Agostino Veroni of the wisteria. He likes this one a lot.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

View from the kitchen into the viewing room.

Agostino makes pizza

Agostino gets ready to shove his pizza into the hot oven behind him.

Aloha, ciao ciao, until we meet again. Your friend,

Rebekah

P. S. I’m still trying to duplicate chef Franco’s recipes. They may not be exact, but they’re close. I’ll post them soon.

Now, one of the attractions at Villa Minghetti that I rented for two weeks for my group of painting students is the beautiful swimming pool with a view of Spicchio village and beyond in Tuscany. Last year in late October it was empty—too cold to swim. Federica suggested we come in September to enjoy it.

I decided to make an oil painting inspired by the pool, trying to follow her husband Agostino Veroni’s technique. His underpainting is a strong mid-value ochre in fast-drying acrylic. He paints or dots wet-in-wet, top to bottom of the canvas. He organizes his color and sections of the canvas by a design that he has in his mind before he begins. And he puts lots of contrast and interesting color in the foreground.

The swimming pool has meaning for our Italian friends because it is where Federica and Agostino first met each other, when he came to Villa Minghetti to repair the pool five years ago.

In my painting attempt, several more things were new to me, even though I have painted for about 20 years: a smaller canvas, a much smaller brush, and painting with fast and juicy strokes without a painting medium to make the paint flow (It wasn’t available. On our second paintings—this was my first one—my students and I tried the mixture of 30% cobalt drier and 70% linseed oil to use as a medium. Much better.); speeding it up. Veroni painted a large canvas in each of his daily demonstrations in 2-1/2 hours!

When you see the images below, please keep in mind that a photograph is a photograph, and a painting is a painting.

I am happy that our teacher in Italy pronounced my work “Good” and that I have my souvenir of this lovely place.

"Pool at Villa Minghetti," oil, 30 cm x 40 cm, by Rebekah Luke

“Pool at Villa Minghetti,” oil, 30 cm x 40 cm, by Rebekah Luke

In the garden

In the garden

Poolside

Poolside

Nighttime skinny dip, anyone?

Nighttime skinny dip, anyone?

One morning this was the view from my upstairs room of the pool and the village of Spicchio and the Tuscany beyond.

One morning this was the view from my upstairs room of the pool and the village of Spicchio and the Tuscany beyond.

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Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

Santa Croce gothic church in Florence, Italy, is an architectural site our tour-guide-for-a-day recommended we visit. There wasn’t enough time to go inside on her full itinerary that included the Accademia – location of Michelangelo’s “David” – and the Uffizi that houses the important Renaissance art.

So we took the train from Empoli to Florence on another day while we were in Tuscany to see the church that has the Star of David on the front; its architect was Jewish. Inside are the tombs of many greatly accomplished men, for example, Michelangelo, Galileo, Danti, Machiavelli, and Rossini.

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Michelangelo’s tomb

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Galileo’s tomb

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Rossini’s tomb

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Danti’s memorial

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Machiavelli’s tomb

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Pipe organ at Santa Croce church

The church is large. If you go around the exterior to the back, you’ll arrive at the entrance to Scuola del Cuoio, the workshop, showrooms, and retail shop of a leather artisan school where you can buy well-made goods by the students and help to support the school.

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Exterior, Santa Croce church

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Another exterior view of Santa Croce church

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Entrance to the leather school is well marked

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Entry to the leather school’s showrooms, etc., is up the steps at the back of this courtyard.

For refreshment, lunch, tea, or dinner, my recommendation is Boccadama on the right side of the plaza as you face the front of Santa Croce church. Ask for a table inside for a quiet, intimate atmosphere and attentive service.

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Good food at this ristorante

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Tiramisu from Boccadama

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