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Me Myself and I

Earlier I wrote about the interior design of La Bandita Townhouse.   Clearly the owners, John and Ondine, have put as much thought into the service as they did into the décor.

From the first email to book my room, until the day I left, the service was (as the young folks say) on fleek.  This is something I do not take for granted.  Unfortunately, too many people have no idea what it means to work in the hospitality business. Why they would open or work in a hotel/restaurant/spa, etc. is beyond me.

Pienza is small hilltop town with a population of approximately two thousand people.  It was the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who would become Pope Pius II. Piccolomini rebuilt the entire village, starting in 1459, after he became Pope.  He saw it as a lovely Renaissance retreat from the Papal capital.  In 1996 Pienza was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s a perfect base from which to explore this region of Tuscany (with a car).  Montapluciano, Siena, and other towns are close by.  If you’re a Pecorino cheese fan, a visit to Pienza is a must.

Since I was only staying for two nights, I didn’t rent a car and spent most of my time close to the Townhouse.  It was FREEZING.  I’m not exaggerating.  I haven’t been that cold since my days at Syracuse University.

I was elated to see these fire pits around town.  I love how in this country even a simple and functional thing, like a fire pit, is well designed.  I mean, look at the darn logs.  Did the person who built the fire make sure they were “just so” or what?  Also, as I said before, it was beyond freezing.  Who has time to worry about aesthetics in sub-freezing weather?   If the logs were janky, would the fire builder be called out?

I truly appreciate this attention to details.

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The views were spectacular.  Sunset.

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Sun rising. View as I started my epic walk three and a half-hour walk.

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Remember this road from the movie GLADIATOR?  No, I was not entertained. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t see a single person for kilometers.  I started to think, “what if a wild boar attacked me? Nobody could hear me scream. Where the heck is the next farm house?”

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Seriously, NOBODY was around.

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The top of this well, stylish simplicity.

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Pieve dei Santi Vito e Modesto Church.  It was built sometime during the 11th and 12th centuries.   Notice the distinctive carvings above the door.  Several of these small country churches were built above Etruscan sites and used some of the same imagery.

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I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel, after I defrosted.  The restaurant is open to the pubic (you need reservations).  Chef David and his sous-chef, Jacopo, knocked it out of the park.

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Martina pours some Prosecco.

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During high season, Pienza is very popular with tour groups.  This charming video about La Bandita and Pienza helps explain why.

A big Thank You to everyone at La Bandita.  Sometimes it’s not so easy to travel alone and they made me feel at home.

Photos: Me and my iPhone.

 

 

Recently, I wrote about how I was inspired by Garance Doré’s post on the New York City Ballet.

Last week I checked out IALS (Istituto Addestramento Lavoratori dello Spettacolo) aka the Fame school in Rome. It was a straight-up disaster.

I had signed up for a Beginner’s class.  There were three other women in my class who looked like ballerinas.  The teacher, an older gentleman from Eastern Europe, quickly shouted out some choreography.  I was overwhelmed within sixty seconds.

I thought I was doing this:

 

But it was more like this:

Not a good look.

The teacher stated, “You’ve never done ballet before.”   No, that is why I’m taking a Beginner’s class!  The other women had excellent turnouts. It was obvious they had experience. There are three different levels for Beginner’s and I was in the first one.  What the heck was going on?

During one routine, we had to put our legs on the barre.  I’m short and my leg could barely reach it.  The only time the teacher walked over to me was when I was struggling to reach the barre.  He pushed my torso closer to it and I thought my body would split in two.

When the three ladies started pirouetting across the floor, I had to pull over to the side.

I felt very discouraged after the ninety minute class was over. Clearly, I was too short and too old to take ballet lessons. I walked home (of course it started to rain) in a funk.

I spoke to my friend Courtney who studied ballet as a child and to this day still does the warm-up exercises she learned.  She told me not to give up and to try another teacher’s class.

I already had a monthly pass, so why not?  I did and it was a revelation.

The teacher, a svelte Italian man who could probably lift three times his body weight, introduced himself and asked me if I understood Italian. There were ten of us in the class and it was co-ed.  He showed us the choreography, calling out the different positions while drawing our attention to his hand movements.  As we danced, he would correct our form.

He had two assistants and they also demonstrated the moves.  If a sequence was too difficult for some of us in the class, he told us to watch the assistants, the more advanced dancers, and to do our best, “tranquilla!”

During my first lesson, I felt clumsy.  In his class, I felt graceful.  I appreciated how he would walk over and show us where our hands, feet, and/or head should be.  When we executed a move well, or corrected mistakes on our own, he would say, “bravo/brava!”

At one point, while he was changing our music, I could hear the music from the Advanced class in the studio across the hall.  It was “Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor”by Johann Sebastian Bach.

This is one of my favorite pieces of music. I was so moved, I had to choke back tears.

Once the class ended, we thanked Il maestro and his assistants.  The ninety minutes had flown by.  The next group of dancers and their teacher rushed in as we put on our street clothes in the hallway.

I know my turnout will improve and it’s okay that I didn’t start lessons when I was four. I’m starting ballet now and I love it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

I’ve always loved ballet but have never taken a class.  I thought I was too short. The only dance class I’ve taken was modern dance in college.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about signing up for classes.  So what if I’m only 5.2″?  I have several friends who are taking adult ballet classes and they rave about them.

I play tennis and have played sports all my life.  I need to mix things up a bit, especially as I get older.  I’ve tried yoga and ripped a tendon in my wrist probably because I was incapable of focusing on the task at hand. It was a very painful injury.  During yoga classes my mind was always racing, thinking about all the things I had to to do.  I could never relax.  I had the same issues when I tried Pilates.

Perhaps ballet is the way to go.  It combines athleticism with art, balance, agility, endurance, and mental focus.  We’ll see what happens.

When I woke up this morning and saw Garance’s latest post, I had to send it to my ballet-loving friends immediately.  The Studio was invited to visit the New York City Ballet as they prepared for the opening night of their winter season.

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These intimate photos are so beautiful and inspiring.  To see more, click on to Garance’s blog HERE.

Buon weekend!

Borghetto Flaminio is not as well known as the famous Porto Portese market.  The latter has more furniture but Flaminio is the market to check out for authentic vintage/used designer clothes and interesting tableware.

As with any flea market there could be some fakes, but this market has a good reputation.  Many of the vendors are regulars. If they were selling fake Prada, Gucci, Hermès, etc. the word would get out pretty quickly.

Borghetto Flaminio is tiny. I suggest getting there early. It’s packed with fantastic finds.  I hadn’t been there in years so when my friend, artist and florist Marta, suggested we check it out, I was ready.

A cool tea set from the 40s.

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Lovely monogrammed vintage linen.

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A taste of Hermès.  This was the most popular vendor in the market.  They also had some drop dead gorgeous vintage Gucci, Valentino, Prada, and Fendi bags.

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Love this Murano glass set from the 60s.

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Marta was VERY excited about this patent leather Prada bag.

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Sundays (except holidays)

Piazza della Marina, 32
Sundays, 10AM – 7PM
€1.60 entrance fee

From mid-September to mid-July

One of my friends asked me what my word is for 2015.  Another asked about my resolutions.   I’ve given both a great deal of thought.

What I really need to do in 2015 is stop being a control freak.  I’m driving myself (and my friends) crazy.  While it’s a good thing (especially in a detail orientated profession) to be very organized, I need to take it down a notch, okay, several.

I’m not sure how I will achieve this goal but at least I have acknowledged this critical situation.

So far 2015 is off to a great start.   Yes, I do realize we’re only two days in.

Happy New Year!

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Fireworks outside my window.

Pienza, Tuscany.  La Bandita Townhouse.

 

 

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