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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.

 

 

The American series AMERICAN DREAM BUILDERS started airing this week in Italy on the channel LEI.

Hosted by Nate Berkus, it’s a mash up between EXTREME MAKEOVERS and TOP DESIGN.  I have always wondered about the reality of the former.  They do a lot of structural changes.  How well was the construction, plumbing, and electrical work executed when they have only a week to demolish and rebuild?  Could the owners afford the increase in property taxes?  So many questions.

One thing I really like about this show is that two teams work on two houses from a similar era and/or style.  It’s compelling to see how the teams agree (or not) on an overall aesthetic for their house and then how the individual designers design their rooms.

There is a mix of designers, contractors, and landscape architects.  Of course, there are some strong personalities.  Reality TV would be boring without them.

We are three episodes in and so far it’s fantastic.  The show is entertaining and educational.  Décor is very subjective but it’s interesting to hear the judges explain why they believe a room doesn’t work.  Sometimes it’s a design issue.  For example, the team did not address the layout issues.  Other times, it’s about the décor.  Those debates get heated.

I cannot wait to see who wins.  There are some very talented designers on this show.

Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I wish I knew I how to do this.

Trust me, this is not a humblebrag.  You know when you ask someone how they’re doing and they reply, “BUSY!”?  Then they proceed to talk for twenty minutes about how busy they are?

I used to do the BUSY thing all the time when I lived in Los Angeles.  I broke out of that habit after living here a few years.  When Italians ask, “how are you?”, they really want to know.  It’s a conversation starter, not an opportunity to brag about how much work you do.  Nobody wants to hear that mess unless you are at a work conference or something.

While I have calmed down a bit since my big move, I still find myself feeling guilty for not working all the time.  I know there are people who never stop.  I did that during my Hollywood years but had nothing to show for it other than missed weddings back east, stress, and debt.

So I know I wasn’t healthy or happy during that time yet August in Rome continues to freak me out.  This week my vendors are closing up for the summer.  There is nothing I can do regarding deliveries, invoices, my projects, etc.

Last year when I went to Salina, I had a view like this,

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but I was constantly checking my emails and on the phone with my clients. However, that was in June.  August is another story.

In August I’m forced to slow down so why can’t I just chill the heck out without feeling guilty about it?  One of my favorite designers, Erin Gates of ELEMENTS OF STYLE, wrote a fantastic POST about the pressure we Americans put on ourselves to do it all.

It’s madness.  I told myself that this year would be different.   It’s not.  It’s only the 6th and instead of reveling in the summer, I want September to get here already.

My local caffe and many of my favorite restaurants are shutting down this week.  Only the places catering to tourists will be opened.  Most of my friends are gone and the rest are leaving next week.  Tumbleweeds will roll down Lungotevere.

I should try to follow my dad’s example.  He was an incredibly hard worker but he also knew how to relax.  He truly appreciated the little vacation and down time he had.  My mom also worked hard but NEVER relaxed.  Even on her days off from work she was going, going, going.  I used to think I was a combination of the two but no, I’m more like my mom.  There’s always something that must be done.

I have my own company.  You’d think I would be able to give myself a break and/or vacation.  No, instead I think if don’t burn the candle at both ends I won’t be able to succeed, which means I won’t be able to pay my rent, therefore I will end up living under the Ponte Sisto bridge.

Okay, this summer I am going to break the cycle, dammit!  I must do it for my mental, physical, and creative health.

We’ll see how the rest of the year shapes up as I start my quest to partake in the fine Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.

Any suggestions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see the top of this church every time I walk across the piazza near my house.  Built from 1642-1660, it’s a classic work of Baroque architecture.  The architect was Francesco Borromini, aka arch enemy of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

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Photo: me with my iPhone

While I am down for Bernini, it’s unfortunate that Borromini is not appreciated more. His contemporaries were perceived as being stronger visual artists. Borromini’s strength was more technical but that doesn’t mean we should overlook the beauty of his buildings.

Borromini was extremely difficult to work with and often depressed.  He committed suicide in 1667.

This church is just one of his masterpieces and it inspires me.

Buon weekend!

 

 

 

I’ve written before about my fascination with abandoned houses.

On Via del Governo Vechhio there’s an empty palazzo that I’ve walked by many times.  Unlike some other big cities I’ve lived in, there are very few vacant buildings in the center of Rome.  So much so that they truly stand out.

One morning I noticed there were riot police at the end of the block.  The doors of the building were opened and there was a large group of protesters inside.  They were demanding that the county (which owns the property) renovate the space into affordable housing.  I doubt that will happen given the location, red tape, and costs.

Built in the late 1400s by Cardinal Stefano Nardiini, I had to check it out.

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I had no idea that this building was so large.

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I hope something wonderful happens with this space.  It’s a shame that it’s just sitting there, empty.

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