Breakfast of Champions
Are you getting tired of food photos? Well, I am certainly not yet tired of Italian food! This morning we had another full spread of fruit, yogurt, eggs, cornetto, prosciutto, cappuccino, and juice.
A cornetto (“little horn”) is not a croissant (French for “crescent”). It’s an Italian relative of the croissant, likely with the same origins, but today a distinctly different product. Sure they look similar, but they are different. Make no mistake, the Italians will tell you that the cornetto came first and the French copied them.
Either way I say, “please pass the pastry.”
All of our meals are served family style here at the villa, including the wine. Well, we don’t drink wine with breakfast, but we sure get hyped up on cappuccino and espresso.
After our 7:00am breakfast we boarded the vans promptly at 8:15 and made our way to Orvieto, a small city perched on a rock cliff in Umbria. Orvieto sits majestically high above the valley floor atop a big chunk of tufo volcanic stone. Orvieto also boasts a rich underground world; it sits atop a vast network of Etruscan-era caves, wells, and tunnels.
We traveled to Orvieto to visit the working art etching and paper art studio–L’Orvietan. Lamberto arrived on his bicycle while we were admiring (with open mouths) the front of the Duomo or Cathedral. Big smiles and blue eyes, he immediately exclaimed to the group: “Too many beautiful women for me!” A charmer for sure.
We all sat quietly while Lamberto explained to us that the first paper was made of parchment, or sheep skin. He told us exactly how the sheep was processed into a writing material that was sturdy and useful–the sample he showed us was over 600 years old. He joked with us that it would only take an entire flock of sheep to make a book! The black ink was made from soot and water, the red was made from ground garnet and water; both were mixed with gum arabic. He then explained how paper was invented, and created in a process similar to that of sheep parchment. Lamberto explained that it was, in fact, accidental that they figured out how to create a watermark in the paper making process (through the screen) and how that still continues on fine quality papers today. Then he showed us marbled book pages, gold gilded spines, and leather covers. We even got to look closely at a book from the 1600’s.
You can’t just a book by it’s cover, although if you had money, you wanted fancy covers.
After learning inspiring information about parchment, paper, the church, architectural concepts and planning before paper, and the importance of the written word; we split into two groups for a hands-on lesson in traditional paper marbling.
Can you believe that they designed Cathedrals without paper for architectural plans? And then when they made modifications to the plan, everyone involved just had to remember?
I’d be shot.
Taking it All in
After our time with Lamberto, the students were free to roam Orvieto, visit the cathedral, the Etruscan museum, accomplish some shopping with local artisans, eat gelato, and maybe even stop for lunch.
Since Pamela and I have been to Orvieto a couple times, we opted for gelato and a relaxing lunch at a restaurant on a quiet side street that she recommended. The back streets of Orvieto feel oblivious to the crowds of modern-day tourism. Pam ordered the eggplant and I had insalata with farro, tuna, cherry tomatoes raddichio, and fresh mozzarella.
Ok, I know I have said this but… pinch me!
The Orvieto Cathedral
The Orvieto Cathedral, dating from 1290, has a mosaic facade that was under scaffolding last year when I visited, being cleaned and repaired. WOW it sure looks amazing now. The art looks like murals, paintings, from a distance… but when you get close up, you realize it’s all tiny tile work. Incredible. The Gothic façade of the Orvieto Cathedral is one of the great masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages.
Inside the Cathedral inside resides two frescoed chapels decorated with images of Judgement Day by some of the best Italian painters of the period, including the master of foreshortening, Lucas Signorelli.
And Then we Painted!
If you can imagine, after all that and lunch, the students returned to the studio in the afternoon to finish up hand-painting their collage papers. I crack the whip! Judging from the smiles on their faces, I’d say they were happy to be back in their element and probably considering how to work their marbled paper into their sunflowers!
“Tomorrow is another day,” as my mother was fond of saying. Another big day for the Paper Paintings Italy Retreat group, as we will travel to Montelpulciano in the morning. Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany, it’s not far from where we are staying in Umbria, on the boarder of Tuscany.
The excitement of the morning will be a visit to the working studios of both a copper artisan (one of 18 remaining in Italy) and a mosaic artist! Hand hammered copper ware and hand chipped glass mosaic tile–stay tuned!
for being a part of my
Join us Next June, 2018!
Next June we will be making the Italy Paper Paintings Retreat journey again from the 10th-16th. We have already sold six spots, and have eight spots remaining. Sign-up before October 1st and take advantage of a five-payment plan with Strada Toscana.