An oasis for gathering, for study, for work, for music and silence, for Greatness and Misery, for a social life and a hermitic life of contemplation in solitude, reign of Fantasy, of Fairy Tales, of Myths, of Echoes and Reflections outside of time and space so that each can find here echoes of the past and hints of the future.
–Tomaso Buzzi on La Scarzuola
Our last day was just as amazing as the first. Today we visited La Scarzuola, the theatrical complex and convent that came from the imagination of architect Tomaso Buzzi. First we toured the tiny church and grounds of the convent. The current owners Marco and Brian have been restoring the complex for the past 30 years, following Buzzi’s vision, as per the diaries he left behind.
This Franciscan convent was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1218, who planted a laurel and rose bush here and caused a water spring to gush, it is named after a marsh plant, the Scarza, which the Saint used to build himself a hut.
The Church apse houses a fresco from the first half of the eighteenth century depicting a levitating Saint Francis. In 1956 the convent complex was bought and restored by milan architect Tomaso Buzzi (1900-1981) who, between 1958 and 1978, planned and erected his own idela city, a theatrical complex next to the convent.
Both the convent and the theatrical complex are laden with symbols and secrets, references and quotations. Drawing its inspiration frolm Francesco Colonna’ Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), the style best interpreting its licence is the neo-manierism he identified in the use of stairs in all directions, the deliberate disproportion of some parts, a few gargoyles, the heaping together of buildings and monuments, resulting in a whole characterised by a surreal, labyrinthine, evocative, geometric, astronimical and magic nature. -Courtesy La Scarzuola website
Our group was thrilled with the tour and the imagination of Buzzi and the talent of his architecture. Not to mention, Brian gave a wonderful explanation of the history of the complex and the convent. The church has been painstakingly restored, removing layers of paint to reveal stunning murals. They had to open up walled off alcoves and move the alter back to its original position, just to start!
Brian explained the detail and effort involved in restoring the church which houses some amazing floor to ceiling murals and frescoes, including one of Saint Frances himself, levitating, which Brian said was one of only two such frescoes in the world.
The group was just on the edge of their seats, learning about both the history and symbolism involved in this labor of love that is La Scarzuola!
After an amazing two-hour tour where we walked the grounds, entered a boat shaped guest house, sat in an amphitheater, looked at ourselves in mirrors across the stage of an eight-person theatre, considered rolling down a hill of clover, and came out through the mouth of a whale….
We climbed the stairs between columns of tufo stone and arrived at the top of the hill. Here we saw a plaque at the entrance to the Bee Theatre which really summed it all up.
It reads: Love Conquers All …
Isn’t that the truth?
A Lunch Date
Our next stop was the tiny medieval hill town of Città della Pieve. This is truly the most clean, beautiful small town I have visited, I just love it. Every apartment has wall brackets on the stone exterior that house potted plants and herbs. There are walkways in the middle of the city that are narrow and windy, it’s like a medieval adventure!
We came here for lunch, but first we had to run through the church to see the portrait of this town’s most famous artist, Perugino. Pietro Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance.
Raphael was his most famous pupil, and he was born right here in Città della Pieve.
Città della Pieve was a poor town, the church didn’t have the money for real marble. When you enter the church, it sure does look like marble… it’s all faux painted. The group enjoyed taking photos and viewing the paintings of Perugino before lunch.
After a quick tour of the church, we were heading to lunch at the restaurant of Christian Palazzi, Bistrot del Duca. Our fearless leader Pamela Haack of Strada Toscana has organized this trip in order to take advantage of the most amazing places, all very “off the beaten path.”
Christian gave us a tour of some Etruscan tombs that wind around under the city and used to be part of the wine cellar, we talked about how the wine used to be stored there in barrels to age.
We had a glass of white, just before lunch.
After lunch we walked back to meet our drivers for the last time. What a beautiful day and a lovely lunch, we couldn’t have ended touring the Italian countryside on a nicer note!
Our last order of business back in the art studio was finishing touches on our sunflower project, and then a “Show and Tell” review of the work during aperitivo hour!
All Good Things…
The next day we all headed out to the airport bright and early! Connor and I flew KLM with a connection in Amsterdam. We arrived home on Delta around 7pm and were picked up by my dear friend Nina, who had been on the Italy tour two years ago! I am always thankful and appreciative for the kindness of my art friends.
Thank you to everyone involved in this adventure, from the bottom of my Art Heart!
This year is over but the dates have been set for 2019, so if you wanted to join us on our amazing adventure you can now reserve your spot! We have 11 spots open, check out the website for details and information on how to get in on this once-in-a-lifetime Paper Paintings Italy Retreat!
for being a part of my