All Good Things…
We wished it wouldn’t come, but it did. Today was the last day of our fantastic Paper Paintings Retreat in Italy. We have been running all over Tuscany and Umbria visiting artisan studios, drinking caffe and cappuccino. We have spent hours working away at our mixed media collage artwork in the studio, in between dips in the pool to keep cool. We’ve eaten all kinds of new and amazing foods (including wild boar ragu), and nobody knows just how many bottles of wine and Prosecco we have actually been through.
Well, somebody might, but they are not telling.
Icing on the Torta
Legend says that the Convent at La Scarzuola was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1218. Here, Francis built himself a hut from a marsh plant called “scarza.” La Scarzuola Convent has become, throughout the centuries, a place of prayer and meditation. In the Chapel lies the second oldest fresco portrait of Saint Francis which was painted before his death, sometime in the 13th Century. The fresco is one of the few which pictures Francis levitating, a halo was added to the portrait after his death.
Francis is said to have planted a rose and laurel bush near his shelter and a spring miraculously began to flow. A Franciscan community grew and a monastery was eventually built here in the early 1400s.
Umbria’s Surreal Ideal City
La Scarzuola in Montegiove, is now the surreal creation of 20th century Milanese architect Tomaso Buzzi. The restoration began with the existing monastery and then moved to the grounds and theatre complex, an intricate and beautiful series of hedge mazes, dotted with statuary, fountains, and exotic plants. Buzzi’s nephew Marco Solari inherited the site from his uncle in 1981, and has devoted his life to completing the work based on diaries and sketches left behind by Buzzi.
It’s easy to see that surreal artists like Dali, Miro and M.C. Escher had inspired the architect who created these structures as a reflection of his inner thoughts and philosophies.
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
Solari has put his soul into La Scarzuola, exposing and highlighting the multiple layers of symbolism in every pillar, relief, sculpture, icon, and structure. I could not help but to be amazed at the dedication, of both time and money, to this restoration (and completion) project; a true labor of love.
The students were in awe with and thrilled by La Scarzuola, our guide Brian was wonderful, funny, and informative.
Here’s a really nice YouTube video I found from 2016 on La Scarzuola by FabMarr if you want to see more.
The Last Lunch
By the end of the tour, we were ready for some nourishment. Close by in the very small town of Castel di Fiori we were greeted by Paola and Alex at The Wine Bar where they had prepared a very special lunch just for our group.
This place is truly off the beaten strada, and amazingly authentic.
Are you ready to eat? The answer is always YES.
So many food photos! Most times they say that food doesn’t photograph well but, I mean these are beautiful aren’t they? I couldn’t wait to dive in!
The Final Critique
Back to the Villa we went after lunch. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the ride home, but it was a mere 15 minutes at most, barely a cat nap. I feel like I could use a long winter’s nap, but that’s another story.
Students gathered their sunflower projects and brought them up to aperitivo hour by Paola, where they enjoyed red and white wine with savory snacks before dinner. One-by-one we went through each of our 15 sunflower projects to touch on what worked, what might make them better, what was amazing, and how they liked the medium. Much praise for our Aquabord substrate, for the experience in hand-painting their own collage papers, and the process overall. We had good input and comments from the group as a whole.
We celebrated the end of another fantastic meal with the Chef’s special dessert topped in sparkling candles. Big hugs to Irma and Andrea, proprietors of Il Colombaio, Adorno the Chef, Syliva the Server, Laura the Housekeeper, and Antonietta the Pasta Expert! We are also all grateful for our drivers, Walter and Manuele, our Hospitality Director Paola… and OUR FEARLESS LEADER, Pamela Haack of Strada Toscana.
The art was exhibited around the terrace dining area where we enjoyed our last meal before saying Buonanotte and Arrivederci to the group. Big smiles, happy faces, wonderful artwork, and moonlight.
A perfect ending to a most magical trip.
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.