Sunday, May 27, 2012


  So sweet to see all the creatures out and about while on our stay in Panicale. Sure, there are plenty of cats and dogs, but I get a big kick out of all the little unexpected sights we would come across on our daily walks and drives. 
  Being in a fairly rural area, I expect to see farm type animals here and there.....

Just outside of Panicale, near La Querciolina...a wonderful winery.

Cuteness personified.  And so curious...
  What I really look for, are the little fellows, tucked in, here and there. I'm very keen on keeping my eyes open and constantly scanning up and down while we on on our walks. You just never know what you may come across.
  I loved finding the two following "vignettes". The thing that really floored me was the amazing texture these guys both happened to find themselves emerged in,  just as I walked by.... I could not have asked for more.

Don't even know how I found this one...just lucky, I guess.

This one, too. A perfect blend of color and texture.

   On one of our day trips to Isola Maggiore, I went walking while Johnny was painting and had loads of fun. We had been wondering what all the odd screeching was, and found out it was all the pheasants around the island. Man, do they make a hellish sound. The color of the feathers on the male pheasants are so beautiful, it's ok about all the noise they make.

Pretty Boy.

Very subtle female.....

  Then there are the scaly critters. My favorites, really. I always had snakes around during our summer vacations...we would catch garter snakes, or the beautiful white and black king snakes. I have fond memories, and still like to hold snakes whenever given half a chance. Which, by the way, is never, these days..... just saying....

Doing her daily push-ups in the warm sunshine near the lake. 

A bit out of focus, but he would not stay still! Such a nice green...

  There are vipers in the area, but we didn't come across any. I did see a snake about three feet long  while walking with Tasha one day. We both jumped! It was well hidden in the leaves and shade on the edge of the dirt path we were following. Not quick enough to get a photo that time. Fortunately, I did get a nice long moment to get this little cutie on film. Well, digital whatever....

He was playing dead, and didn't move a muscle...

So...I put a pencil down to show just how tiny he was. So cute! A seriously still character.

 Then there are the odd ball moments...the really fun moments.
 Maybe it's just me that thinks it's fun. Besides the snakes and lizards and frogs and turtles, when I was growing up, I had this hokey nature camp I made up. I would give myself and any of the other kids in the 'hood "points" for bringing in the most interesting living creatures we could find. Mom and Dad had set up an old bath tub in the back yard, and we used it for toads and pollywogs, turtles...whatever we could find. I guess I should have gone into science of some sort.....
  So on the day we got caught in the massive rain/thunder/lightening storm, I came across this really cool sight. Now I understand that these ants knew what was coming, and were doing whatever they could to plug up their entryway from the deluge that was only moments away....

Ants desperately working to drag these hazelnut seeds into their doorway. Little did we know that twenty minutes
later we would be soaked and scared ourselves....

   Then there were the bees.....

I'm thinking they are getting ready to swarm. On a wall in Montone.

  Of course, there are always big surprises.....

The ever elusive Olive Tree Cat. This was a real coup.
 Normally never seen in daylight. What luck.

Stone Hawk. Only found in a small region outside of Tavernalle, near Oro. Most rare.
  Only Mother Nature knows what I will come across next time. I am learning that the one thing to always remember is... have that camera out and ready.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


 Back home now. Sigh. Upside? We live in a beautiful area, and we love it. Downside? We also love Panicale, and it's hard waiting to be back there again. I have lots of wonderful photos to cull through, lots to write about. It will certainly help ground me again. I look forward to sharing more posts  on food, gnomes, flora and fauna, art, day to day life, etc.. 

  There are so many sights and sounds that I find just too delicious to leave behind.....

  I fell in love with the little chapels and "niches" scattered along the roadsides and imbedded in the walls of all the hill towns around Panicale. They are everywhere. Sometimes just a tiny plaque, sometimes an entire freestanding small building. Most have candles in colored glass containers and flowers, either fresh or artificial.
  They are made out of all types of things... ceramic tile, terra cotta, wood, plastic, mosaic. Some are elaborate, some are the simplest expression of Mary and Child.

A real beauty.

A hard one to see, but the posture is so bittersweet.
  I like coming across them on the roadsides in the middle of nowhere. Maybe someone died on this spot? I don't know, but I like to stop and check them out.

This one had fresh orchids and a spotlight.

Close up of the one above.

This is so simple, and the color combo is gorgeous.
  We drive by lots of these every day while in Panicale. I've seen women sweeping and changing out the flowers. I must ask about them next year. Are they put there by the community? Are they just for the family? I don't know...yet.

We saw this one all the time. Below is a shot of the inside.

Often they have these battery operated fake candles.

  The odd ones are the biggest surprise. 

Alien Mary and Child?

Going all modern with the housing on this one. Pipes welded together.

Not really odd,  just lots of little guys flitting about. Sweet, really.

  We came across the one below on a really long walk that ended in a torrential rainstorm. Lightning, thunder and everything. I'm thinking that the only reason we made it home alive (but absolutely soaking wet), was because we straightened out the flower pot here before the storm hit. A very frightful event for both of us.

Johnny getting ready to put the flower pot right. Looks sunny, right?

Thank You, Mary... you got us home safe and sound.... a real beauty.

  There are cool brick structures many times. I like all the thoughtfulness that goes into these. They are built to last, I assume. Also, they age in a lovely way, getting more beautiful as the years go by.

I remember hopping a big ditch to get this shot. So pretty in the field.

Way up, just outside of Panicale.
  The tile pieces are most always so vibrant and painterly. I really enjoy them.

The iron work is nice on this one.

This one, close up below, we came across on another walk....

Artificial flowers don't take anything away from this loveliness.

We both loved the gold leaf here.

  On one of our last days in Panicale, we took a drive over to an area we really like. To our amazement,   we found this road we'd never driven down. What a treat. And here was yet another sweet niche, just letting us know that there are so many surprises yet to come for us on the next visit.

Such a simple line here.

What a sweet surprise.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Red And Green All Over

  For years I've enjoyed seeing the very classic photos depicting fields of red poppies in Italy. Usually in calendars, on postcards, or in "coffee table" type photo books on Tuscany. I was so excited to start seeing these wildflowers popping up along all the roadsides and in all the olive groves. 
  I recognized them long before they began to actually bloom. The small plants have the same texture and color of the foliage as the hybridized and annual large poppies we buy at nurseries back home.
   I've had these in my gardens in pink, soft lavender, purple, dark maroon and yes, red. What a thrill to see them just as they should be, coming up throughout the countryside, perfectly matched with the greens of the fava bean plants and the olive trees, or poking up through the wheat fields. They are everywhere right now.

Poppies and fava beans near Macchie.

 Along with the shockingly blue sky, this combo of red and green is a real joy. And no, not at all christmas-y, either! I can't get the camera out fast enough... I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy these last blasts of color before we head back home.

Love the red, yellow, and olive green together.. 

  Then there are the little vignettes that pop up along our morning walks. You couldn't plan these shots if you tried. It's the whole "site-appropriate" thing I've been noticing so much on this trip. We pass by the two scenes below all the time, and -Boom!- now there are poppies added into the mix!

Already a beauty scene, but with poppies, even better.

Gorgeous with the texture and colors of the stone wall.

  As I am enjoying the landscape changing throughout this trip, some of my favorites to watch are the wheat fields. When we first arrived, they were just coming up, all electrified green and new. I could still see the soil they were growing in. Now, in these last days of our visit, these same fields are lush, tall, waving in the breeze, with the grain so visible...I want to chew on them.
  The color of these fields has changed dramatically, with the heat coming on. I imagine they will be golden before too long. But for now, this transition green is so soft, so gentle. I just can't stop myself from climbing as close as I can get into the fields....

Sparkles of light on grains.

   We took a little day trip up to Citta di Castello this past week, and it was an entirely new landscape to enjoy. The same, but different. We just had to keep stopping along the road to take it in.

An olive grove just outside of Panicale, on our way to Citta di Castello.

A different landscape, but the same color combo.
   The valley we went through to get to Citta di Castello, is just over the hill across Lago Trasimeno, the lake we look out at everyday here. So close, but a very different type of country side. The valley isn't very wide, and it reminded us a lot of the coastal valleys we have nearby our home in California. Big difference? Red poppies, not orange!

Such a happy little wildflower.

Johnny waits in the Cinque Cento, while I get "the shot". A great white road.

So perfect with the color of this stone house.

  We took a long walk nearby just a day or two ago, and the grain fields had me once again mesmerized. Could they have changed that much in just a few short days? Taller, plumper and even a hint of the gold to come....

  This time, I couldn't resist, I broke off one perfect, stiff flowerhead. I needed to hold it in my hand and see the amazing symmetry of this green wonder up close and personal. I had to run my thumb up and down, to feel the perfectly arranged grains. The long, pointed ends of each grain are so thin, but still flexible at this stage. As the weeks go by, they will get very stiff.

  There is a scene in the film, "Gladiator", I keep thinking about. The gladiator (Russell Crowe) is dying and dreaming of his family and home, walking through his wheat fields and brushing his hand across the very tips of the golden grains. I can feel the stiff flower tips, and the almost oppressive heat....I can imagine the rustling sound from the warm wind, and the never ending birdsong.... I get it.

It's all too much for me.

  On this same day, as we were driving the short distance back to Panicale, we came across just a few more poppies. This time, they are along side a big new roadway that is going in. Sad to imagine this change so close, but we think it will make things easier for the locals. Who knows.
  We love the tiny country roads, and are never in a big hurry. But we are on vacation, just passing through for a month or two. We are living in La La Land while here. The rose tinted glasses do have to come off, on occasion, even in our beloved Umbria.....
  In any case, whether by man or nature's hand, there are hundreds of poppies along side the construction zone, softening things up, just a little.

Everything changes, I guess, but the poppies make it easier to take in.
  Next year, when we return, we may be too early for the poppy display. If so, I am so grateful to have had this chance to see what all the fuss is about. Now I can add another little gold star next to my list of all the hundreds of sights I've dreamt about seeing. Mille Grazie, Italia...... Love your red poppies and gorgeous wheat fields!