Saturday, June 29, 2013

Montefalco Day Trip

  Sitting here at work, at about 12:45 on a fine sunny day, I feel hungry. It's that time...lunch time. So, while I slurp my non-fat yogurt and crunch on my carrot sticks, I dream of lunch in Umbria. Hey, I can totally get down with the calorie counting most of the year, if I get to eat like a queen while on the yearly visit to Panicale......
  The lunch I am gladly revisiting today was slowly enjoyed in Montefalco, a lovely Umbrian hill town known for it's exquisite Sagrantino wines. I prefer this red to the Brunellos of Montalcino, myself. You can find Sagrantino wines at good shops that specialize in Italian wines. 
  On this, our second trip to Montefalco(first was w/Loreen & Christopher, last year), we had another wonderful meal at L'Alchimista. This is not only a lovely little trattoria, but also an enoteca, selling wines, olive oils and other treats from the local area. L'Alchimista is located right in the main piazza, easy to find.

  This visit we had a difficult time deciding on a wine, so we chose two half bottles, with the help of our server. She let us try sips from a few different vineyards, and we chose our favorites. Both 2005 vintage, they were a very special treat.

Half bottles of 2005 Colpetrone & 2005 Cantina Fratelli Pardi,
both are Montefalco Sagrantino.

  After being served our wine, and in a very happy and mellow mood, we were brought a little taste from the chef, Patricia. A small bite of house made ricotta, served with a sweet and slightly spicy pepper sauce. It was a perfect start to our meal...

I wish I had better color here...the sauce was beautiful,
and the ricotta was pure white.

Just doing my job, people.

  Good thing I remember to take notes for most of our meals out. I get so excited about the food, I often forget to keep track. It's the ongoing balance of "being in the moment", and really wanting to have a little record handy so I can write about said "moment".

  This lunch, along with the day trip itself, was one of our first ventures out and about on this past trip. As I've mentioned before, I ended up with a nasty stomach flu early on, but I was still feeling quite fine on this particular day. 
  I had a hard time ordering, in fact, because there were several options that sounded amazing. For starters, we shared mixed bruschetta, always Johnny's first choice.

Bruschetta...We have caramelized onions over a soft cheese, mushrooms,
roasted peppers, eggplant and a fantastic truffle spread.
Each topping had it's own very distinct flavor, both from preparation and various fresh herbs.

  We also enjoyed a super light and fluffy cheese soufflĂ© over pan roasted wild mushrooms. It was my choice, and I loved each bite. We always share, so all together we had some real taste treats in this combo of starters.

Just right.

  There are only a few tables at L'Alchimista, and they are downstairs. I think in the warmer months they put tables outside, though. We have had excellent service on both visits. Very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. The chef will prepare gluten free dishes, which I've noticed more and more on local menus.

  For our main course, I had a tough time making a decision, but settled on the gnocchi in a Sagrantino/brown butter sauce. Totally site appropriate! 
  And totally scrumptious, too, I must say. 

Little pillows of delightfulness, these gnocchi were some of the tastiest I've eaten, anywhere.
The Sagrantino sauce was not too heavy, and complimented the sweetness of the potato.
I love being able to taste the potato flavor in well made gnocchi. These were great.

  Johnny often has me order for him, since he will enjoy most anything, and doesn't always understand the Italian menus. 
  So I ordered one of the other dishes I really wanted to try, of course. Described as "crespelle", or crepes, with mushrooms, it was more like a lasagna. The layers of crespelle were super delicate and thin, and the creamy mushroom and cheese filling in between was dreamy. It was one of those dishes, that when it was finished, I just wanted to pick up the plate and lick it clean. What? Is that wrong...? Plus, they made sure there was just enough of a crispy, toasted cheesy top layer....
  We had a mixed salad and some grilled veg as our side dishes.

Johnny's "crespelle" was to die for.
The veg don't look very exciting, but they had been marinated in herbs with a touch of garlic
before being grilled. Sweet, smoky and tasty.

  We were fine with no dessert, and just had espresso to finish our meal. I was perfectly content, and ready for a walk around town.

Details of the small and cozy dining room of L'Alchimista"

  After our meal, we spent some time in the enoteca upstairs. We bought a couple of bottles of Sagrantino to have in Panicale, to be sure. Actually, we asked about shipping home a case, but it was kind of pricy for us, so we will just have to be content with waiting until we go back. I'll look forward to it!
  I also bought a couple of bottles of the vinegar that I had fallen in love with last year. It's made by the Dodi family, but not a balsamic. I think it's made from white wine, but aged in oak barrels for months and months. The result is a sweet, nutty, rich flavor that just rocks a green salad or even panzanella....
   Anyway, I have thought about this vinegar for a year, so had to have some to bring home. It is that special. We went through one bottle while in Panicale, but I still have a bottle I'm using sparingly at home. I wrapped it as though it were a Murano glass chandelier, I kid you not.
  Next year, I am bringing more bottles home. Period.

L'Alchimista in the main piazza, Montefalco.

  Montefalco is about an hour and a half drive from Panicale, and we wanted to make a day of it. We just loved walking the back was still early in the trip, early in the season, so the town was really quiet. The sun was shining, though, so it was perfect for our strolling....

Just outside of the restaurant, in the main piazza. What a sweet ride!

Also in the main piazza, the symbol of Montefalo, a beautifully simple falcon.
We saw this image over and over, in ceramics, glass, cards....we bought two small ceramic wine "cups"
which we now enjoy at home.

  Montefalco is known for it's wines, as I have mentioned, but also for it's textiles. I like it's position the most. It is referred to as "the balcony of Umbria" because it is perched way up above the plains. This allows for the most incredible views of Assisi, Trevi, Spello and other small towns dotting almost every hilltop.
  We were so lucky to have a clear day...we were able to get a great view of the snow capped  mountains in the distance. This would have been in early March.

The small town across the valley is Trevi. Have not been, but it's on the list. Next year.

  Like most all of these towns from the Middle Ages, Montefalco is full of charming back streets to wander through.

You know what blows my mind? I often see women in really high,
really spiked heels walking this type of street. And with gusto.

I was bummed that we missed this exhibition. But the poster outside
the museum was pretty cool.

  So the last image here, which is sweet, is a shot of Johnny's idea of heaven. He has many ideas of Heaven, and why not?
  Dear Johnny dreams of a place, just like this, to sit with a glass of wine in hand, perhaps the latest issue of Modern Painter magazine within reach....a little fire going to roast some veg...a cat snoozing in the lap.....
 Really. We stood at this spot and just stared for as long as we could, without looking like a couple of weirdoes, and he asked me to take a picture so he could remember it. I think he sees his old man self right here. Just perfect.
  One of the many things about him that just keeps me in love, I reckon.

Nothin' fancy, just the basics, man.

  We'll return again and again to Montefalco, I have a feeling. It's just close enough to be a good day trip. And then back home to our favorite Panicale....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Me And Art 4: Il Giardino dei Lauri

  If you are a regular reader of Live Pronto, you know that I have a few posts about me and art here in the can.
  So to speak. 
  I enjoy researching art that I've been fortunate to have seen. Writing about these shows, the artists, and the various venues allows me to delve a little deeper into the pieces, as well as giving me an opportunity to share more about an artist that I am not familiar with.
  We are looking forward to (ok, getting really excited about) heading to Venice this fall for the 55th Biannale, which has just recently begun. This is a great chance to see some real heavy hitters in the Contemporary Art scene, from all over world. 
  I can't wait.

  With this in mind, I decided it would be a good time to share a fantastic spot we found this year in Umbria. Actually, I had done some looking online, and discovered it before we arrived. We were  stoked that it was open off season.
  An amazing private collection, housed in an industrial building and open to the public free of charge...just a few minutes from Panicale...?
  Who Knew?

  Consider yourselves schooled, friends.
  Welcome to Il Giardino dei Lauri.

  Located just outside of Citta della Pieve, in Umbria, the space is almost hidden. You really need to know where to look to find it.
  Once through the main gate and into the small parking area, the first thing I noticed were the large sculptures on the property.

Just above the parking area, a taste of things to come...
"Untitled(The Thing)", by Polish artist Piotr Uklanski, along with
"Big Pink" from Texas artist, Aaron Curry.
More on the sculptures later.....


  We were the only visitors on this early Spring morning. After a quick glance from afar at the sculpture, we were greeted by the young woman who directs the collection. She is very knowledgable, of course, and gives you the option of being there as a guide, or allowing you to wander on your own. There is a written guide in several languages, also. We chatted for sometime with her, finding out about the genesis of the collection, and then headed inside to be amazed.

  Over the entryway, a neon piece by Texas artist Michael Phelan greets you, and I was very curious about the container of balloons just inside....

"Bless You Taco Bell" Michael Phelan (USA)
Fusing business culture and advertising with religion..

  Just inside the entrance is, to me, a very playful work by Martin Creed. It is interactive, which I love. As a viewer, I am always so tempted to get closer, to touch, which can't be done, of course. But here, you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to climb into the chamber and play with the balloons. 
  Evidently, there are just enough balloons so that the air contained within the balloons occupies half the volume of the space where they are installed.
  Our guide told us that kids love it.

"Work NO. 200: Half the Air in a Given Space" Martin Creed(England)

Kids love it.......ooopsy, I am so busted.

  There are two large gallery rooms inside, as well as the entry and two smaller spaces. We were blown away by the collection...Some real Blue Chip artists here. I have chosen about half of what was on display, to feature in this post. A truly awesome group...

"Red Clown Deadline", Vincenzo Rusciano (Italy) with
"River Furnace" from French artist, Nicolas Pol.
I like the canvas very much. Great energy.

Another shot of "Red Clown Deadline".
He's not taking any flack from Death....

  And in the same room as the clown.....

Cuban artist Jorge Pardo's "Untitled", a lovely installation of colored lamps. They reflect color and
movement onto the wall, which features "De l'intermediaire de l'accordeon",
by Valentin Carron(Switzerland).

  The works, above, were all so arresting together...the color, the simplicity of them as a group. It was a very good room. That clown, jeez.
  There is a bunch of meaning behind the cross, but I just really liked looking at the work all together.

  In another smaller gallery....

I love this. It is large, and so energetic...
"Untitled" Anselm Reyle (Germany)

Simple scrunching up of, what? Mylar, I think. And the color is perfect.
It's all about reflections, this one.

  Upon entering the first large gallery, I was so excited to see this work by English artists Tim Noble and Sue Weber. I'd only seen their "shadow" works in books before, so it was cool to experience this in person.

Looks like a pile of one dollar bills in a plexiglass box.
  It is.

  The director came in to "turn it on" for inserting a token into the slot, which fired it up.
  At this point, a fan blows all the loose bills upward, and a lamp is lit, so the shadow reveals the two artists in profile kissing, on the wall behind. At the end, all the bills spill to the bottom again in a heap.
  If you find this interesting, check into other works by these two. There are books of photos of the various"shadow" works, often made with piles of found objects and junk...always with the shadows of figures being revealed....

"Instant Gratification" Sue Webster & Tim Noble (England)
There are layers of significance here, about fame, fortune, success or failure.
 I just like the fact that these artists do this.

  Also in the first gallery, the massive canvas below...I had Johnny stand by, just for a sense of scale.

"Untitled" Daniel Largon (Germany)
The artist is known for using, among other things, fluorescent colors that transform
ultraviolet and infrared light into visible light.
This was striking in both scale and shimmery magic-ness.

  On the other end of the size spectrum, I fell in love with this tiny delight, below.
  Italian artist, Carlo Zanni, creates a small world here, that includes a two minute film, shown on the iPod screen, as well as online. The film is modified by data received via the internet, and re-edited some how, through Google analytics, and updated.... I was just floored by the idea. There is a lot more going on with this teensy piece, but it would take too long to explain.....well...  As more people go online and watch the film, it changes the film. The main character, in bed with an illness, gets "sicker" as more people log on and watch, but it makes for a more successful piece. 
  In a nutshell.

"The Possible Ties Between Illness and Success"
Carlo Zanni (Italy)

  The second large gallery has two doors, each by a different artist. We entered through:

"Untitled (Door)"  Urs Fischer (Switzerland)
Though it looks ordinary, it is actually made
by fusing aluminum components together and enamelling the result.

  One of my very favorite pieces in the whole collection we saw, below, is by Scottish artist Jim Lambie. It is created from doors and mirrors, sort of put together like an accordion. The reflections from the zigzag lines, on the wall above and below, as well as the "perfect green" color...well, it just really appeals to me.
  I kept going returning to it, walking slowly back and forth in front of it. LOVE.

"Shoot Your Shot" Jim Lambie (Scotland)
This photo does no justice, but you may get an idea.
Mirrors on top and underneath.

Also in this gallery, a few of these works from Aaron Young(USA).
He creates these sculptures by destroying mesh fences, or in this case, a restraining fence,
and immersing them in 24 carat gold. He is playing with ideas of urban culture and conflicts,
as well as rebellion from a dominant culture.

The gallery seen from the far end, with the black and white "skull" photograph.

"Untitled(Skull)"  Piotr Uklanski (Poland)
One of several works from this artist seen in the collection here.

I also like this one, "Not Yet Titled(The End)" from Banks Violette.
 It has a companion piece, seen in the gallery shot above.
A bank of lights facing this piece.

  Leaving this gallery, we left through a wonderful black lacquered door by Rudolf Stingel, a favorite artist around the Apodaca home. Well, it would be nice to have one of Mr. Stingel's works actually in our home.
  Hope springs eternal....

  Also seen here, "Ziggy Stardust (Euro)" by Hong Kong artist, Mark Handforth. You can't really see the colors of the fluorescent lights here, but get an idea...I remember it being yellow, pink, orange and blue..

"Untitled" Rudolph Stingel (Italy)
I love the reflection of the zig-zag neon piece on the door

  We were shown one more piece before going outside to see the sculpture garden, and I've left it until the end. I made a short video...we will come back to it in a minute...

  Going back outside, I noticed the huge piece, below, which I had not noticed when we first arrived. Shockingly, because, well, it's gigantic and fantastic. The artist, Piero Golia (Italy), is known for outrageous works, and this is most definitely one of them. Here he has removed the facade of an entire house, and it's being shown on it's side, in this case. The house was in Amsterdam, and this piece was originally sent to Paris to be exhibited in an art gallery there.
  In front you see the little car..."Untitled (Fiat 126P, Pink)". Another work from Piotr Uklanski (Poland).  He converted a real Fiat 126P, produced in Poland between 1973 and 2000, into a "sportier", convertible cabriolet. 
  Evidently the original cars have become iconic in Poland, and this is a play on that image...

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" Piero Golia (Italy)
with "Untitled(Fiat 126P, Pink)" Piotr Uklanski(Poland) in foreground.
Home is where the car is?
Two really great works...

  So we headed up a grassy knoll to enjoy the large sculptures was a little breezy, but still nice enough outside to enjoy the incredible views from the edges of the vast lawn area. There were only a few pieces up here, but they were of such a grand scale, it was all that was needed...

"Big Pink"  Aaron Curry(USA)
I wish I had a shot from behind, which clearly shows that this piece
"has a pair".... a very playful and very large work.

  The rainbow, below is just enormous. So large, it can be seen from miles away. On special event nights, when the garden hosts parties, it's all lit up. I can just imagine what it must be like to see it from the valley below...or from across the valley. 
  It's that big!

"Where Do We Go From Here?" Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland)
A gigantic neon installation, this work takes on different meanings,
depending on where it is displayed. I think it's perfect right here.

Across the lawn, "Lupo" by Italian artist Davide Rivalta.
 It is from a series dedicated to animals. The wolf is life-size.
Great shadow play in the "fur".

Hidden away, in the family's private garden, I spied Wiley Coyote.....
He appears very serene and contemplative. I couldn't see his expression,
so who knows for certain...?

  The short video below, is the end of my little "tour" and I think my favorite piece. I can only hope that you, the viewers, can get an idea of the concept.
  We were ushered into a small side room, all dark and very view this for only a matter of doesn't last long because of it's nature...I feel so grateful to have experienced this wonderful work.
  Since I will take forever trying to describe this, I am just going to give you some copy from an Interview magazine article, which describes it upon it's display in another gallery:

"In his recent show at Maureen Paley in London, 34-year-old artist Banks Violette projected the image of the white, galloping horse from the opening of TriStar Pictures movies on water vapor being blown by a fan. In many ways, Violette was referencing a work by one of his heroes, Jack Goldstein, who looped the roaring MGM lion in a 1975 video piece. Violette's TriStar horse keeps running, and the everlasting lifespan of the hackneyed image is very much a part of the New York artist's experiments. Specifically, Violette focuses on youth and subcultures (black is his frequent working color), simultaneously celebrating their revolt and revealing the queasy way they recycle images and slogans to keep themselves alive."

  "Tristar Horse" Banks Violette (USA)

  There are several videos on You Tube, mine included, if you want to see more of "TriStar Horse".

  Here, I want to thank the fine people at Il Giardino dei Lauri for their inspired collection, and for sharing it with the public. For free. I have referenced their printed material abundantly in this post, and I thank them for this, too.
  This is only about half of the pieces shown the days we were there. I chose the work I liked, and thought would be interesting to share. There are way too many to write about them all....perhaps in another post, later.

  It's a very inspiring place, and if you ever find yourself anywhere near Citta della Pieve, it's a must.
Open only on Fridays and Saturdays. We went twice this visit, and I have no doubt we will return again next Spring, to see what's new in the collection.
  There is a great place for lunch just across the street, too. I'll be posting about our wonderful lunch in the near future.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


  Maybe it's my love of texture. Or my attraction to subtle color. Could be my unending lust for all things rusty...
  Whatever the reason, I find myself snapping more photos of the "details" I see as I walk the medieval streets of Italy than almost anything else. I suppose most of us do.
  The little details are just the best. I see them everywhere, and it's hard to resist the urge to get "the shot". Oh, and just so it's out in the open...I don't have any Delusions of Grandeur, like a coffee table book or anything. That book has been done. Over and over. And over.

 I just like taking the pictures. It's a good way to remember the little things I'm liable to forget.

The sweetest little lace "curtain" I've seen.

I love the colors here. The different grape varieties just match the door,
the glass in the windows, even the metal door knobs.

Thyme and Borage growing in the wall. What a great herb garden.

I just liked these two critters together.

Difficult on the footsies, but lovely to look at.

A very worried beast in Montepulciano.

  What is it about rust and moss and lichen and dirt. Funky stuff that just begs me to come close and touch. I am powerless to the draw of these scenes.

Perfect window dressing in La Mura.

The beautiful tile roof of a small shrine holding
a statue of the Virgin Mary.

A simple field marker taken to the next level.
I want this for my garden.

A wall decoration that just sends me. It is for the family mausoleum.
This is life size.

Please don't laugh. Johnny and I both went crazy when we saw this
old swing set. Serious lust. Perfect green and rustiness.
At "da Gino's" on Lago di Chiusi.

More perfect green and rust with the patina of the ages.

 Sometimes it's the day to day stuff that I see on our walks around Panicale, or while I'm waiting for Johnny to finish working. I'll go snooping around and come across things I find too beautiful to leave behind. So I take. A picture.

In the church in Paciano. 

Signs outside the alimentari in Valiano.

It was really hard not to just swipe this one. Not that I ever would, but still.
You know what I mean. It's tin, man.

If I ever find a ceramic light fixture like this, I'm all in.
So simple. So cool.

Well, it was something to watch, let me tell you.
They were working on a roof...way up there.

  I took a bunch of photos one day while we were roaming around Monticchiello, a small hill town in Tuscany. I love this little town. We try to get over to see it every year. It's not a long drive, and in fact, it's a very beautiful drive. There are never many people around when we are there, off season. It has an amazing fabric store and a couple of nice places to have a meal. 
  We usually just stop in for a stroll and a glass of wine.

  There were some nice moments on this day....

I like the light fixture here.

Classic red geraniums.

I saw this succulent a lot this year, all over the area. Here, I love it with the curtain.

Just another nice shot.

  Statues are always a nice subject, but I see the same ones over and over.
  These were a nice change...

Quite a perfect fellow.

His partner was there, too.

I just love her. 

  And just because I like the colors, here is a nice shot of our laundry drying outside.
  Really, I like the colors...... especially against the walls of the apartment.
  What? Anything can be me.