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Uncovering Your Soul

We’ve just finished our last art/culture trip. We’ve sold the business after 15 years. The last 13 of the 15 we married a variety of art courses to the inspiration of Italian life. It has been transformative.

When we began we knew only that the way Italians lived and the intimacy and beauty of Orvieto’s streets, piazzas and buildings touched a cord in us. Over time we discovered that this pairing of art and place reconnected people to their souls. It has been beautiful. Humbling. Evocative. Renewing. Affirming. Yes, transformative.

Changing times and particularly the way technology erodes the ability to be in the moment have had an impact. But even through this very last trip art, Orvieto, and staying in one place absorbing for a week resulted in many people recounting to us how life changing the experience was.

It is a struggle for people to stay connected to their souls, to that inner compass always there to guide us, to stay true to who we individually are. What we have been so privileged to witness is how a week here with us in Orvieto reconnects people to themselves. We have received countless letters, postcards and emails telling us how the trip was a blessing, a milestone, a life changer. It’s not us. It’s this place and way of fulling engaging life, interpreted through a creative medium, that opens eyes to truly see.

Orvieto as seen from Palazzone vineyard

It touched Kristi and me early. Four years in we returned to the U.S. and knew we had to make a change. After four years of biannual visits where we were deeply connected to people and life we could no longer live an anonymous, American suburban life. We began the search. Two years later our house went on the market and we moved to to a connected, soulful, rich life in a small town.

We are lucky. The people who traveled with us are lucky. We’ve all found – or more accurately – uncovered our soul – for it has always been there waiting patiently. For this we have Orvieto, her people, her way of life, and the creative pursuits that helped see it better to thank. There is no way to adequately say thank you. The many soulful lives growing out of the experiences here however, bear testimony to what a great gift this place has given.

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Seasonal and Local

One of the things I love about Italy is that it’s seasonal. We have grown so accustomed in the U.S. to having everything available all the time that we have forgotten how we once flowed with the seasons experiencing and appreciating things in their time.

Buffalo mozzarella from Campania

This is of course obvious with produce where we get tomatoes, albiet the tasteless, soulless fruit that it is in the U.S., all year long. When you come to Italy you find artichokes in the spring but not the fall. In the fall you find fall fruits and veggies you never see in spring. These seasonal variations are reflected in the menus at restaurants.

3 pecorinos with lemon, orange, pear and fig jellies

There is the less obvious. Chocolate can’t be found in the warm months. We won’t be able to give chocolate welcome goodies to our guests for a week or two more, and then only if the temperature has cooled down. Americans often complain, yet I think it helps us be more in tune with the season and to enjoy each season’s bounty and character all the better.

12 year old balsamico to gave the cheese

Then there is the incredible diversity of regions, of being local. We are getting more this way in the U.S., but the Italians take it to an entirely different level. We did a cheese tasting with Cristian Manca at his deli Gastronomia. What an eye opener. We had buffalo mozzarella from Campania, the area around Naples. It is specific to the area. We had 3 pecorino cheeses, each aged a different period of time. The one year old was from Grosetto. It was distinctly better. Then we had a 5 year old pecorino. Very strong but good. And he put a drop of 12 year old balsamic vinegar on one piece – balsamic from Modena. Unbelievable.

Graziella and Cristian

We finished with a Gorgonzola like none I’ve ever had, again specific to it’s area. It is so creamy you have to spoon it out of the 5 kilo wheel it is aged in. He sprinkled chocolate shavings on it and served it with a sweet wine I’ve never had before from Palazzone winery – a winery I have been visiting for 15 years. Even our foodie friend and sommelier Graziella Gasparri, who was explaining the wines we had with the cheese, had never had Gorgonzola with chocolate.

Gorgonzola, shaved chocolate and Palazzone’s wine

These foods all came from distinct geographic areas that are quite small. Beautiful variety and character specific to the locale. Palazzone wine maker Giovanni Dubini has always insisted that his wine taste like his vineyard, that it not try to be like every other wine of the same variety out there. He succeeds, and his wines are sublime.

Italy is full of wonders. I think the seasonal, local aspect of it’s culture is every bit as impressive as it’s art and architecture. Indeed, it is art.

Orvieto Images

From the last few days.

Annuciation

The Annunciation in San Agostino church in Orvieto is simply stunning. I hadn’t been in to see it in a few years. It was a treat to see it again today.

This angel is so incredible

Look at that, but the wing especially. Damn!

Layers, depth, recesses, texture – holy cow!

How do you do this level of detail in marble?

San Agostino also houses the 12 larger than life statues that used to be in the Duomo. They too are beautiful. This is a detail from one.

Couldn’t be more life like.

Price of admission well worth it at this end-of-the-rock, off the beaten path museum!

To Be Moved

Pico Iyer had this to say about travel:

You’re not traveling to move but to be moved.

I’m sure this is not true for everyone, and it is but one reason to travel. But, it is an important reason. One of the great beauties of travel is that it does open your eyes: To new ways, new approaches, new beliefs, new concepts, new understandings. And these things move you.

Orvieto's mid-level walk

Orvieto’s mid-level walk

Being moved is more difficult if you are constantly moving as you travel. If you do not have time to absorb and take in a place. If you don’t allow yourself time to reflect, to simply gaze, to be unhurried. This is why I am such a fan of slow travel, and why it is how we do our trips.

We have been going to Orvieto for 15 years, twice a year, for 3-8 weeks at a time. There hasn’t been a trip where I didn’t discover something new, see something I hadn’t seen before, had a revelation of some kind. Where I didn’t have some kind of aha moment. Truly, it has been a privilege.

Early morning in Orvieto

Early morning in Orvieto

Light and Entries

Our last day in Orvieto for the fall 2016 season was one of beautiful light and welcoming entryways. This really is a beautiful city. It is worth getting off the main streets and wandering the back lanes. Charming, quiet, delightful. Too few people do it – sadly for them. Enjoy!

Already looking forward to 2017!!

A Rainy Day in Parma

Today was clouds and rain and cold all day. But we wanted to get out and explore so we did. First things first – food!! When we arrived late yesterday most things were closed – seems Thursday is the day a lot of places don’t open in the afternoon. But we did spy T cafe so headed there this morning first thing. It is a cozy place with great pastries – pastries are big here, lots of pasticerrias.

T Caffe

Bello

While walking in the morning we spied another place that looked good – Lino’s Coffee. Way better coffee this afternoon, so we will try it tomorrow for breakfast. They have a world map with locations coffees comes from and great graphics showing the different kind of coffee drinks you can get.

Lino’s Coffee, Via della Cooperazone 7/A

The graphics

Verdi, who is from here is quoted, “Coffee is balm for the heart and soul.”

Close up

Parma is known for its ham, parmigiano, and several pastas including tortelli, a big ravioli. Kristi had the tortelli stuffed with artichokes for lunch. I had pasta with culatello, one of the many varieties of ham. It was fabulous – like carbonara but with the slices of ham. This was at Trattoria del Tribunale.

Trattoria del Tribunale, Vicolo Politi 5

There are plenty of shops selling ham and parmigiano.

Salumeri Verdi – Via Garibaldi 69/A

Did I say it was raining? 

They love their bikes here, and the rain doesn’t stop them.

The cathedral is an impressive building along with its pink eight sided baptistry. When I get inside a church like this I am reminded of how light and airy the duomo in Orvieto is.

We went into an old pharmacy dating to about 1000 a.d. The following picture is from the poison room, where glass beakers of all shapes and sizes hung on the wall created some bizarre shadows.

My foot gives some perspective as to the size of this mortar and pestle

This is a city full of color and brick. Such fun.

And it is a city of impossibly tiny shops. This one on Via Garibaldi, has wonderful pastries and breads.

We’re hoping for some sun tomorrow!