Archive for September, 2009

Knowing full well I will be hard pressed to get on the computer for the next few weeks while in Italy for our fall trips, I thought I would post while I am still stateside. I was giving thought to our newsletter that we send out ever couple months. And I was thinking about all the things I would like to write about and share with our subscribers. And the list grew quite long.

There are all the people we know and enjoy, most of whom are truly interesting people it has been a joy to come to know and be befriended by.

  • Alberto


    There’s Alberto who is the warmest guy you can imagine. He works in ceramics and his great love is the medieval period. He is one of the 2 main knights in Orvieto’s most important yearly celebration – Corpus Domini. He looks awesome in his medieval knight’s costume. Alberto gave us a behind the scenes tour of the over 400 costumes he helps take care of for the celebration.

  • There’s the Scarponi family and their bar, pastry and sweet shop. Mother, father, son all working together to make some of Orvieto’s best sweets and our favorite place for coffee. Stefano, the son, cooked at the U.N. with an Italian delegation, and also cooked in England for a time.
  • Or Tiziana and Massimo who make the most exquisite jewelry you can imagine. From Rome, trained as architects, they fell in love with Orvieto and bring a passion to their artwork that is palpable.
  • Erika, the American ex-pat, who married and Italian, raised a family in Perugia and Orvieto. She used to have a store and the current tenant still displays her sign. Erika’s husband was, and her son is, an archeologist, so she has a wealth of knowledge about the Etruscans and history and art history.
  • Suor Giovanna, who runs our convent B&B. She runs a tight ship, has a heart of gold, makes the best tiramisu and limoncella, and lasagna, and soup, and . . . Brought in by her superiors to shut down the convent, she has turned it into an amazing enterprise.



  • There’s the mayor, and Pier Giorgio who runs CittaSlow, the Michelangeli family, Cristian and his family restaurant, Velia the TV chef and personality, and on and on.

Then there are the things that go on in Orvieto.

  • The twice weekly market where everyone comes together and meets and gets their fresh goods.
  • The passeggiata or traditional evening walk that takes place from about 5 until 8.



  • There are the festivals like Corpus Domini, the Umbrian jazz festival in winter, or the Slow Food festival in the fall.
  • There are the medieval fairs and vendors that set up periodically.
  • Orvieto plays host to a surprising number of gatherings on all sorts of topics. For instance the annual conference of Open Office, a competitor to Microsoft Office, is taking place in Orvieto this year.

And of course there is the history, its impressive buildings, its agriculture. The list goes on and on. So I am looking forward to spending some time on this trip getting pictures and gathering information to go in future newsletters and this blog.

If you’d like to sign up for the newsletter you can do it on our home page. Oh, and we have redone our gallery pages so it is much easier to scroll through the pictures. Have a look. Ciao!


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Cover of Tracie's book

Cover of Tracie's book

Well this has been a lot of fun! Tracie Huskamp who, with her mother-in-law Marilyn Huskamp is teaching “Italia Ispirato: Journal of a Sojourn” in which participants will be creating mixed media art pieces, in Orvieto September 9 – 18, 2010, has recently published her first most wonderful book Nature Inspired: Mixed Media for Gathering, Sketching, Painting, Journaling, and Assemblage. She gave us a copy to give away. We have been taking comments on this blog for about a month now and today is the day we select the winner.

We weren’t quite sure how to go about choosing, but ended up putting everyone’s name in a hat and drawing out the winner. We will be sending the book to:

Rini Boer who lives in the Netherlands!!

Congratulations to Rini! Lucky her. We had a surprising number of comments from other countries. At least England, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Australia and of course the Netherlands had someone submit comments. It is an amazingly small world we inhabit.

Thank you Tracie! Congratulations Rini!

Thanks to all of you who commented. We hope each of you will consider joining us in Italy for one of the workshops we have scheduled. We truly have an unbelievably talented group of teachers dedicated to the art of teaching. On these trips you learn, build skills, and satisfy your creative drive. You grow, develop, and have fun. You also get the chance to experience Italy from a much deeper place, come to know her people, customs, food and wine. We hope you will continue to follow along on this blog, and, if you haven’t done so, sign up for our newsletter on our home page.

Kristi and I are soon off for our fall workshops in Orvieto. We will be enjoying the talents of our teachers, the hospitality of our Italian friends, and making new friends of those who are joining us for the first time. See you soon!

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I read an article by Lori Valigra about the incredible journey of sea turtles over thousands of miles to return to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs. She says,

For some of us, home is moments in place and time when where we are feels like where we should be.

Home is what Orvieto feels like for our Adventures in Italy travelers. It is really quite amazing how a place thousands of miles from your home, a place with a character so absolutely different from your own, a place with a language you can’t understand, a place with customs so different from yours, a place where the food is not what you are accustomed to, a place that in nearly all ways is foreign can feel so much like home.

Texture, Detail, Human Scale

Texture, Detail, Human Scale

How is this possible? There are several factors that contribute.

  • Orvietani are unbelievably welcoming and hospitable. Even though you can’t speak the language you feel the welcome.
  • San Lodovico, the convent B&B where we stay, is the peaceful, quiet, nurturing environment we all seek to establish in our own homes.
  • The richness of texture and detail you experience every step you take is so engaging and pleasant that you feel at home.
  • The scale of the streets, piazzas and public spaces is so totally human that you instantly are comfortable – like being in your very own nest.
  • The food is simple, delectable, and is always shared in the company of others in a lively atmosphere that makes you feel alive, engaged, and completely content. We do, after all, most often come together at home around the table.
  • The city is just the right size to learn your way around quickly yet interesting enough to hold your attention all week long – like knowing your own home town and it being one of great interest and intrigue.

    We Gather Round the Table

    We Gather Round the Table

Over the course of a week in Orvieto you become part of the place and its fabric. Giovanna, from San Lodovico says, “The tufa rock absorbs you.” (Tufa is the volcanic rock on which the town sits and from which its buildings are made.) It is an apt description. You are absorbed by the people, the food, and the environment to the point that you know you belong. It is quite extraordinary and wonderful.

We invite you to join us in Orvieto for a week. You will feel at home, absorb it and be absorbed. There’s no place like home!

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SoupI love the several weeks to a month before we leave for our Adventures in Italy trips. It is a busy time tending to all the last minute details. But it is also a time of great anticipation. There’s the anticipation of meeting the people signed up for our trips, of watching as they explore and unwind in Orvieto, slowly lighting up. The anticipation of seeing our many friends. The anticipation of taking in the unparalleled views.

SoupPalombaAnd then there is the anticipation of all the good food. Fall, brings its own collection of just ripening foods. Since the Italians have access to incredibly fresh produce and love eating what  is fresh, items available on menus change with the seasons. Figs, mushrooms, apples, pumpkins are among the available fare in the fall. But what I look forward to most is chestnuts. Chestnuts are used in a surprising number of foods. During the Slow Food festival in Orvieto held in early October some restaurants feature chestnut deserts, pasta made from chestnut flour, chestnut sauces. For me, what I so look forward to is the chestnut soup that Christian serves at his restaurant Trattoria del Moro Aronne.

SoupChickpeaI love soup and fall is soup time. Italians make wonderful soups. I have never had chestnuts here in the U.S. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire never made it to my house, so I was completely unfamiliar with them. I don’t know what all goes into Cristian’s soup. The chestnuts are there cut up into lima bean size pieces. They are surprisingly sweet. And crunchy. And oh so good. Oh boy, I can hardly wait.

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I’m reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth for the second time. Here is a passage toward the end of the book.

Out of nowhere, so to speak, “you” suddenly appear in the world. Birth is followed by expansion. There is not only physical growth, but also growth of knowledge, activities, possessions, experiences. Your sphere of influence expands and life becomes increasingly complex. This is a time when you are mainly concerned with finding or pursuing your outer purpose.  . . .

And then, just when you thought you made it, or you belong here, the return movement begins. Perhaps people close to you begin to die, people who were a part of your world. Then your physical form weakens; your sphere of influence shrinks. Instead of becoming more, you now become less, and the ego reacts to this with increasing anxiety or depression. Your world is beginning to contract, and you may find you are not in control anymore. Instead of acting upon your life, life now acts upon you by slowly reducing your world. The consciousness that identified with form is now experiencing the sunset, the dissolution of form. And then one day, you too disappear. Your armchair is still there. But instead of you sitting in it, there is just an empty space.

I don’t include this because I am morbid, but because I think this is really a statement of hope – and one relating to our trips to Italy. How each of us reacts to the return movement is individual. But I think the beginning of the return, whenever it occurs, is full of potential.

Why? Because you now know what you didn’t during the expansion: Time is limited, you don’t know as much as you thought you did, there is so much more to do and experience and learn, being right isn’t so important, having the most stuff is inconsequential, keeping up is pointless, fears are preventing really living, it is just too short to waste.

And you begin to blossom. You reach for those things you were afraid to reach for before. You forget about putting in 80 hour weeks and instead pursue your passions. You realize all your possessions mean little, it is experiences you crave now.

In fact it is a huge awakening, a truly positive one. And that is exactly what our trips to Italy are. People of all ages – for we awake at different times – are joining us to pursue what they have been missing, whatever that is. We, Kristi and I, in doing Adventures in Italy are doing the same. It is simply magnificent this beginning of the return!

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