Monday, June 20, 2011

Reasearch & Exploration - Part 2

To continue our research for Louise Freshman Brown’s painting workshop here in October, Linda and I found the museum dedicated to the Bolognese artist, Giorgio Morandi.  It is located on the second floor of the grand Palazzo d’Accursio facing the Piazza Maggiore.  This is a civil building that also houses the stock exchange and City Hall.  The stone staircases were exaggeratedly broad, with high, vaulted ceilings frescoed from end to end, suitable for a duke (or a pope) to descend royally.  The museum was wonderful, full of oil paintings and etchings in Morandi’s signature style (if you don’t know this artist, we can recommend you investigate his work - click on the link-   Giorgio Morandi - Artwork)
When we left the museum we heard the noise of a cheering crowd, reverberating in the hallways.  There was applause with explosions and shouts of “auguri”.  As it turns out, it was Saturday and there were several weddings going on in City Hall.  We snuck down to see what was going on and found a large, ceremonial room packed with well-dressed people.  There was a grand mahogany desk in the middle with 4 red velvet chairs and 2 formal pens for signing marriage documents.  The room had ¾ length windows where a bride and groom were waving to the crowds below in the square.  There was music playing in the room and general congratulations being liberally tossed around.
Wedding couple in Bologna
Many people don’t realize that in Italy – one of the most Catholic countries in the world – marriages are only recognized when performed at a municipal City Hall.  That is the principle ceremony where your friends and family go to witness your vows and to support you on your life together.  Should you choose to have a church service afterwords, (and many do not) it is purely ceremonial and not legally binding.  The Church has no authority to marry people.  That rests entirely with the State.
Wedding guest complete with confetti

And confetti
We slipped down the stairs incognito, shuffling  through the rice and confetti scattered about the landing where the bride and groom had paused for pictures.  We mingled momentarily with the guests in the entry courtyard of the palazzo watching them drink champagne and celebrate.  We had big smiles on our faces, caught up in the revelry as we emerged onto the main square.
It was a beautiful day, so we sat for a while in one of the cafes under the arcades for a coffee. 
Cafe Scecheratto
All of Bologna seemed to traverse that square, from dreadlocked students to elegant wedding guests to a variety of brides and grooms in long white gowns, short purple dresses and Indian sarongs passing each other on their way to or from their marriage vows.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reasearch & Exploration - Part 1

    For the last 10 days Michael and I have been traveling around doing one of our favorite things in Italy…research and exploration.
When we began Il Chiostro we wanted to give our alumni the opportunity to experience many different parts of Italy and it's culture....and we love to do that too.
Our first stop, as most of you already know, was Bologna. See:
We are preparing for 2 weeks fall 2012 there. For now here is a photo of our Gelato Orgy on the last day after a 2 hour hike along a portico up to San Luca Church just outside the city...
Gelato in Bologna

We traveled on to Piemonte….Barolo and Dolcetto country.
The Nebbiolo grape is very versatile. It is used to make wine of the same name as well as Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Ghemme. Nebbiolo probably gets it's name from the Italian word nebbia
which means "fog" because during the harvest, which generally takes place late in October, a deep, intense fog sets into the Langhe region where most Nebbiolo vineyards are located.
Not to mention the cuisine.
Nebbiolo grapes....waiting to be Barolo

Ravioli Del Plin
A good friend of ours from Tuscany has a connection to a winery near Barolo called Clavesana.
We felt like royalty as we cruised the area with the Director of Clavesana, Anna Bracco. She is an extraordinary woman. There are many wine cooperatives in Italy, however Anna has created this cooperative in a way that gives all of the 350 families that participate a voice and a face...

Clavesana crest personified

She and her associate, Tessa Donnadieu International Liason, gave a wonderful 3 day tour of the area.
Michael, Anna Bracco & Tessa
Three days packed with many eno-
gastro- nomic, logistic and all simply wonderful experi- ences.

Lange Landscape
The landscape is a variety of grape vines, barley and hazelnut trees.

Barley in Lange
The wonderful thing about this area is that tourism has not hit in a major way so it is intimate, genuine and as authentic as it gets.

We visited many agritourisms, ex-monasteries, restaurants, farmers, a cooking school and even a gent from South Africa that gives tours there in a hot air balloon. When they heard we were thinking of bringing American artists to the area we became like rock stars in their eyes.
Everyone has such enthusiasm for their part of Italy, it was infectious and inspiring. 
Red that catches the eye

One thing about this area that struck me was the color red that is used on many of the houses. It pops against the many varieties of green backdrop.

By the end of our visit we were very excited about the prospects of offering workshops in the area. So check our schedule for next year soon to see when and where.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bologna the fecund!

We drove up from Tuscany to research 2 programs scheduled for October. There is so much to see and experience with all 5 senses here but the first must be the food. We headed to our favorite gelato place first thing. After the long drive from Siena we needed some fortification to get us through the rest of the day. 
They call Bologna "La Grassa" The Fat and no wonder. We are in a food coma after tonight's dinner. We began with the most popular item in Bologna.... Mortadella aka Baloney...Bologna.
We moved on to the best plates of Italy, Primi.... pastas we sampled: Tagliatelle al RaguLasagna alla Bolognese, Papardelle with porcini, sausage and shaved truffles, baked tortellini with porcini and tallegio. We moved on to the secondi...meat courses, Cotoletta alla Bolognese, Coniglio al Aceto balsamico, Scaloppina ai Fungi Porcini, Stracetti alla Rucola. My Mom loves pasta so much they made her a special one with asparagus and prosciutto.
We were so full, we thought we would skip dessert BUT, they tempted us with, Chocolate Mouse with orange zest, fresh Meringa covered with melted chocolate, Rice pie, so we succumbed. Then they went over the edge and brought a platter of fried pastry cream that made even our Bolognese born friend, Giovanni, shiver with delight.
We are too overwhelmed to write any more so here are some photos to give the idea of what the day was like:
Food shop
fecund Food Shop
More food Shop
Guess shop
My favorite peaches...flat
Yup, more food shop
A variety of cherries are in Season
Meat Shop
Bowl o' Mozzes
Well dressed Melon!
more Tomatoes

Cheeses, Tortellini and Bread, oh my!
Up Close and juicy!

Hands Off the Tamatas!
 More food porn tomorrow, for now "Baci" from Bologna!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Italy Influences Artist

Our artist/instructor Barrett Edwards talks about how Italy has influenced her art and soul.