La Rosa dei 4 Venti and Sam Fitch

I am creating this post on the 2 year anniversary of the Sam Fitch’s departure from this plane of existance. It is something that has been my intention to do for nearly a year, but it was important to me to create this story on this day that marks  Sam’s passage.

Last year, I attended  an incredible week long yoga retreat at an ashram retreat center in Puglia, Southern Italy, at one of the most magical and special places I have ever been to,  La Rosa dei 4 Venti

I had found it on line, by chance, a year earlier and vowed to visit one day. And so it was, one year later.

That same year, 2014, around the time that I had learned of this remarkable retreat center, my dear friends, Tobey, Teri and Aggie Fitch lost their son and brother, Sam Fitch, as he was riding his motorcycle on an open stretch of road during the lunar eclipse, April 14, 2014, in Montana. His death has impacted everyone of us who know and love the Fitchs.

His family created river rock stones, with Sam’s name written on the stones, to be distributed to friends, loved ones, so that each of them could place a “Sam Stone” in a special place of their choosing. I have witnessed many beautiful photos/posts on Facebook where people have placed these sacred stones. When I received mine, 2 years ago, I knew that I needed to place it in just the right place in Italy. It took a year for me to find this place, and when I arrived at La Rosa Dei 4 Venti, I knew this was the place for my Sam Stone. I waited until the last day of this magical yoga retreat, deliberately rising with the sun, and set about creating a ritual dedicated to Sam, Tobey, Teri and Aggie.



La Rosa dei 4 Venti


Sunrise on June 26, 2015


The centuries old church, now a mix of original Catholic and Eastern spiritual traditions. It was here that I found myself each morning, in quiet reflection and meditation.


I placed my Sam Stone, here, for a quiet moment of meditation and prayer.


I then visited Buddha, where I placed my Sam Stone on the lotus flower that rests on Buddha’s hands, for another temporary stop on our sunrise pilgrimage.


The final spot where I would leave my Sam Stone. I had been fascinated by these architectural structures in the Puglia region of Italy, called Trulli, which were built as temporary shelter and homes for farmers in this region, hundreds of years ago. They mesmerized me during my stay, and I knew that Sam’s Stone had to be a part of this structure. I wanted to place the stone up in the laddered crevice, but it was impossible to reach. I grabbed a chair from the dining area, and placed Sam’s stone on the corner, as pictured, then I tucked it way back in the crevice, where I trust it remains today, undisturbed and is now a part of this spiritual and powerful place in Southern Italy.



With love to you ~ Sam, Tobey, Teri and Aggie Fitch

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The Next Thing

A few days after returning from Italy, and so happy to be home and with my kids, friends, a daily yoga practice and all that is familiar, I woke up bright and early at 2 am in a jet lag fog. Since there was no one around to play with at that hour, I turned to my computer and thought, Hm…well what should I do with the rest of my life?

I thought, Hm, maybe I could take an art class this summer. Yes, that’s it. An art class would be perfect. So I went straight to the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts summer catalog on line and saw that there was an 8 day painting workshop being taught in 3 days by Pat Wheeler, a visiting artist from Maine.  Pat comes to Portland each year to teach at OSAC, and I had visited that same workshop, two years previously, when some friends of mine were taking it. At the time, I super inspired and made a mental note that I must take this class sometime in the future.

The future was happening in 3 days. I thought, ” I can’t possibly commit to an 8 day class! I am too busy!


Doing what? I just got off the boat from Italy so to speak and I really did not know what was up or down. An 8 day painting workshop might be just the thing to ground me back into life here.

I called my friend Dayna, who had done the class 2 years ago to see if I should pull the lever.


Three days later, I showed up with my acrylic paint, joint compound and half my studio so that I would have EVERYTHING I needed to create art.

Within about the first 7 minutes I knew I was in love. In love with this painting technique, in love with being in this class, in love with being back in Portland.

And I loved Pat instantly. What a fabulous woman, artist, teacher. See her art here:


The first under layer
Building my boards up

I proceed to have the most fun ever, throwing paint around with a palette knife, joint compound, sanding, scraping, collaging, I was in heaven. The people in the class were fantastic and we were in a cosy little painting bubble for days.

IMG_2402My first paintings



A larger more ambitious piece. I haven’t finished it, 3 months later


Stacy and Stacey
IMG_2584Pat starts working with Madonna imagery for the first time. Guess who got her into that?


Pat and my new pal/classmate Kris, who just happens to live a block away from my house

About 2 days into the class, I was up again at 2 am, not able to sleep, and my default go-to is always Facebook. There is a post that popped right up by my friends Emily Katz and Adam Porterfield. There was this photo below and a status update that said,  “Anyone interested in a 1500 ft. studio space in our rad new building?”


I started hyperventilating. A few months earlier,  while I was still in Italy, Emily and Adam had posted photos of a new studio they were moving into. I saw only a few photos and knew I wanted to be in that building wherever it was. I knew nothing more about it than the photos. I messaged both of them to see if there was other space available in the building and they said no, it was full.

 I let it go, and forgot about it.

And now 3 months later there is a 1500 ft. space available.

In their building.

The one I know nothing about.

I’m dying. I want to call Adam NOW. It is 2:15 am.

I probably shouldn’t.

I message him on Facebook but he doesn’t respond. It is 5 am on a Sunday!

Why isn’t he answering?

I wait until 10 am. I figure that is a civil hour to call someone.

Adam answers.

Relief floods over me.

He fills me in on the studio scoop. This historic building has been remodeled in the past 6 months by its owner and now is available for rental. Adam befriended the owner in the past several years, as his old studio was across the street and he was keeping his eye on the space. When the owner started refurbishing the spaces, Adam and Emily got a dreamy studio space and were able to recommend good tenants for the other available spaces. The 1500 ft. space was taken but then the people backed out, and I just “happened” to see the Facebook post.

IMG_2747 IMG_2688 IMG_2684

Right place, right time? Destiny? Intentional manifesting? Who knows?

Adam said he could show me the building right there and then, so I threw down the paintbrush and bolted out of Pat’s class early. Fifteen minutes later I was inside this amazing warehouse space in N. Portland, close to N. Interstate and the Fremont Bridge. I took one look at the 1500 ft. space and knew I needed to be in there. I had no idea what I would do there (and I still don’t) but I knew that this was the ”next thing”, or one of the “next things” I had been asking for.


I have had a beautiful little studio for many years that I created on the bottom floor of the duplex building that I own with Rob, and it has served me well.

I have loved it.

I also have outgrown it, not only with all the stuff I collect bursting from the seams but in spirit. I have wanted to be in building with other artists, to have a creative community around me for some time now. It has been clear to me recently that the only way I was going to take my self seriously as an artist would be to get out of isolation, go to work each day, surrounded by other people doing the same thing.

24 hours later, I had a 3 year lease signed and had the keys to the most inspiring studio space, better than I could have possibly imagined.

I continued on in Pat’s painting class for a few more days until the end, fired up and turned on, and I knew that it was just simply no accident that I found Pat’s  class being offered in the early morning jet lag fog, lose myself in the creative zone during this class and a dream studio just “shows up” a few days later.

I have had too many things like this happen over the years to write it off as ”lucky” or “coincidence.”

I am quite sure that list I made under the olive trees had something to do with it.

I asked what was “next”.

I got my answer. I finally get to work as an artist. For real.

No more dilly dallying around, making excuses as to why I can’t make art all the time.

I now have the commitment of this space, rent to pay, and a job to do.

How will I pull it off?

I have no idea.

It is part of the unfolding adventure.

The studio was just the first of a few more occurrences that “showed up”  in the days and weeks that followed…………


A few weeks after Pat’s class ended, she texted me asking me if I would like to trade her the first Madonna she had done in exchange for a week at Casa San Marco in Italy.

It was a no brainer. Madonna of the Studio.

madonna studio
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Leaving Italy – 4 Months Ago


I have spent about 8 months in Italy in the last year, coming and going, between Cortona and Portland, Oregon. The last trip was this year from January to May, the longest I have lived in Italy since 2001. It was wonderful and also challenging. I had some incredible adventures, great travel experiences, and was able to spend quality time with my dear friends in Cortona.

I also missed home, Portland. Like crazy. After living in Italy for so many months, alone, I realized that what I wanted most of all was to be with family, my kids, friends I have known forever and I wanted to stay PUT. I have been living in both Portland and Italy for so many years, never in one place more than a few months and it has become increasing more difficult. I am so fortunate to have been able to realize this long time dream, to have a home and a community in Italy. To belong. I am so appreciative to all those that helped me to realize this dream, I could not have done it alone.

What I long for now has changed. I want to be rooted, be sane, and be still. I want to stop moving. This is something that is so foreign to me, but I find that I must cultivate.

photo 1

The time I spent in Cortona this past spring was one of inner reflection and I wondered what was “next” once I returned to Portland. I knew I needed to sink into and create something meaningful. My kids were grown pretty much, Corey would be going back to college, Jesse was clear that he would be moving out of my house and into a home with friends, into and towards his independent adult life.

The nest was going to be empty.

And I had no idea what I would do next.



I had the opportunity to stay at a friends house in the countryside outside of Cortona, the last few days of my time there in late May. I kept to myself pretty much, surrounded by beautiful olive groves,  a lush garden, incredible views and I lived in a beautiful centuries old stone farmhouse.  I spent several days writing on page after page of copy paper and making a list of sorts, of what I wanted to create in my life, and a list of qualities that I wanted to cultivate in myself.  It has always been my belief that when you set an intention(s), you can manifest this in your life experience. So I made my list, following the guidelines of a friend that shared with me a similar process. I wrote, I edited, I did lots of soul searching.

I worked HARD.

I have never really done anything so thorough where I examined myself and my desires so totally.

The experience was transforming. Not what I expected.

It was great.


I wrote my final list on a two dozen pages of beautiful handmade Amalfi paper and taped the pages together to form a scroll that was 15 feet long.  I took the list, along with some rosebuds and hung out under the olive trees on this last beautiful spring day in Italy, facing the Val di Chiana below Cortona. I read the list back to myself out loud and set the intention of manifest this list
 And I asked, “Please tell me what is next”.

version 1 list

The most wonderful feeling of peace and calm descended on me, and I left Italy the next morning with no idea of what the future would hold, but I was happy to be finally heading  home for the next adventure.

The ”next” I was asking for showed up a few days after I landed in Portland…………..

pdx flight

Portland, Oregon skyline









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Mrs. Stacey Goes to Morocco, Part 2

My last day in Morocco.

Or so I thought.

I spend the day exploring.

In and out of the Souks in the Medina.

Found some lovely little Stacey-ish Frenchy cafe to eat a late lunch in , with the best Chicken Pastilla ever, of which Ive become quite a fan of by now. It is some kind of shredded chicken mixture, almonds , cinnamon, exotic seasonings, surrounded  by phyllo dough and then coated with powdered sugar.


This is one of the better treats I have eaten in my life. I will be figuring out how to make this one.


Back to the Riad to pack the bags , 6 am airport the next day…


Arrive at airport with tons of time, check in, go thru security, buy a ton of French home decor mags at the news stand, I am happy, i will be in French Decor bliss for the entire flight- Yay! I plop down at the gate , after finding out that my RYAN air flight has not arrived yet from wherever it is coming from. Now it is important to mention that this is a very small airport, 8 boarding gates, all in a row, with big windows, you can see every plane that comes in, the whole waiting area is a few hundred meters long.

I have some time and I’m getting hungry, with foresight, I did not eat all the Chicken Pastilla yesterday and got the rest to go, I am happily munching away. I notice a man on my left , a seat away, looking at his boarding ticket and on closer investigation, I see he has an Italian passport. I look him over, he is quite noticeable, tall, dressed in a tweed coat , a black fedora hat , elegant in a Bohemian sort of way. More than anything there was an compelling energy emanating from him that I sense.

My mind goes into overdrive. Do I start up a conversation with him?

Or do I just stay in my comfort zone, eat my Chicken Pastilla and zone out over French decor magazines?

What to do, such a dilemma. One of my defects of character is that I over think just about everything too much and too long.

Luckily for me, I came to a decision fairly quickly. I don’t like initiating conversations while I’m eating so I hurriedly finished my snack, brushed off the powered sugar mess on my shirt, made sure that I had no cinnamon smeared all over my mouth, and I spoke to this man in Italian, asking him some ridiculous question like , do you know what gate the flight to Pisa is taking off from?

He immediately lights up and responds in a booming voice, i have no idea what his answer was other than no, don’t worry, I have been coming to Marrakech for years and taken this flight many times, they have not called our plane yet. We tumble into a lively conversation about where we are each from, etc.

HIs name is Rocco,  he lives in Florence and owns a tea house near Santa Croce that he started 37 years ago,

  Mago Merlino Teahouse.

He has traveled to Marrakech forever, buying herbs and spices for his tea house. The conversation swerves over to the Italian bureaucracy , he calls it science fiction.

Best description ever.

I have determined quickly that Rocco is a force of nature. His booming voice, his expressive nature, all adds up to larger than life. Some Italian guy on the other side of our chairs gets into the conversation and as it turns political and economic, I lose the thread of it pretty quickly , but the two of them are going at it as only Italians can, hands are waving , they both are talking VERY loud, if not shouting, and it is fascinating to watch.

I look at my watch, somewhat aware of the time, and realize that we have not heard any boarding calls for our Pisa flight. Nor have I seen any Ryan AIr flights out those windows. I leave the men in their heated discussion I go up to some boarding gate personel, ask about the Pisa flight, in French.

What I think the response is, as the woman points at her watch,

“ Madam , that flight left 5 minutes ago.”


I head back over to Rocco, tell him what I think I heard, he jumps up dramatically and strides over to the gate personal, asks about the flight (he DOES speak fluent French) and they explain patiently that the plane has departed.

I look at Rocco and  calmly swear.

Not at him.

Just a lot of fucks and shit and god fucking damn it.

My insides are churning.

I keep myself in check and hold back from a making a scene.

My over thinking mind starts to calculate the possibilities. I don’t mind being stranded in Marrakech for another few hours but what about my bags? Will they be left on some baggage carousel in Pisa , until someone decides to steal them?

Rocco is busy swearing up a blue streak in Italian and passionately declaring what imbeciles the entire airport staff is, the Ryan Air organization are idioti, and how the flight was never announced, etc etc.

A Ryan air official shows up to escort us out of the boarding area, I have no idea where we are going , but I follow anyway.  It feels ominous. We are led into a small room where a bunch of official guys in uniform look at us suspiciously, and reluctantly stamp our passports. My anxiety is mounting, I’m going to glue myself to Rocco for the next little while here, I do NOT know enough French to navigate this turn of events.

We are then escorted to another far off corridor where we see our bags sitting there waiting for us. Hooray!!!! I can get through anything as long as I have my outfits!

The guy from Ryan air then escorts us back out to the terminal to begin the process of re-booking another flight. I think to snap a photo of Rocco charging up to the desk, a part of me knows that I am about to enter into an adventure that I may be blogging about.



We come to find out that the only other flight to Italy does not leave til 9 pm , it goes to Bergamo, some out of the way city in the north of Italy way past Milan. Gets in at  midnight and there you are in Bergamo, a hundred miles or so from Pisa, Florence or Cortona and no way to get anywhere at that hour. Not an option.

Next flight to Pisa perhaps? Tomorrow?

No, next flight for Pisa leaves in 5 days.

My panic is mounting higher. I do not have enough clothes and certainly no hair product.

“Oh wait, here is a flight for Rome that leaves in 2 days from now at 9 am. But you have to book it now, you have only a one hour grace period after a missed flight to re book again, and even then you pay 100 euro penalty. If you miss your one hour grace period, well who knows. I did not want to find out. We have 5 minutes left to book this flight.

We do.

What now?

My new friend Rocco declares that he will show me a side of Marrakech that I would never experience on my own.

All right, why not?

We jump in a cab, back to town. He assures me that the hotel he always stays in, the Hotel Ali, will have space, it is on the Jemma square, extremely cheap 25 euro and they have known him for years.

We pull up and I have a sharp intake of breath. The hotel and the area is “colorful.”

Lots of characters going in and out. Praying in the courtyard at prayer call. The hotel is a throwback to something you might find in downtown San Francisco years ago.

But they do not have any rooms. Tomorrow they rooms. Today, they send us to a neighboring hotel down the street.

Fleabag hotel.

Seedy beyond belief.

This princess wants her beautiful Riad Dar Attajmil.

We are escorted to our respective rooms. The walls are Pepto Bismol pink, the sheets are tread bare and about 40 years old, there is a little terrace , which is somewhat nice, I tell myself.  Lumpy pillows, a blanket. A shower , but no soap. At least it is clean. Sort of. This is home for the next 24 hours.

I remind myself, this is an A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E.


Rocco is eager to get on with the day , we head into the heart of the Medina, the old part of the city center that is typically Arabic in that it a maze of walled, narrow, twisty alleys and streets, closed to cars but open to motorscooters and bicycles. It is nuts, alive and completely exotic.

We are starving, so Rocco takes me to a part on the Jemma, where there is street food and these guys dip big slabs of beef that is suspended from a pole into a whole in the ground that has a fire that has been burning all day. The meat cooks slowly for hours and comes out, fatty, juicy delicious, they throw  a chunk of it on a piece of paper with some hot bread. you eat it on some makeshift benches behind the whole in the ground with all the other Moroccans (not many tourists here). About 2 euro tops. Fantastic.


After lunch Rocco continues his tour of the Medina and can’t get down the street with out running into someone he knows, and always with a flourish, he recounts his missing the plane adventure…people  genuinely adore him. He whisks me into some shop that a friend of his owns with antique tribal jewelry and other curiosities. The exotic looking turbaned man serves us tea of course (by the end of the weekend I will have had so much tea served to me by Rocco’s countless friends) and they chat and then off to the next adventure.


IMG_1112 copy


Next stop: Carpet showroom. More carpets. Rocco’s friend, a very smooth carpet salesman starts getting his guys to roll out all the carpets for me. What did i just sign up for? Didn’t I just do this at Nomad Depot in the desert? Before I know it, the guy has 40 carpets laid out in front of me, and is asking me which one I will want to take home , and no worries, I can pay in installments. Half now, half later. Hold on! I push the reset button , call for help to Rocco and tell him sotto voce, under my breath , that I am not really sure what I am doing here but I need to go, NOW.  He tells his friend that I am going to think about it. The salesman says to come back tomorrow, no obligation, he will prepare a lovely meal of couscous for me with his family. Probably not. I do not need any more carpets. Or couscous with carpet strings attached.


The end of the day is rapidly approaching. Rocco has stuff to do, I have work emails to answer and we agree to meet later for dinner. We somehow miss each other, I end up eating a shitty meal in some tourist place and then we meet up later and have tangerines on the fleabag hotel terrace and discuss everything under the sun, from fashion, metaphysics, Italy, Marrakech, my kids, his kids and on and on til 1 am.

  We make a plan to meet the next morning to buy spices for my son Jesse, who loves to cook and will appreciate such a gift.

I retire to my Pepto Bismol room with one blanket and sheets from the 70’s, Im freezing and I wear everything I own to bed.

Next morning, again I must surrender to not having my hair as I would like-no hair product, I have a little shampoo leftover from the Riad, which doubles as soap, no hair gel or Pack Oil , and certainly no hair dryer – nothing. I wash my hair in the passable shower with only a treadbare towel to dry it.  The plastic towel rack falls off the wall when I put the towel back on.

It is ok.  It is all part of this adventure.

Rocco and I set off again in search of spices today.  We pass many of the tourist spice stores in the Medina. Neatly packaged and displayed beautifully in copper canisters.

Can’t we go here?


These places are for tourists I am told.


Instead we go to the inner recesses of the Medina to some people Rocco has been buying spices from for years, and we embark on a 2 hour adventure of spices buying to further Jesse’s culinary education.


It was unbelievably fun, raw, real, the guy grinding up the whole spices in the ancient machine, mayhem everywhere. Wonderful.



Two hours and 50 euros later, I have a suitcase full of spices that will last Jesse well into the next century.


Next I am buying a huge bag of rosebuds. I don’t know why exactly. But I had to have them.


I have had some Moroccan coffee that is mixed with exotic spices somewhere in the past 24 hours and Rocco guides me to the man who can deliver that particular blend of spices for coffee. Again, I get a ton. I am really getting carried away here.



Chicken and egg stop. Really different from the sterilized version one finds at Safeway or even Whole Foods.


Rocco saves the best for last. He takes me into a little shop, Beldi, that you would not think anything of from the outside but inside the shop is about as big as my bedroom with exquisite caftans, moroccan style jackets with embroidery, jewelry and beautiful pashmina scarves. The owner, I (forget his name) is polished and elegant, with trendy glasses and quite gracious.  I am offered my 75th cup of tea of the past 24 hours, and settle in. I try on many things but am seduced by a beautiful grey pashina jacket which of course I buy. It was entirely reasonable too.

We leave before I can do more damage, and I am done with consumerism for the day.


Dinner time at the Jemma Square. In the evening, food kiosks are set up and hundreds of people are eating at these places that serve up amazing CHEAP food. We go for some lentils, beans , hot bread. Under 5 euro. Smoke from the grills is everywhere ,

 I have never seen anything like this, and snake charmers , people selling stuff, performers, music, it is nuts.  Crazy wonderful.



IMG_1296Rocco wants snails.  I try one, but I just can’t quite go there.



The Jemma Square at night is surreal, I could have stayed there all night, but tomorrow is the flight back to Rome and I need sleep.

We get to the airport in plenty of time to rearrange the suitcases, making sure that the bags do not weigh one kilo over, as Ryan Air absolutely makes no exceptions on overweight luggage, so we have stuff spread out all over the place near an empty scale.       I am wearing 3 coats, Rocco is stuffing spices into his over coat to relieve some weight  and we make it just at 20 kilos per bag.


We pay close attention to the boarding calls this time, head back to Rome and part ways at Roma Termini, knowing we will see each other again soon.

I am so appreciative of this wild giro (tour) that I embarked on but most of all, I love that I have a new pal, Rocco, from simply deciding to speak up, not stay in my comfort zone, and be open to possibility.

It has been an incredible A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E.


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Mrs. Stacey Goes to Morocco: Part 1


I went to Morocco last week to play Lawrence of Arabia and ride a camel. What I found instead surpassed my expectations and was far better than I could have designed. To see the origins of how this adventure came to be , you can read about it  here.

I left Pisa at 6:00 am, blurry eyed, and sat next to a lovely young American woman, Stephanie, who is currently living and working in Florence. I learned she is one half Moroccan, her dad is from Marrakech and she has grown up there visiting family for vacations. She is on her way to see her Dad today. We have a great chat, we exchange cards and make a vague plan to meet later that evening. 


We arrive at Marrakech airport, her Dad whisks her away after graciously offering to drive me to my Riad. I have to refuse unfortunately, since I had arranged for taxi service before hand. My driver appears and transports me in minutes into the heart of the Medina , in central Marrakech. I am transported to another world, total and utterly, wonderfully chaotic, authentic , gritty and real. My Riad (kind of a B and B, organized around a central courtyard) is lovely and owned by an transplanted Italian woman from Tortona, named Lucrezia. Her Riad, Dar Attamjil is exquisite, she restored it and designed it herself 12 ish years ago, and it is a jewel.


I ask Lucrezia about things to do and places to see in the Medina, and good shopping of course. I know she will steer me in a good direction, since her taste is impeccable and right up my alley. She gives me a list of places not to miss, and takes off to her organic farm and other hotel in the Atlas mountains, LALLA ABOUCH ORGANIC FARM, I will need to go here next time. It looks amazing. If you find yourself in Marrakech, do not miss the Dar Attamjil, it is wonderful.

No sooner do I check in when Stephanie from the plane phones me. Would I like to come to lunch in 15 minutes at her aunt’s house with her and her Dad? Would I??!!!

That would be a YES.

They arrive to find out her Dad grew up in this neighborhood and this Riad was owned by one of his family members before Lucrezia bought it. Small world. They whisk me off to a mini tour of the Medina and I am overwelmed in a good way, and dazzled. We get fresh orange juice at the Jemma Square, the center piazza type situation where its all happening. The juice is the best I have ever had.


A bit more touring and lunch is calling us. We arrive at Stephanie’s aunt’s home, who has spent the day cooking and I have my first meal in Morocco, and home cooked no less. Fabulous!

Chicken tagine, salad, and all sorts of other delicacies. I am so appreciate of this family’s hospitality, it was so gracious of them to invite me.


After dropping me off later that afternoon at Lucrezias, I have a few hours left of daylight. Barb, my long time friend and traveling companion is not due in to meet me until midnight. I head for the first of the best shopping on Lucrezia’s list.

Atelier Moro, an exquisite boutique owned by  a Columbian woman, Viviana.

The store is like a mini Urbino, but Morocco style: home furnishings, clothing, and jewelry.


I enter her store, am greeted by her employee and transported to the magic of this place. I notice a woman over by the wrap desk, talking to another customer.

This has to be Viviana. She has an owner’s vibe. I can always tell.


But a visitor suddenly enters my field of awareness- the familiar 14 year old version of myself:


Do I say something to Viviana? Do I tell her Lucrezia sent me? What will she do?

I take a deep breath and introduce myself.

She lights up and invites me for a coffee on her rooftop terrace. She will join me shortly. This is what I climbed upstairs to.

4aHeaven. Perfect espresso and Moroccan cookie. Sun setting over Marrakech.

Viviana comes up, we chat, turns out she loves Italy, she has been in Marrakech for years but goes to Italy when she can. She is coming there soon to see friends in Tuscany and also happens to mention that she is trying to obtain concert tickets to see Sixto Rodriguez, who is playing in Milan in March. Have I heard of him? She confesses she is crazy about him.

I have a near heart attack. Rob and Corey led me to the documentary about this obscure singer’s (until recently) life and music. He is INCREDIBLE. You can see the trailer to the film here.

She has not found tickets yet, the concert is sold out, nor has she found anyone to be nuts enough to jump off the ledge and go to any lengths to go see him perform in Milan at a sold out concert.

Well, until I entered that day of course. Obsession and tenacity are my 2 best and worst qualities. In this case, best.

We open up her Mac Pro and begin the hunt for Rodriguez tickets. A couple of hours later with a lot of false leads, we strike out, but remain positive that we will find them. We promise to each keep trying and we will see each other to confer in a few days after I return from my camel ride in the desert.

I’ve made a new friend and a have a potential new adventure in store,

SIXTO RODRIGUEZ in Milano! How exciting is that.

Good for me that I ignored the 14 year old that came to visit earlier. Phew.

 I return to Dar Attajmil and go to sleep early. I was in Pisa this morning.

Barb straggles in at midnight but I don’t bother to greet her. I will see her tomorrow.

Next day we awake to a fab breakfast , talk for hours catching up like good friends do and decide what to do for the day. A visit to the Medina and the Souks is in order. I also need to find a hat for the desert. Later we book appointments to have a Hamamm and massage back at the Riad. More on that later. Shopping calls.


Just a few of the many sights we encountered that day.




12We arrive back at the Riad at 4 pm, ready for our Hamamm.

We enter a heated sauna type room and a lovely woman has us lie on benches and proceeds to pour warm water over us and scrubs us down with various aromatic salves and ointments all designed to open, relax and such. It is wonderful. However, I am getting increasingly nervous that these endless buckets of water are rapidly  approaching my hair, which I have just had colored and laboriously curled by Mino and the gang at Prive, in Arezzo. I have counted on not having to wash my hair for a week. I did not even bring product to curl and style! This is a crisis that must be adverted.

But I want this woman to like me. I can’t tell her not to pour water on my hair can I?

What will she think?

My need to people please outweighs my need for the good hair days ahead, so I surrender to the process. The first bucket of water hits the head. Sharp intake of breath. Then I float in a luxurious free feeling. How wonderful to LET THIS GO.

I continue on to enjoy this experience and the subsequent massage. Delightful.

Barb and I order dinner to be cooked for us by the ladies and it is pampering of the highest order. They serve us a delicious meal by the fire, Mohammed serves us tea, and we have the perfect evening before our 3 day adventure to the desert tomorrow.


The hair doesn’t even look half bad, considering.


 Next day, Brahim, our guide for the next 3 days picks us up at 8 am sharp. He is a gem, a treasure.  He greets us with warm big hugs and we fall easily into a wonderful harmony and connectedness with him, he is funny , smart, respectful , knowledgeable, kind of nuts in the best of ways,  and we love him instantly. We are so lucky to have this man as our guide and friend over the next few days.


1516Brahim is Berber and grew up near the Dades Gorge, hours from Marakech. Something in him made him decide to take us home to meet his family. Trust factor is in operation here.


Brahim and his mom, the beautiful matriarch of this family.


We are served tea, bread and olive oil by his sisters and cousins they are delightful and speak a little French so there is much gesturing and such. They are lovely beyond belief. I am over welmed at the kindness of this family and the hospitality they offered us. Many photos and cups of tea later, Brahim transports us to our hotel nearby.

Next day he arrives in desert wear. I want to wear a turban too.

It is a good look.


Before we set off to the desert, Brahim makes one more family stop to see his other sister and her family. Barb and I fall in love with the son, Brahim’s nephew.




I am reluctant to leave, so touched by this family’s warmth and kindness.

But leave we do, onward. The tour dictates that we see certain things at certain times.

Like lunch. Brahim quickly learns that we prefer the non tourist places, where Moroccans eat. We have wonderful meals.

18a20Bathroom and coffee stop at an inn in who knows where but the interior

knocked me over.

212222aI am ready to move in here.

We finally arrive at the edge of the Sahara desert for our camel trek.

I insist on the turban look. Brahim is happy to comply.

27Yup, there we go. Lawrence of Arabia.




Our camel caravan.


We trek into the desert, camel riding is not unlike riding a horse, easy. It was fun and the Sahara desert is everything you have ever seen in photos. Magnificent and endless as far as the eye can see. So still and quiet.

We arrive at our tent enclave a while later, and it is so tidy and nice, there are several tents clumped together and about 14 of us in this group. They show us to our respective tents which have real beds and tons of blankets, and even an outhouse.

32We are NOT roughing it at all.

There is a dining tent where they will be serving dinner later , but now we are told to go explore, and watch the sunset.



Unbelievable. The moon rising over the Sahara Desert. I am glad Barb pushed for this.

We are served a delicious dinner, we socialize with 15 or so people from all over the place,

India, Germany, Italy, France, New York, Japan, so much fun. Our guides play music after dinner, we all try our hand at drumming and subsequent dancing, It is rhythmic and hypnotic. I could do this all night. But the stars call and some of us trek up to the dunes to star gaze, I hang with Mohammed, who shows me the Little and big Dipper (Moria, you got that?) and tells me about his life growing up in the desert. Amazing. I would love to really go for days into the desert and see explore further, there is so much vastness out there and I’ve not experienced anything like it.


We are awoken the next morning at 6 am to go watch the sunrise. Another marvel.


Over way to soon. A place to come back to surely.



Mohammed and Barb. Mohammed is the Moroccan double of the  Richard Albert character in the TV series LOST. Under the eye liner and everything. I am convinced they had the same mother. Or father. Sure of it.


Richard Albert character in LOST


Our desert trek sadly comes to an end after another trek on the camels back to where we started the night before. We are on a tight time schedule and Brahim whisks us off to the Nomad Depot – where Berber rugs prevail and the salesmen are smooth as glass. Many teas later (was the tea drugged?) and several hours as well, we exit the Nomad Depot, in a stupor, having each just bought some rugs we undoubtedly did not need but they are quickly on their way by fast boat to our respective homes.


We have many many hours left in the car before Marrakech, we receive disturbing news from Brahim’s boss, they need to pull him from us to lead another tour, he is evidently the best and the most knowledgable, so he will have to trade us off to another driver, later in the day. We are upset, as we don’t want to sever our connection with Brahim one second sooner than we have to, but it is out of all of our hands. Our mood is a little subdued for the rest of the journey. We make the best of it, stop for excellent espresso in the sun, all the sun tables are taken , so Brahim gets the owner, his friend, to create a makeshift table in the parking lot.

Much better than the standard tables where the rest of the tourists are sitting.



Our last few moments with Brahim, a stop to look at the view and a Kasbah, and to make friends with some kids and their puppy. It was a teary and emotional departure.

We love you Brahim!

We will be back!

Stay tuned for Part 2. Arriving soon.

It gets even better.

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Road to Morocco

Today I leave Firenze, and Western civilization as I know it to embark on an exotic adventure.

20140214-212143.jpg20140214-193854.jpgm7m1My friend Barb mentioned to me a few months ago that she needed to be in Morocco in February, would I want to join her…


I was imagining shopping in Marrakech, looking glamourous at some cafe or casbah like the ladies below. A good fashion opportunity.






But no. Barb is having none of that. She has convinced me it will be a good idea to go on a guided Sahara desert tour where we ride camels in the desert and camp like nomads in tents with our camels under the stars. Those who know me, know that this is somewhat absurd, this would probably be the last thing I would ever choose to do on earth. However, I have been taught in recent years to say yes to any reasonable request.

So desert and camels it is.

3 11.41.23 PM


I am thinking that I will not be looking so glamorous and fashionable when I straggle back in from the Sahara Desert, rather, Ill be looking and feeling kind of grim and dazed after 2 days without coffee and on the back of a camel, sort of like these Berber gals look below.

12m 11   7m   I can simply just dream about sipping fruit drinks at the casbah, lounging around in flowy silk garments, staring off into the desert sunset. 2

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Venezia. A while ago.

During Corey’s brief sojourn in Cortona last month, we had a few free extra days to go explore another part of Italy, I came up with the travel destination of Venezia. He had been there before but not since he was six. Time to revisit.
1 Still not jet lagged after a week in Italy.2 It was wonderful to step out of the train station into that magical watery wonderland of Venice and to see the amazement on Corey’s face as we boarded the vaporetto, water taxi to take us to our hotel.3We headed out on foot immediately after checking in.
4 5 I found this antiquities shop and was dying over the objects in the window. The shop never opened the entire time we were there. 6 This shop, the oldest sporting goods store in Venice, was open, and the owner was only too happy to tell us stories about the good old days in Venice.7 I stumbled upon Paolo Olbi, owner of an artisan legatoria, founded in 1962, where he makes beautiful handmade paper and leather books. I watched him for a while, fascinated with his techniques, and learned a few new tricks too. I walked out with a couple of beautiful small journals to add to my collection of hundreds. 8 9 Only in Italy do you see lingerie stores like this. 101213Quintessential photo at San Marco with the pigeons.
14 1115 Every corner you turn in Venice is a new surprise, a delight. Corey says Venice reminds him of one of the handmade books that I create, layers that lead to other layers, frames within frames, endless discovery. Nice observation and a compliement.

16 17 18 19 We happened upon a gigantic church, that I had a good sense upon what was inside, relying on my memory of it from 20+ years ago. I was right. I asked the ticket taker (it costs 2.50 euro now) if the Foot of Saint Catherine was here. Si signora- in fondo alla destra. Yes, signora, in the back to the right. I was here in 1987 with Rob, Polly and Paolo. We had stumbled upon a painting of Saint Catherine with a reliquary holding her actual foot. No kidding, a foot encased in gold.20 Polly took one look at her expression in the painting, looked at the gold encrusted foot, turned on the Valley Girl persona and exclaimed:

“Oh MY GOD, they took my foot!” Paolo , Rob and I collapsed into uncontrollable laughter and a very disturbed priest came running over to shoo us out of these very revered space.  Molto grave indeed. We have we hashed this story ad infinitum over the years.21 Imagine my delight to find St. Catherine’s foot again. 21a

Corey indulges me for a while and then he is done. Can we go Mom. A statement of fact, a directive, not a request.P1150477

2223Simply more and more layers. Venice in winter is the ONLY time to go, in my opinion.
Countless coffees to get warm.
25 26P1150468Perfect. Corey has captured the look. He knows what I mean.ex

That evening, discovered an incredible little restaurant,Luna Sentada, that was quite unusual in appearance and beckoned us in as being far outside the box of the normal trattoria fare.  The decor is fantastic – warm, intimate, a mix of Italian and French brocante aesthetic to create an atypical dining atmosphere. 1277617_724869114196013_1495425638_oOwner Ermanno Sguoto, has traveled the world and brought a fusion of Asian and Venetian cuisine to create some of the best and most unusual food I have ever eaten. He also designed this jewel of a restaurant. We had a wonderful time and with it being off season and the dead of winter, the restaurant was mostly empty, we had Ermanno to ourselves. He generously shared  some of his travel adventures with us, his philosophy about food and what he has attempted to create. If you find yourself in Venice, this is a must go to destination, visit the website of Luna Sentada here, and GO!!!

Luna Sentada,  Castello 5018 San Severo, 30122, Venice 041 309 7891



I want Ermanno’s sweater. I forgot to ask him where he got it but I found one similar several weeks later in Napoli with Burdean. It did not sing on me, however, so I passed it up.


The end of a delightful and inspiring adventure.

Next stop, Firenze.

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2014 Italy with Corey

I arrived in Italy with Corey several weeks ago and we had a grand adventure- it is time to start the recording of it- quick arrival in Rome-straight to Cortona – onward to Venice and ending in Florence.

The motivo for this 10 day adventure was Corey’s application to the Questura, for the Carta di Soggiorno, an Italian green card of sorts that that will enable him to live and work in Italy and the Carta will never expire – no need to go thru the whole laborious process every 2 years to renew the Permesso di Soggiorno, a procedure that gets more ridiculous and complicated with each passing year (having done this now for 12 years).


Arrival at Casa San Marco, Cortona, good son- schlepping Mom’s endless suitcases.

IMG_0330 IMG_0341

After being aggravated by the Questura for years, I have finally readjusted my attitude and have fun here. It has become a regular family outing. And always an adventure.


Holding my breath that the signora gives a stamp of approval and mails all the documents I have spent months (actually years) collecting.


Done. It’s it the mail off to the powers that be. Corey will need to return for his appointment with the Questura in 2 months to get approval. But so far, so good.


Corey does not subscribe to the jet theory, however this horizontal position is where I found him at odd hours of the day, most of the 10 days he was here.


One of our activities was throwing a birthday party for my adoptive Italian son, Francesco, who turned 23 on January 11th.

I baked a cake but had no birthday candles, so my pal Ivan, who is a creative genius in the kitchen and in about a million other things, found what was available to create a work of art on this chocolate cake, starting with one tea light candle.

He found some vintage flowers that were adorning one of my many Madonna statues, and went collecting.P1120014 That spurred me on to grab some some of my vintage saint figurines that are all over the house, we chose San Francesco, the only logical choice for Francesco’s birthday.P1120019 A true maestro, un artista~P1120023 The decorP1120024 The surprise. I think Francesco is pleased.P1120025 P1120028 P1120029 P1120042 P1120047 P1120057 A wonderful party.

Next stop, next day – Micheline’s for dinner. She hurried us over to the television where a French news program was about to air the press conference regarding the recent scandal of  Francois Hollande. Apparently he is having an yet another affair and was found out – really juicy news. Micheline wanted us to watch it with her, to see how he was going to get out this gracefully on TV. When asked by the press about his liaison, he simply said,

No comment. Or some such thing.

P1130060 I tour the amazing grounds surrounding Micheline’s place with Corey.P1130071 P1140080 P1140082 Corey holds is own, speaking French well, with Micheline, and completely has her captivated.P1140085 The living room. Fantastic home.P1140094 Silla and Didu’P1140109

A wonderful evening.

Tomorrow- Venezia.

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La Contadina


Last Sunday I showed up again at Michelines, this time to help with yard/land cleanup after the olive harvest.  I found her clearing some bushes with her clippers. She promptly got me a pair, and here was my project for the first hour.




I haven’t done much yard work since the selling of Thurman Street 6 + years ago, and I forgot how addictive clippers can be. I was very happy on my hillside overlooking the Val di Chiana, butchering this tree.  We then starting hauling the brush over to the fire.


Silla- with his radiant smile always.


Pranzo break.




IMG_0113Marco, Micheline’s giardiniere, (gardener) joins us, adding pancetta crudo, or raw pancetta to the mix.



After pranzo, we are back to work, Marco is cutting down dead trees and starting another fire, I appoint myself guardian of this fire for the afternoon, which took quite a bit of tending, to keep it going.

IMG_0144 IMG_0143 IMG_0140IMG_0160


This was what I got to look at all afternoon as I kept adding brush and olive branches to the fire to keep it going.


My fire at the end of the day. It was quite addictive also, burning wood all afternoon, my sole purpose, zen and meditative.

Micheline said the fire was still going the next day.

So for someone that keeps claiming not to like hanging out in the country much, I have found that I actually do like the serenity of being a Contadina (farmer) on occasion. It is growing on me.



When the sun finally went down , we headed inside for a drink and I got to show Micheline and Silla the two previous blog posts I did on them. They were over the moon excited and loved looking at the posts.

Silla gave me this painting he made below, he is a very talented artist and I was very touched.

I promptly went home, found the perfect vintage frame to put it in, made a vignette , it looks like it was painted especially for this spot, doesn’t it?



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Il Frantoio (The Olive Mill)

PB080143A few days later, we headed off to the frantoio, the olive mill, in the nearby Val di Chio, a beautiful valley beyond Castiglion Fiorentino.

The four of us, Micheline, Silla, Didu’ (the dog who likes no one, but strangely enough,

he seems to like me) and myself embark on our afternoon adventure.PB080144


Val di Chio


We stop to meet Liviero, who also lovingly tends and cares for the grounds at

Casa Portagioia, an exquisite agriturismo owned by Micheline’s friends,

Marcello and Terry.



Liviero, Micheline and Silla




Next stop : Frantoio Baldini





The work order for Micheline’s olives.


The olives are headed for the first pressing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




The golden green oil, there is nothing on this earth like it, right out of the press.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have had many opportunities over the years to partake in this centuries old tradition

of picking and harvesting the olives in Italy.

It is an adventure that never ceases to amaze and thrill me. There is a

elemental connectedness to the land and to the Italian culture

that feeds my spirit in a most fundamental way.

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