How Taking Sogni to the Vet for Her Daily Cookie Landed me in Italy 9 Months Later

vetI take my silly dog Sogni, on a walk to the vet in my neighborhood every day. The ladies love her and she  gets a treat, a cookie every day, sometimes 2 or 3 depending on who is working. This is her dog park, her Disneyland.

At the Vet

Sogni and Chiara with the daily cookie

About 9 months ago, I was working at home and Sogni was particularly anxious to get to the vet.  I did not want to leave at that moment (lazy), but some little voice whispered, “just go”.  So I did.

I arrived at the vet, and I remembered that the groomer who had bathed Sogni the day before, had not given her a “sanitary shave” back in her behind regions, and it was causing some serious “problems”. I asked the ladies if someone in the back could trim her a bit. They said sure, and led her away.  As I was waiting, I noticed a lovely woman on the bench next to me, with her dog, and she was visibly distraught.  I asked her what was wrong and she told me that her other dog, had passed away the week before, and she was now bringing her second dog, Gino (the brother) to have a check up, as he had been quite upset over his brothers untimely passing.  She went on to tell me that she was out of the country when her dog passed away, but her boyfriend had been able to hold the phone up to her doggie, and she was able to say goodbye. My heart hurt for her, I have been present for all of my animals passings over the years, and it is always heartbreaking.

Gino  Gino ©

I asked her where she had been when she was away.


My radar went up  as it always does when Italy,  the love of my life is mentioned and I asked, “What were you doing there?”

She explained that she was Italian, from Rome, originally, but she had been living in America for the past 15 years and this was her first trip back to Italy and to see her family in 9 years.  As we spoke further, I told her of my connection to Italy, to Cortona and how I had roots and a home there.  I saw that the vet was getting ready to lead her to an examining room with her dog,  and some voice in my head told me to ask her for her number. She gave me her card which read,  Alice Falzone, Mosca Photo, Wedding Photography. (or something like that)

I recognized the name, I realized I knew her website, as my brother, Mitch, is a wedding videographer (Cabfare Productions) in Seattle and he is always sending me various NW links to wedding photographers and videographers to check out. I knew I had seen her website somewhere  in this context. I commented on this and we agreed what an amazing small town this is and made promises to stay in touch.

We did stay in touch, got together at my studio a few weeks later , and our friendship was born. A few months later, I came up with the idea that I needed to get back to Italy at some point and take some professional photographs of my home, Casa San Marco, in Cortona, Italy to update the 10 year old website. The house does not even look the same as it did then and I have done much restoration and interior design work. The house is finished, spectacular and I was feeling like I wanted to shoot amazing photographs of this house with a photographer that would “get it” and understand the heart and soul of this house.

I called Alice,  proposed the idea of the two of us going to Cortona together and collaborating on this project. I remember the phone call well. I was standing  huddled outside in the courtyard of  Peet’s coffee in the Pearl district of Portland, and I remember Alice’s squeal of delight as I made the proposal.  YES, Si, Si, Si and YES was her answer and the following months were devoted to the conception of the project.

I poured over interior design books, magazines, gathered props, vintage prom dresses, antique baptismal gowns, artists paintings, and a slew of other found treasures, put them in a box and sent them to Cortona, to be used for the staging of this photo shoot. It was not enough to simply go in and take some basic “real estate” photographs of my house. I wanted photos worthy of a design book.  To accomplish this, much effort was expended.

I arrived on March 20, and went straight from the Florence airport, to IKEA to load up on way to way too many church candles, pillows and any other thing I could possibly think of that we would need for this project.

ikeaItaly’s IKEA feels exactly like ours except for this scene that I witnessed below.

I am not in Portland anymore, or anywhere close.Nuns IKEA

In the chaos of IKEA, I felt immediately relaxed. I was back in Italy.


Hit Cortona running, set to work, sewing pillows, creating scenes, making vignettes.  My Cortona neighbor and good friend Patrizia and I , made several trips to Emmaus, the secret thrift store in Arezzo, where we collected more treasures to create the moods and scenes.  We cleaned, we arranged, we created.


Patrizia at Emmaus

I even scored this credenza for pennies, 1950’s era, and apparently everyone’s Italian Nonna had one of these.  This was and is so primo, and the Emmaus guys had fun (ha) walking it down the mountain, since they always arrive with furniture deliveries in a truck too big that can’t get through the city arched walls.carica emmaus

Alice arrived a week later with her dear friend Michelle.


Michelle and Alice

Alice, Patrizia, Michelle and I  worked our tails off for one week straight, staging, photographing, staging some more, eating , laughing and having an amazing time. I had not allotted enough time to pull this project off in a manner that would be a bit more “tranquila”, so I was on the move from 6 am each day until midnight, fussing and fixing and arranging and vignetting, along with Patricia and Michelle, who were an invaluable help with Alice following close behind with the camera, shooting on an average of 200-500 photos of any one room. I am so appreciative and grateful to these women for all of their help, their artistic and creative talents, I could not have pulled this off without them. Grazie mille a tutti!

And although it hard and exhausting work, it was well worth the effort, Alice Falzone is a brilliant photographer and artist, she “got” Casa San Marco, better than I could have possibly hoped for, and gave me a realization of my vision that far exceeded my expectations. Words can not express the gratitude I feel for the gift she has given me in documenting my artistic vision of Casa San Marco, the art project closest to my heart ever. I am ecstatic with the results. I certainly got the photos worthy of a interior design book. Grazie infinite Alice!

I have a few detail photos that she has shared with me, which I will pass on to here on the blog,  and there are more on my newly created Facebook Business page: Casa San Marco (thanks Alice, for the encouragement and guidance to start the page!). The editing process of these hundreds and hundreds (thousands) of photos will take some time, and I will post them as they come…In the meantime, you can see more photo details here.

The moral of the story is this.

Pay attention to those small voices that tell you to take your dog to the vet for her cookie.  Or whatever that whispering little voice is telling you.  You just might end up in Italy or somewhere else. But whatever or wherever you end up as a result of paying attention, you will most certainly experience magic. No question. That is how it works. Every time. No exceptions.


Bathroom Detail
4937-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webMaster Bedroom- Vintage Prom Dresses


Dream Bathroom
3483-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBedside Table
4976-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBlue Master Bedroom with all the treasures
5031-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webLa Madonnina – Patron Saint of Casa San Marco, who guides and protects all who visit
5143-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webstudioStudio Worktable


A page from The Firenze Book that I am making- in my studio
4665-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBathroom Detail
3738-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-web-1Dinner Party


Making pici with Ivan. I did not do well with the pici at all. Not my thing.
3826-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webDream bathtub
4192-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webFireplace Mantel
4762-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webPink Room
4216-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webDiscarded Chandelier
3611-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webAnother Rosary
4938-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webMaster Bedroom
5480-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-web-2View from La Terrazza: Chiesa San Francesco
5369-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webLa Fine (The End) So happy with it All.
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12 Responses to How Taking Sogni to the Vet for Her Daily Cookie Landed me in Italy 9 Months Later

  1. Susan Moray says:

    Oh my. What a visual feast!

  2. Debb says:

    I love the story of how this all fell into place. I like my “little voice”.

    The photos are beautiful. I’m not a pink-person, but I love the photo of the pink room — makes me want to crawl in and relax.

  3. Rob says:

    Theses are so great! Bravisima! I see a book?

  4. Tim Sweeney says:

    Simply gorgeous! How it makes me long for staying there some day and relishing all of the beauty! Wonderful job, Stacey!

  5. jakki says:

    sooooooooo lovely……thanks for the wonderful story Stacey…..and the pictures of your home are beyond words…….

  6. iris ztarr says:

    so beautiful and what a wonderful story

  7. Debi burton says:

    Exquisite in every way, Stacey!

  8. Debra says:

    What a great story and such gorgeous photos of your beautiful home.

  9. cococita says:

    In one word: A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E.!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and the colourful photography: you know I have been very curious to know more about your trip to Italy! We really have to listen to our inner voice: since I started to do it, magical things have been happening and it’s lovely to see that for you, it’s exactly the same. How I like creative projects like this. The soul of your house must feel blessed to be gifted with a wonderful woman like you. I guess the three of you had a great time together … Enjoy the afterglow! In the meantime, I can’t wait to see more photos appearing on your FB-page. Warm hug from France x

  10. Desiree says:

    This was eye candy! So deliciously beautiful.

  11. ginahowie says:

    Simply wonderful! Loved how your friendship blossomed. This pics are incredibly beautiful.

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