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).

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Silla- with his radiant smile always.

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Pranzo break.

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

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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.

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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.

Amazing.

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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.

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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

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Val di Chio

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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.

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Liviero, Micheline and Silla

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Next stop : Frantoio Baldini

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The work order for Micheline’s olives.

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

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The first pressing

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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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Micheline and La Raccolta (The Olive Harvest)

Micheline is somewhat of a legend in Cortona. I have seen her around the past 12 years and never met her until recently. She is Parisian and relocated to Cortona 20+ years ago. She has traveled all over the world, lived in different countries and has led a fascinating life. I have always wanted to know her. This time in Cortona, I had the opportunity not only to meet her, but to have the blessed opportunity to become her friend. The first time I spent some significant time with her, I simply showed up on her doorstep. We had exchanged a few emails and that day she informed me she would be doing the raccolta, or picking olives. La Raccolta is a most wonderful Tuscan/Umbrian tradition this time of year, and I have always loved it. So, rather than ask her if she needed help, I simply showed up, uninvited.

Che palle – what balls.

I found Micheline seated on the ground in her driveway, picking the leaves off the olives that the contadini, the farmers, had picked. She told me that everyone tells her not to bother picking the leaves off, there is a machine at the mulino, the olive oil mill, that will do that, but she does it anyway, very fixated in her belief that the leaves manage to find their way into the oil anyway. So I plopped down on a crate and helped her pick the leaves off the olives.

PB070029Micheline’s home is fantastic, positioned on the side of the Cortona mountain, overlooking the walled Cortona cemetery. She invited me in, and I swooned.

Her home has a similar interior aesthetic to my own,  furnished with a lifetime of objects and treasures from all over the world. Her home takes my breath away, It is so eclectic, filled with art and radiates a vibrant energy.

A house with soul.

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After an hour or so of picking leaves off the olives, Micheline decides that we need to go help the contadini with the last stages of the olive picking.

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Laying the nets under the trees to catch the olives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Micheline and Liviero, one of her friends who is helping with the harvest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Santa Maria Nuova, the view from Micheline’s olive grove.

Not so bad.

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Picking olives is one of the most calming and tranquil things I have ever done. I could do this for days and probably should sometime.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Adelio, is trying to convince Micheline to stop wasting her time picking the leaves off the olives. The machine will do that. She does not listen and she picks anyway.

A woman after my own heart.

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Micheline will have none of it. She is obsessed with getting all the leaves off the olives.

I have to agree with her.

Don’t listen to the advice of others-just do it anyway.

Micheline is an inspiration. I want to be like her when I grow up.

And I have ALWAYS wanted to speak French,  she says she will teach me.

I should seriously consider this.

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Today’s Walk in Cortona

I am finally settling into life in Cortona, I have moved into my house, Casa San Marco a few days ago, after staying with different friends for a few weeks and I have to say, it is wonderful to finally be home, get grounded, it has been somewhat stressful few weeks of transitioning from the U.S. life to this one.  The past few days I have taken to walking up to the summit of the Church of Santa Margherita, Cortona’s patron saint. The church sits up to of the mountain of Cortona, overlooking the valley below, it is spectacular.

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Right below the church, there is a grassy field, that is encircled by cypress trees, overlooking the view. It is a magically tranquil place and I have started going there to meditate, breath, do yoga, and simply be. Today was one of those days. After feeling as calm and as centered as I could possibly get, I made my way up to the church.

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The cypress enclosed field

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Chiesa Santa Margherita, Cortona, Italy

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I often light candles for people that I care deeply for, in whatever church I happen to be in. I have always loved this statue of the Madonna, and have lit many candles here over the years.

Today I lit several candles for a friend who is in the midst of an extremely difficult family crisis. I send them all positive energy and prayers.

Then, the most wonderful thing happened. I noticed one of the Franciscan nuns, talking to an American tourist and she was attempting to explain the story of Santa Margherita’s life. He did not understand her and said he only spoke English. I intervened and translated what she was saying to this man. She was elated that I spoke Italian, but the man quickly lost interest and wandered off. I told her that I was very interested, would she please tell me the story?

She told me the entire story of Santa Margherita’s life, some of which I knew and some things I did not. You can read about Santa Margherita here.

I thanked her profusely and then asked her name.

Teresina.  Suor Teresina

Sister Teresina.

I told her that I hoped to see her again. She asked my name and I told her, Stacey. This perplexed her, having never heard such a name, so I told her it was an American name, but the Italian equivalent would be Anastasia.

Comprehension registered on her face and she was happy to have understanding.

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I then made my way over to another candelabra that I noticed in the corner of the church, and lit some more candles for my friend in crisis.

I sat on the bench near by and closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them, Sister Teresina was standing in front of me.

She whispered,

“Quando avevi finito le preghiere, vieni con me, vorrei farti vedere qualcosa”

(When you have finished your prayers,please come with me, I want to show you something)

I followed her in back of the altar, to a locked room that required her to fish out a huge set of massive keys from under her frock. She opened a door that beheld a beautiful sunlit room with centuries old paintings of various saints that lined the room . In the middle of the room was a massive wood table that had a ceramic bust of a woman. Suor Teresina explained that it was a reconstruction of Santa Margherita’s face , that was made by a local artist 7 years ago , using computer technology combined with the actual 800 + years old mummified Santa Margherita that rests in a glass case up at the head altar of the church.

She says not may people get to come to this room. Then she said that I looked like the statue. Not so sure about that but maybe to her I did.

She let me take a photo of the statue but would not let me take a photo of her.

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I snuck a photo in anyway, a few moments later when we went back out in the main church.

It was a remarkable, other worldly half hour space of time that seemed endless.

Definitely altered state material.

I  have a new friend. Suor Teresina.

I told her I would be back for more stories and visits.

I think it made her day.

She certainly made mine.

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Suor Teresina

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The main altar with Santa Margherita’s body encased in glass.

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Leaving the church,  I headed for the bar nearby at the top of the mountain for a much needed caffe, to get me right back into this world after hanging out in that other worldly state with Suor Teresina. Nothing like a sweet, excellent caffe at an Italian bar, one of life’s most deliziose pleasures.

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I then continued my walk around the backside of the mountain.

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The Roman road that extends around the mountain. We used to walk this road all the time into town when I lived out near here in 2001-2002 with Rob and the kids.

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The fountain at the entrance to the parterre, the park.

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And finally, calling Francesco, (my son Jesse’s best childhood Cortonese friend who is also MY adoptive Italian son –  and telling him to get out of bed at 1:00 pm and meet me at Bar Saletta for another caffe.

Volentieri.

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Casa San Marco, Cortona Italy with Mosca Studio, April 2013

 And to continue and finish posting these incredible photos that

Alice of Mosca Studio created –

Grazie infinite Alice!!

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The new art studio…casasanmarco-moscaphoto-tuscanytravel-italytravel-photography-2634

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Casa San Marco, Cortona, Italia; April 2013

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This past March-April, I was in Cortona for a few weeks, doing one of the most exciting projects I have ever participated in, staging and photographing a PROFESSIONAL photo shoot with the most incredibly talented photographer, Alice Falzone, became my friend last year in Portland, Oregon where she lives with her partner, the ever so cute Josh Kincaid. The two of them own and operate Mosca Studio.  Alice is originally from Rome, but has lived in Portland now for many years. To see the story of how we met, go here.

In any event, we ended up in Cortona together this spring, along with Alice’s friend Michelle, who along with my friend and neighbor on Via San Marco, Patrizia and worked non-stop around the clock to pull this project off in a week. I KNOW that Alice did an amazing job with the photos, as I looked at handfuls along the way.

However, I did not know the full impact of all 1600 photos until a few weeks ago. Alice got the post edited photos to me in a very timely manner last summer, but I never looked at them until it was time to started picking and choosing which ones would make it to the new website that my talented friend, Didi Davidovich is designing for Casa San Marco.

I was stunned upon seeing them.

Speechless.

Over welmed.

Emotional.

And so very appreciative of  how Alice captured my vision and the essence of Casa San Marco, the home I have poured my heart and soul into over a period of 12 years , restoring , fixing, building a new roof, designing, making countless trips to the Arezzo Antique Market, Pissignano Antique Market, Emmaus and wherever the hunt took me in order to furnish and detail this home in exactly the perfect way, according to my dream.

The photos make me cry and laugh, all at once.

They are simply beautiful.

Thank you Alice.

And I have started this post at nearly midnight, and it is clear to me that my eyes are closing and it is pointless to continue but I will put up  a few of these photos as a teaser, and will continue this photographic essay tomorrow, just a small taste of the 1600. Stop by and see the rest tomorrow.

A domani…

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