Many artists dream about painting in Italy. Now, as retiring baby-boomers are increasingly taking up “brush and pallet knife,” more than ever, painting in Italy is the “thing.” Every day, a new “Artist’s” tour of Italy crops up in travel sections of the newspaper and on the Internet. But there still remains a majority of artists who prefer to “go it alone.” They are independent in their artistic styles, and prefer to be independent regarding their travels in Italy . This blog intends to target these free spirited artists who still need guidance to the best places to paint, especially those idyllic gems that are little known and less traveled. Certainly, independent travelers who are not artists will also benefit from this blog.

With a few exceptions, this blog is not a guide to restaurants, lodging, rental cars, or shopping, (except for art supplies.)

Sprinkled among the posts are: my paintings, and a few Italian proverbs and poems written by notable Italian authors for whom I work as a translator.

Please visit my website to view my original art:


Giclee prints of my paintings, ranging from greeting size to poster size, can be purchased at:


Saturday, October 31, 2009


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The diverse villages along the Amalfi Coast have been compared to a constellation, if this is the case, then the town of Amalfi is unquestionably the brightest star. The Amalfitani like to boast: “The sun, the moon, the stars, and - Amalfi.” You’ll get no argument from me.
Sandwiched between verdant and craggy mountains and the intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea, the town’s vibrantly tiled cupolas and pastel-washed houses beg the artist to capture their pose.
Landscape artists shouldn’t miss the Valle dei Mulini (The Valley of the Mills). To get there, start at Piazza del Duomo (By the way, Architectural artists take note: The Duomo, with a façade inlaid with glazed and colored tiles, is one of the more beautiful religious monuments in Southern Italy). Head up Via Genova where you’ll pass fragrant gardens, citrus groves, and waterfalls that feed the oldest paper mills in Europe. There are numerous places to stop and set up sketchpad or easel along this route, and believe me, you’ll want to do just that. When you reach the Museo Della Carta, I recommend taking time out from painting to tour this Paper Museum. Amalfi was among the first cities in Europe to manufacture hand-made paper and it continues this highly specialized art to this day. What watercolor artist or journalist hasn’t dreamed of going to Amalfi to select a few prize sheets of handmade Amalfi paper?
If you’re hungry, but don’t want to stop painting, take a patio table at the Conca Azzura Ristorante that over looks the Cape Conca Dei Marini. This scenic bay is the natural entrance to the Emerald Grotto. The colors and view from this belvedere are unparalleled. It’s a great place to sip wine, swirl forkfuls of pasta, and paint. Does it get any better than that? I don’t think so.
For centuries, poets and writers have sung Amalfi’s praises, but it’s not easy to find the right words to do justice to its beauty. For artists, I think Margaret Drabble said it best: Amalfi clusters, the cliffs aspire, the sea extends. It is a living view, of living rock and living light. It changes minute by minute of an evening as the light changes. Like a moving painting, like a wall of slowly evolving time, a perfectly composed combination of safety and danger, distanced, marginally landscaped by man, inviting the artist.”
The painting above: La Veduta D'Amalfi is an original acrylic on canvas and can be purchased on my art website:
Si può comprare il quadro in sopra, La Veduta D'Amalfi al mio website d’arte:

Saturday, October 24, 2009


If you’re driving on the Strada di Capodimonte, the breathtakingly scenic coastal road, stop at Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi. This charming mountain village is settled on hillside dripping with bougainvillea and terraced with vineyards and fruit orchards.
The name of the town is derived from its location that commands excellent views of the two gulfs of Salerno and Naples. There are numerous locations throughout the village to set up and look out over the Mediterranean. This should keep landscape and seascape artists happy for several hours. If you want to plop a cherry on top of this stunning confection, take the narrow, uphill road behind the Bar Orland to the Deserto. From this Franciscan monastery you not only survey the two bays, but you can enjoy the bonus of an excellent view of Capri. Architectural artists should enjoy painting the monastery and its bell-tower on which is inscribed: TEMPUS BREVE EST. Time is short; use it wisely by spending some of it painting at Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Positano is a hillside town on the southern strip of the Amalfi Drive. This Moorish-style village overlooks a small bay washed by the emerald Mediterranean and is backed by mountain buttresses that offer views of the Sirenuse Islands, Homer’s siren islands in the Odyssey. The white and pink houses perch from terraces submerged under bougainvilleas that drip down to the sea. Now that’s my idea of an excellent location to paint.
John Steinbeck wrote: Positano bites deep. It is a dream that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” What artist wouldn’t be lured to Positano after having read those words? And when you add Artist Paul Klee to the Positano devotees, then it’s an inescapable conclusion to spend time painting in Positano. Paul Klee once said: “I like to take a line for a walk.” Klee took great pleasure in “walking his lines” in Positano, and so should you.
There’s no driving in the town: you park up top and walk down, and down, and down. At times, the streets seem almost impossibly steep. My advice: don’t lug heavy paint boxes or cumbersome easels. Always remember: what goes down, must come up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The Apulia (Puglia in Italian) region forms Italy’s “heel.” Although somewhat off the beaten track, this region is a “must-see” for artists. If time is not on your side, at least in addition to the Trulli in Alberobello of which I’ve previously written (see March 17th entry), a trip to Lecce is not to be missed.
Referred to by some as the “Florence of the Italian South,” Lecce is a city of Baroque run wild. The palaces, churches, balconies, courtyards, and even modest side-street houses are embellished with gargoyles, eagles, monkeys, dragons, saints, fruit, and flowers. But unlike the Baroque style found elsewhere in Europe, Lecce Baroque isn’t massive or imposing; quite the opposite, it’s airy and joyful. This ornamental explosion is mostly due to the “Pietra di Lecce,” the honey-colored stone quarried in the region that is so malleable it can be cut with a knife. Nothing was too intricate or delicate that it couldn’t be carved from this stone. It would have been impossible to achieve the Lecce Baroque out of marble.
Piazza Sant’Oronzo is an excellent location for setting up your easel. When you feel the need to take a break so as not to suffer a Baroque overload, visit the below ground-level remains of the 1st century BC Roman amphitheater that Adjoins Piazza Sant’Oronzo. It’s most remarkable for it’s illustrations of chiseled gladiators fighting back lions with spears and less successful gladiators being gored by bulls.
Artists who like detailed paintings will delight in painting the Church of the Rosario on Via G. Libertini. The entire façade is a riot of carved birds and flora. At one time the monks at this cloister, which now houses a tobacco company, manufactured “polvere Leccese,” (Lecce dust) the famous snuff that Napoleon used throughout his career until his last days on St. Helena. Maybe that explains the pose with his hand inside his jacket: he was reaching for his snuffbox.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Calabria forms the toe of the Italian “boot.” Most travelers consider the region of Calabria to be uncivilized and dangerous, and to be used only as a stepping block to and from Sicily. That’s a gross error in judgment, and these folks need to get their heads out of their Mario Puzzo novels.
First of all, the Calabrian people are as warm and inviting as the June sun that splashes across their tiled rooftops. If you’re an artist, you’re really in for a treat. Artists at any level are venerated and fussed over. If you’re sitting in the piazza barely doodling, you’ll get the “Look” (the nod and the smile) that says: “I’m honored to be in the presence of such artistic genius.”
Seascape artists can enjoy the beaches, pristine, golden, and aquamarine, around the Tropea Peninsula, while plein air artists may prefer the scenic hinterland. The charming village of Tropea huddled on a cliff above the sea, won’t disappoint artists who are drawn to architecture. The Calabrians call the town: “Nobile Tropea,” as it is considered to be one of the most picturesque in all of Southern Italy.
The only uncivilized and dangerous things I’ve ever encountered in Calabria are the two unexploded American bombs, left over from WW2, that hang in the back of the Cathedral in Tropea.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


For artists and writers (or anyone for that matter) who hesitate to travel to Sicily because of the Mafia “Thing”, get over it. Not everyone who lives in Las Vegas is a gambler nor is every New Yorker a mugger; and likewise, not every Sicilian belongs to the Mafia. If you ignore Sicily, you miss Italy. If you don’t want to take my advice, take the advice of Goethe who wrote: “To have seen Italy without seeing Sicily, is not to have seen Italy at all. For Sicily is the key to everything.”
Writers doing research on the Italian consciousness would do well to spend time in Sicily. For as Luigi Barzini wrote in The Italians: Sicily is the schoolroom model of Italy for beginners, with every Italian quality and defect magnified, exasperated, and brightly colored...Everywhere in Italy, life is more or less slowed down by the exuberant intelligence of the inhabitants: In Sicily it is practically paralyzed by it.”
I consider the Sicilian sensitivity to be a fascinating subject to research. I mean, come on, here’s a land where, in the local dialects, there is no future tense for the verb “to be”, and where a distinctly joyful expression states: “Finchè c’è morte c’è speranza.” (Where there’s death there’s hope.) Say what? Lay that one out on Freud’s couch!
For artists, Sicily’s unique natural beauty challenges your brain to make that seemingly impossible decision of what to paint first: rugged mountains, vine and olive-clad slopes, fields of daisies and sunflowers, countless lemon, lime, and orange orchards, craggy sea-cliffs, sandy coves, Mount Etna. If Sicily’s natural beauty doesn’t totally thrust your brain into overdrive, certainly Sicily’s man-made wonders will finish the job: The Baroque façades on Campania’s churches, Apulia’s Romanesque cathedrals, the ancient Greek ruins in Calabria, the castles, palaces, and churches built all over Southern Italy by Norman, Aragonese, and Spanish invaders – all of these are found on the microcosm island of Sicily.

Friday, October 9, 2009


In THE COLORS OF AUTUMN, Luciano Somma’s words are like delicate brushstrokes that paint a rich, mental image. THE COLORS OF AUTUMN is an excerpt from Luciano’s dual-language poetry book: “L’ALBA DI DOMANI/TOMORROW’S SUNRISE” You can find Luciano Somma at:
http://www.partecipiamo.it/Poesie/Luciano_Somma/1.htm http://www.scolastica2000.it/MUSICALMENTE/somma/somma.htm
Nella poema: I COLORI DELL’AUTUNNO le parole di Luciano Somma sono come pennellate delicate che dipingono nelle menti gli immagini intensi. I COLORI DELL’AUTUNNO è un brano dal suo libro di doppia lingua: “L’ALBA DI DOMANI/TOMORROW’S SUNRISE.”
Si può trovare Luciano Somma a: http://www.partecipiamo.it/Poesie/Luciano_Somma/1.htm

L’ultimo palpitare
delle foglie
che qui in montagna
assumono colori
dai toni accesi
vivi come lampe
portano l’eco assurda
della tua voce padre
duro come una roccia
tu da generazioni taglialegna
sembravi senza tempo.
Ero legato a te
come un ramo alla quercia
ed ora sono solo
nella foresta
del tuo ieri vissuto
in questo immenso.
Ma parleremo ancora
ti sentirò
nell’aria immacolata
tra i colori dell’autunno
nel nostro paradiso
di silenzio.
Luciano Somma

The last fluttering
of leaves
that here in the mountains
assume colors
in vivid tones
alive like lightening
they carry the absurd echo
of your voice father
hard like a rock
you from woodcutter
seemed timeless.
I was bound to you
like a branch to the oak
and now I’m alone
in the forest
of your yesterdays lived
in this vastness.
But we will speak again
I will feel you
in the pure air
among the colors of autumn
in our paradise
of silence.
Pamela Allegretto Franz (Translation)

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Situated at the foot of Mount Etna, Catania’s fate has always been at the mercy of the Volcano. The eruption in April 1983 lasted seven weeks, with the lava flow licking at the heels and toes of the city. Some refer to Catania as the Pompeii of modern times. Should this fiery threat stop you from painting in the Catania region? Not at all. Just wear good running shoes, keep your ears peeled, eyes opened, and paint fast.
A nice place to set up your easel is in the Piazza del Duomo, one of the most beautiful squares in Sicily. In the center, is the Fontana dell’Elefante: the Elephant Fountain. It’s carved from black volcanic rock and is surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk of granite. The magnificent Duomo looms at one end of the piazza. Six of the granite columns that adorn its Baroque façade were stolen from a Roman theatre: I never could “get” vandalism in the name of Christianity.
The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre, made entirely out of black lava, are absolutely sketch-worthy. The theatre dates from the 2nd century AD and its arena is one of the largest after the Colosseum in Rome.
Botanical and plein air artists should enjoy painting in the Giardino Bellini. In addition to a myriad variety of flowering vegetation, these public gardens are filled with palm, banana, and Ficus trees. From the heights of this luscious garden you are provided an outstanding panorama of Mount Etna.
3 kilometers south of town, seascape artists can set up on the Lido Plaia, a long, sandy beach lined with pine trees. For non-seascape artists, you may still want to keep this Ionian Sea beach destination in mind should Mount Etna decide to wake up.
Buon Viaggio!

Friday, October 2, 2009


If you happen to be an artist/history buff, you won’t want to miss painting for a few hours in Syracuse and it’s environs. En route to the Greek Theater you’ll pass the 3rd century BC, Hieron’s Altar, which is said to be the largest man-made altar. They say (whoever “they” are) that up to 450 bulls were sacrificed on these stones every day. In my mind, that’s a lot of bulls and a lot of bull, but nevertheless, worthy of a visit and at least a quick sketch.
This Greek Theater is hewn entirely out of rock and considered to be the largest Greek Theater in Europe. The view from the theater, (the town, the harbor, the Ionian Sea) especially at sunset, is magnificent.
If you’re a fan of Caravaggio, (and what artist isn’t and if you’re an artist and you’re not, you should be) visit the grotto, Orrechio di Dionisi. Caravaggio was struck by the cave’s resemblance to an ear and gave it this name. (In Italian, Orrechio=ear)
If you’re a plein air artist, you might enjoy the southern stretch between Syracuse and Noto. This stretch of citrus groves and olive trees passes the scenic Anapo and Ciane Rivers. If you don’t speak Italian, be sure to have a good dual-language dictionary handy in case you get lost. Americans who “assume” everyone in the world speaks English always amaze me.
Buon Viaggio!