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:


Thursday, July 8, 2010


Certainly if you’re an artist who enjoys painting architecture, Pisa should not be missed. The Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is as spectacular today as it must have been to medieval visitors. The Duomo, Bell Tower, and Baptistery are set within a vast, meticulously manicured lawn that entices artists to set up and spend a few hours painting. If you’re a true-to-life, detailed artist, don’t get frustrated if what you see doesn’t jive in your over-analytical brain; don’t accuse your t-square of playing tricks on you; and don’t blame that second glass of wine you drank at lunch: not only does the Leaning Tower “lean,” but the Baptistery is inclined out of the vertical and the façade of the Duomo is also a few degrees out of true.
Before you leave the Campo dei Miracoli, you must take time to visit each of these magnificent buildings and definitely take time to visit Camposanto, which Ruskin described as one of the three most precious buildings in Italy, along with the Sistine Chapel and the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice. It wasn’t its tombs but rather its frescos that he praised. Unfortunately, in July of 1944, Allied planes dropped incendiary bombs that set the roof on fire and drenched the 2000 square meters of frescos in a river of molten lead. Fortunately, a few patches of the magnificent frescos remain, including works by Maestro del Trionfo della Morte (Master of the Triumph of Death); which have been detached from the wall and put on exhibit in a room opposite the entrance. Also at the entrance is a photographic display of the Camposanto before the bombing.
On the south side of the Campo, sandwiched between the tourist stalls, you’ll find the Museo delle Sinopie. I love this high-tech museum. After the Allies bombed the Camposanto, the building’s restorers removed its sinopie, the monochrome sketches for the frescos. These great plaster plates are now hung from the walls of the Museo delle Sinopie, where you have the opportunity to inspect up close the painter’s preliminary ideas.
Don’t leave Pisa until you’ve visited and sketched all “three” leaning towers. The 2nd leaning tower is at the end of Via Santa Maria. It’s the 13th century campanile of San Nicola. The base is cylindrical and changes into an octagon and then a hexagon. Inside, take a peek at the paintings by Nino and Giovanni Pisano. You can get to the 3rd leaning tower, the campanile of San Michele dei Scalzi, by walking along the riverbank upstream from Ponte di Mezzo. Everything in this building is severely out of kilter: the columns in the nave tilt this way and that, the windows in the apse are every which way but loose, and the walls set up a dizzy contrast to the tilt of the tower.
After your brain has maxed out on the crooked, tilted, and leaning don't despair, like Florence, Pisa has its Lungarno that boasts a splendid line of riverside palaces that will please every “t-square” enthusiast.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


The island of Elba is a favorite among European travelers and Germans in particular. But for some reason it hasn’t yet caught on with Americans. Although it’s the third largest Italian island after Sicily and Sardinia, until about thirty years ago it was known mostly for its mineral resources (it was Elban iron in the Roman swords that conquered an empire), and as Napoleon’s place of exile. Oh, what a difference thirty years can make. Now tourists choke the island from the first of June until the first of September, with August being the most popular month. But if you can go in May or September, when the hotels and restaurants are open but the tourist traffic is down, you’ll understand why Napoleon never bemoaned being in exile.
To get there, take one of the car ferries (Toremar or Novarma) from the port at Piombino. I recommend booking in advance. When you get to the docks, you’ll see their offices. Once inside, you may be lucky and get right up to the counter, or you may walk into a crowd. If you encounter the latter, don’t be shy. The crowd is really what the Italians call a line, and if you aren’t aggressive and nudge your way to the front, you may miss the boat, (literally).
The car ferries are an ideal location for capturing on canvas the mainland and island shorelines from a sea perspective. I recommend debarking at Portoferraio, the most popular debarkation point on the island.
Before you leave Portoferraio to explore all the amazing vistas the island has to offer, take a walk up Via Garibaldi to visit Napoleon’s home in exile, the Villa dei Mulini. The villa was built especially for the ex-emperor on a site chosen for its killer views of the bay. There are multiple sites at the villa where you can set up and paint.
Elba’s landscape is rich and varied, featuring deep gulfs and long headlands. The coastline combines high, sheer cliffs, gentle bays with pebble beaches, or broad expanses of sand as white and fine as talcum powder. On the southern slops, cactus plants show that this is a Mediterranean climate; while to the east you’ll find vine-covered hills.
The water around the island is crystal clear and the most beautiful color of blue you will ever see. From the mountainous interior, Monte Capanne in particular, the views will take your breath away. Bus service is excellent, but you’ll be glad you have a car, so you can slip in and out of those out-of-the-way side roads that zigzag here and there, leading to ideal clearings to set up and paint or sketch.
You don’t want to miss west-facing Bagnaia, off the road to Rio nell’Elba, It’s famous for its sunsets and rightly so. You’ll see shades or reds, purples, oranges, and yellows that you’ve never seen before. If you have the fortitude to drive the coiling road beyond, the twin mini hamlets of Nisporto and Nisportino mark the beginning of the most unspoiled beaches and coastline on Elba’s north shore. You can hike into the hills behind, where you’ll find tiny clearings just right for setting up an easel.
If at all possible, plan to spend at least three days painting on Elba. If it’s three, you’ll wish it were four. If it’s four, you’ll wish it was five, etc., etc. In other words, once you arrive on Elba, you’ll wish you were sent there to spend time in exile.