Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Mona Lisa, Toscano and Painting

Ciao Venezia
Helen bids goodbye to Venice

Welcome back friends,

As we sing Goodbye Venice Goodbye 

Here we are at the car rental counter at Venice Airport. All three of us sign on as drivers and when the man hands forth the key, Violetta and Mary Rose have both disappeared. I accept the car keys.  They inform me that I have more experience driving in mountains (both are  Florida drivers which is at sea level).

We soon find ourselves on the autostrata and the sign points to Firenze.  Lunch time finds us pulling into the Autogrill, conveniently located off the autostrata. (The choice of food is excellent, other countries please follow suit). Panini sandwiches and salads are selected.  One can also purchase meats, cheeses, water, wine (almost like Whole Foods in USA) and essentials here and also top up on gas/petrol.
Autogrill meat and cheese counter
cappucinos fresh fruit and delicious bread and produce
stairs to our farmhouse door
loggia at our farmhouse, several meals were taken here
We check into our farmhouse on the grounds of CastelloVicchiomaggio and the scent of lavender is intoxicating. It is believed that Leonardo Da Vinci lived here when he painted the Mona Lisa and we determined that the hills depicted in the Mona Lisa painting are these hills behind the Castle)  The vineyards are ripe.  We quickly change and drive into the village of Greve in Chianti (3 miles) for our grocery supplies.  We visit several shops for our bread, meats, cheese, vegetables and desert.   Our accommodation for the next 10 days is the 3 bedroom farmhouse. We do have keys to the castle and can go there during the day.  There are about 8 suites at the castle and guests come and go at ease.There is not a restaurant at the castle. We loved painting the views from this vantage point.
Violetta and Mary Rose enjoy breakfast at farmhouse

It is comfortable and quiet.  Breakfast makings are delivered late each afternoon consisting of eggs, bread, butter and milk.The first day we got 5 eggs, next day 3 eggs.  Each day it varied which we finally ascertained to be the hen's decision.  Our days begin at cockcrow, exploring, walking and sketching, painting and more painting.
Early morning before sunrise - Violetta is composing sketches

Violetta sketching at gates of Castle
Market shopping
A day trip to the Uffizi and the confident driver found her way easily and parked.  What is it about artists and refusing to carry or  read maps?  In the line for the Uffizi a man informed us it was so easy to get back to Greve in Chinati, just follow the sign for Sienna. (later we discovered there are four roads leading from Firenze to Sienna) We enjoyed a wonderful day visiting our favourite paintings and lunching and revisiting the gallery.
Chapel at CastelloVicchiomaggio Painting by Mary Rose Holmes
It was dusk, as we drove away from Florence and before long we were on the wrong road to Greve in Chianti. Instead we were on the autostrata to Sienna. Our gas gauge was showing empty and we determinted that if we got off the highway and drove directly west, we would reach Greve in Chianti. Car was gassed and it was now pitch dark and we were on a two lane, rutted cow path type of road without signposts. We passed Sambuco town. We drove on a precipice which, thankfully, we were unable to see. Finally we came to a civilization and  one tiny bistro and sitting outside on a bench  were two men.  I remained with the car and Mary Rose and Violetta, dressed beautifully in flowing long skirts went to ask the men for instructions in their limited knowledge of Italian.

Elderly man's car was like this one, with windows and without the attachments
While waiting in the car, I noticed a vintage fiat car pull up and  from it emerged an very elderly gentleman, who took one look at Mary Rose and Violetta and he literally made the sign of the cross and said "in nomine padre, filii et spiritus sancti".I beleive he felt he had arrived at heaven's gate!

With directions and good-byes, we finally travelled through hamlets like Monefioralle Pasignano and into a farm yard (here we thought we would meet our Waterloo and that the two men and the old man might have misdirected us.  We reversed out of the farmyard, did not see any car lights so felt we were safe, whew no car was following us.)

We arrived back at the castle and our farmhouse several hours later with white knuckles and Mary Rose in the back seat reciting the Rosary.

View from Castellovicchiomaggio Helen Tilston
Vicchiomaggio chapel interior painting by Violetta
Door to Castle Painting by Mary Rose Holmes
Helen selects a view to paint
Market shopping in the various towns and a trip to San Gimignano and Voltare for alabaster rounded out our trip.
Violetta shops for linen

We each completed approximately 18 small paintings and numerous sketches and ideas.

Have you plans to travel to Italy?  Would you drive in Italy?


  1. What chic ladies!

    I LOVE the chapel interior painting. Funny how it's an interior of a place when usually it's the exterior of a place that reminds me so much of Europe. Venice seems like it would have inspiration for a painter around every corner!

  2. I can imagine how inspiring Venice must be for a painter. Beauty everywhere.

  3. It looks all very familiar to me! :-)
    Hello Helen and thank you for your comment!
    Mmh..would I drive in Italy..well NO!!! Italians are very bad drivers and roads aren't so safe!
    Beautiful pictures and amazing paintings!

  4. Hi Katie

    Thank your for the kind compliment and we will try and stay chic!!!

    Yes, the interior painting of the chapel at Castellovicchiomaggio is a masterpiece, by Violetta. She was so captured by the shaft of sunlight - the little chapel likely accommodated 10 people, truly spiritual.
    Yes Venice is so close to our hearts and we will never ever tire of it. Not only the different views but the changing sky.
    Thanks Katie and hope you are adjusting to the change in your lifestyle.
    Helen xx

  5. Hello Annie

    Thank you for visiting our blog and leaving a comment. You are right, Venice is truly a painter's paradise and so many vistas- one could be there for a lifetime and still not do it justice.


  6. Hi Michela

    Lovely to see you on our blog. We laughed at reading your comment "you would not drive in Italy" coming from you who lives there makes us now wonder what you know that we do not.
    Ha Ha
    Michaela, I must say I feel empowered having driven in Italy and it has given me confidence to drive in other European countries/cities. Like the British slogan says: "Keep calm and carry on"

    Many thanks

    Helen x

  7. What a fabulous getaway! Love your narrative of it all and your photos are lovely.

  8. Goodmorning Morning T

    Thank you for your kind comments.
    It is very encouraging to hear from readers. We have so much joy when we all travel together and funny things seem to happen to us. We have so many stories. The Manager at the local greengrocer sought out Violetta one day and gave her a bag of ripe tomatoes, saying they will not last, so please enjoy them.
    Fond memories

  9. What a lovely blog! Full of so much art and inspiration and beautiful ladies to boot. Divine!

  10. Hello Carolynn Cecilia

    Thank you for visiting our blog and for your kind words. We will treasure your comments
    Violett, Mary Rose and Helen