Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Workshop in Italy

Little did I know what I was headed for when I boarded the bus for the Tuscan Renaissance Center and the impending workshop.

The staff treated us graciously and with impeccable service, beginning with day one at the train station in Florence. We were most pleased with the facility: a restored monastery with tastefully luxurious Tuscan decor in every room. Our group had their first meeting in what was once the chapel and now serves as an extra large meeting room. A group appetizer night included olives, bruschetta, local breads, crackers and zucchini tartlets along with free flowing local wine. I set up my week long schedule with staff and we were off on an adventure of incredible meals, polite care, different sites daily, shopping and painting.

Meals were a real adventure: the local chef would bring up each dish and deliver a lengthy description of ingredients and any history that might be relevant. We had dishes such as a hearty peasant soup, a barbeque of ribs, chicken, Tuscan bacon and sausages, rissotto, pastas, fresh Tuscan lasagna, spinach tarts, local delmonico steaks,all sorts of local vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, Italian beans, potatoes, eggplants, Italian breads, olives, figs, peaches, apricots, and nuts of all kinds. Each dessert was magnificent: an apple tart with an apple liqueur sauce, bread pudding with caramel sauce (made by our own magnificent Tess), chocolate souffle with braised peaches, an ice cream concoction that incorporated cherries, chocolate and tiny almond cookies, and another cake with a lemon curd topping. Each breakfast included fresh cake baked by the Renate, one of the owners of San Fedele, along with yogurts, local jams and honey, cereals, croissants, fresh local fruits, nuts, eggs, juices and lots of coffee. Because of the hearty meals, it become imperative that we get out and.....walk.

We set up easels in Radda, San Fedele and Monteriggione; we toured Siena and San Gimignano and the market stalls in local towns. Our group went to a dinner and wine tasting at a local winery. We took hundreds of pictures of stone towns, shadows, sunlight, laundry hanging from windows and wine fields. One day, Michael, who was always so helpful and gracious to us, diverted to a field where there was a cherry tree, weighed down with fruit. We took advantage of the situation.

During two of our meals, we were treated to music: two of our hosts, Linda and Michael, are professional singers.

Every evening, we enjoyed a critique of artwork on the back patio of San Fedele.

Vini, Vidi, Vici.

We came. We saw. We painted. We shopped.

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