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Painting in Tuscany



Tuscany is the scenery that inspired Michelangelo, it glowed on films in ‘The English Patient’ as well as Bertolucci’s ‘I Dance Alone’. English, Americans, Germans and Dutch bought its vine farms, villas and castles and made it their home. Travelers from all over the world dream of vacationing in Tuscany… and once they have experienced it , they return again and again.

It’s easy to see why. Last summer me and my friend decided to spend our vacation there. We both adore it’s beautiful landscape and it’s delicious vine and dishes. Tuscany is one of the most beautiful parts of Italy. With its waved hills vineyards, olive trees and sunflower fields. But we didn’t come only for relaxation good food and wine. Tuscany attracted us beside all for its special artistic energy and special beautiful colors that each tourist coming to that land can see, feel and experience.

In almost the whole year you can see artistic travelers from all over the world painting on almost every corner of every piazza, as well as on the hills in the valleys, in the middle of the fields…

Tuscany is the land more often than not defined by colors: siena and terra, sepia or azurro. Where else would they name a whole city after a color: Siena? When you picture this region what comes to mind? Colors. The rolling golden wheat fields of summer framed by magic indigo skies and Michelangelo clouds. Old ladies dressed in black perched on benches before white washed walls and redish terra cotta bricks. Never fixed, it’s the changing hues from dawn to dusk; light green fields of winter which turn parched by mid-august and show the dirt by fall.

And why not, it’s these colors with their significance that makes this a paradise. The rich red earth of tuffo and cotta which provides the perfect balance for the olives and vines. Endless azure skies allowing as much golden sunlight as the plants will take and ensuring that an afternoon siesta never goes out of fashion.

And the colors of a meal…sepia pasta with porcini fired over the grill; bruschetta topped with olive paste and tomatoes; and of course the olive oil. That golden green oil which is a times lime or reddish or pure molten ore. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.

And without forgetting seeing magic frescos in the numerous acient churches, beautiful renaissance architecture, important museums full of paintings like the fourth most visited world museum as the Galleria Uffizzi in Florence is (one milion and a half of visitors every year, you have to prepaire yourself to one of the most impressive queues in Italy, to be able to see it), or numerous museums full of archaeological founds like museum in Volterra is, full of Etruscan and Roman art. Tuscany gave birth as well as attracted there and adopted many important artists as: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Cimabue, Giotto, Lippi, Raphael, Girlandaio, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Vasari… that were flourishing here for centuries.

For part of our vacation we decided to spend it in a more sofisticated way. We reserved us a part in an ART LANDSCAPE PAINTING COURSE. I paint sometimes for hobby, but during the last years I had less and less time, and my friend was a complete beginner. But our painting vacation was unforgetably beautiful. We found on internet one week course: INTERNATIONAL ART LANDSCAPE PAINTING WORKSHOP(http: //welcome.to/International.Painting.Workshops.Demsar, or http://www2.arnes.si/~tdemsa, e-mail:tjasa.demsar@guest.arnes.si), organised by Tjasa Demsar an internationally known Slovenian young painter living in Venice. She studied in Florence in England and graduated in The Netherlands. Her lessons were in English and Italian at the same time. She speaks them both fluently.

The participants, of different levels (from beginners to advanced), were from all over the world, a quite exciting and stimulating international mix. We were staying at the agritourism San Donato a village – small hamlet clustered around a tiny Romanesque church. Four kilometres from San Gimignano, in the heart of the Chianti region, it is well situated in relation to Florence, Siena, Volterra, Pisa, and Lucca.

The setting represents an ideal base for exploring the Tuscany landscape, rolling hills covered with sunflower fields, olive groves, and vineyards, offering inspiring scenes for painting. Ancient houses in the village center provide the accommodation. There is also a swimming pool on a panoramic point from where while swimming, you can see as far as the eye can see across the Tuscan hills. First grade agritourism is offered, with traditional meals, prepared with locally produced ingredients, and famous wines Chianti and Vernaccia as well as the olive oil were produced by the owner, Mr. Fenzi himself. Agritourism is also inserted in the cyrcle of the best restaurants in Tuscany called “Toscana Golosa”.

We were painting every morning, visiting other towns like Volterra, Siena, Florence in the afternoon, or gone for trekking across the land. Walking in the heart of Tuscany, in the midst of San Gimignano’s countryside is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever done. To paint it from real, even more. The most beautifull place that we have seen while trekking, was Castel Vecchio, in the middle of the woods, a city abandoned in the 13th century. With one tall fortress at the beginning, long main street with the remains of the stone houses and trees growing in between, two meal whiels and at the end of town a beautiful Romanic church, without a roof, with still some frescos to be seen on the walls of the altar. (See more on it and on other nearby Tuscany castles: http://www.castellitoscani.com/).

San Gimignano, 4 km from San Donato, city of towers, stands on a site of a smal Etruscan settelment dating from the Hellanistic period. (third to second century B. C.) It developed considerably in the Middle Ages, thanks to the Vis Francigena which runs trough the town, and there was a remarkable flowering of works of art , adorning churches, palaces and monasteries. Most impressing is the Collegiata church, from the outside very very simple stone built, but extremly elegant and harmonic with beautiful starcase, two specular main doors two small round windows above… but inside is covered with frescos from the ground to the ceeling. Right side all by Barna di Siena, painted arround 1380 and all left side by Bartolo di Fredi painted in 1367 and we can also see the famous sculpture Madonna Annunciata 1421 – 1426 in her beautiful red dress by Jacopo della Quercia.

Coming back home to San Donato in the evening we dined in the taverna of the 11 Century tower palace remains and we saw many slides of Italian and world art history. If you would like the pleasure of walking amongst lush Mediterranean vegetation along paths which meander trough oak woods, vineyards and age old olive groves; if you want to discover the secrets of this ancient land, where Etruscan tombs, Mediveal castles, Romanesque chapels and 16th Century villas testify to a history and culture far removed in time; if you want all this, go to a painting vacation to Tuscany. It was unforgettable vacation for us, it will remain engraved on your memory forever. Let the rich atmosphere inspire you, too. In case you want to see more about Tuscany, the best site about what will be going on there this year, the year of the “giubileo” is: http://www.giubileo.toscana.it/. If you still want to know more, visit : http://www.intuscany.net/, and don’t miss the photographic jurney through Tuscany by Judy Willoughby.

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