Saturday September 20 ’14
Some even set their alarms to be out of the house by 8.15am! We were going by train to Lucca, and we couldn’t be late. Our yummy breakfast was taken a little earlier, but somehow we managed to all be ready, even remembering our sketching gear.
The whistle of the train as it approaches the little country station and even those with various hip and knee replacements, pull themselves up those high steps onto the train. It was lovely looking out on the many small towns as we passed by, and arriving in Lucca, about the right time to have our morning coffee.
Across the road from the station are the high walls of Lucca, one of the few unbroken complete walls in the region.
It seemed to feel as if we could go back in time to enter the solid wall cavities where slippery steps and winding paths lead you through to the outer streets.
We did have a good map and knew we were going to find a spot to start near Piazza Napoleone. Right on the edge of the square seemed a pretty good place to be, taking in the sights, the police posing importantly in front of their cars, elegant Italian woman on bicycles, and tourists of every shape and size.
However I was planning to leave everyone briefly as I had discovered Barry Coombs from Canada was also here with a big group of his students too.
Barry and I both have Art schools, tutor classes and Art holidays. He’d realised I was here so we arranged to meet this morning. My group was off to Piazza Anfiteatro to start their sketches, and we’d find them there later.
It was so exciting to meet Barry and we’d only seen each other by photo, but we knew each other straight away. His lovely partner Alida, also a sketcher was with him, so we chatted away madly and wandered back looking at possible rainy day locations. Not that it was looking threatening today at all. In fact jolly hot again. Wow that Tuscan sun does beat down.
We found my group and there were greetings all round, and then a coffee and cold drinks as we carried on chatting, planning trips, discussing other places we might go and so on. We parted with promises of keeping in touch.
I could see some lovely sketches of those houses all surrounding the famous round square, – you know what I mean. Yes you do. Everyone had been very immersed in their work but a little thought of lunch was floating up. One sketcher had seen a really typical Tuscan style trattoria she liked while exploring, so we made our way back there, and there was a table just right for us ready and waiting. The food was great, as it has been everywhere on this trip, so we was silence as we tucked in.
However for some of our sketchers, being on the edge of Via Fillungo, the very best shopping strip in Lucca, was becoming too hard to bear. Before we knew it, one of our people was peering back through the shop window at us, wearing new clothes. This was too much.
Then everyone was in there!
We already had squeezed in a bit of shopping already today, but still managed to do some sketches. Well that’s ok then. The lazy afternoon wore on and we wandered back towards the station to make sure we hopped on the right train. Somehow between us all we worked it out. Oh we are so clever! We were all running out of buzz by the time we arrived back at the farmhouse, but hey it’s pizza night.
I’m always so impressed to see people gathering at the outside table, finishing off the day’s work, or starting a new one. Amazing what a tad of wine can do to one’s ‘let it all happen’ approach to sketching.
Marie has made the bases and put out a selection of toppings, while Chris had fired up the pizza oven and got it ready for each of your decorated pizzas to go in the oven. In a very short time we were all getting stuck in and thoroughly enjoying a genuine Italian pizza, in this gorgeous setting. Oh what a life!
After dinner and before we all started nodding off our hosts brought out a very amusing game, which everyone could be part of regardless of your game abilities. We had a huge amount of fun with it and it was such a good way to conclude another fab day here in our Tuscan paradise.
Sunday September 21 ’14
We were off to the little hilltop village of Fornovolasco, really really high up in the hills.
We didn’t do our usual Studio warmup sketches as we were keen to get there while the sun was warm.
Fornovolasco loses the sun in the afternoon and can be very chilly.
The drive up those winding roads was so gorgeous and you could look straight down the gorge to the aqua waters way below.
As we pulled in we could see the one and only cafe straight ahead, right beside the river with rapids twisting and turning round the rocks and on their journey to who knows where.
This little village is set in front of high and sharp peaked mountains, and looks so dramatic.
Stone walls and bridges, steps and stone pathways connect tall houses to each other, and lead you up to the delightful little church. Inside the colourful wall frescos tell the pitfalls of life and the passage to heaven for the worthy. A sombre lesson.
Our sketchers were enchanted with every view wherever they looked. A little corner here, and old lady sitting at her door there, balconies of bright flowers, small religious plaques above doors. Shutters, doorways, wells and fountains. A dream place for sketchers.
Once we had captured our favourite views in our sketchbooks we headed home to lunch. Today Marie was making her famous spaghetti bolognese, and we were ready.
Indeed we all agreed it was certainly a winner, and it disappeared in no time at all.
Some continued sketching, and others had a siesta until later in the day when we would go to the old town in Barga, have drinks then to L’Osteria for dinner.
We meandered our way through the winding lanes, now knowing exactly where we are headed. To Da Aristo run by Giovanni with his big white beard, chefs hat on and tartan apron. What a character.
An English guitarist sat down and began to serenade the guests with a election of great cover songs which we were all familiar with. So enjoyable that 2 of our girls were up dancing and they’d only had one limoncello!
We made our way back to L’Osteria and awaited what we knew would be many dishes of excellent food. Luckily the servings were smallish and we could enjoy them without feeling overfed.
One dish had an absolutely gorgeous bilberry sauce which we were enjoying, when we all looked at each other and saw we had black lips and teeth – looking like goths! Much mirth indeed.
Of course it came off with a few more glasses of wine swirled like a mouthwash. We looked pretty funny when we stuck our black tongues out, but being well brought up young ladies we didn’t do that – much!
Home again after another amazing day, and some of us sat outside listening to the silence having a very nice cuppa tea. ZZZZzzzzz.