A Special Day in Tuscany

October 24, 2013  •  Buonconvento, Europe, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

20131018-180411.jpgImagine waking up to this glorious sunrise in the heart of Tuscany, looking at all of that beauty, knowing that you are heading out for a landscape painting class. Can you imagine anything more inspirational?
20131018-180438.jpgThrough a small world type of connection, I recently learned of Maddine Insalaco, a woman who happened to be at Bucknell at the same time as I did who now spends half of her time at home in Tuscany teaching landscape painting classes. Knowing I would be in the area I signed up my group of four women for a half day intro class with Maddine and her husband Joe.
20131018-180449.jpgWe met them at the Poggiarellino estate outside of Buonconvento and happened upon the owner finishing up his Brunello harvest for the year. He kindly allows Maddine and Joe to host painting classes on his estate…
20131018-180507.jpg…but little did we know when we left home just how foggy our day would be. Well, it turns out that helps a great deal if you are painting landscapes for the very first time, as it makes the definition between distant objects (very light colored) and closer objects (darker colored) much easier to see.
20131018-180523.jpgOur first job was to simply dilute some of the oil paint with thinner and rough in what it was that we had determined to paint for the day (the process of even figuring out what to paint, by the way, can be overwhelming for a beginner!)
20131018-180551.jpgThen with paint and brushes in hand, we spent roughly the next three hours – which just flew by – trying to get the hang of it. With the light constantly changing and our teachers encouraging us, we found it hard to end our painting. Since oils don’t dry for a few days, you can just keep changing, adding, deleting for what seems like forever.
20131018-180618.jpgBy the time the sun had finally cleared the fog, however, our tummies were growling and our teachers were encouraging us to stop painting so we could join them for lunch.
20131018-180716.jpgWe were happy to be able to see the gorgeous Tuscan landscape…
20131018-180730.jpg…some of the grounds of the Poggiarellino estate…
20131018-180821.jpg…and the hilltown of Montalcino, famous for its Brunello wines, before we packed up the gear.
20131018-180908.jpgMaddine and Joe used to live in San Gimignano, but the increasing tourism in that tiny hill town drove them out a few years ago and now they live just inside the walls of the tiny town of Buonconvento. Part of the imposing wall into the town holds this door with some of the original wood from the door.
20131018-180921.jpgThe street is tiny and charming, just like you would expect.
20131018-180946.jpgInside their lovely apartment we tasted Brunello wines and sat down to eat together, starting with this wonderful ribollita soup.
20131018-180953.jpgOur second course was a tantalizing spread of meats, cheeses, and a classic arugula salad with tomatoes. Maddine prepares her own sun dried tomatoes which none of us could get enough of.
20131018-181006.jpgAnd of course we had to have some of the fabulous Brunello di Montalcino wine from Poggiarellino. Brunello is a big wine, and it needs to age about 10 years before it’s ready to enjoy.
20131018-181026.jpgAfter stopping in at Maddine and Joe’s art gallery (where we were all thrilled to buy a painting or two from them), we headed back out, the sign reminding us that this small road through the town was originally the road that led straight down to Rome…
20131018-181050.jpg…and the clock on the wall reminding us that it was time to say our farewells.

I am working on putting together a food and wine adventure to the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria for the fall of 2014 that will likely include a half day of painting like I enjoyed on this trip. If you think you’d like to join me, please let the know!

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