We painted outdoors this week, with two wonderful painters in Cetona, Tuscany. They were repeat students, who we’ve known for ever so long. One we met shortly after her birth 17 years ago; the other is her sister of 14 years (we celebrated her birthday on Tuesday!). We used to paint in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris together.
We stayed in a rental apartment in Cetona, with incredible views on all sides. The air was perfumed with jasmine and little leaf linden. I sold a painting I made there. I also cooked a birthday dinner with 2 cakes (bought from delicious Italian bakeries, tiramisu and apricot sacher torte). We had a wonderful time.
Some of the most ancient human settlements in Italy were at the base of Mt. Cetona (then Citona), dating to the Paleolithic period. Cetona itself was founded around 900. It is a town built on a hill, and one climbs up or down wherever you are headed. There was some significant urban dentistry performed here not so long ago, pointing building stones, smoothing out streets. Vestiges of old hand-hammered iron handrails remained and the layout was still medieval. The town is very very clean — there was no gum, no cigarette butts; not even bird poop on the streets. When I accidentally dropped a bottle of prosecco on the pavement on the way to the car, it was as if a bomb went off. No windows opened.
There were sun and clouds, and the last day of our painting we stood on a hillside and painted. The rains came, we all piled into the car; the rain stopped and we got out again. Sheep grazed on the hillside, guarded by geese.
We drove to Stimigliano afterward to put that apartment to sleep until September. Everyone is outside there, trying to get cool. I am struck by how much they are like the birds, roosting and moving a few feet to visit with others. The cafes enjoy serving drinks and ice tea to all.
We are at Rocca Malatina now, where our friend, I, is adding to our floral heritage. She’s struck a positive note with Ludovico, our regular gardener, who doesn’t believe in weeding or fertilizer. They are always picking mushrooms, and I pray nobody is poisoned. I stick to store-bought.
We went to Miani, our local but very equipped nursery. We got dirt and bark and plant food, to feed new yellow flowers (st john’s wort), hostas and sun-patiens. I got my very own tarragon, known here as dragoncello (isn’t that a great name?), which I added to salmon I also bought in town. While at the plant store, a man was throwing discontinued items from a neighboring store into the dumpster. We stopped him and took a very large turkey platter, 13 champagne glasses and two coffee cups. Blair was tempted by an espresso machine, but we held back.
I am struck by how nicely this universe works, especially in summer.
Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER