Wednesday, July 30, 2008

TUSCANY - Lucchesia: a super holiday rental villa & pottery

La Cappella – the chapel. This is the door to the small chapel from which the villa and the property takes its name. The seventeenth century villa used to be a convent and was completely restored, with excellent taste, by the owners, Pietro Monticelli and Vicky Ceschi a Santa Croce. Part of the villa is available for holiday rentals and sleeps eighteen people. In the low season, rooms are available with breakfast. La Cappella, is in one of the most beautiful hillside areas of the Lucchesia and is only seven km from Lucca and it's also close to Florence, Pisa, Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi.

La Cappella – the pool and the view. The terraced swimming pool overlooks the valley. From it’s panoramic position you can see Lucca, the surrounding hills with the olive groves, the vineyards, the woods and beyond. I have notice that in the Lucchesia the countryside is particularly un-spoilt by ugly buildings and all the pools are hidden by trees, hedges or other greenery and therefore don’t spoil the landscape.

A detail: A detail of the rental communal big kitchen. Note, the big marble sink and old-fashioned taps, as well as, the marble table-top and the authentic stone walls of this gigantic big kitchen and dinning room. It is here that breakfast is served for the Bed and Breakfast guests. It is also here, on request, that cooking classes of Tuscan cuisine are organized. Vicky says, that “He who eats enjoys, he who enjoys loves…he who loves is happy.”

A detail: A detail of the communal rental big kitchen. old-fashioned scales are just one of the charming features in this big kitchen and dinning room.

Vicky’s style. Vicky Ceschi a Santa Croce, is a freelance make-up artist and also owns and runs with Pietro Monticelli, La Cappella, a converted old convent in the Tuscan hills near Lucca. She is taking a phone call before going off for her morning walk with her dog Jack San Le Beau.
Vicky’s style – a detail. Vicky is wearing beige shorts with a comfortable white cotton shirt. Striped socks, dark green Aigle Wellington boots and a Hamilton wrist watch on a red cotton strap.

Vicky’s style: Vicky gave a dinner party for us and I particularly liked the way she set the dinning room table. I loved the simplicity of each dish on the table with no fuss or tablecloth. Vicky is a very good cook. Her mother, has always entertained and has taught her daughters how to whip up dinners for many people without any effort or notice.
The Menu: For fourteen; two tarts, pasta salad, chicken salad (in the foreground) and tomato and egg salad followed by peaches marinated in Muscat wine.

Vicky’s style: Vicky and Pietro own some of my favorite cars: a Vespa, a vintage Fiat Cinquecento and a Land Rover.

Vicky’s style: The table setting for a quick lunch. On a crisp white hemp tablecloth, luke warm tomato and basil pasta salad is served with a big horn spoon.
Note: the flower arrangement of wild flowers with fruits and leaves picked in the hillside above the house.
Also note: the maiolica (rough clay) plates Vicky designed with Stefano Gambogi. They are all orange but each plate has different circles and swirls on it. And, each underneath is painted a different color; blues, greens, dark reds etc. Very country chic.

The olive groves. You can’t get away from the olive groves in Lucchesia, they are everywhere, up and down the terraced hillsides and bordering the small country roads. The trees with their rough and twisted century old trunks and pale green leaves look fabulous against the landscape.
Note: these are the olive groves of Villa Massei.

Ceramica Artistica Stefano Gambogi. Tuscany is one of the major producers of olive oil, where it is also know as “liquid gold”. It is therefore natural for Stefano Gambogi to make these pretty colorful olive oil bottles suitable to grace any elegant country table.

Ceramica Artistica Stefano Gambogi. The husband and wife team, Federica and Stefano Gambogi create beautiful pottery. Stefano studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara and then later at the Montelupo Fiorentino School of Ceramics, but it was during a trip to Spain and Morocco that he became interested in ceramics. He was fascinated by the bold colors of the Southern Mediterranean. In 2005 he opened a small workshop in the countryside near Lucca where he works with his wife Federica, who does most of the painting on the clay objects.

Ceramica Artistica Stefano Gambogi. These pretty Japanese inspired thumb dented cups were designed especially for the Tea Festival in Lucca. The thumb dent on the side makes the cups so much easier to hold.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008


Party hopping across the Gran Canal. On a warm summer’s night what could be more fun than partying up and down the Gran Canal in Venice. From cocktails on the terrace of The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, after a private view of the wonderful exhibition, Coming of Age, American Art from 1850 to 1950 to the garden of Palazzo Franchetti for the San Pellegrino party in honor of the Cooking Cup. The San Pellegrino Cooking Cup is the tastiest regatta where sixty crews compete in a ten mile race with celebrity chefs onboard also competing in a cooking challenge.

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VENICE: The Peggy Guggenheim collection - COMING OF AGE

VENICE - PEGGY GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION: COMING OF AGE – AMERICAN ART, 1850s to 1950s. To mark the 60th anniversary of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice a wonderful exhibition entitled Coming of Age, American Art from 1850s to 1950s (until October 12th, 2008). Over the period from 1850s to 1950s, American art and culture came of age evolving from provincial to international and moving from literal depictions of the particular to abstract interpretations of universal ideals. Coming of Age explores the complex and extended process of maturation that took place throughout this formative century of American art. Drawn from the Addison Gallery’s renowned collection, the selection of works offers a comprehensive look at the major developments in a period of one hundred years marked by the rise of modernity and by a dramatic change in the physical and social landscape. In the photograph, Kitty and Stephen Sherrill, trustee of the Addison Gallery of American Art and the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Philip Rylands.

Coming of Age – 1860s. Albert Bierstadt, The Coming Storm, 1869. Bierstadt is best known among the Hudson River painters for his views of the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. This painting’s ominous back and white clouds, awesome crags and tranquil river shore in the foreground, inhabited only by a group of deer, create an effect of the sublime in contrast with the small scale of the work. The crystalline rendering of detail, a hallmark of the Hudson River painters, is also characteristic of the mid-century Dusseldorf School where German-born Bierstadt trained in the 1850s.

Coming of Age – 1890s. Winslow Homer, The West Wind, 1891. My favorite painting in the whole exhibition is this Winslow Homer. This extraordinary painting, an essay in browns, is one of Homer’s masterpieces. The place may be High Cliff near Prout’s Neck, Maine, where Homer lived and worked. The figure of the woman (a friend, Mrs. Landreth O. King) is mimicked by the juniper bushes as she leans into the wind, and embodies for us the sensations of a wintry gale that are vividly the subject of the painting. The recurrent theme of man combating the forces of nature is typical of Homer, and perhaps what makes him seem, painting in the years when the frontiers of the united States were still being extended, peculiarly American.

Coming of Age – 1900s. John Singer Sargent, Val d’Aosta: A Man Fishing, 1906. Like Whistler’s Sargent’s career was conducted primarily in Europe, where he was the most successful and sophisticated portraitist of his generation. He was born in Florence of American parents. In his later career he turned to landscape subjects. His technical panache and his compositional adventurousness are evident in this snapshot-like image of fishermen resting at noonday.

Coming of Age – 1910s. Man Ray, Ridgefield, 1913. In 1913 Man Ray, not yet 23 years old and still and art student, moved from his parent’s home in Brooklyn to Ridgefield, New Jersey. He met Henri and Bellows by this time and frequented Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York. There in 1911 he saw the paintings of Cezanne, which inspired this early painting of the view from his house overlooking Ridgefield. Man Ray eventually moved to Paris where he pursued a career as a photographer and contributed to both the Dada and the Surrealist movements.

Coming of Age – 1920s. Edward Hopper, Manhattan Bridge Loop, 1928. Hopper’s notes and sketches for this painting reveal his intention: “The very long horizontal shape of this picture…is an effort to give a sensation of great lateral extent…The color, design, and form have all been subjected, consciously or otherwise, to considerable simplification.” The close tones of the color palette, the simplified architecture, and the lonely figure isolated by the long stretch of the bridge ramp create a sense of urban alienation that is typical of Hopper’s work.

Coming of Age – 1930s. Sea Gull-Gaspe by Milton Avery, 1938. Gaspe is at the end of the peninsular of the same name on the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Quebec. “One of America’s greatest colorist, Avery has been referred to as the ‘American Matisse”’ by William C. Agee in the exhibition catalogue. He both extends an Impressionist sensibility into the 20th century and anticipates the color abstraction of artists such as Gottlieb and Rothko, who were his friends in New York at the time.

Coming of Age - the 1940s. Jackson Pollock, Phosphorescence, 1947. This early and dense example of Pollock’s drip painting is a companion to Alchemy, also of 1947, in The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Guggenheim, who was largely responsible for launching Pollock’s career, gave Phosphorescence to the Addison Gallery at a time (1950) when his reputation was beginning to emerge in America.

Coming of Age - the 1950s. Frank Stella, Broadway, 1958. A beautiful Frank Stella entitled East Broadway. In this painting Stella was moving to clarity and elimination of the unnecessary, to the strength of the repeated line and shape as a corrective to Abstract Expressionism. In its emphasis on geometry, rhythm and intervals, this painting and others of this early period set the stage for Stella’s later pin-stripe paintings and shaped canvases.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


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Monday, July 07, 2008


L’Uomo Vogue 40th Anniversary Party. One of the best parties of the season was given by Giampaolo Grandi, president of Italian Conde Nast in honor of Franca Sozzani, editor in chief, of Italian Vogue and L’Uomo Vogue for the 40th Anniversary of the Men’s fashion magazine. In the photograph, Guccis Frida Giannini, Franca Sozzani and Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast International Ltd.

Beatrice and Matilda Borromeo

Franca Sozzani, Adrien Brody and Elsa Pataky

Michele Lupi, Carla Sozzani and Anna Piaggi

The first Italian top models: Alberta Tibuzzi and Isa Stoppi
Note: the jewels - WOW!

Janet Jackson

Mother and Daughter: Allegra Beck and Donatella Versace

Mother and Daughter: Gaia Lucchini and Gisella Borioli. It was Gaia’s father, Flavio Lucchini who first created L’Uomo Vogue forty years ago.

Mother and Daughter:
Manuela and Alice Pavesi

Mother and Daughter: Consuelo and Carolina Castiglioni

Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler

Matteo Marzotto and Roberto Cavalli

L’Uomo Vogue 40th Anniversary Party. Italian Vogue and L’Uomo Vogue creative director, Luca Stoppini is not only the best art director, he is also a very talented artist and photographer, in his own right. Luca magnificently designed the 40th anniversary edition of L’Uomo Vogue picking the coolest shots over the past forty years, “Thank you Luca, for my double page spread of Terence Stamp.” Luca also designed the spectacular exhibition of the Italian men’s mag. at Palazzo Litta. In the gilded and stuccoed salons of the baroque eighteenth century palazzo, he set up diagonal mirrored walls where “ticker tape” images, taken from the magazine, flowed slowly and where reflected on an opposite plain mirrored wall. These sets reminded me of a modern day version of the hall of mirrors in Versailles.

Noona Smith Petersen and Luchino Visconti

Anna Zegna, Sibilla della Gherardesca and Bucci Norsa

Osanna e Giangaleazzo Visconti di Modrone e Marie Brandolini d'Adda

Dean and Dan Caten with Astrid Munoz and Ester Canadas

L’Uomo Vogue 40th Anniversary Party – detail. The candlelight gala dinner took pace in the cloisters of the courtyard of Palazzo Litta. A very long table went all the way round. The d├ęcor was spectacular, very chic and very Vogue.

Luisa Beccaria, Cecila Colussi Rossi, Consuelo e Carolina Castiglioni

Georgia Gay

Vincent Darre, Frida Giannini and Stefano Tonchi

Mariuccia Casadio and Jack Pierson

Uberta Zambelletti

Kris Rhus and Carla Sozzani

A detail. A detail of Kris Rhus’s one of a kind, knuckle dusters.

Serge of Yugoslavia and Stefan Bartlett

Mario Bellini

Eva Herzigova

Emanuela Schmeidler and Diego della Valle

L’Uomo Vogue 40th Anniversary Party – detail. A detail of a place setting at the gala dinner of L’Uomo Vogue's 40th anniversary party, held in the suggestive courtyard of Palazzo Litta.
: the individual glass of crudities and the little dish of baby mozzarella, placed by each table setting. These amuse bouche are a great idea, ideal to munch on while you wait for dinner to be served, instead of eating the whole bread basket, as is so often the case.
Contessanally tip: Click on photo to enlarge it.
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