Archive | June, 2012

Experiencing Rome through the eyes of an Artist (me!) on a Sketching Tour

7 Jun

You know when you visit a place that is so vivid – so wonderful – that merely being there isn’t enough?  You want to drink it up, breathe it in, become a part of its fabric, internalize it somehow into the core of your DNA…Rome is certainly one of those places.  And no matter how much time you spend here, it’s hard not to feel constantly amazed at the sheer fabulousness of the city.

One sunny morning I found a wonderful new way to immerse myself deeper into the Rome experience; joining painter Kelly Medford on an intimate sketching tour of Rome.  Right from the beginning it was more than I expected.

Now, when I heard the term “sketching tour,” and she told me that she would provide all materials, I though – cool, she’ll bring a paper an pencil for me.   And then Kelly hands me this amazing little kit that literally fits in my purse.   Now, just the other day I was thinking…”when I get a bigger place, I’d really like to get an easel and paint, but our place right now is too small, so I can’t do it now, blah blah blah.”  No more excuses to not create!

It had a water color palette!  A watercolour pen/brush! A sketchbook with different textures of paper for various effect! The woman even MADE the sketchbook herself.  In Kelly’s words, “you need to feel inspired by your materials,” and I was.  Just in case you weren’t sufficiently inspired by the environment.

Over the course of the tour we made our way from Parco Pincio in Villa Borghese, to the top of the Spanish Steps.  The process of sketching makes you pay attention to details that you never would have noticed before.

It could have been easy to feel intimidated on a sketching tour of Rome. First, you are walking in the footsteps some of the greatest masters – and every where you look you are surrounded by stunning design – architecture, gardens, sculpture – even Italian clothes and shoes. Additionally there were some people on the tour who were actual artists.  But for a novice like me it was perfect. Kelly showed me how to work with various techniques, pushing my beyond my “art”  borders in a very gentle and supportive way – using different mediums and styles to different effect, like these:

Little tiny ink sketches

Ink and watercolor

This was a fabulous way to experience Rome through new eyes – and the best thing about it was that with everything I learned from Kelly and my new art studio in a purse, I can keep drawing wherever I am.  Grazie Kelly!  I would definitely recommend her tours to anyone who wants to experience Rome in a new way, get off the beaten track, or nurture a budding creative spark. You can join one of her “Rome Sketch Tours” here:

Kelly in action


Enrico and Michel want to know why you aren’t drinking wines from Orvieto

5 Jun

Enrico is a man with a mission. Years ago he purchased 22 acres of prime vineyard, just outside the ancient city of Orvieto, Umbria; overlooking Lake Corbara (about an hour north of Rome). With Freddano‘s elevation, softly sloping incline, fertile earth and sunny exposure, it was the ideal place for producing not just wine, but magnificent wine.

But he had a problem.

In the somewhat limited perspective of wine drinkers around the world, Orvieto doesn’t signify magnificent wines. Sure, everyone knows Tuscany = great wines, a mere 30 kilometers away. The fame of the Tuscan region means even that its less stellar wines command the highest demand and good wines can draw impressive prices. However, if a wine drinker in America or Canada or The UK deigns to try an Orvietan wine, they usually expect it to just be cheap.

So Enrico and and his oeneologist Michel had an important decision to make. They could take their lovely vineyard, cut corners, crowd the grapes, spray the land with chemicals and create cheap, non descript plonk; or, truly honor the potential of the land and create a magnificent wine to convince the world that Orvieto wines are contenders.

Fortunately for us, and for the earth; these winemakers chose not only to make gorgeous wines, but  upped the ante and committed to make them organic too (certified by Accredia)

Starting our visit standing in the vineyard, Enrico explained that it’s simply not possible for all vineyards to be organic. If the terrain lacks wind, is situated at a low altitude, or otherwise has damp conditions, it’s difficult to avoid mold and rot with anything but chemicals. But here at Freddano, the conditions are perfect for sustaining organic growth.


What can possibly taste better than wine sipped while standing in the soil of origin poured by its creators?

We sipped glasses of VIgna del Sole (“vine of the sun”) standing between rows of grapes; admiring the wildflowers growing at the base of the vines. All maintenance of the vineyard is done by hand, from the pruning of the vines to the cutting of the grass. We could imagine the wildflowers imparting a delicate hint to this delightful white.

And of course the ubiquitous rose bushes placed at the end of each row, the “canary in the mine.” roses are even more susceptible to diseases that affect the grapes. So by monitoring the health of the roses, a wine makers can monitor the health of their vines before a problem takes hold.


Enrico, with fans.

We moved onto the bottling facility where Enrico explained how not only the their agricultural production is organic, but also their fermentation process. This means there are no additives, and most importantly no flavorings added to the wines at any point. Again, more spectacular wine was poured, this time right from the casks, as we tried a grand, unnamed white which will be released in only limited quantities in magnum bottles – this was a true celebration wine! We bandied about inspired names, our enthusiasm whetted by our liquid creativity.

Freddano’s wines blend familiar with new – blending grapes you know, with ones you’ve never heard of – like Trebbiano & Grechetto with Chardonnay & Sangiovese – and modernizing ancient growing and processing techniques to achieve organic status. And constantly there is strong appreciation for the sense of place.  We are proud to make and drink Orvietan wines!  Right down to the bottles – which designs feature tiles from the stunning duomo (cathedral) in nearby Orvieto.


We wrapped up our “wine tasting and vineyard tour” with a 5-hour lunch in the stone farmhouse with 3 generations of family and friends. A perfect time to enjoy a “celebration wine” from Orvieto!  And we were convinced – Orvieto wines are magnificent (psssst…pass it on!)


Freddano is represented by Dialuce Wines in Canada and internationally.  Please contact Alex Dialuce to order.