Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to create super sports cars to compete with Ferrari, which already had a 16 year head-start—an almost impossible challenge. He was 47 years old at the time, and already a famous Italian entrepreneur. People thought he was crazy to risk his fortune to build specialty cars that were clearly an unjustifiable extravagance. But the strong-willed businessman was already a proven success. He reasoned that if he could amass a fortune making tractors, why not sports cars? In November of 1963, he unveiled his first masterpiece—the 350GT. The rest is automotive history. (more…)
Changing the World One Door at a Time
We turned around and saw one for the first time. It was outside the coffee bar, just across the narrow street in Fiesole. On the sportello (little door) that covers the gas meter was a painting of a street scene—specifically, the very house that belonged with the painted door! It was signed FL and dated 2013. We smiled at our discovery and asked Riccardo, the owner of the bar, what that colorful picture was all about. He told us about an artist in town who likes to paint pictures on those little utility doors. Interesting! (more…)
Window on the World
So here’s the situation: In our Italian neck of the woods, there is a law that permits only a certain number of windows per room. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, the practice started years ago when farmers didn’t want so many windows due to their inefficiency—you know, drafty winters, vulnerability, etc. So, over the centuries, they just made the practice into an architectural common law of sorts. Why not? You can do that kind of thing here . . . it’s Italy! (more…)
Design with Nature
“If you get pure beauty, you get about the best thing God has to give.”
The quote is attributed to an anonymous artist long ago, cited by the British writer, Charles Latham in his 1905 book, The Gardens of Italy. The sentiment sums up the intention of the Italian villa—pure beauty! And Villa Gamberaia, set in the peaceful hills overlooking Florence is certainly no exception. This incredible garden in the Tuscan landscape has been studied and celebrated by architectural historians and garden designers throughout the centuries. In fact, the painter may have been standing in Gamberaia’s garden when he first spoke those words that captured Latham’s imagination. (more…)
Living Large on a Barge?
Lined up along the east bank of the Rhône river in Lyon France is a “Barge Subdivision.” Immediately a burning question sprang to mind: Exactly how different would that lifestyle really be and what does it take to be a “Barge-r?” (more…)
The Postman of Hauterives
Mailman by day and architect by night. Poet and visionary. In his own words chiseled into the walls of his beloved Palais Idéal, Ideal Palace, he said the following: “In creating this rock, I wanted to prove what the will can do,” and “work of only one man.” His life is truly an incredible story of single-handed persistence and possibility! (more…)
This story is about creativity, cooperation, openness and risk-taking.
The door was open, so I looked inside.
Romain greeted me with a broad, friendly smile. I asked, “Do you speak English?” Out came a resounding “YES!” And so our happenstance encounter evolved into a conversation and tour. (more…)
The Ahhh Factor
Every once in a while we run across an absolute gem—something completely unexpected that makes us breathe a collective, “Ahhhh!”
In early June we encountered such a gem: a lovely bed and breakfast in Ronchamp, called La Maison D’hôtes du Parc.
By now we are pretty capable travelers, having stayed in a range of places. Sure there’s been an occasional dive—some place, somewhere in the middle of nowhere with only a hope to sleep through the night. But generally, we find places that are worth a return visit. And some, warrant and guarantee many happy returns. (more…)
Savoring the Moment
A brainstorm rewarded us with a great new idea for the garden: a “perch,” built into the slope behind the house, overlooking the grape arbor, the studio, and of course the valley. Besides many heavy stones, we needed some gravel. So, we went to one of our favorite ferramente, hardware stores, Guidotti in Pontassieve. Since we hadn’t been there for a while, we were glad to see our old friends Roberto and Francesco, who had been so helpful in the past with a number of knotty problems. They informed us that the gravel yard had closed promptly at noon, so we’d have to return at 13:30. In the meantime, they suggested a rosticceria, a roasting restaurant in Sieci, where we could eat. Nice idea! (more…)
Spirit of Zen
We sat down on the perfectly placed stone bench to enjoy a quiet moment with nature. A rustling sound began somewhere nearby: perhaps two lizards playing, a harmless garden snake, or just leaves blowing in the evening breeze. However, the strange sound intensified and before we knew it, we were sitting amid rubble. Our sacred stone perch overlooking the valley had literally disintegrated beneath us. No one was even slightly injured, but our quiet meditation had been bruised rather badly. (more…)