“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…)

Our friend Sergio has a dream tucked beneath layers of rust in a salvage yard.

Whenever we need an old unique piece made of iron, we go to see Sergio. He’s been tirelessly collecting everything iron for decades now, and his collection is indeed impressive. He has meticulously gathered everything from enormous iron gates from the largest villas in Tuscany, to the miscellaneous small parts to make them work. He has old statues, machines, beds and swords. You name it. He has it. (more…)

On a brisk, cool Saturday morning in September, we set out on our trek through the French countryside. From Rue de Saint Jacques in the town of Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques, toward Toulouse, the trail known as the GR 65, wends its way through some of the prettiest French villages in the country. Within minutes, we were on the pilgrims’ footpath, leading to Santiago, Spain, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. But we weren’t going that far . . . not even close . . . not this time. Our plan was to cover only a little over 200 kilometers (125 miles) in 10 days. Next year, perhaps we’ll walk another section. We’ll see. Our conclusion is that those medieval pilgrims were some pretty tough cookies indeed! (more…)

Gordon Matthew Sumner wore a favorite black and yellow striped shirt so often, that a friend finally blurted out that he looked like a bee. The nickname stuck. You might know him better today as Sting.

We’ve always enjoyed his particular style of jazz/rock, and have waited for him to show up in concert in our neighborhood for a decade or so. That day finally arrived, and it was well worth the wait. He played at a place called Piazzola sul Brenta, which is a town not far from Venice, Verona, and Padova. Piazzola was never a particularly noteworthy destination until they decided to develop the magnificent 16th century Villa Contarini (attributed to the famous architect Andrea Palladio,) into an unbelievable concert venue. Now, it has worldwide acclaim, and for very good reason! (more…)

Through the olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees, there is a trail in the northern hills of Florence that leads from the Cave, old stone quarries of Maiano, to the ancient borgo, town of Settignano. On this very trail, young Michelangelo walked from his hometown to his beloved quarries to select stone for his sculptures. With every footstep the history of the world was changed, during those enchanted days of the Italian Rinascimento, Renaissance. (more…)

An invitation arrived 6 months ago by email. Simple. Straightforward.

The message read, “At their place in Tuscany, some friends are hosting an event to launch my latest book, Etruscan Evenings. We hope you’ll be able to join us! Kind regards, Linda Lambert.”

Linda included the names of her “Tuscan” hosts, Baron William, and Baroness Miranda Taxis, who were nearing completion of their renovated casa colonica, farmhouse just south of Arezzo. (Linda even included them in the book.) Since we’d given up fancy events some dozen or so years ago, we hesitated. But, we’d read both of Linda’s books and we wanted to support her dreams and efforts. This was definitely an interesting invitation—a unique chance to meet some British expats, enjoy our friends Linda and Morgan, and mingle with a diverse group of people. The idea of being in one of Tuscany’s ancient homes, coupled with the anticipation of a mini road-trip through the enchanting countryside, clinched the deal. (more…)

Quietly closing the door, he began his descent down the stone stairway located just behind the grand saloni, salons of his royal apartment recently reconstructed within the Palazzo Vecchio, Old Palace on Piazza della Signoria in the heart of medieval Florence. He made his way effortlessly through the hidden corridors leading to the small exterior door, opening onto the inconspicuous side street, Via della Ninna. Carefully glancing both ways to insure that he was alone, Duca Cosimo I de’ Medici made his departure from the Palace without anyone even suspecting. (more…)

This story has little to do with the man smiling and holding a white paper sign with a name on it.

It also has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Gould (the name on the paper), whoever he is, and wherever he might have been going.

It doesn’t even have anything directly to do with the larger than life woman on the wall either, but she does have something to say to us, and that’s what this story is about. What is the message to you and me? (more…)