I believe what makes this residency stand out is the dedication to provide an authentic Umbrian Italian experience. A friend of the Barnes Artist Residency, Renzo, took us on a morning adventure to the top of a neighboring mountain where we toured a beautiful church, a monastery, and what we thought was a deserted fortress….
We entered Badia Monte Corona through a passage that took us beneath the Cathedral. We were confronted with a candle lit church (still in use) that was built from the stones of Roman ruins somewhere around 700 a.d. The pillars were completely unique because they were salvaged from Roman temples and they were supporting the large Cathedral above. It was beautiful and quite poetic to think about the ancient history manipulated into the foundation which supported the towering church above.
As we climbed, we eventually reached the Franciscan Monastery Eremo di Monte Corona, at the pinnacle of the mountain. The monastery was closed, but we quietly crept in to see the renovations being done to a beautiful church on the grounds. There were very old frescos and a remnants of what must have been a statue of St. Michael, although I guess it could have been St. George….my middle name is Michael so I have my biases. All that was left was a dragon and a foot. As we were leaving we were greeted by a smiling monk. Renzo talked with him and shared a few laughs, in the end he kindly and graciously asked us to leave. It was the nicest I have ever been thrown out of anywhere.
On our descent we found what appeared to be an old castle of sorts with high walls and a tower. We were in for another surprise! While we were looking for a way in, a man barked at us from the huge wooded gate. Thankfully we had Renzo who was proving very valuable in these situations. After some smooth talking, the man allowed us entry into what was essentially a gated community. There were 7 or 8 homes built within with their own yards and grape vines, a small road connecting the “town,” and a little center well with 1176 carved into the side. Around every turn we were greeted with expansive vistas.
Our last stop was San Giuliano Delle Pinatte which was rumored to have a few secret frescos. However, we were unable to get in, even with Renzo’s charm.
After a few days of painting and enjoying Umbria, I was itching to see the Museo Morandi. So, we concocted a plan to drive to Bologna, visit Morandi, hit Florence for a few days, then back to Monte Acuto. Italy is full of adventure and there is no way to control it. I have found it best to not resist, sit back and let the Fates guide you. When we made our way into Bologna, we were not certain where the Museo Morandi was. Tim had the faint recollection that it was by “the tower.” Whatever that meant….After some treasure hunting, he found the tower, we also found a beautiful plaza with a fountain of Poseidon/Neptune (not sure which) along with lunch, but no Morandi…..I followed Tim who wandered looking for the Museo Morandi. It was amusing to watch him drift through the fog of his memory toward our promised treasure. Just when all was right, and he found the X that marked the spot, we realized that the treasure was gone. Morandi’s work had moved; fortuitously right next to where we parked. When we did find Morandi’s legacy….well, all I can really say is, that I am so thankful that we decided to go to Bologna first to see these magnificent little paintings. These quiet thoughtful moments had such clarity that I will forever be impressed by them.
As we left, I stopped and bought a copy of La polvere di Morandi (Morandi’s Dust), sat with a cafe dopio thinking about the exhibition, and then set out for Florence. That however, will have to wait for the next post….Arrivederci!