Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our New Photography Exhibit in Riverdale, New Jersey!



This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

Our current exhibit of selections from the collection Italy, Through the Eyes of Love is at the Riverdale Public Library in Riverdale, New Jersey (www.riverdalelibrary.org). The exhibit opened with a reception on November 17 and continues through January 16, 2009. A portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the Library.

The Riverdale Public Library is an open, light-filled space with several levels. They regularly hold art exhibitions and interesting programs on a variety of topics. Over the summer, Jefferson stopped by the Library and asked if they would display our marketing postcard, since I was a town resident. (Jefferson designed our postcard and it always attracts attention. Here it is:

The staff graciously agreed and Jefferson went on his way. A few weeks later the Library contacted us through our website and asked if we would be interested in exhibiting the photographs at the Library. We were thrilled! They also asked if we would conduct an hour-long program for them on the collection (more on that later!), which of course, we agreed to do. It’s scheduled for December 2 at 7:00 pm.


We had a small window of time in which to install the exhibit, as we had to wait for the previous Library exhibit to be dismantled. Just like in Westchester, we brought in the metal grids for the unframed works (thanks to Matt Locker!) and hung the framed and gallery-wrapped prints on the walls.
The Opening Reception would start in a few hours. As we were working on it, we noticed that the heat in the Library (especially on the second floor) caused the identifying tags on the metal grids to curl. This was an unanticipated complication that needed to be addressed. Jefferson sized up the problem and fixed it by attaching thick stock black paper to the back of each tag. He believed this would work at least through the Opening Reception, and after that we would have time to create a more permanent solution if needed.
Of course, reinforcing the tags was rather tedious and time consuming. We finally finished at 5:30, rushed home, got dressed and returned to the Library in time for the Opening Reception at 6:30.

People started arriving early and kept coming until the Library closed at 8:00. We had invited many of them, and quite a few were strangers to us who had heard about the exhibit and wanted to see it. I use the word “strangers” very loosely because common interests bring people together, and soon we all talking about the enchantments of Italy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Matting and Framing Photographs



This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

We receive so many questions about matting and framing that it seemed like a good idea to share our process in an article. We hope it will add to the conversation about how to best enhance photography or showcase any artwork.

On our website, essenceofitaly.net, if you click on the Photography link on the left hand side, you’ll find yourself at the page that lists Regions and Subjects. We’ve added a new Category under the Subjects heading, entitled Custom Framed Prints. This category shows how we’ve chosen to mat and frame a selection of images from the collection, Italy, Through the Eyes of Love.


The photographs can be displayed in a variety of ways. We’ve included smaller size prints in ready-made triple frames, which you can purchase in many stores. In this way, the photographs can be mixed and matched to achieve whatever theme appeals to you; whether it’s subject matter, color, shape or your personal memories.

We’ve also included larger prints, approximately 12x18 inches, that we have had custom matted and framed. When it comes to choosing the right frame and mat, we pair each photograph with what we believe brings alive the color, vibrancy and mood of each image. Sometimes elements of the image itself are extended onto the mats or frames. At other times, the mat and frame emphasize the image that lies within.



I’d like to add a word about matting here. Many people believe that only black or white mats should be used for photographs. I believe this reflects a concern that a colored mat will distract from, rather than enhance, the photograph. However, we’ve never subscribed to this point of view. Although there may be times when a black or white mat best serves the image, we’ve never felt limited to those choices. Instead, we chose each mat color with the same care and specificity with which we choose each frame.


With all of our custom framed works, we use non-glare glass. It’s a little more expensive than regular glass, but is well worth it. Regular glass is highly reflective and this interferes with your ability to view the photograph. Any light source, including sunlight or a television set, will reflect off the glass and create a visual obstacle to the photograph and the mat you’ve chosen. But non-glare glass allows you to enjoy the photograph without strain or interruption.

Here are some examples of our custom frame choices and the reasons behind them:
For Chianca Beachouse, we started with a photograph that is very bright, colorful and intense in its geometry. We chose a mat color that compliments, rather than competes with the colors in the image. This mat also has a geometric design of its own which extends the geometric theme of the image. The frame has a plain design, again so as not to compete with geometric depth of the photograph.


For Benvenuti, we chose a purple toned mat to compliment the colors in the photograph, especially the predominate shades of yellow. The frame is deep burgundy that picks up the color of the pipe that runs vertically down the left side of the image. The frame is also textured in short sections that mimic pipe sections.


For Harvest, we chose a dark grey mat to emphasize the lighter colors of the grapes in the center of the image and also to mimic the dark cantina in which the grapes are stored. The frame is made of gnarled, twisted wood reminiscent of grape vines and bark.


Capri Rocks is a majestic image and its strong, masculine tone is repeated in the mat and frame choices. Here we used double matting in colors that pick up the colors of the rocks themselves and compliment those in the sea and sky. The frame is wide and substantial, mimicking the heaviness of the rocks.

I hope these examples provide a window into the process we use when creating finished works. I hope they help you set your own imagination free. If you would like to discuss possible matting and framing choices for any photograph from Italy, Through the Eyes of Love, please contact us.

Taking Down the Exhibit in Westchester



This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

Although the exhibit technically ended July 31, 2008 the wonderful staff at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center were in no hurry to take down the exhibit. They allowed the works to remain until mid-September, when we finally began the careful dismantling process. Like all endings, it was bittersweet.

The exhibit had gone extremely well for the Center and for us. It was wonderful to read the comments written in the Visitors Book in the Exhibit Halls. Here are some of them: “Wonderful eye for beautiful scenes. Thanks for this mini-vacation”; “Le fotografie sono meravigliose!”; “Absolutely breathtaking – I feel as if I am there having wine & bread sharing happiness with my friends & loved ones!” We were so grateful to the Center for the opportunity, and they treated us so well throughout the experience, that we donated a 24x36 inch canvas of “Waiting” to the Center.

A narrow totem with 3 display screens stands in the front lobby of the Center.
Jefferson had created a slideshow of selections from the exhibit that played continuously on one of the screens. As the time for removing the exhibit drew near, Evelyn Rossetti, the Center Director, told us that the slideshow was so beautiful that she didn’t want to remove it. She asked if we wouldn’t mind leaving it on display in the totem. Mind?? Not at all! The slideshow had to be reworked because it had announced the exhibit dates. Here is the streaming video version of the new slideshow:

video

The Center also used my photograph, “Bogliasco Cliffs” for the cover of its Fall and Winter, 2008 Program Catalogue. Bogliasco is a small town near Genoa, in the region of Liguria, on the Italian Riviera. Here it is:


I had the opportunity to give a live radio interview about the exhibit on WGHT - 1500. You can listen to it here.

We had good press throughout the exhibition.

We’re very proud of the exhibit review that appeared in the Westchester County ArtNews Supplement to the Westchester County Business Journal, June 2008:



A wonderful article also appeared in The Herald News, focusing not only on the exhibit but on our collaboration:


The Italian Tribune:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Italy, Through the Eyes of Love, Exhibit is On!

The exhibit continues until July 31 at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe, New York.

Click here for directions: http://wiccny.org/contact.html#directions

Public viewing hours during May and June:

Tuesdays: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Wednesdays: 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, except 6/11
Thursdays: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

In July, by appointment only.

Admission: Free

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

Well, ready or not, the big day arrived! Luckily, we were mostly ready. Jefferson & I went up to Tuckahoe early to finish hanging the exhibit. We finished just in time for me to start training the docents at the Center who will take people through the exhibit on a daily basis when I’m not there. The docents take their responsibilities very seriously and asked me thought-provoking questions about the stories behind specific images and my approach to photography in general. I know my photos will be in good hands with them.

By the time the session was over, it was time to get dressed for the opening. Just before 6:00 o’clock, the first groups started coming in. It was a stream that continued for 2 hours. I managed to meet most of them, and it was wonderful to answer their questions and hear their stories about what Italy means to them. Many of them were of Italian descent, but not all. You don’t have to be Italian to love Italy!

Some of the people I spoke with were born and raised in Italy. They shared their childhood memories of large, close families, heavenly aromas from the kitchen and picking grapes from their grandparent’s vineyard. Some were veteran travelers who spoke of Italian vacations that turned into the best moments of their lives. Some focused on the people with whom they had traveled, long passed away but alive forever in heart and memory. To me, this is the true alchemy of Italy, turning strangers into friends.

video

(Click on the player above to view Jefferson's slideshow. This video introduction is displayed on a large flat screen TV in the atrium between the two Exhibit rooms.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our New Photo Exhibit in Tuckahoe, New York!

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

We are preparing for an exhibit of selections from my photographic collection, Italy, Through the Eyes of Love, at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe, New York (http://www.wiccny.org/). The exhibit opens with a reception on Tuesday, April 29 from 6-8 pm and continues until July 31.

We’re very excited and proud to have been invited to show the photographs at the Center. We’re working with some wonderful people, like Evelyn Rossetti, Executive Director and Anne Marie Annuciato, Director of Events.

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center is associated with the Generoso Pope Foundation. It's the focal point for lovers of Italian culture in the area. They sponsor artistic exhibits (naturally!), Italian films, lectures, cooking classes, language classes, special children’s programs and highlight the wine and culture of particular Italian regions throughout the year.

If you’ve never been to the Center, it’s an elegant and impressive building. After a recent multi-million dollar renovation, it houses exhibit halls, a theater, library, professional kitchen and wine cellar. The architecture is gracefully appointed with careful attention to detail. It’s a feast for the eyes.

There are so many details that need attention and we’re hoping not to miss any! Jefferson designed the banners that will hang outside of the building announcing the exhibit.

He also designed the postcards that will be mailed to Center members. Still to do: design a slideshow of images and text for the electronic totem that stands in the front lobby; design the price list complete with images of each work, create the title cards for each photograph, decide where each work will be displayed, and that’s only what I can remember right now!


We’ll be showing works in various mediums; some will be matted and framed, some printed onto canvas without frames, and some on unframed on photographic paper. The unframed works will be displayed on black metal grid panels.

Our goal is to create a visual environment that invites each viewer into their own personal experience of Italy.

For this exhibit, I had to create a new Artist’s Statement and write my bio. I thought you might like to see them:



Artist’s Statement:


My journey as a photographer reflects my relationship with Italy itself.


I’d never been interested in photography until I started traveling to Italy. For my first few trips, starting in 1995, I didn’t even bring a camera. Although I was happy to share stories about my trips, At that time, I had the sense that I didn’t want to share what I had seen with anyone when I returned; I wanted to keep my visual experience private. I couldn’t explain why. But looking back, I see it more clearly. Those initial trips were my first steps on a personal healing journey. In many ways it was like entering therapy; both wonderfully liberating and at times, deeply painful.

At some point, as I was preparing for an Italian trip, it crossed my mind that if I took pictures there, I would come back with some great images. So, I bought a camera (I’m not kidding; I didn’t own one!) and saw Italy through a lens for the first time. I never expected anyone but me to care about my photographs, so I was surprised by the positive responses they received when I returned home.

The camera became my constant companion in Italy, and it continues to be an integral part of my healing journey. My relationship with Italy is like that of a lover; it brings me great happiness and some of my deepest disappointments.

But I can't imagine my life without it.

My photographs reflect what I value most about Italian life: its subtle surprises, freshness and the constant invitation to consider the familiar in unfamiliar ways. In that spirit, Italy continually invites me to look at myself with new eyes.





Biography:


Carolyn Masone was born in Brooklyn New York to an Italian-Swedish family, where the Italian influence always dominated. Her upbringing in New Jersey was filled with Italian culture; the music, dancing, cuisine, celebrations and strong sense of family. Her father Nicholas, a first-generation Italian-American, spoke longingly of someday traveling to Italy, but never had the opportunity. Nonetheless, the family traveled often and Carolyn's wanderlust was born.

She journeyed to Italy for the first time in 1995 and has never been the same. Enchanted by feeling at home in a place she had never been before, she remains under its spell. Carolyn knew that first trip would change her life; perhaps gradually, but nonetheless profoundly. Over time, her traditional career path took a back seat to more creative professions that would further connect her to Italy. She joined a company that planned weddings in Italy and became a destination wedding planner. Although no longer with that company, she continues to plan weddings for couples from all over the world who dream of marrying in Italy.

Carolyn's photographic collection, Italy, Through The Eyes of Love, has received worldwide attention. They appear in private collections nationwide as well as in Australia, England, France and of course, Italy. Her work has been exhibited in New Jersey, New York and, in 2009, in Lucca, Tuscany.

In 2004, together with Jefferson Harman, they created a venture called Essence of Italy, showcasing her unique perspective on the Italian experience. In 2007, they launched a website, http://www.essenceofitaly.net/, through which Carolyn presents her beautiful photographs and publishes lively tales of her travel adventures. Thanks to the connections she's made through these experiences, she researches, writes and records podcast interviews with interesting people who highlight unexpected aspects of Italian life.

She often returns to Italy to attend various classes, workshops, festivals and to visit dear friends. All the while her camera goes with her, allowing images to speak through the lens to the viewer, evoking emotion, history and dreams.

"If I had to sum up what the photography, writing and interviewing are really about, it's about the journey of setting your dreams free. It doesn't matter what form they take. It's where real joy and deep healing come from." For Carolyn, her photographs truly present Italy, Through the Eyes of Love.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Mandolin: The Serenade of Italy

This article is a transcript of our podcast that can be found on our http://essenceofitaly.net/ podcast page.

Carolyn: What could be more Italian than sound of a mandolin? Close your eyes and you’re floating on a gondola in Venice, or walking the narrow streets of Naples as the sun sets. Where did the mandolin come from, and how did it become the signature sound of Italy?

Here to answer these questions is the award winning musician, composer and arranger John T. LaBarbera. John has been playing traditional Italian music for over 30 years. He has recorded numerous CDs & composed many film soundtracks. His theater credits include several off-Broadway productions, including Souls of Naples with John Turturro, and his Italian Music & Theater Company, I Giullari di Piazza.

John has just completed a book called Traditional Southern Italian Mandolin & Fiddle Tunes, published by Mel Bay. Complete with a CD, this book is a rare treasure for music lovers. It not only explains the origins and development of the mandolin, but contains an archive of just some of the traditional Southern Italian music John has archived. Many of these pieces were taught only by ear from generation to generation, but never in written form. John T. LaBarbara is the first one to have preserved these pieces in writing for the mandolin.

It’s believed that the Italian mandolin descended from an Arabic instrument called the uod. The uod is a stringed instrument with a rounded back. It was brought to Europe in the 10th century and over the centuries that followed, Europe molded the uod in its own way. The uod developed into the lute and, in Elizabethan times, became a court instrument. Schools of lute music opened throughout Europe, but most notably in Naples and Venice.

In Naples during the 1700’s, the mandolin had a renaissance of its own. Master craftsman like Vinaccia and Calace refined the instrument’s woodworking with an almond-shaped body & a bowled back made from curved strips of wood. They also switched from using traditional gut strings to metal strings. These innovations made the mandolin more durable, louder and increasingly popular. It was well on its way to becoming the unmistakable music of Italy.

John: The mandolin really has that neapolitan sound, that Italian sound. What makes it sound very Italian, also, is this type of picking called tremolo.

Carolyn: In Italy, there was a long tradition of musicians earning their living as barbers. They brought their mandolins, violins & guitars into the barber shops and when they weren’t shaving customers, they played. It was a good idea since the profession kept the musicians’ hands better protected than working as laborers. Also, barber shops closed early enough to allow the musicians to gather in the piazza and play into the night.

John: Barbers were known to play mandolin, guitar and violin. Remember the Barber of Seville?

Carolyn: Yes.

John :Well, he played mandolin. I have a photo that was my friend’s grandfather & he was a barber & he played the mandolin & I have a beautiful photo from 1910 or 1904 of these guys standing there, playing mandolin in their barber suits.

Carolyn: Another key to the mandolin’s popularity was Queen Margarita of Italy, who reigned in the late 19th century. If she sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because the Pizza Margarita was named for her. The Queen was a patron of the arts. She sponsored painters, writers, musicians and founded cultural institutions. She also played the mandolin.

John: Because of that, then a lot of women were very inspired, she was very influential. She inspired a lot of women to take up the mandolin.

Carolyn: From this influence, Italian women formed mandolin orchestras and they played throughout Europe. As Italians immigrated to the United States, the orchestras came with them.

John: I could show you photos of women playing mandolins, in elegant dress, like turn of the century, Victorian era. The mandolin was also very popular up until the 1920’s. I still once in a while meet somebody who says, oh my grandmother played that, or I remember my mother had a mandolin.

Carolyn: What about the mandolin you’re holding right now?

John: This instrument I acquired around 1980, right after I came back from Italy. I had a guitar student, she knew that I play the mandolin, and she had an instrument that was her grandmother’s and she said that I’d like you to have it because nobody plays it.

Carolyn: Wow. So she just gave it to you?

John: She gave me this mandolin. The mandolin is from around 1900, late 1890’s-1900, and was made by the Martin guitar company. They also made mandolins.

Carolyn: Although the mandolin made its journey from the Arab world to the United States, its sound is indelibly associated with Italy. Maybe it’s because Italy loved the mandolin the most.

Click here to view selections from Carolyn's Photograhic Collection "Italy Through The Eyes Of Love"

Click here to send beautiful ecards or to download exquisite desktop wallpapers from our unique selection.

This article and the images contained herein are protected by copyright laws and may not be copied without permission.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Teaching Her Language to the World

This article is a transcript of our podcast that can be found on our http://www.essenceofitaly.net/ podcast page.

Carolyn: I spent some time in the beautiful, historical city of Lecce, located in the heel of the Italian boot, in the region of Apulia. Here I met Mariella Capano, who teaches Italian to foreigners at the Apulia Domus School of Italian Language and Culture.

Originally from Brindisi, Mariella spent some time living in Germany and working as a translator. When a friend asked Mariella to create a lesson teaching Italian, she enjoyed it so much that she’s been teaching Italian ever since.

For Mariella, teaching her language is a way to bring the people of the world closer together.

Your students are from all over the world, right? Tell me some of the countries your students are from.

Mariella: Australia, America, Brazil, Germany, Serbia, many, many countries.

Carolyn: Mariella understands that learning a language is also learning the culture.

Mariella: Well, the differences between cultures, I think it’s the most important thing when you study a foreign language. Foreign language is not grammar, but it’s culture, it’s tradition. Teaching Italian is not only a job, but it’s also the communication of my origins.

Carolyn: Teaching her language to foreigners allows Mariella to learn the cultures of her students, as well.

Mariella: I learn everything; slang, I learn tradition. For example, what does the color violet mean?

In Italy, it represents a very bad color because it represents death, it represents bad luck. For example, if you go to the theater in a violet T-shirt, you are not allowed to go in.
But on the contrary, in Great Britain, violet is a very nice color because it is the color of the king, it represents the king. And there are so many things that you can learn from other people.

Carolyn: Mariella speaks only Italian in the classroom, immersing her students in the sounds and visual associations of the language.

Mariella: Italian in particular because it’s a very musical language and I think it’s easier to learn it, because you learn the sounds. And to learn the sounds, it’s easier than to learn than vocabulary.

Carolyn: I had the pleasure of being Mariella’s student, in a class with 4 others from different countries. Mariella always found ways to make the classroom experience more interesting. We didn’t just repeat lessons from a book, but she also taught through music, color, drawing and discussions of current events in Italy and America. Although we all struggled to express ourselves, it was a tremendous learning experience. Here, Mariella explains some her teaching techniques.

I try to use music because your mind is relaxed. To speak to the people and say to them, OK, now draw what you feel at this moment. You can see that each person draws with pastel colors, or they draw the sea, or the mountains, because the music helps your brain to work in a relaxing situation.

You have to listen to what they say, to let them explain. This is a method to let the people speak, to express themselves.

Carolyn: Mariella uses these techniques to allow the students to get more out of each class.

Mariella: If you study for 2 hours only grammar, grammar and grammar, your brain is tired and at the end of the lesson you remember only half of the lesson.

Carolyn: Mariella loves teaching her language and sharing the Southern Italian culture and history with the world.

Mariella: It’s very important to know the history because here you can see the monuments, you can see the history of human beings. The character of the people of South Italy, it’s very important to know them. When they see foreign people they try to help them. It’s not important if they don’t speak English or German, they try to speak with their hands, and to help them.

Here in south Italy, because there are so many things to see, to visit, to appreciate.

Carolyn: To learn Italian with Mariella or any of the other talented teachers at the Apulia Domus School in Lecce, check out their website http://www.apuliadomus.com/.

Click here to view selections from Carolyn's Photograhic Collection "Italy Through The Eyes Of Love"

Click here to send beautiful ecards or to download exquisite desktop wallpapers from our unique selection.

This article and the images contained herein are protected by copyright laws and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Chocolate Festival in Italy in October? Really?



This article is a transcript of our podcast that can be found on our www.essenceofitaly.net Podcast page. Please note that this festival occurs in October of every year.


Yes, really! Imagine combining unlimited amounts of the world's most tantalizing chocolate with Italy, one of the world's finest vacation destinations...che bello!

From October 13-21st, 2007, the city of Perugia in Umbria (home of the Perugina chocolate dynasty) opens its arms to the world for its annual Chocolate Festival. The world's finest chocolatiers and the tourists who love them (that's us!) will be there to experience chocolate like never before. From scuplting to eating, from nightlife to spa treatments and children's activities, it's your own personal journey through the Chocolate Factory (apologies to Charlie and Willy Wonka). You can luxuriate in chocolate for the entire Festival, or stop in for just a day or two as you travel through Italy.

Here are just some of the Festival events:

On Sunday, October 14th, watch as five artisans carve blocks of chocolate into intricate scupltures. Be there to catch the chocolate pieces as they fly from the artist's tools!

Throughout the Festival, children under 12 can enjoy the Chocofarm. Here, they learn about the sourcing, making and enjoying of chocolate through special games and activities.

Wine and dine yourself silly as Perugia's restaurants create house specialites that highlight the Festival's theme. Be surprised and delighted as traditional dishes receive innovative twists of chocolate.

Nightlife throughout the Festival is truly unique. Perugia's nightclubs interweave chocolate confections along with their regular menu items. Music, dancing and strolling through the piazza will keep you busy until the wee hours.

After all this, you'll need some spa treatments, don't you think? Perugia's acclaimed Beauty Palace Spa will design a menu of treatments that allow the beauty of chocolate to penetrate and rejuvenate your skin. Cocoa butters and powders will enhance the treatments, leaving you relaxed and practically edible. Due to popular demand, it's recommended that you reserve your spa date before the Festival, but after September 1. You can contact them at info@beautypalace.it.

Along with the fun and frolic, the Chocolate Festival will highlight fair trade partners and developments in sustainable chocolate agriculture (chocgriculture? Sorry, I couldn't resist).

Check out the Festival's website at: www.eurochocolate.com and click on Eurochocolate, Perugia. However, since the site is not fully translated into English, you can contact me for more information by clicking on 'comments' below.

Click here to view selections from Carolyn's Photograhic Collection "Italy Through The Eyes Of Love"

Click here to send beautiful ecards or to download exquisite desktop wallpapers from our unique selection.

This article and the images contained herein are protected by copyright laws and may not be copied without permission.

A Tuscan Villa Built on a Dream


This is a transcript of the podcast appearing on our www.essenceofitaly.net Podcast page.

Have you ever dreamed of building your own villa in Tuscany? Not only for yourself to live in, but a place where tourists would vacation from all over the world? What if your days were spent surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, making new friends, learning new languages, enjoying wonderful food and wine?

What if you didn't have a trust fund to make this dream come true, but you had to build it with your own two hands, as the money slowly came in, while you had a full time job?

That was the situation confronting my guest, Gabriele Corti. Gabriele was born and raised in the Tuscan town of Poggibonsi, not far from Castellina. He worked 6 days a week in his family's shoe store. His father, Franco, purchased the Le Buche property, which was little more than open fields and crumbling structures, with a very different idea of how that land would be used.

Gabriele, your family owned this property for many years. How did that come about?

Gabriele: My father, 20 years ago, bought about 30 hectares of land with old houses, stalls and some fields. He bought it to make a little wine, a little olive oil, to grow a garden with tomatoes and othe vegetables. In 1995-96, I built the main house for me to live in. I started construction in 1955-96 and it was finished in 1999. I moved here from Poggibonsi in July of '99.

Carolyn: When Gabriele says he built the main house, he doesn't mean that he called a contractor. It means he built it with his own two hands, while working full time in the shoe store.

During that time, Gabriele saw other villas in Tuscany that catered to tourists, and he was intrigued by the idea. At the same time, his father came to him with the idea of building 1 or 2 apartments on the property for tourists.

Gabriele, what did you think of your father's idea?

Gabriele: I thought it was a good idea, but I told him that if we left things as they were, the idea wouldn't work. Because there would be nothing for a client to do once they got here, except travel to nearby towns; it's just a house in a pretty setting. In the following years beginning in 2000, my father and I build 2 apartments with the intention of renting them to foreign tourists as well as Italians who wanted to come here for vacation.

The apartments came out very beautiful, very pleasing. But there was still a large are that remained unfinished. We didn't have the pool, we didn't have the gardens yet. We had to think things through and provide things for people to do while they were here in the apartments. We had to come up with a plan.

Carolyn: One of the most appealing things about Le Buche is that all of the construction was done by Gabriele and his father, not by hired hands. The vast majority of the building materials came from Le Buche land.

Gabriele: The construction was done personally. First, at the beginning of it all, I designed it all in my mind, how it would come out. But, it was a little impractical. And slowly, slowly, stone after stone, stone after stone, Le Buche became a reality.

From when we started this construction, I always followed the construction personally. All the while, I learned things large and small that would be useful to me in the future to make something myself. The process was very interesting.

Carolyn: Gabriele created comfortable spaces in the traditional Tuscan style, using authentic materials from the property itself. He used stones from the land to build the apartments, line the driveway and create the patio, walkways and outdoor ovens and grills. Gabriele handcrafted much of the wooden furniture, also from Le Buche trees.

Gabriele: Very satisfying. From an idea that was only in my mind, into reality. Using stones from here, buying a little cement, a little iron and that was enough. So much work.

Carolyn: You'll notice the architectural details throughout the apartments; archways trimmed in hand-polished wood or brick, hand-laid tile floors and interior walls of exposed stone. The wooden beams that cross the ceilings and appear throughout the architecture are all from Le Buche trees.

Gabriele: But, when it was over, I was paid in my satisfaction for the result. It is so much more beautiful than it would have been if I had paid someone else to construct it for me. When you can do it for yourself, it's better.

We worked hard until the end of 2000, into 2001. The pool was built in 2001. Its first season was May 1, 2002. The pool is open from May 1 to October 1, weather permitting. The pool also has a small children's area, and the deep end in 2.5 meters, with a small diving board. We started renting in April of 2002 and started this new venture.

Carolyn: Guests come to Le Buche from all over the world.

Gabriele: The guests are from all over the world, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, America, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Finland, Norway, England, Spain, Portugal and also Italian tourists. About 95% are tourists from outside of Italy.

Carolyn: Although Le Buche is becoming established as a successful vacation spot, Gabriele still does plenty of dreaming for its future. Gabriele, would you say that Le Buch is finished now?

Gabriele: No, Le Buche will never be finished! Every year I do something new. This year I cleared an area and made a court t play bacci ball. Next year, I will design a garden for Le Stalle. Maybe I'll make a small stone walkway. Every year I do something. Every year I make something.

Carolyn: Some of Gabriele's dreams for Le Buche center around wine and olive oil.

Gabriele: You could say that the wine-making tradition was passed down to me from my father. He is from San Donato and in the fields around there he made a small vineyard. It is a passion that is very strong in our blood. I made a new vineyard three years ago. This is the first year of my production. The amount is small, but I hope it's very good.

We have the most beautiful region of Italy to make our olive oil. Oil is very important because most tourists that come here look for tranquility and good food, and oil is fundamental to good food. They also look for culture. In Tuscany, the culture of olive oil is a grand tradition.

In the future, I would like to make a small argricultural business where I can sell the products of the vineyards, wine and olive oil. It's something that's important to me. It's a lot of work and it takes some money to accomplish. I would also need more equipment, but it's something that I would do gladly, for the love of it. It's something fundamental. In the future, we'll see if this dream is realized; who knows?

Carolyn: To learn more, visit the Le Buche website. You can find the link on our Links page.

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