A week in Cinque Terre is a great introduction to an Italian workshop. Great food and wine, beautiful scenery and friendly people. We spent our days moving between the villages painting and sketching. Villa Adriana, where we stayed for the week, provided excellent meals – although Antipasto, Pasta, Main and Dessert were more than most of us could handle!

308Wine Delevery – Manarola

309Manarola – buildings by the sea

310Amanda – Watching Chickens

dsc00029Painting in Riomaggiore

© John Lovett 2016

What I thought was an ideal place to paint in Riomaggiore turned out to be the only place wide enough for delivery vans to turn around, so lots of juggling easels in between washes.

ital7820 Old Town – Monterosso

© John Lovett 2016Monterosso – Small truck pees on sidewalk.

© John Lovett 2016Fishing Boats – Monterosso

ital7875Manarola – from the water

ital7996Very Italian – National Park sign advising against stilettos for the walk between Monterosso and Vernazza.

© John Lovett 2016Cliffs near Monterosso

ital7922 Early Morning Vernazza


Blue Umbrellas – Vernazza

ital7945 Vernazza before sunrise.

ital7976Between Vernazza and Monterosso someone has set up a feeding bay and shelter for stray cats. This guy hung around behind a mesh fence for a pat and a handful of dry cat food.

306Small bridge on path between Vernazza and Monterosso

ital8002Old Town – Monterosso


The towns and villages of Puglia are similar in style to the villages of Northern Italy, but the earthier colored sandstone and marble is replaced by lighter, often whitewashed surfaces. The most obviously different architecture is found around the town of Alberobello in the Itria Valley.

ital7575Martina Franca – a labyrinth of pale marble and white walls.



ital7579Main Square – Martina Franca

ital7558Dry stone walled and conical roofed Trulli buildings of the Itria Valley

ital7420Immaculate old Fiat.

ital7404Trulli houses, Alberobello.

ital7386Well worn stairs – Alberobello

ital7542Rain in Lecce

ital7545Lecce Piazza

ital7759Cruising the hills around Pisa in a Fiat 500 driven like a Ferrari – What a lot of fun.

ital7661Barga – back street bikers

ital7682Herbs and spices and a blue Vespa.

© John Lovett 2016Barga Rooftops

ital7733Retired Fiat Fire Truck

ital7738ital7813Down the mountain to Monterosso




Our workshop in Cinque Terre doesn’t start for 10 days, so we flew from Rome to Brindisi then caught a train along the east coast to Polignano where we met up with Amanda and Gordon for a week by the Adriatic.

ital6812 ital6830 I guess some people have trouble remembering which door to drive through and which door to walk through

ital6850 ital6855 ital6875 Our balcony in Polignano – Balmy breezes, local meats and vegetables, Birra Moretti and Limoncello.

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Polignano is built on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic




We were luck enough to coincide our visit with the Red Bull world Cliff Diving Championships. These towers are almost 30metres above the sea.


Competitors jump from the towers, perform a series of twists and somersaults to slow their decent, then land feet first in the water at over 80 kph.

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Water entry can shatter bones and damage organs if not done correctly, so there were a lot more spectators than competitors.

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ital7304 ital7313

Fishing Village just out of town


Small black snake catches a lizard

ital7335 Cave opening to the sea 100 meters inland.



Polignano Cats



A few days in a villa outside San Gimignano exploring the countryside and villages is a great prelude to a painting workshop.

Amanda and Gordon, our tour guides for the workshop, chauffeured us through the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany, exploring the countryside to discover the best painting destinations, vineyards and restaurants.

tuscan hillssm

Early morning in the vineyards surrounding San Gimignano.


Cinque Terre Coastline from Montorosso


Painting in Riomaggiore


Regular critique sessions were a lot of fun in the Hotel Courtyard.

dead flowers

Dry flowers on a San Gimignano window sill.


Washing Day – San Gimignano


San Gimignano as the sun rises


Old lady carries flowers to one of the Saints in San Gimignano


Early morning mist in the valleys


Two Cats – San Gimignano


San Gimignano before bus loads of visitors arrive.


A rare event – these little things run for years on a tank of fuel.


A window in Castellina in Chianti.


Religious ceremony in Montorosso.


Spectacular mountains between Pisa and Cinque Terre.


Castello Di Meleto in Chianti – our home for the second week of the workshop.


Castello Di Meleto


Great views of the Chianti countryside from Castello Di Meleto.


Our one shower of rain for the entire workshop as we head to the castle cellars for a wine tasting and tour of the castle.


Strange leftovers from the 12th century still dangle from walls in the bowels of Castello Di Meleto


A happy man with a nice bottle of Chianti Classico from the castle vineyards.


Fine Dining at Castello Di Meleto


In Florence, a small yellow car the width of a refrigerator.


Leonardo da Vinci’s attempt to breathe under water.


Descendants of  Michelangelo and Leonardo still decorate the walls of Florence.


Large flocks of Vespers gather in the back streets of Florence.


In Florence you can hold up your trousers with a Real Python for just 25 Euro


Pigeons fight for crumbs outside the Uffizi


Botticelli clouds drift over Florence


Two streets meet in the small town of Greve in Chianti


Castello Di Meleto vineyards


Castellina in Chianti


Castello Di Meleto’s pool disappears into the Chianti hills.


Souvenirs – Florence


Markets – Florence


Venice has to be one of  the most spectacular painting destinations in Italy. Standing on Rialto bridge and looking down the Grand Canal feels more like watching a bizarre movie than experiencing a thriving city.

We arrived in the afternoon and were rapidly transported to our hotel by water taxi.

Leaving Marco Polo Airport by water taxi is a chaotic experience. 110 Euro from the airport to the city means the drivers are pretty serious about getting the job done quickly.

Churning through the back alleys en route to Accademia Bridge

Painting on the grand canal.

Early morning along the canals

The last gondola workshop in Venice was just around the corner from our hotel … and right opposite a great little bar.

Everything is delivered by barges along the canals

A late afternoon storm blackened the sky behind Santa Maria della Salute making for some great photos.

Evening drinks along the waterfront

Interpreti Veneziana were performing at the San Vidal Church, 5 minutes from our hotel. Italian Baroque played with passion and enthusiasm – a fantastic night.

Burano Houses

Burano is famous for its lace making, but I think this guy is mending a fishing net.


Tucked under an enormous rock outcrop on the North coast of Sicily, the small town of Cefalu is dominated by its impressive Norman cathedral.

The old town has a wonderful, busy character and it’s maze of streets and alleys are fun to explore.

The town wraps around some attractive, sheltered beaches and has a fleet of small wooden fishing boats providing fresh fish for the local restaurants.

We managed to find some great painting locations tucked into out-of-the-way alleys.

Up until 20 years ago, these old Roman wash tubs were still in use. An endless supply of clean, spring water flushes through them and out to sea. The luxury of electricity and white goods has relegated them to a tourist attraction.

Electric wiring in Cefalu is an incredibly confusing tangle of cables, strung haphazardly from building to building.

Little wonder the locals puzzle over electricity bills.

In the centre of town, the huge Norman cathedral is an impressive structure. Interior decoration is fairly schizophrenic,  having chopped and changed over the centuries according to religious preference, politics and fashion

Young people in Cefalu have the same crazy desire to push a vesper to the edge of suicidal self destruction as is found in most of Italy.

Parking under religious icons guarantees safety here too!

Our Hotel was perched above the bay on the opposite side of the rock to the town. This path led down to a terrace, swimming pool and small beach. It made a comfortable, shady spot to paint some old buildings and garden walls attached to the hotel.

We found this poor fellow sound asleep on a bench at a small beach resort out of Palermo. He was a bit confused when he woke up and found 20 people spread around him with easels and paint boxes.

Mondello waterfront – Sicily


After five days painting in Sorrento, we traveled back up the coast to Naples and flew to Sicily. Our first stop was Taormina, a town first settled by the Greeks then invaded by the Romans, the Arabs, Lord Rodger and the Normans and any other marauding horde that drifted across the salty waters of the Ionian Sea. Today the main invaders are tourists and traveling artists.

Our Hotel had fantastic view of the coast from its vantage point above the steep incline to the water.

The Hotel was typical of the stylish, post war, Italian opulence created to attract tourists and build local economys.  High ceilings, large panoramic windows, polished marble floors and beautiful antique furniture created just the atmosphere to make a group of traveling artists feel right at home.

A large shaded terrace, adjacent to the bar and looking over the sea made a great location for our critique sessions at the end of a hard day painting.

Unusual in Italy, the white sandy beaches of Taormina look more like those in the tropics than from a volcanic island.

Rich Volcanic soil and plentiful water from melting snow mean the gardens of Taormina are something else.

On a hill in the middle of town, the Greeks built this theatre. It faced the sea breeze so the actors voices would be carried into the crowd. The Romans, less than happy with the Greek architecture, decided to add the brick structure across the far end of the theatre. After the Romans were moved on, various other pillages removed bits and pieces of the structure for their own creative efforts.

This impressive structure in the Town Gardens was built in the late 1800’s from a mixture of  salvaged ruins and contemporary materials. Paid for by a British woman, Florence Trevelyan, who was encouraged to leave England due to an affair with the future King Edward. The building served no practical purpose other than to decorate the garden.

I wandered away from my painting of the garden structure to see how everyone else was going. The painting was quickly hijacked by this young girl. Her mother snapped a photo of her painting in the garden to send to the folks back home.

Hiding in the theatre alcoves.

Mt. Etna makes an impressive backdrop to the town. It is often cloaked in cloud, but on a clear, still day, steam can be seen rising from the volcano’s crater.

The old town of Taormina is made up of winding cobbled streets and narrow laneways. We arrived in a massive bus which the driver managed to maneuver through town to our hotel on roads a normal person wouldn’t attempt to ride a Vesper!

Red carpet for thin people.

Ornate church doorway on not so ornate church.

Ceremonial lemons outside a more ornate church.

Ice cream was introduced to Europe by the Sicilians. First brewed up on Mt Etna from a mixture of  Ice, fruit juice and sugar. The same recipe is followed today and is called Granite. The best Granite in Sicily comes from Saretto’s Bam Bar.

We were painting Saretto’s scooter and bar one afternoon and were all treated to a sample of his granite – what fantastic stuff! He showed us photos of numerous Hollywood icons enjoying his wares, and a quote from the New York Times stating his was the best granite in the world! You can’t argue with that.
The small square we sat in to paint, turned out to be the driveway to a lady’s house. We watched, amazed, as she somehow juggled a smart car into a dog kennel sized garage on a lane not much wider than the car. She was interested in our paintings and proud of her beautiful little corner of town. She later brought us down a bowl of cherries in ice to enjoy as we sat and painted. We found the local people in Taormina really friendly and extremely helpful.