A Tuscan Pottery Gem

Part of the impetus behind starting this blog was to have an outlet to preserve travel photos and stories, and our Italy trip two years ago had enough stories to keep me going for quite some time.  As our travels are more limited currently by the stage of life we are at — college visits, college costs looming and the typical juggling of life a family experiences with teenagers — I enjoy periodically dipping back into the digital photo archive to resurrect past travel experiences.  Today, let’s return to Tuscany, the Chianti region to be precise, where a gem of a pottery shop turned into a favorite travel memory.

Rampini Ceramics was a one-line mention in a travel guide or article I came across while researching what to see and do while in Tuscany.  The classic painted pottery can be found in shops throughout Tuscany, but something about the family-owned studio in a restored farmhouse in the Chianti countryside appealed to me, and one of the only items I intentionally sought out  as a memento from our special trip was a set of pasta bowls.  

One of the art-filled showrooms from Rampini Ceramics

As we pulled into the picturesque parking area next to the studio and shop, a friendly German Shepherd greeted us, which kept my youngest teen entertained while I pored over the artistry inside.  We were fortunate to have the shop to ourselves for much of the time we were there, allowing for extended conversation with Tiziana, who told us about the history of many of the patterns we admired, helped me narrow down my pasta bowl selection, and shared her infectious passion for the art of the pottery that surrounded us.  My oldest teen enjoyed practicing his newly-learned Italian skills while talking with her, and she fueled his growing interest in global study by discussing the many opportunities for study abroad in Italy.  She was generous with her time and conversation.

Charming setting of Rampini Ceramics in Chianti

The incredible artistry and craftsmanship of Rampini Ceramics are highlighted in this brief video that also includes classic images of the Chianti countryside:

The results are magnificent.  I am reminded daily of that memorable family time in Italy when I see the platter hanging in our kitchen, or when we enjoy pasta out of a painted masterpiece.

Rampini Ceramics platter and pasta bowls

Rampini Ceramics sells their pieces at the original shop in the Chianti region of Italy, as well as in a store in the city of Florence.  Stateside, you can find their work in Denver, Colorado.  Links to their retail outlets, as well as instructions for ordering online, can be found on the Rampini Ceramics website, http://www.rampiniceramics.com/.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

If I could post a photo of Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” sculpture, I would . . . alas, the Borghese Gallery prohibited photography so all I have is my memory of standing with my husband and two boys, just the four of us in the presence of that incredible statue, awed into hushed silence, absorbing the breathtaking beauty and detail of his artistry before other visitors entered the room.

In honor of Bernini’s remarkable talent, I offer a photo of St. Jerome instead.  This masterful sculpture is housed in the Duomo of Siena, in the Chigi Chapel.  

Bernini's St. Jerome ~ Chigi Chapel, Duomo of Siena, Italy

Bernini’s attention to detail left me standing in front of this piece for longer than I had intended — taking in the subtle ripples of muscles under the marble skin, which created a sense of suppleness, and the slightly-opened mouth, from which a pained sigh was certain to exit.  As St. Jerome cradled the crucifix, the sculpture emoted in a remarkably lifelike manner.

While I give you St. Jerome in response to this week’s challenge, I will close the post with reference to an interesting article titled “Bernini’s Genius” that the Smithsonian magazine published in October 2008.  The article reminds us of the many works that insure Bernini’s eternal artistic fame, such as the canopy over St. Peter’s tomb and the grand piazza outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (both of which I featured in an earlier post). The words I leave you with hearken back to a different work of art, though, as mentioned in the opening of this post — the magic of Bernini’s masterpiece, “Apollo and Daphne”:

In his sculpture of the mythological Daphne, who was transformed into a laurel tree by her father to elude the unwanted attentions of Apollo, Bernini showed Daphne’s skin changing to bark, her toes elongating into root tendrils and her fingers sprouting leaves, just as the lustful Apollo, his prize in his grasp, begins to realize what is happening. The Apollo and Daphne is a jaw-dropping feat of virtuosity. “In my opinion, not even the ancients did anything to equal it,” Bacchi says. The roughness of the bark, the translucence of the leaves, the nymph’s flying tresses—all are carved with such exquisite specificity that, once again, it is easy to overlook the audacity of the concetto. The process of metamorphosis was a subject for painters, not something to show by chiseling and drilling hard stone. And yet, wasn’t metamorphosis a sculptor’s task? Carving a block of stone into a lifelike form could be seen as a supernatural—even divine—feat.

(Read the full article on Bernini: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/bernini-genius.html#ixzz2aCoWgAcV .)

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Masterpiece” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

Frutta fresca!

Rome fruit stand

Can’t believe it has already been two years this week since we were exploring Rome’s historic streets.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Fresh” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

While climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto) in Florence, Italy, I could appreciate the patterns covering the Duomo as I peeked through the windows of the winding stone stairwell.


Climbing the 414 steps of the Tower provides such an incredible overview of Florence’s many patterns — from the red-tiled rooftops to the colorful marble exterior of the Duomo. I could not share just one photo with so many rich patterns to choose from!

Click on any photo in the gallery to start the slide show.


Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Pattern” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

The Vatican’s Papal Conclave: Hey, I Was There!

Reading the news reports about the recent conclave in the Vatican to elect the new pope, it was amazing to see the cardinals gathered in St. Peter’s for the pre-conclave mass before they entered the Sistine Chapel to begin their secret deliberations, and recall that we had stood in that sacred space the summer before last.  St. Peter’s Basilica may not be as breathtaking from the outside when compared with other well-known cathedrals . . .

St. Peter's Basilica from St. Peter's Square

. . . but, the interior of the Basilica is indescribably beautiful.

St. Peter's Basilica ~ Vatican City

Before traveling to Italy, I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, which recounts the life of Michelangelo and paints a vivid picture of the Italian artisan culture during the late 1400’s and early 1500’s.  Michelangelo was 72 years old when he took over as the architect of St. Peter’s and left his mark through the design of the massive dome that acts as a beacon from so many vantage points throughout Rome.  

Bernini's canopy in the foreground with Michelangelo's dome overhead ~ St. Peter's

Michelangelo is often best-known for his sculptures, and one of his most memorable pieces, the Pieta, is safely preserved behind bullet-proof glass in St. Peter’s after a mentally-disturbed man attacked the work of art in the 1970’s.  Michelangelo’s Pieta is a remarkable representation of Michelangelo’s love of the human body, and his talent for teasing the most delicate sculptures from large blocks of marble.  It is truly exquisite and moving.

Michelangelo's Pieta ~ St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Reading the fictionalized biography of Michelangelo, I appreciated the grueling conditions under which he worked to create one of the most spectacular pieces of art ever completed — the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.  I complied with the “no photos” rule in the Sistine Chapel, and so have none to share with you here.  Some day I will have to write a post about one of my biggest travel pet peeves — travelers who disregard the rules and subject the rest of us to things like security guards loudly “shushing”, admonishing “no photos, no photos”, and disturbing what should be a wonderfully reflective moment of admiring the incredible work of Michelangelo spread across the ceiling of the Chapel.  But, I digress. . . . back to St. Peter’s.

St. Peter's Basilica ~ Vatican City

Wandering the vast interior of St. Peter’s, I found myself often looking up to take in the layers of sculpture, painting, carving, and architecture.


The view of St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) from the top of the steps of the Basilica was surreal, as if it were a postcard or a movie set backdrop.  As we descended the steps to walk across the Square and leave the Vatican, I knew our half-day visit had not done this venue justice.

He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all. ~ Sinclair Lewis

St. Peter's Square ~ Vatican City

Ciao! ~ Kat