Tuesday, June 16, 2015



Elizabeth and I were invited to a garden luncheon overlooking Lake Trasimeno in Casalini, a small borgo in the Commune of Panicale.

As people were arriving and Prosecco was being poured, a tray of antipasti was brought out, one of the items were thin slices of an omelette or frittata, neither hot nor cold, but just slightly warm. Inside the rich egg mixture was pasta. It was like it's own little egg sandwich.


Elizabeth makes a fabulous pasta Carbonara and as usual there was a bit left over along with some asparagus. So, instead of standing in front of the open fridge pushing cold pasta in my mouth we decided to try a pasta frittata for lunch.

I beat four eggs with salt and pepper and a handful of grated parmesan cheese then tossed the pasta and asparagus in. I poured the mixture into a hot non-stick skillet and kept gently pushing the sides to cook the eggs.

Then, under the broiler  until it achieved that All -American Diner 
state of perfection called 'golden brown'.


{week 42}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Tuesday, June 9, 2015



A.A.R. ( no P !)
American Academy in Rome

Entrance Fountain

During my stay as Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, Elizabeth and I lived in an apartment in the main building ( McKim, Mead & White) called 'Il Cortile'. It's name is due to the fact that it overlooks the central courtyard (cortile), but , for that matter  many other apartments had similar views. I guess someone figured that's was the view.


Then, as now, rarely do I paint in Italy, I draw. Pencils and paper are immediate and less cumbersome than paints, easels, etc.  So I draw in Italy and paint when I'm back in my studio.


The apartment was clean and simple with white walls and wooden furniture. Dominating the living room was a white sofa set against the white wall, white on white. A Balthus poster hung on the wall, it seemed to fit. The only color was the red of the cotto floor. I completed the drawing there, but as I was working on the painting back in my studio in the States I couldn't remember the color of the tiles. I knew it was red, but what red?

The White Sofa
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

I needed to return to Rome to paint. This time we rented an apartment in our favorite 'Rione' ( neighborhood) known as Monti.


Monti is next to the ancient Roman Forum. Its name back then was Suburra and it is where ordinary people lived. In order to keep the rif-raf out the Emperor built a wall separating 'them from us'. When Rome burned under Nero it was Suburra that burned, not the Forum. Anyways, now it's a vibrant, totally cool neighborhood with great shops, cafes  and nightlife. It's here that I hope to finish the painting....
Time will tell.

White Sofa ( in progress)
James Aponovich
oil on panel. 16" x 20"

Copyright 2015 James Aponovich
{week 41}

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


The Italians call them Rondine and they arrive early in April. Everyday, from dawn to dusk there are hundreds of them over town screeching and flying at incredible speeds, clearing the sky of bugs. Hundreds...maybe thousands of birds.

Early Morning Light, Panicale
Johnny Apodaca
gouache on paper, 3"x3", 2015


Artists who work in open air ( plein air) are constantly subject to the extremes of weather...raining? day is over, windy?....find shelter. too cold?...wear gloves, too hot? sweat a lot. These are the obvious elements that concern the outdoor painter and determine whether the day os successful or not. But, there is one thing that most people don't consider...the "gifts" that are dropped by the birds, thousands of birds. I have had more than one drawing 'improved' by the Rondine. So when the birds are screeching and the temperature is rising, I seek the comfort of the studio, look around for an interesting object, add a supporting cast of fruit.....and....

Terracotta Pitcher and Pears, Panicale
James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 10"x 7", 2015

This is a pencil study for a painting yet to come. But, you have to hand it to those plein air painters out there in the bush.

 Bravo, Johnny! and Thank you.

{week 40}
copyright 2015 James Aponovich
copyright 2015 Johnny Apodaca

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Il Falconiere ( hotel and restaurant)

On the train leaving Rome we had the misfortune of sitting behind a newly wedded  American couple
on a honeymoon.

Them:    "Yeah, like we're going to Florence for a week and then we're driving to Tuscany n' stuff. We're even going to take a cooking class at that Antinori place!"

Me:     "Nice, You both like to cook"

Them : "No"

Me:   "Buona Fortuna"  ( good luck)


A cooking class is work, if cooking is your passion then it is enjoyable work, but work it remains. As a gift from my wife Elizabeth I was given a private cooking class with Executive Chef Richard Titi at the Relais & Chateau Restaurant Il Falconiere outside of Cortona in Tuscany. You can see Cortona from Panicle but we decided to spend a couple of days there.

Sparkling wine

I had always heard of Il Falconiere and the restaurant has earned a michelin star.  Chef /owner Silvia Baracchi is a driving force behind the kitchen and is the face that greets guests every day. Her husband Riccardo tends to the world class wines that are produced from grapes grown on  the estate.

And then there is Giocco

And a resident falcon.


The class was about three hours long and covered 4 courses. It was an absolutely terrific experience. I don't know what my final grade was but I am now a confident pici maker....many secrets. 


Petunias at Il Falconiere
James Aponovich
pencil on paper,  9" x 8"

In Italy, Elizabeth and I are constantly drawing. Drawing enables you to organize space in order to capture the essential aspects of place in ways a camera cannot. Often , the drawings remain in the sketchbooks but others transmigrate and find themselves transformed into paintings on the easel. That is winter work.


The Falcon and Mount Amiata
James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 10" x 8"

Mount Amiata is a dominate visual anchor to Southern Tuscany. Pope Pius II ( Piccolomini)
recognized this when he built the Renaissance city of Pienza. The mountain stands alone and in many ways it reminds me of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. Here, at Il Falconiere, there seems to exist an intentional visual conversation between the estate and the distant mountain. So, as we were sitting at dinner with the sun setting we could see the lights of Montepulciano across the Valdichiana Valley with Mount Amiata glowing....Magic.

Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Before the invention of paper, European Scribes wrote on dried lambs skin called vellum. (The texture of artist's drawing papers still referred to as vellum). Vellum was expensive, so in order to reuse the sheets, the old letters were scraped off, leaving behind a faint trace of the old text. These faint remains are called palimpsests. A walk through Panicale reveals many traces of old doors, windows and plaques, all forming a wonderful Panicalese Palimpsest.

The highest level of the town, Piazza Masolino, is named after the hometown (disputed) hero artist, Tommaso Fini (1383-1447). He is better known as Masolino da Panicale. He made a name for himself in Florence and Rome.

Piazza Mascolino is the old Civic center of town with the Gothic Lombard Campanile ( bell tower) where the town records are stored. During an attack it was also the refuge of last resort.

The old arch is still visible on the house of the Podesta or Medieval Town Mayor. Taste was turning toward the rectangular Renaissance window and door frames.

From the Sketchbook
Piazza Sant' Michele Archangelo
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

The next level is the religious piazza Sant' Michele Archangelo. The church was built around 1000AD, but, in 1696 the Baroque had arrived and the exterior was "modernized" in the prevailing taste.

The next level is the business/ social center, Piazza Umberto. Here the proud citizens would erect plaques to commemorate visits from important Popes, as Panicale is walled and high above the plain there was a reduced risk of malaria and bandits. It became a favorite stop over between Perugia and Florence.

A memorial stone commemorating the visit of Pope Innocent III in 1216, in typical Italian fashion, an electrician drilled a hole in it for wires.

{week 38}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Madonna del Busso

I was showing Massimo some of the drawings in my sketchbook.

Massimo,  "James, do you know what Busso means?"
James, (This was sounding like an Italian Knock-Knock joke) " No, what?"
Massimo, "How do you say......BOOM!"


Panacarola sits below Panicle along the shore of Lake Trasimeno. Since it was once an ancient lake bed it is quite flat, but very fertile. The Ancient Romans used to refer to this area as their "breadbasket". Anyway, one day we were seeking to buy some wine from the local vineyard owned by the Lamborghini family (of car fame). We came out empty handed because inexpensive and Lamborghini are two words that do not like to be together. On our way out we came across the most unusual church, Madonna del Busso.


As far as architecture goes, it's a mess. It was built around the turn of the 20th Century with an English style belfry and a Post-Modern shape. It's painted pink and cream and sits on a white road in the middle of green fields. A row of pine trees parade in front of it. It would make a nice painting.

( you can't make this stuff up)

It seems that there was a group of Italian good ol' boys who didn't think much of conventional fishing techniques. They discovered that if they threw bombs into the water that after the explosion fish would die and float to the surface. Dinner! Maybe they were a bit liquored up, but somehow one of the bombs blew up in the boat!...No one was hurt!....A miracle!!  It must be that the Madonna saved them!...A huge miracle!....Let's build a church!...Whadda we call it?...I dunno....How about BOOM!

So, it was born and every September they honor the event by holding a horserace(?) and  have a grand festa until its dark, and then,....fireworks....BOOM!  BOOM!

Madonna del Busso
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

{week 37}

Copyright 2025 James Aponovich

Monday, May 4, 2015


"Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch 'intrate"
(Abandon all hope, you who enter here)

                                                                         -Dante Aligheri, The Inferno 

Our Neighborhood

 Well, at least abandon all hope of getting things accomplished for the rest of the day. Italians take lunch very seriously, no grabbing a sandwich on the run this day. Our neighbor, Annmarie, was leaving for a time and decided to have an "informal" grill for a few friends. ( then why is that woman wearing Prada?)

A View Of The Garden

We were about twenty, all told, Italians, Americans and a sprinkling of Danes. As is was a warm afternoon we were to dine in the garden.

Wednesday, 1:00 pm.

The lunch begins at one o'clock, or should I say the prosecco  is poured then. There is a competition to see if one can pop the cork over the theatre building. ( They say it has been done, but I have my doubts.)  In the garden, tables are laden with bruschetta con affumicato ( smoked salmon toasts) amongst other bites. Guests start arriving in staggered groups, most more or less late ( Americans are always on time).  Introductions are made, more prosecco is poured. " James, do you prefer whiskey?", I am asked, "No, grazie."

PRIMI ( first course)

Ceci Soup

We finally sit down for the first course, Zuppa di Ceci ( chikpea soup) and another primi, Risotto con Radicchio ( rice with chickory). No pasta, but that's O.K., I'm already stuffed..........more prosecco?
Perhaps some red wine?

SECONDI ( main course)

From the Grill

The 'grill' comes out, salsicce, e costoletto maiale ( grilled sausage and pork chops). These are meant to be separately, followed by the vegetables, but everybody just piles their plate full. Italians are not afraid of food and you are never asked if you have any type of food prohibitions.

If you can still breath, next comes the fruit and cheeses. If your glass is empty, not to worry, it will be filled. Thankfully, there is water.

There is much conversation and laughter, we are expected to change seats again and again. I don't mind , it gives me a chance to butcher my Italian to new ears, Oh, but wait! There's dessert? Tiramisu? I can't...the plate is put down in front of you.
As we start the goodbyes I glance at my watch.
It's 4:30 pm.

Photos courtesy Stew Vreeland

Monday, April 27, 2015



A43: " Ciao Massimo!"

Massimo: " Ciao James! Come stai?"

A43:   "Va bene. Massimo, I keep seeing abandoned farmhouses all around the countryside. Are they                           empty because of taxes? If not, why?"

Massimo:   "No, it's not taxes...It's just, how do you say...tastes change. Young people want new
                   houses, not in the country."

ROVINE (Ruins)

Rovina, Casalini ( in progress)
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

I seem to be attracted to the farmhouses in Italy that have been abandoned to time and nature. Perhaps I find empathy with them due to the fact that often I feel like a rovina myself.

Rovina, Podere Poggio del Lago
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

As you drive try Umbria and Tuscany the landscape is dotted with these grand Fattorie sitting in the middle of fields. I wonder where are the English and Americans who want their own Romantico Under the Italian Sun?

Rovina, Panicarola ( in progress)
James Aponovich
pencil on paper

As you look closer, you find the answer. We, who are "from away", want not an Italian farm but our 'vision' of an Italian villa. The ground floor of most farms here were for animals. It takes a long time to get that smell out. The staircase (scalette) is on the outside and it leads to
the second floor ( piano nobile).... heat and running water? Probably not. Electricity?
In other words........

" With enough money you can make water run uphill."
                                                -Italian proverb

So, if your vision is a villa in Italy with sweeping views and an infinity pool, you can find it and with enough time and money make it. Just be aware that at the end of the day, it will be nice, but is it Italian?

{week 34}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich

Monday, April 20, 2015



Lake Trasimeno is the third ( or fourth?) largest lake in Italy and it dominates northern Umbria. It is only a drop of what it once was, it once stretched from Arezzo in the north to Spoleto in the south. Leonardo Da Vinci proposed linking the Tiber and the Arno to the Lake so there could be navigable commerce between Rome and Florence. He was full of big ideas, rarely realized. The Lake is quite shallow so the water is often  turquoise green. Unlike lakes in New England,no vacation house dot its shores, only fields and a few marshes.
The name is derived from the legend a failed (what else) love affair between the nymph Agilla, who was born in nearby Agello, and Trasimeno, son of the god Tyrraene. As their union was impossible, they threw themselves into the lake that now bears his name.

Isola Polvese from San Feliciano
James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 9" x 14"

The largest of the three islands that seem to float around on Lake Trasimeno is Polvese. It is largely uninhabited now but its history goes back to before the Etruscans. During the 13th Century, a fortessa (castle) was built on the south side of the island by the Knights Templar. Later, on the other side a monastery ( Orvieitan) was constructed and both ruins still stand. It once housed hundreds of people but malaria  drove them out. Napoleon wanted to drain it.
All I know is when you see the emerald Polvese sitting in the turquoise water....magic happens 

{ week 33}

Copyright2015 James Aponovich

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


James Aponovich

"Idle hands are the devils tools."
                           - Puritan proverb

Q.  I've noticed that you do a lot of drawing in Italy, what gives?  Are they studies for paintings?
                                                                                  - Roberto C., Toronto

A. I don't crochet so it keeps me busy.


Drawing is active meditation or it can be likened to a dancer taken class daily or a pianist playing scales. With drawing, you sit yourself down in front of something and you must digest a lot of information. Somethings are discarded as superfluous, others are emphasized. The minds eye  edits and the hand puts it on the paper. Tools are simple, pencil and paper, but it is not easy.

Podere Poggio del Lago (abandoned farm / ruin)
James Aponovich

Due Pini  ( Two Pines)
James Aponovich

Today, Elizabeth and I went to Bagno Vignoni in the Val D'Orcia. It's a tiny Medieval Spa known since Roman times. A large Piscina (pool) dominates the piazza which was constructed by The Medici's. Lorenzo D'Medici himself came to the pool in an effort to alleviate his gout.
 It is one of the most charming spots for a light lunch. While we were sitting there at a small enoteca, I did what I so often do in Italy, I drew.

Bagno Vignoni
James Aponovich

{week 32}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich