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

Sunday, April 5, 2015


James Aponovich
oil on panel, 20" x 16"

The artichoke is the vegetable counterpoint to the lobster. Both wear armored spikes and are formidable opponents. In America, both are enjoyed and dipped in melted butter. Here in Italy, the artichoke sings a different song.


The artichoke,that most Italian vegetable is in reality a thistle. The best artichokes come from the top of the plant, the Italians call these 'cimaroli' because they come from the 'cima' or peak of the plant. The season runs from December through April. The Roman artichoke is the round 'Romanesco' which is green. The other dominate variety is the elongated 'Violetto' with
 purple leaves (shown above).


The Culinary Holy Trinity of Rome


Flattened and deep fried in olive oil to a deep golden brown. Crisp on the outside and warm and tender in the middle. Order these a Da Giggetto, next to the Portico d'Ottavia.


The leaves are stuffed with chopped artichoke stems, garlic, parsley, lemon and Roman mint called 'mentuccia'. They are then braised in olive oil and water until very done.


Artichokes stewed in olive oil with onion, prosciutto and peas.

!!!*** MEDICAL ALERT ***!!!!

I write this on Pasqua ( Easter Sunday). Pasqua is enjoyed with family with huge feasts. Tomorrow is Pasquetta and is meant to be spent with friends. Elizabeth and I had planned a dinner party with friends featuring 'Carciofi Lasagne' (Artichoke lasagna), but, unfortunately we haver"prendiamo raffreddore " (caught colds and cough). Perhaps next week.
To be continued....

{week 31}
Copyright 2015 James Aponovich