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