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Carrie Waller Abundance

AWA’s Trip To Italy A Resounding Success!

Article by AWA Board Member & Trip Participant Aleta Carpenter

“Andiamo!” Our charming guide, Giulia, called us together for the day’s activities – “Let’s go!” as we set off to experience the daily delights! Tuscany Sightseeing wisely selected Giulia (who holds a degree in art history) to lead us in our travels, with her wisdom, knowledge, and delightful sense of humor coloring our impressions as she shared the city of her birth with us. 

Florence offered the Uffizi, Michelangelo’s “David,” the San Miniato Church, and, for our artists, opportunities to paint or sketch in the early morning with sunrise illuminating the bridges and the Arno, followed by setups in the Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking the city, and the Etruscan Ruins in Fiesole in the afternoon. We enjoyed delicious meals all arranged in advance, wending our way through the cobblestone streets behind Giulia to the selected restaurants. Around each corner breathtaking visions greeted us, with a collective audible gasp as we encountered the Duomo’s marble exterior for the first time.

After several satisfying days in Florence, we boarded our transport bus bound for Siena, with a mid-day visit to the beautiful Guardastelle Winery enroute. Our artists found inspiration in the grounds of the winery itself, in the vineyards and rolling hills surrounding the winery, and the views of the ancient city of San Gimignano on a far hillside. Lunch and wine-tasting capped off our visit to Guardastelle, and we arrived in Siena ready to explore and savor our group dinner in a private room at the delightful Antica Trattoria Papel.

The next day in Siena we were left free to explore, shop, climb the Torre de Mangia, visit Siena’s Duomo, relax in the Piazza del Campo, or paint views from the three hills upon which the city was built. The following day, we again boarded our transport to experience the ancient city of San Gimignano, which we had glimpsed from our winery visit. Our artists captured vistas from its high walls and tower and charming scenes among its winding streets with flowers cascading down their walls. 

We were treated to a delicious lunch with wine pairings at Tenuta Torciano where we learned more about Chianti, Tuscany’s major wine product, and were instructed in the proper way to hold, swirl, sniff, and sip our wines. This repast prepared us for the drive as we left Tuscany for our final destination, the charming Ligurian seaside town of Portovenere. Our delightful accommodations at the Hotel Paradiso and the Belvedere provided us with  stunning water views, and we all opted for dining alfresco to enjoy the mild weather and positive vibes created by the seaside’s negative ions.

A free day in Portovenere enabled us to hike out to the cliffside San Pietro Church or to the fortress at the top of the hill – or as some intrepid souls decided to do – catch the ferry to the Cinque Terre and back. We all seemed to opt for different activities, which made our unexpected encounters of one another during the day that much more fun! At our farewell dinner we shared our day’s activities and bade our wonderful guide and hosts Tiernan and Leo at Tuscany Sightseeing a fond arrivaderci.

Back to Florence and our flights home or elsewhere … sad to leave but cherishing our memories of such a special trip. Artists, patrons, and board members alike departed thoroughly sated with the beauty, warmth, and inspiration provided by our AWA Italian Tour. We all look forward to our next one; thank you AWA for making dreams come true!! (See comments from tour participants below)

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Tuscany Travelers’ Comments

Patricia Ridge Bradley (Artist):  My painting trips are usually taken by myself, and I enjoy making new acquaintances along the way. However, traveling and painting plein air with American artists and patrons of the arts made this trip to Italy extra special for me. Now, I have new friends from coast to coast!

Barbara Nuss (Artist):  Thanks to American Women Artists, I have had the opportunity to paint in Italy and to be enveloped by the light in Tuscany that I have heard about for the last 40 years. I was knocked out by the buildings, they are so beautiful – that’s why I got lost: I was so busy taking pictures. Besides the scenery and the history, the whole Italy excursion was enhanced by the camaraderie of fellow artists making this a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Paula Holtzclaw (Artist/AWA Board Member/AWA Secretary):  A major highlight and most emotional part of the trip for me was seeing The David in real life. Knowing the history but being able to absorb the visual, I was touched beyond words. I was so impressed at how efficient and smooth the trip went and how well everyone got along. We were kept very busy with such a wonderful schedule; however it was “pressure free.”  Old friendships renewed, and new friendships made with memories to last a lifetime.

Chuck Holtzclaw (Patron):  I had traveled quite a bit before, so what I enjoyed most was seeing Paula’s reactions to her initial taste of Europe. Secondly, the fullness of the trip – every sense (taste, hearing, sight, touch, smells) was engaged, from listening to the organist at San Miniato, the taste of the food (the pastas, breads), to the smells of the flowers and the sea at Portovenere, an area close to my heart; all the senses were overwhelmed! What really added the icing to the cake was sharing it with everybody; the fellowship and getting to know everyone. Our guide, Giulia, was wonderful; she seemed to love what she was doing, and it was as though she had art within her. She made the tour itself a work of art.

Christine Drewyer (Artist/AWA Board Member): This is my fourth time in Italy, but it is my first time going as an artist to paint with other artists, and that is the difference. This time I really had the time to experience the light, the sounds, smells; to imagine history, that feeling of timelessness. I feel as though I saw Italy with my heart before I saw it with my eyes. The beauty and essence of the place will be with me forever.

Kathrine Lemke Waste (Artist/AWA Board President):  There we were, in beautiful Tuscany, in Florence, where the very idea of patronship of the arts was invented, and what was the result then? The Renaissance, of course. We had a little Renaissance of our own, with our AWA patrons and our AWA artists building community, breaking bread together – along with the pasta, Chianti and gelato. It was a wonderful experience – all about nourishing the soul and the creative spirit even more than it was about painting. Artists need to fill their souls with the kinds of things Tuscany had to offer, and I feel we all got to do all that and more. Our tour operators Tiernan and Leo created a wonderful. hassle-free experience for our group and our vivacious guide Giulia was a Florence native and art historian. Only complaint? We need to stay longer!

Bob Waste (Patron):  I loved so many things most about our trip! It was a pleasure to get to know the other artists and patrons. The Italian tradition of the Apertivo (Italy’s version of Happy Hour) comes with a plate of antipasti and good fellowship. I loved seeing the incredible light in Italy in Siena and the coastal light of Portovene. Also, since I work in a large university Trauma 1 hospital and medical school, I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting not one but two Italian hospitals and emergency rooms when Kathy had the misfortune of breaking her right (painting!) hand. I got to see to (plaster) scultptors up close doing their art. Seriously, though, accidents happen and our guides, Tiernan, Leo and Giulia helped us navigate any language barriers, Kathy was patched up nicely, and we hardly missed out on a thing.  

Farshid Namei (Artist):  I had studied art history but I didn’t really realize the reality of it. Now I see the point – how breathtaking it is – the people living so long ago. I was visualizing these people, the houses, the walls they were building to protect their country. All these things came alive, became reality. Breathtaking – seeing history, things I can read about. Getting to know people – I am very shy, but people made it easy to speak because they ask questions, they were interested in my background and getting to know me; it made me comfortable. And I enjoyed the variety of the food!

Bettina (Nini) Redway (Patron):  From the perspective of someone who has never done a trip like this – painting and travel – I was amazed by how much we learned and experienced Italy, but also had plenty of time to paint. Our guide and her knowledge were amazing!

Julie Kanoff (Patron):  It was a most splendid trip. I was amazed at the creative works produced and how getting up and out with a load of gear at the crack of dawn for just the right light was an everyday thing and worth the effort to the artists. The dedication and camaraderie of the artists was amazing and inclusive to all of us. I learned so much from them and our wonderful guide Giulia, who looked at us as her bambinis in such a loving way, and went the extra mile for our brave leader, Kathy, with her injury. What a terrific young woman! I was also struck by the fortune of being with the owners of Tuscany Sightseeing, Tiernan and Leo, on their maiden tour and at the precipice of a new life joined in marriage. This could not have been sweeter on so many levels for me.

Susan Neece (Artist):  This was a bucket list item! To me, the camaraderie was the best thing – getting to know all these artists I have seen on the internet but never gotten to meet. Beautiful views, magical history was all wonderful, but getting to know everybody was just the best!

Jane Barton (Artist):  I am so impressed with everything Kathy is doing with AWA; I heard about this trip and have painted in Italy before, but I wanted to get to know the members better. My experience is that people who take trips like this have a sense of adventure and joy that a lot of people don’t have. I enjoy plein air painting, and everyone was wonderful; we meshed as a group. I enjoyed the travel, sights, food. I had accomplished what I had expected to – meet some really talented artists I will keep in touch with, and I painted 10 plein air paintings. The great thing about travel when you are an artist is never knowing when or how the things in your eyes and your head will somehow emerge in your work.

Mejo Okon (Artist):  I loved the trip! I liked that there was more than the art part; travel, museums – something for everybody. It was an eclectic group of people, and the trip was all-encompassing. It was as if they knew each of us and made the trip work for everyone! 

John Welty (Patron):  I loved meeting people – lots of new friends! Aside from Kathy’s mishap, we are all going home in one piece. The best memory was of the guy playing the organ in San Miniato; simply stunning. The food and wine were fabulous! It was a very memorable trip – unfortunately, we had to go home!

Cathy Ferrell (Artist):  What an amazing trip! Kathy, Tiernan and Leo planned each day and event with great care and creativity, giving us a wonderful experience in so many beautiful spots. Previous trips in 1965 and in 1983 while working in Pietrasanta on commissions allowed me to visit many treasures, and to see them again and be equally stunned by their beauty was special. The AWA group was diverse, interesting and worked together well. We had lots to share and learn. The care taken in accommodations, their proximity to easy walking distance to our painting and sightseeing, and the food (especially breakfasts…. we were so spoiled!) made it a continuing joy. I am looking forward to the next one!

Ann Watcher (Artist):  We American Women Artists all come from different regions, so I didn’t really know any of the other artists, and to me, this trip meant a way to get to know each other in a fabulous backdrop of masterpieces and art history. The cohesiveness of the group strengthened my desire to embrace other artists, to be supportive and empowering of one another. I really treasure the opportunity for new experiences, to see The David, the Duomo, the Uffizi, to try Limoncello for the first time … and painting with other artists, I learned so much! I hope we can do another trip like this one!

Albert Sanchez (Patron):  What I really appreciated was the generosity of the artists who took the time to explain what they were doing, to share their techniques and how they captured their subject. The tour planning was excellent, the logistics, the way the meals were planned – we just sat down and food started coming – our guide Giulia, with her sense of humor and knowledge. It was a pleasant, fun experience, and I enjoyed getting to know each of the individuals on the trip.

Aleta Carpenter (AWA Board Member):  I’ve been to Italy many times, but never to this area, and never on a group tour. After this experience, I may never visit another country without being on a planned group itinerary! Tuscany Sightseeing made everything effortless and really went the extra mile to make sure all our needs and desires were accommodated. As a non-artist, I wasn’t sure how I might entertain myself, but each day brought adventure and opportunities for everyone – sketching, painting, writing, reading, photography, sightseeing, wine-tasting, exploring … thanks to Kathy’s vision of AWA in Europe, we all had an amazing time!