Tag Archives: Travel

Trulli interesting.

A recent visit to the Val D’Itrea in Puglia, Italy was inspired by a promotional ad for holiday accommodation in a Trullo. It looked so unique that The Writer was hooked so we built it into our 5 week Italy holiday. I have to say that The Writer is a consistently great travel planner and does a lot of destination research before presenting me with options and possible itineraries. If I had to pay for his time I wouldn’t be able to afford the holiday!! Well I suppose he would just put it  in the holiday fund and we would be able to afford it anyway… back to the Trulli ( plural of a Trullo in Italian)

What’s a Trulli?

A Trullo is a traditional round dry-stone house with a conical stone roof built by the early peasants of the area now known as Puglia in Italy. We saw thousands of them on our stay, concentrated in the town of Alberobello ,dotted around the countryside in fields and huddling together in farm complexes. There were ancient tumbling down Trulli, rustic but functional Trulli, faithfully renovated Trulli, renovated and extended Trulli and brand new built Trulli. Traditional Trulli were made with large grey rocks from the field set together without any joining material. A conical stone roof was added and then flat stones were layered over the top to allow the water to run off into collecting channels built like steps into the roof – a bit like the modern tiled roof. The roof is then capped off with a little spire holding a round stone ball ( sometimes other shapes were used). The cap is often whitewashed and provides a great contrast to the grey stone. Some are just a single room, others are grouped together with connecting doors through the very thick walls, and some big farming complexes will have a main house with many conical roofs and smaller dwellings for animals and storage nearby..

Rustic Trulli in Puglia
Rural Trulli

 

Rustic Trullo
Abandoned Trullo
Trulli complex
New Trulli renovation 

Why build Trulli from stone?

Well if you ever visit Puglia you’ll notice an abundance of stone fences. And when I use the word abundance I really mean it! Seeing metre wide stone walls running each side of the narrow lane way to our accommodation just emphasised the amount of stone that must have been in the fields. If you want to plant crops you need to cultivate the land so down come the trees and out come the rocks. You can use trees for buildings, furniture, storage, fencing and fuel and but once the trees are all gone you need to find another building supply. There’s only so many fences you can make so what better way to use up those pesky stones than to build with them. There’s also a popular theory that by pulling out the conical capstone on the roof the local peasant could dismantle his house almost instantaneously thus avoiding the  tax on permanent dwellings. Sounds a bit dodgy to me – I bet they took a long time to build and I certainly wouldn’t be demolishing mine every time the taxman came around! I might make a portable painted panel to disguise it though. You know the sort of thing I mean – a bucolic little number with an olive tree and a couple of goats grazing underneath with a sow and her litter foraging for windfall. I reckon that would do the trick and save a heap of work.

 

Alberobello World Heritage Site

Whilst Trulli date from the prehistoric age the oldest intact examples are from the 14th century and can be found in the town of Alberobello where there are over 1000 Trulli! Many of the Alberobello Trulli have whitewashed walls with a stone roof and a whitewashed capping cone. Some have whitewashed symbols painted on the roof.

This area is now a World Heritage listed site and we visited it during peak tourist time, then again early one morning and later for a sunset . It’s impressiveness lies  in the simple, functional beauty  of the buildings and the sheer number in such a small area. The downside was all the tourist trinket shops set up in the Trulli. I love arts and crafts but they’re scarce on the ground in Alberobello. Puglia has been one of the poorer areas of Italy so  while it’s pretty easy for me to be annoyed at the tacky souvenir shops spoiling the atmosphere the locals are just doing their best to make a living and I tried to remember that.

Alberobello traditional Trulli
Alberobello traditional Trulli
Alberobello Trulli town
Alberobello World Heritage Site
Trulli accommodation Alberobello
Alberobello – renovated Trulli accommodation
Renovated Trulli Alberobello
Scrubbed -up Trulli Alberobello

Is the Trulli a dying art form?

There doesn’t seem to be any reason to think the Trulli won’t be around for another few millenia. We saw a lot of modern Trulli which are often made from a lighter, creamy coloured stone using square-cut blocks from local quarries which were mortar set. They incorporated multiple conical roofs with other larger areas using different angled roofs and there are some stunning properties around. Our accommodation for the week was part of a renovated Trulli with very sympathetic extensions set in beautiful grounds with a stunning paved pool area, fruit trees and olive groves.

 

Would I want to live in a Trulli permanently?

Not really – great for a holiday but the design means there’s not much space in each little circular room. The up side is the conical roof means there’s plenty of height to hang your favourite rustic chandelier, the downside is once you’ve got in the table and chairs there’s no room for anything else. Still, in Puglia’s summer heat those 3 foot thick walls really keep you cool and once it’s winter you can just stay tucked up in bed when you’re not eating at the table!

Trulli roofs
Trulli roof
Trullo fireplace
Trulli fireplace
Trulli roof symbols
Traditional roof symbols

Sardinia.

I was expecting the beautiful beaches of Sardinia but this small island has so much more to captivate and delight the senses. I’m not downplaying  the beaches though as I’m a big fan of turquoise waters, small sandy coves and coastal flora!

Beaches

 

The water is warm and inviting and not only did I do my fair share of swimming and snorkelling but I managed to fill up my sketch book and break out the pastels for a painting session. It was a bit frustrating with the pastels as I just didn’t bring enough colours to really capture the full gamut of greens and blues in the water but I enjoyed the simple ink and watercolour sketches.

 

Ink and watercolour. Sardinia
Capo Coda Cavallo

Wildflowers

The wildflowers were in full bloom everywhere. Fields of dinner plate sized Queen Annes Lace carpeted the countryside and along the coast were the yellow curry plants with their pungent perfume, bright pink pigs face, delicate purple and pinks of flowers I have no name for yet and more of those QALs.

Culture

It’s not all beaches and flowers, there’s plenty of culture and history when you need a break from all that blue and green sea! There’s a rich history of Nuraghi settlements and burial necropoli to explore as well as the influence of the conquering Spanish and the early Christian churches. I found the Nuraghi  necropoli sites very evocative and was impressed with the innovative architecture of one of  their protective fortresses with it’s maze of passageways and stairs.

The early Christian churches have some wonderful carvings and were set in lonely fields and on stoney outcrops giving them an air of mystery and romantacism.

We even stumbled upon a cheery festival and saw evidence that the traditional costume is still worn on special occassions.

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Traditional Sardinian costume at the cherry festival.

Evening light

A short stroll down to the local beach in the evening rewarded with a moody evening light. The pine forest on the headland cast dramatic shadows and the setting sun silhouetted the wetland trees.

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Evening. Tanaunella beach . Sardinia
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Evening light in the pines

Rocky landscapes

The wind has weathered the rocks creating interesting rockscapes.

 

Hinterland

There’s  a hinterland of mountains and rolling farmlands wiith small villages scattered across the landscape that provide an interesting contrast to all that coastal scenery.

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Sardinia
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Sardinia
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Sardinia

Light and details. Tuscany

There’s  something special about the light in Tuscany. The last few days has been a parade of misty mornings, sunny days and stormy afternnons resulting in some stunning landscapes. Here’s just a few.

Tuscan morning
Morning light. TUSCANY

 

light 3
Stormy skies. Tuscany
Evening light Tuscany
Evening light. Val d’Orchia. Tuscany

When I haven’t been absorbed in the larger landscape I’ve been seduced by the details. The polished doorhandles, small window decorations, intricate patterns on the church facades. Everywhere is detail and it brings another level of richness to travelling in Italy.

Rome. Doorknocker
Ornate doorknocker. Rome
Church facade. Orvieta
Church facade. Orvieto

 

window detail
Window detail. Tuscany

Sometimes the two coincide in a happy moment of serendipity as happened this morning while I was visiting a small and beautiful 12th century cloister in a tiny village. The sun came out casting wonderful shadows through the black and white arches and lighting the fiery red geraniums in their terracotta pots.

detail and light
Sunlit cloister

Amidst all the pleasures of travel light and detail are top of my list.

Mother’s Day – handmade with love.

I wanted to make something personal for my Mum this Mother’s Day. For me as a mum the gifts I appreciate most are the one’s that show thought and caring, maybe they take a little time , like a board game or tell me that my sons know me, like  a travel set of brushes. So this year I decided money was out it was time to make something – after all I make stuff all the time for my Etsy shop , for other clients, and just for my own pleasure.

Mum and I took a road trip in New Zealand last year so I decided to make her a personalised concertina sketch book of the trip. It’s an expression of my love for her and my appreciation for those 10 days we got to spend together with no one else to interrupt our conversations or hurry me off to the next place I have to be. Time is a precious commodity I usually meet out stingily so it was a joy to have time to talk, to laugh, to moan, to rejoice, to ponder, to be silent – together. Thanks for those 10 days Mum – and all the other days of my life when you’ve been the one who gave me your precious time and love.

And no – I’m not letting any cats out of the bag – we had Mother’s Day lunch today !

 

Oh – and I printed the gift box with a ewe and lamb in a nod to our family name- Woolley!

This years handmade travel journal

I shared a tutorial on a hand made concertina sketch book earlier this year which was inspired by a trip to my local art store. Just last week I popped in again and came away with an idea for this years travel sketch journal. Of course the art shop had a lovely little number but at $65 it was a bit pricey – I was recovering from a pre holiday trip to my favourite shop for the well endowed woman in need of reinforced swimwear- the bill was still  weighing heavily on my mind ! So instead I bought an $11  sketch pad and headed home. Once there I searched around for cutoffs and scraps and in no time at all had whipped up my own version which will be just right for our trip to Italy ( only 14 sleeps to go!!)

Canson sketch pad

Materials I used

  • purchased sketch pad
  • mat board off cuts
  • pva glue
  • elastic
  • cutting mat
  • metal straight edge ruler
  • pencil
  • craft knife
  • 250gsm kraft card

Step 1. Marking the covers for cutting

Here I’ve taken a piece of mat board which is stiff enough to form the covers. The Front and Back are the same size – the size of the pad. If you want to make your own just adapt the measurements to your sketch pad.

I need to make one of the spines slightly wider – the thickness of the mat board in fact. This will mean the fold over flap will sit comfortably on top of the front cover. I make the fold over flap roughly 1/4 of the front cover width. Now I cut along the solid lines with a craft knife using my metal ruler to keep everything nice and straight.Cutting guide

Marking the covers
Marking up the covers

After I cut this out I decide I want the cover to be slightly larger than the sketch pad because I’m going to add a brush holder next to the pad so I’ll need a little extra space for that . Luckily I’ve got plenty of mat board off cuts so I just cut a new back cover that’s 2cm wider. I do this quite often – redesign as I go – so it’s no surprise to find I have a lot of offcuts!!!

Step 2 Cutting out the front cover windows.

I love having a cover window or two ( in this case three) so I can add some mini paintings later which will hint at the journal contents. I just mark and cut out 3 square windows at equal distance from each other. I leave a larger gap at the bottom as I think it balances out better. You can leave this step out entirely or cut one big window instead if you prefer. This is a great way to personalise your travel journal.

front with windows

Step 3  Centering the covers and glueing to the cloth.

I take a scrap of bookbinders cloth and lay it face down. Now I assemble my cover pieces leaving a small gap the width of the mat thickness between the cover boards and spines. An easy way to do this is use some matchsticks as spacers . I just eyeballed it. This gives flexibility so the covers will open and close smoothly . ( not the eyeballing – the leaving of spaces!) I mark the cloth 2cm wider than the covers all the way around and cut out. Next  I spread pva glue all over the covers and cloth smoothing it out to the edges . Best to put in all on some scrap paper before you do this step but I was in too much of a hurry and so had to clean up the dried glue off my cutting board later! Now I press down firmly smoothing from the centres of each board out to the edges making sure there are no air bubbles.

Glueing in the covers
Glueing in the covers

Step 4  Neatening the edges.

Quickly before the glue dries I turn in the cloth around all the edges and press down firmly making sure it’s snug against the edges. Now I slash from corner to corner in each window frame and glue the triangle flaps to the cover board. pulling tight as I go. Next I glue a piece of thick sketch paper over the windows on the inside of the cover so when I turn it over the windows have little white inserts. At this stage I also use the blunt edge of a knife to run a crease down the gap between the spines and the covers.

 

Step 5  Adding an elastic closing strap

I wrap a piece of wide elastic all the way around the back cover and cut it 2cm shorter. I butt the ends together and sew with a wide zigzag stitch to secure . I position it 3 cm in from the  spine closest to the front flap with the join on the inside of the cover. If you’re wondering what the black oblong is it’s a piece of fridge magnet I used to try out a magnetic closure but it turned out not to be strong enough. Another redesign on the go!

The elastic could be any colour you like as an accent feature. I initially wanted black but only had white and I think it was a lucky thing as the white looks good against the black cover.

Step 6  Attaching the lining paper.

I cut the kraft lining paper to fit inside the covers leaving a tiny 3 mm edge on the black cloth showing. Smoothing out from the centres again to get rid of any air bubbles. I get out the blunt knife and run it down the creases in the spine gaps. The little white thing is a tiny piece of elastic I glued down to the spine to hold a brush or pen. I just cut a slot in the kraft paper to slip over the elastic.

Lining paper
Adding the lining paper.

Step 7 Inserting the sketch pad.

Lastly I remove the front cover of the sketch pad and glue the back board to the back cover. I push my favourite travel watercolour brush into the elastic holder, fold the flap over and flip the elastic band to secure it. Ready for Italy!!

 

This travel journal might seem a bit slim for a 5 week holiday but the 50 pages mean I’ve got one a day with a couple to spare. I’ll be using it for my round up each night and be using a small store bought sketch book for my out and about sketching during the day. Let’s see how it goes!

“Point and click” I hate that expression.

I really loathe the expression “point and click”. The word I really object to is point. It’s such a sneery term implying that as the owner of a digital camera with a very good auto function I will simply point my camera at any scene and click away with no more thought than if I were flicking a light switch.

The Writer often extolls the virtues of his digital SLR- talking all that photographer speak of f stops and iso . I remind him that I’m not a photographer, I’m an artist. Red Velvet, my lovely red camera, is simply another artistic tool in my studio and whenever I use her I am most concerned with composition . I NEVER “point” and click.

I could go all technical if I had the inclination , after all I run an MRI unit where I’m constantly concerned about signal to noise, contrast to noise, resolution and image quality. I know how to manipulate factors to improve image quality and provide high quality diagnostic images of the human body. Of course I could learn to manipulate my camera’s many manual features if I wanted to- but the truth is I don’t really want to. There’s been a lot of R&D gone into fine tuning her auto functions and I can tell you they work just fine without ant intervention from me. I’m never going to be one of those people who carry round a notebook and jot down the ISO for this shot and now what does it look like with a  different ISO? Just don’t care! Surprisingly I’ve done some of my best work from less than perfectly focussed or lit photo references!

What I do care about is using my artistic sensibility to frame  in an inspiring way. To see an imperfect scene and crop before I shoot. Of course I’ll keep cropping afterwards because cropping is my friend. …but why would I want to just point when I can frame?

Taking photos for me is another form of sketching. I’m making little thumbnails of a scene, I take one in portrait, one in landscape, then I move the horizon low …what about if I make it all about the sky and move that horizon really low? I’m already working on the painting that might not materialise on canvas or paper for several years. I’m storing up visual memories that will lay dormant until some time in the future when I search through my archives for inspiration and bang! there are all my thumbnails , the composition options already thought out and one will leap out at me and I’ll be excited because all those memories of being there, on the spot, will come flooding back. If I had just pointed I wouldn’t have the scene so firmly etched in my memory.

 

That doesn’t mean to say I don’t use a sketch book as well- but sometimes a camera is more convenient. When I’m travelling with The Writer we often hike through amazing scenery and he hikes a lot faster than me! If I were to stop and sketch every sketch worthy scene I would never make the ridge , the top of the mountain or the end of the track. So I take along Red Velvet and frame and click away with just the occasional sketch when we stop for a break. Later that night I’ll make some more sketches after dinner to fix the subject even more firmly in my memory banks.

 

So that’s why I hate that phrase. I don’t judge you if you like to mess about with your ISO and F stops so don’t judge me just because I love the auto functions on my digital camera!

 

 

Countdown till Italy.

Not that I’m counting -but there’s only 33 days till we head off to Italy again for 5 glorious weeks. It’s been 2 years since we last visited. There are some things I just can’t get anywhere else so I’m  a tad excited at the prospect of 35 straight days of Italian pleasures.

Tuscan wheatfields
Tuscan evening silhouette.

We spend a lot of time in the countryside and because we always hire a car we get to drive around early morning and late evenings as well as long, lazy, lovely  days. The summer fields of wheat look beautiful anytime of day but I love this shot of the sinking sun turning the wheat golden against the lengthening evening shadows.

Field of Tuscan poppies.
Poppies in a Tuscan field

Then there’s the summer wildflowers. I know you can get wonderful wildflower meadows other places but the poppies are such an integral part of a summer in Italy that I miss them and if I have a summer without poppies I feel I’ve been florally cheated!. One year we went a little later than usual and the poppies were gone only to be replaced with fields of deep red/purple clover. After years of visiting Italy I discovered another pleasure of the Tuscan countryside.

Clover fields - Tuscany
Clover fields – Tuscany

When I’m dreaming of Italy it’s the colours that I’m longing for … all those ochres, reds, oranges…warm and earthy with the summer sun bouncing off them. The reflections in a Venetian canal capture all the colour, movement and essence of Italy. The iconic cities never disappoint!

Venetian canal.
Colours of Italy reflected in a Venetian canal. 

There’s the unexpected like this zing of orange leaves against the bright blue sea I captured on a walk around the island of Capri.

Orang and blue. Capri
Orange and blue – Capri

….and the night time reflections as we walked the Cinque Terra trail after sunset.

Cinque Terra reflections.
Cinque Terra reflections.

Of course there’s all the little details as well. Doors and doorknockers are right up there for me. Also tiled terracotta rooftops with their variegated oranges brightening up the village skylines. The flap of white clothes drying in the breeze on lines slung across the laneways. Roses climbing up stone walls. Pots of geraniums making a windowsill all the garden that is needed. Fountains with their sweet sound of cool water in the summer heat.

Doorknocker in San Quirico
Doorknocker in San Quirico.

Not least of all is the food! I just cannot get ice cream as good as Italian gelati anywhere else in the world…and I have to eat enough spaghetti  vongole to last me till our next trip.

Spaghetti with clams.
Spaghetti with clams.

Thirty three  days and yes, I’m counting!!

 

 

 

 

 

Edges – Photography 101

This bridge in a quieter area of Venice is achingly beautiful in it’s simplicity . The mellow red brickwork edged sharply in white stone , the geometrical angles contrasting boldly with the curving steps and  Arabesque windows of the ancient palace facade and the stark shadow of the handrail delineating each step all add up to a visual feast.

There is mystery in the dark shadows under the arch, passion in the splash of red paint that echos the exuberance of the flowers, happenstance in the greenery clinging to the brickwork and balance in each curve and edge. This is the Venice I love.

Venetian bridge
Curvilinear. Venetian Bridge.

Home – Photography 101

The BookshelfHome is family and this family bookcase tells the story of those who live in my home. Our individual and collective interests sit side by side on the simple white shelves.

On the top shelf  lie the heavy tomes of architecture – an absorbing passion of the Writer. 

The next shelf holds art catalogues, travel stories and some language dictionaries – the Writer and I travel every year, love seeing great art and have taught ourselves some French and Italian. The Writer says he’s speaks 4 languages, English, French, Italian and fluent gibberish!

In the corner is the little ceramic cat that our then 12 year old son choose as a souvenir in France where he befriended many a cat – enticing them into our holiday homes with scraps of ham and saucers of milk. At 20 he rescued a kitten that had been dumped and she’s become a loved family member.

Then there’s the shelf with the speakers – our home is filled with music from the moment the Writer gets up to the moment he goes to bed. We have R & B, classic, baroque, rock and jazz – and a library of 4000+ CDs to choose from. He carefully curates a sound track for all our holidays and particular songs are irrevocably linked to certain places and bring back sharp and clear memories every time I hear them.

Then there are the family photos of parents and grandparents no longer with us – their memories cherished, stories told and lives remembered.

Also a  few simple ornaments that bring back memories of far away destinations.

Stashed on the bottom shelf is a collection of classic reads enjoyed by us all- Wodehouse and Christie. Some of these have been read and reread over the years. We’ve spent many a night chuckling over a Bertie and Jeeves video or guessing “who dunnit”as we watched Poirot unfold the clues.

A few tubes of paint hint at my passion for painting.

A trio of games are the flow over from a huge stash of boardgames  which are the glue that bonds our family together in difficult times, when we need to destress or to celebrate someones achievments. The eldest son owns many of these – he eschews spending money on frivolities but feels games are a basic necessity of life.

So there you have it – my home on the shelves of a bookcase!