Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys: Italy - Days 2 & 3 (Mmm - Italian food!)

The food in Italy is AMAZING! (That's the understatement of the year!) Everything is prepared with extra care and attention to detail. The ingredients are fresh, the flavors are incredible, and everything is beautifully arranged and served.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

Even though I have to follow a gluten-free diet, I was able to have wonderful meals everywhere we went. The waiters and chefs were, almost without exception, knowledgeable about gluten and happy to help me find suitable choices from their menus. Instead of feeling like an oddity or a nuisance, as I often do in American restaurants, I felt accepted and reassured that I would get a meal which was safe for me to eat.

Our favorite restaurant, La Colombara, was just ten minutes from our house. They had a gluten-free menu, great food, reasonable prices, and a helpful waitress who spoke unbeatable combination! The pizza was out-of-this world!

They even had gluten-free rosemary crackers for me to eat while everyone else was enjoying their bread.

Since we were lucky enough to be staying in a private home, we cooked many of our own meals. Shopping in an Italian supermarket was an interesting experience - lots to learn, and the language barrier made it all the more challenging, but with lots of laughter and plenty of signs and gestures from helpful customers and clerks, we managed.

The produce in the grocery stores was so beautiful and fresh! We oohed and aahed over the radicchio, white asparagus, and pretty little baby artichokes. I wanted to sketch right there among the fruits and vegetables, but I settled for adding a row of produce to my sketchbook later that day.
Even on a page filled primarily with text, I like to add some color accents with a simple border or a small sketch.

A swirly line helped to tie all the tiny fruits and veggies together.

This next sketch was painted the first morning I was in Italy, and I think the exuberant colors and loose style show just how euphoric and happy I was feeling at the time. Maybe it helped that I was pumped up on espresso, too!

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

I started this composite page of food sketches when I had my very first cappuccino the morning after we arrived. It was so tasty, and I knew it was probably just a hint of all the delightful things to come, so I began keeping a visual record of some of the best things I ate in Italy. (There were so many yummy new taste sensations that, after filling this page, I started another one further along in my sketchbook.)

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

Can you believe I actually had enough self-control to draw and paint the cappuccino before I drank it? It wasn't easy!

Later that day, I had my first gelato when we escaped the drizzle in Marostica to sit in a cozy little coffee shop/cafe and try the first of many flavors of this ubiquitous Italian treat.

I drew the apple torta one evening when we splurged on dessert at La Colombara. I dashed off a quick pencil sketch, but there was no way I was willing to delay eating that yummy cake while I added paint. The paint could wait; I couldn't!

This hazelnut nougat candy beckoned me from a pastry shop window in Venice...delicious!

Polenta with mushrooms and freshly grated Asiago and Parmesan cheese - my lunch in San Giorgio.

And lunch in Venice...

Asiago cheese is made in the area around Vicenza, and we ate plenty of it while we were there. Fresh asiago has a buttery texture and a milder flavor than the harder aged Asiago that is commonly found in the US. With crackers, apples, and glass of wine, it made a great light supper.

We treated ourselves to cappuccino almost every day during our trip and occasionally I was able to find a little something gluten-free to go along with it. In Vicenza, I found this lovely macaroon biscotti.

One morning I decided to try hot chocolate instead of my usual cappuccino. What a surprise! Italian hot chocolate is thick and rich and decadent, like drinking chocolate pudding. I ended up eating it with a spoon as it cooled and got even thicker. I think I prefer the hot chocolate I make at home with Trader Joe's cocoa powder, but it was fun having a chance to try the very different Italian version.

Coming up next: a castle on a hill, a sidewalk cafe, and cyclamen on a windowsill


  1. Oh what lovely journal pages and I loved that you kept a record of what you ate and drank. How fun. I know I have said this before but I love how you design your pages and put edges around. Cant wait to see more.

    1. In this travel sketchbook, I tried to dream up a variety of different page layouts. It made things a lot more interesting. So many times I get so excited when I start sketching a scene that I dive right in without thinking of the page design. I wanted to put more thought into this sketchbook. I think you'll enjoy seeing some of the upcoming pages.

      Thanks for stopping by, Cris!

  2. Oh my! What awesome pages from your trip journal. These are amazing. I would have loved to have been a mouse in your suitcase and peeked in on your sketching adventures! Can't wait to see more pages from your trip journal!

    1. Slowly but surely I'll be posting pages as I finish them. Wish I could spend all day in my studio - this is so much fun!

  3. I'm not an artist at all, so that must explain why looking at and reading this post from you, Leslie, made me hungry! What a wonderful opportunity this was for you to visit such a beautiful area.

  4. I love seeing the subjects you pick to sketch! I love the page of the foods you ate.


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