Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 5 (Villa Monteleone & San Giorgio)

We ventured farther afield on day five of our Italian adventure and headed west to explore the area around Verona and Lake Garda. We weren't exactly sure where we were going and didn't have a firm plan for what we wanted to see, but my friend Ann had suggested we visit a small winery, Villa Monteleone, in Sant' Ambrogio di Valpolicella, so we plugged the address into the GPS and hit the road. It turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the whole trip. (Read all about it in my journal pages, shown here.)

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

My sketch of Lucia Raimondi, the owner of Villa Monteleone, certainly doesn't do her justice, but it's a good reminder of our visit to the winery. She was such a kind and generous host and one of the most interesting people I met. For this journal page, I did an antique-y looking wash around the edges with a mixture of burnt sienna + yellow ochre + a touch of ultramarine blue and faded it into the center to tie it in with the wine cellar sketch.

Just over the hill from the winery was the tiny village of San Giorgio. It was a special place, off the beaten track, perched on top of a mountain and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The main (and only) street was so narrow and winding that drivers honked their horns when approaching a turn in the road to warn oncoming traffic to make way.  Some of the buildings are over five hundred years old, and the church is even older. It's hard to imagine what life was like back then, but just being there in that place gave me a taste of it.

10" x 7", watercolor & ink (Sakura Pigma Micron pen), Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

The deep window sills in the restaurant where we ate lunch held beautiful still life arrangements of antiques, dried gourds, plants, candles, and wine bottles. I sketched one of the vignettes while waiting for my lunch to arrive.

There was a scenic overlook in San Giorgio that gave us 180ยบ views of the countryside, looking across the famous Valpolicella grape-growing region. It was the perfect place to set up for a sketching session.

Here's a photo of the scene with my half-finished sketch in the foreground...

This next page shows the vineyards and mountains near Lake Garda. It's a typical scene in that region of northern Italy where most of the land is taken up by neat, tidy rows of perfectly manicured grapevines.

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

Just imagine all the man hours that go into maintaining those thousands of acres of vines. Whew! I have enough trouble keeping up with my own little garden!

The old church in San Giorgio was begun in the 8th century, and it's still standing, solid and immovable, today. Its bells chime on the hour, playing, not just a note or two to denote the time, but full-length hymns with multiple verses! It was a treat to hear the music pealing out from the bell tower on the mountaintop as we walked through the village.

Our new friend, Lucia, from the winery, said we might enjoy visiting the lakeside town of Lazise in the afternoon, and I'm so glad we took her advice. It's a beautiful little gem of a place. I'll show you my sketches from there in the next post.

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