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The Sweetest Relief

What memories are conjured up by my latest miniature painting of this gorgeous Tuscan door?

Buonconvento Door, Tuscany

For me, it’s ice-cold lemon granita, of course!

Not my usual romantic wonderings about who has lived here or what history has this door been part of – all mental imagery that I can normally manifest in a split second. Instead, I can remember the physical sensation of condensation deliciously dripping down my hand from the cup of icy granita I was holding (blended ice with flavoured syrup). I can remember the sweet citrusy relief with every sip. And I remember being able to slow down and take in the enormous beauty of this town (Buonconvento, Tuscany) for the first time since we had started our Italian vacation two weeks earlier.

If you hadn’t heard, this past summer in Italy was a record-breaking scorcher. Where my husband and I were, it was between 38-42C daily – not the best conditions for exploring, painting plein air or even just being outside (often we were the only people on the streets in towns we visited!). For the first two weeks of our month’s holiday, we would bravely “get out there” to explore and sketch, but the intense heat would often force us to uncomfortably race through our destinations and inevitably shorten our day. I know I sped past so many sights that would have made wonderful paintings.

After one particularly gruelling day, I suggested that we needed a change of travel strategy because toughing it out in the heat was wearing us out. So we decided to plot out routes where the main physical activity would be getting in and out of our air-conditioned rental car, and that town explorations would not exceed 30 minutes, especially on 40C days. And we would travel with an ample supply of Gatorade, and swap out gelato stops for granita, since we found gelato surprisingly made us more thirsty.

The Buonconvento Lemon Granita

For our first attempt at the new strategy, we chose a route that looped through several panoramic stops in the Crete Senesi, the towns of Asciano, Buonconvento, and San Giovanni d’Asso, as well as the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. The strategy was brilliant – we had a fabulous day!

Not being continually heat-exhausted allowed me to once again appreciate what I was seeing and feeling in this gorgeous place. Like this beautiful door in Buonconvento… and the reviving goodness of a lemon granita!

As the heat wave did not let up, the remainder of our excursions were based on picking other interesting car routes. While this was not our original agenda, it turned out to be a tremendous trip and I was happy I came out of my heat-stupor to get some great inspiration for new art.

Travel is an interesting teacher, isn’t it. In so many ways. Once again, we had to learn how to adapt to the circumstances. We also re-learned that a quality experience is far better than a quantity of not-so-great ones. And as an artist, I learned that my art inspiration relies on these quality experiences… and sometimes the aid of icy beverages! Cin cin!

(“Buonconvento Door, Tuscany”; 2.5″ x 3.5″ ink and watercolour; available in shop here)

4 replies »

  1. Creative souls, like yours, always make the bets of every situation. It was an incredibly hot summer in this part of the world. I like how you dealt with it. The door is amazing as is all your work.

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