For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Rachel Brask will have a solo gallery show September-October 2020 at Heartspot Art Center & Gallery with an exhibit of oil paintings titled, “Weathering the Storm.” In this exhibit of paintings created before the pandemic, and some created during quarantine, Rachel’s artwork is reframed within the context of what does it mean to weather the storm
In early August 2020 East Providence Arts Council held a city wide arts festival in an open studio (open air, open yard) format. Rachel Brask, Finding HippyNess, and Erik Giorgi all showed their artwork outside on the front yard fence to passers-by of the general public. As this even took place during the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing was maintained and artists and guests wore masks when interacting.
“Paint! Exhibit in Gallery 175, Reporter Today, February 27, 2020
Full text of article:
Opening on March 8th is an exhibit featuring the work of three artists who explore the substance of paint to create highly expressive and visually luscious surfaces on their canvases. The show, titled, PAINT!, runs through May 1st, 2020.
Pawtucket based artist, Jim Bradley uses poured resins, inks, and pigments to achieve blends, swirls, and movement. By restricting his palette, he produces beautiful color harmonies through an intuitive process that captures the fluidity of the medium.
Rachel Brask of Warren also explores of the fluidity of paint by creating scintillating veils of thin color that cascade down her canvases in a series titled, Rainy Windows. References to a world beyond are hinted at beyond the rainbow of hues that shimmer on the surface.
On the other hand, exuberant textures dominate the paintings of Cumberland artist, Mary Casale. Inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, Casale applies thick paint in bold colors layer after layer, then scrapes and manipulates, directed by her aesthetic instinct. Her paintings convey powerful energies.
The public is invited to enjoy the artwork at Gallery 175, located at 175 Main Street in downtown Pawtucket in the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 4pm. A reception for the artists will be held on March 8th from 2 to 3:30 pm.
Paint!: Rachel Brask, Jim Bradley & Mary Casale
Gallery 175, Pawtucket RI
This exhibition explores how each artist uses paint for intriguing effects. Rachel Brask’s work incorporates transparent veils of color within a vertical format. Mary Casale works with lots of thick textures and patterns. Jim Bradley’s art conveys the fluidity of running paint.
Opening Reception Sunday, May 8, 2-3:30pm at Gallery 175, located in Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI. Free parking for gallery. Gallery 175 website
Exhibition runs May 7-April 30, 2020. Gallery hours open during Blackstone Valley Visitor Center Hours
The newest restaurant in Seekonk MA is excited to have large, colorful and bright paintings by Rachel Brask to adorn its newly renovated walls for the opening two months of its new business. See 7 large paintings from Rachel’s “Abstracted Rainy Moments” series while getting a drink or dinner in Seekonk’s newest bistro and tavern! Show closes March 30, 2020.
Cashmere Bistro & Tavern is located through the lobby at the Seekonk Ramada hotel, 213 Taunton Ave, Seekonk, MA, open daily 4-10pm.
Vote for your favorite 12 paintings of Rachel’s Rainy Days to be included in a 2020 Wall Calendar!
Voting is open until Sunday, October 13 at Midnight EST.
To Vote, choose any of the following methods:
1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the numbers of your favorite Top 12 paintings
2) Comment on this post on Rachel Brask Studios LLC Facebook or Instagram pages with your top 12 favorites.
3) Share or re-gram the social media post to get 6 extra votes! (If there’s 1-2 paintings you really like, you can put extra votes on those paintings!)
Calendars are available now for pre-ordering! Limited quantities, so purchase your calendars soon! Preorder pricing ends October 21!
On October 5-6, 2019 the Seekonk Artist Network presents 20 artists at 8 convenient locations in Seekonk, MA, to open their studios and share their art with the public during Seekonk Open Studios! Rachel Brask will be located at 116 Read Street with live painting both Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm.
116 Read St :
Rachel Brask – Paintings & Live Paint Demos each day
Phil Gruppuso – Fine Woodworking
Tim McCarthy – Assemblage Art
60 Hope St :
Dianne Burns – Paintings, Drawings
Guest Artist, Stephanie Stroud – Fiber Art, Paintings
32 Read St :
Mark Holme – Wire Sculpture, Paintings
Lars Grant-West – Fantasy Illustration
Alex Dunwoodie – Paintings
Maria Holme – Creative Consulting
21 Tompson Dr :
Dawn Campbell – Pottery
Norm Bowlin – Paintings
Bill Clark – Photography, Calligraphy
11 Cleveland St :
Elaine Petrasky – Sea Glass Jewelry
Bryan Bzdula – Photography
104 Walker St :
Mary Jane Andreozzi – Wood Paintings, Fiber Art
Deborah Baldizar – Sculpture
Ann-Marie Gillett- Mixed Media
128 Walker St :
Sarah Jane Lapp – Cards, Puzzles, Paintings
Rick Lescault – Skyjelly, Live Music
128 West Ave :
Tony Lunghi – Fine Woodworking
Ken Moore – Paintings
In June 2019 Rachel Brask had a solo exhibition of 50 paintings in at the Galeria Villa Comunale in Frosinone, Italy. She attended the opening reception along with her parents, who had traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to join her in support. The curator, Alfio Borghese, gave a brief introduction of her work, then Rachel Brask gave a brief talk about her artwork’s inspiration and process, all in beginner’s Italian, with the help of Google Translate. Here are a few photos from the exhibition’s opening reception.
Today was our last full day in Italy, and my last half-day in Florence before we take the train back to Rome to stay at a hotel by the airport for an early flight out tomorrow morning. Late last night I had reserved online tickets to see the Ufizzi Gallery as soon as it opens at 8:15am this morning. I took a taxi by 7:30am and arrived at the Uffizzi shortly afterwards, and looked for the correctly numbered door for those with online tickets to show the email confirmation that I had.
I made my way to the door, where an attendant was performing triage on people trying to get in that line. Since I saw a sign for “online tickets” I naturally got in line until it was my turn. Apparently the online reservation is just a means of picking up prepaid physical tickets to gain entrance to the museum. When it was my turn, I showed the triage attendant the email that I had received last night immediately following purchase of my ticket reservation for the 8:15am timed entry. He looked at it and said something in Italian to the effect of that wasn’t the right email. I pulled up a second email receipt from the online booking, and this time he answered in English and said, “This is the wrong email, just a receipt. You need an email voucher download, you need to download the email voucher. Maybe you get wifi and download it and come back.”
Disheartened, and drawing very close to 8:15am, I rushed around the block to find a cafe that would have WiFi. I found a little hole in the wall and ordered a coffee while I tried to enter the 18-digit WiFi passcode from a piece of paper taped to the napkin dispenser. I scoured the two emails that I had received from my online booking, which while I thought it was the immediate Uffizzi Gallery booking agent, it was actually a thirdparty booking agent WeekendInItaly.com. I clicked on any possible clickable icon in the email, which brought me to their app, their social media pages, and anything else besides a downloadable PDF of this supposed voucher I needed. I refreshed my email dozens of times, thinking maybe there was some mysterious additional email that I needed that somehow didn’t arrive yet, after checking my spam and junk email filters. Still nothing.
By now it was drawing on 8:45am and I had clearly missed my window for the alleged timed entry that I thought I had reserved. Annoyed and frustrated, I gave up because there was nothing I could do. I even asked where the line was to buy regular tickets but that line was way, way longer than I had time for (because I had to return to the hotel by noon to check out of the hotel). Disappointed I started walking back to the hotel. As I was walking by I passed a place called “A Lovely Egg-sperience” which seemed like a breakfast joint. I entered and found a restaurant dedicated to the breakfast experience, so I found a table and settled in. Since my Uffizzi Gallery experience was hopelessly and unexpectedly scrapped, I might as well find some way to redeem the morning by having a nice breakfast. They had a little bit of everything, waffles, pancakes, eggs, toast, even a free-standing honeycomb for honey for tea or oatmeal. I was happy with my mimosa.
After breakfast, I made my way back to the hotel, taking in as much of Florence as I could before we left this charming city this afternoon. When I arrived in the lobby I found my father attempting to check into our flights using the lobby computer. He was getting frustrated because Alitalia/Delta wasn’t allowing us to check into our flights. I took over the keyboard and attempted to enter our separate confirmation numbers on the computer but it still wasn’t working. I tried entering our confirmation numbers using the Delta app on my phone, which redirected to Alitalia, and wha-bam! I was able to check in correctly, at least for my mother’s and my reservation.
I packed up the remaining bits of luggage, handed my postcards to the receptionist to mail them, and checked out of the hotel promptly by noon. The hotel allowed us to hold our luggage there while we went to a restaurant across the street for our last lunch in Florence. It was a cozy place with walls lines with a textured stone. We got simple foodstuffs like pizza and pasta, followed by us all toasting our last day in Florence with shots of limoncello. We recovered our luggage from the hotel and took a taxi to the Florence train station, where we waited an hour for our train to Rome. Again, all the trains within a few minutes’ departure of ours received their platform assignments first, and we had to wait until the last minute when our train’s number appeared on the platform.
The 1.5 hour train ride back to Rome was uneventful and relaxing as we watched the scenery pass by the windows or briefly napped. When we arrived to the Roma Termini we were the first ones in line for a taxi which took us to the airport hotel. While my mother settled into room, my dad and I went to the lounge’s happy hour to see what it was all about. We were poured a glass of wine and given some small hors d’oeuvres and debriefed our impressions of this trip. We returned to the hotel rooms and we all repacked our bags to comply with international airline regulations, and decided to order room service for our last night here. Room service took about a full hour and a half before it was delivered to our door. The food was good even if a little lukewarm. We all went to sleep early so we could get out the door the next morning at 5am.
ADDENDUM: Day 9 Thursday (Return Travel to USA)
Early at 5am we took the shuttle to the airport across the street, checked in our luggage to the gate agent and went to wait in the lounge for our flight. The Rome Fiumencio-DaVinci (FCO) airport is very large, and it took us almost a full hour just to walk to the proper wing to find the lounge nearest to our gate. The gates at this airport were unlike I had seen before, as nobody can enter the walled-off area until it is boarding time, then take an escalator down to another level then walk onto the jetway. When it was our turn we boarded.
Our long flight from Rome to NYC JFK airport was about 9 hours, but it was during the regular daytime so I found it hard to sleep this time around. I watched a few movies, one of which starred Chris Hemsworth as a whaling captain. I ran out of interesting movies so I eventually resorted to playing chess against the computer. I took a few brief naps, and we were served lunch at the beginning of the flight and dinner at the end, with a few snacks and glasses of Aperol spritzer and wine in between.
In JFK my flight to Boston departed about an hour earlier than theirs to Buffalo, so I only had about a 2-hour window to get to the proper gate out, including customs and baggage claim. We all waited for our luggage to come out of the chute before going into customs and the main terminal. Our luggage was among the last to come out, about 45 minutes later. Since my connecting flight departed earlier, I said goodbye to my parents and jetted my way towards the customs line with my two bags.
Since I used the “Mobile Passport” app to answer customs questions, I went right through the Mobile Passport line (much quicker and shorter line) and pretty much ran all the way down the terminal’s corridor until I got to my gate way on the other side of the airport, which involved again going outside of the terminals to get back to Terminal 1, except this time it was during the day. I made it to the right wing, so I ducked into the lounge for just a quick bite to eat for about 15 minutes and then ran again to my gate and caught the plane in time to depart to Boston. When I arrived at Boston Logan airport I knew I was home immediately at the sign of the Dunkin. I was picked up at the airport an hour later and was glad to arrive home and be in bed by 9pm EST. This has been truly a wonderful and exciting trip to Italy, but there’s still no replacement for my own bed. Now to fight off 6-hour jet lag over the next few days and return to life as usual.
After yesterday’s initial trip into Tuscany, we wanted to see a bit more of the beautiful countryside in our short time here rather than taking a train up to Venice for a daytrip. After breakfast we arranged to meet up with a driver who would take us on a half-day trip to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, and then to Livorno, to see the Mediterranean Sea and to see a part of the city called “Little Venice,” since we wouldn’t end up seeing the real thing.
First we had the same driver as we’ve had the last couple days, a guy in his 40s-50s named Dmitri who spoke some English and always tried to change up our itinerary. This morning we left at 9:30am and he recommended that instead of seeing Livorno that we should go see Lucca, and have lunch at some restaurant in Pisa. With him there was another driver, a woman named Tania, who recommended a little seafood restaurant along the sea cliffs and rocks just outside Livorno. Feeling doormatted by Dmitri, I spoke up in Italian to the female driver about how we wanted to go to Pisa first and maybe a light coffee, but that we wanted to see the Mediterranean Sea and have lunch along the coast in Livorno with a beautiful seaside vista. He eventually backed down and said that we’d go to Pisa then Livorno, not Lucca. Tania would be our driver once we were outside the city, since he had an appointment. Once Tania took over the car, it took a few tries to get the transmission to get into gear, even though it was automatic transmission.
An hour later we arrived at Pisa, a cute little town that became more and more touristy the closer we got to the center of town. Eventually Tania pulled over the car to a place where we could see the top of the tower from behind a few buildings and trees. My parents and got out of the car and walked to the tower plaza and took photos every few steps to get a new and different vantage point for talking both selfies and video. We did of course try to take the obligatory photo pretending to hold up the leaning end of the tower. A photo one of my parents took of me trying to hold up the leaning tower just looks like I’m trying to do a weird dance, but the one I took of my father “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa looks a bit more convincing.
We walked around but it was so very, very hot and humid that we decided to take some time and get a coffee or cappuccino nearby under one of the tented patios. My parents ordered Cokes and I got a cappuccino and we all shared a light lemon cream cake. Even though we were in the shade and drinking cold drinks (except me being stupid by drinking hot espresso), it was still uncommonly and unbearably hot. By around the time we finished our beverages it was about time to go and meet our driver, and then on to the seaside lunch spot in Livorno, followed by exploring the city central plaza, the Terrazza Moscana.
Livorno is about a half-hour drive by car until we were close to the restaurant where we had a 1:30pm lunch reservation. We drove around a little bit until we finally found the restaurant, which was right along the side of a cliff looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea. The color of the water right next to the rocks was the most perfect shade of turquoise-into-blue that I’ve seen in the natural world. The rest of the sea, from the distance, looked a bit blue-er, a sparkling blue from our vantage point. There were even people camps on the rocky ledges and others who were swimming.
The restaurant had a good selection of fish, but their fish wasn’t what I was there for (because seafood doesn’t really agree with me): I was there for the views . I ordered a white wine and a crostini as an appetizer and they got something small pasta as a meal instead of as a first course, or “primo piatto.” They brought out the pasta and the crostini at the same time as their meals, so I thought that this was my meal by accident. I traded some of my fish to dad and he gave me some of his pasta. Then they brought out my actual meal of the beef I had ordered, but I didn’t need it anymore, and then the waitress looked as confused as we did when she brought it out. I suppose that something got lost in translation, as the waitress did not seem to speak English and my Italian wasn’t proficient enough to mitigate the confused order. While we were eating lunch we were getting bitten often by the insects and it was still very hot, so as soon as we finished eating and paid the bill, we opted to return directly to the hotel in Florence instead of going to downtown Livorno as originally planned. I will just have to try to check out Livorno on my own the next chance I can return to Italy. It was nice to at least be able to see the sea!
After we got back to the hotel, my parents and I walked around Florence for a couple hours, and then we all went to the restaurant on the lower level just to get some afternoon coffee and shared dessert, and then the two of them turned in early for the night. Before we left Florence, there was one last friend’s recommendation for a restaurant that we wanted to see for skyroof dining with supposedly beautiful views of Florence.
So I made reservations for just myself at this local rooftop restaurant by the name of Sesto on Arno an hour later at 830pm. Between now and then I washed some laundry and took a short nap. After getting all ready, I called a taxi and arrived on time for my reservation, took the elevator to the 6th floor and was immediately drawn in by the views of the hills, the River Arno, and the city nearby. During dinner, the sunset started its transition, so I got up several times to walk to the rail to take better photos than I could take from my table on the interior of the restaurant, excusing myself as waitstaff kept rushing by me with plates and drinks.
The views of the sunset were definitely worth the trip up to the top. The food was also quite good. They brought a starter of a glass of Prosecco to go with the varied breads and olive oil, followed by a small flat cylinder of something gelatinous that I’m still not entirely sure what it was, but I think the intent was to be a palate cleanser for the next course. The gelatin-thing wasn’t gross, just curious. The main course was a plate of several spinach and ricotta balls with a drizzle of light wine sauce, they were very tasty. For dessert I was brought a plate with what appeared to be a large chocolate globe and several smaller lighter-brown spheres.
When I used the spoon to crack the large chocolate globe it turned out to be a chocolate-and-hazelnuts mousse, with the small spheres being a coffee mascarpone mousse. It was quite delicious! To accompany dessert I had a small hot chocolate, since I had not yet had the amazingly delicious version of Italian hot chocolate yet this trip, and I was not disappointed. When the waiter brought my bill, it was accompanied by an adorable little tray of petit fours! I tried just a small bit of each, paid my bill, and left the restaurant to return to my hotel, where I completed my evening of “treat yoself” with a bubble bath and a good night’s sleep.
Yesterday was a very active day so we slept in this morning until 9:30am and met my parents for breakfast at 10:30am in the tea room of our hotel. At 11am our car and driver arrived to take us the hour ride to Castello Verrazzano, a vineyard and winery tour and a lunch and wine pairing. The ride through the Tuscany countryside is beautiful, with lush greens and rows of vines and olive trees and clear sky.
The winery is located in a castle that dates back to the 1100s-1200s and was owned by the explorer Giovanni da Verrazano who discovered New York and for whom the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge is named today. The property is beautiful, with a fountain and pond, trees, fields, gardens, , and restaurant. We learned that in addition to grapes and olives, they also grow tomatoes, lettuce, fruit, and they raise wild boar. We joined up with our tour group for the tour in English, with a very enthusiastic and articulate woman who spoke both Italian and English. We went around the property, down into the wine cellar with wines over 100 years old, saw giant oval-shaped barrels aging, even some aging for the sweet wine or vinsanto. We also poked our nose into a grate to sniff the strong aroma of balsamic vinegar that is in the process of aging for 10 years into a very expensive balsamic. The stairs of the wine cellars were sometimes tricky, but there were a few stone tunnels and narrow passages that definitely felt like we were stepping into the old times of millennium earlier.
After the tour and exploration of the winery and processes, we were guided to the dining room where several octo-and nonagenarian women were having lunch and where we would be having our wine tasting and lunch. At our table was a couple from Ireland who were here on vacation. We had a pleasant time chatting with them about our differences and similarities in cultures and experiences in Italy. They were just leaving Florence while we had barely just arrived.
The wines were poured in order of white wine (chiaro bianco) then reds: Chianti Classico, then Chianti Reserva, then the Supertoscano wine. Each wine glass was paired with each course: the white with the salami, cheese and prosciutto, the Chianti Classico with the spaghetti and red sauce, the Chianti Reserva with the meat plate of aged pork, the Supertoscano somewhere in the middle. We were also given just 2 drops of the super-expensive balsamic vinegar to taste, which we were encouraged to sip slowly after each bite of cheese during the first course, not as a salad dressing. The guide expressed that to put this fine of a balsamic vinegar on salad would be a waste, because this kind is so fine that it is to be savored and nothing less.
After the main course, a plate of biscotti and a small shot glass of sweet wine were brought to our table. I recognized this specialty plate as the same vinsanto as what we tried last night at the Il Latini restaurant. This was served just before dessert, in order to provide a change in transition for the palate. Though this time doing vinsanto, our guide encouraged us not just to dip the biscotti in the wine then take a bit, but to also suck the wine out of the biscotti before biting it. Dessert was a simple fruit torte served with coffee. We were asked if we wanted coffee “correcto” with grappa, a clear alcohol like vodka, or if we wanted plain coffee. I tried first the coffee, espresso, without the grappa, and it tasted strongly of a coffee. After putting the grapa in the espresso glass, the flavor turned pungent and bitter, and completely unrecognizable to coffee. I think I preferred the coffee without the grapa.
After we finished up our dinner and wine, we went to the counter to order some wines and olive oil to send home, and then we checked out and met our driver again for our ride back to the hotel. He asked if we wanted to go to another winery along the way and we declined because we were ready for a break. The drive back to Florence was very pretty to see all of the different wineries and olive trees all in a row in the countryside. It was also so wonderful to get out to the countryside to have a break from the city.
Along the drive we stopped at Ponte Vecchio, the “old bridge” of 600-700 years old that still has shops and apartments built over the bridge. After we returned to our hotel we took a bit to rest and I got some laundry started in my hotel room’s double sink, and then I napped for a short while. Then my father and I went out and walked around the Duomo Piazza and stopped at a wine bar where we got some wine and I got a spritzer. My father was still tired so he went back to the hotel so then I got a lite dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall trattoria called Il Contadino, by recommendation of a friend that had passed through Florence a few weeks ago.
The sun was setting on the way to the ristorante so I walked along the river to snap some photos of the sunset’s progress. Then I found the right place and asked for a table for one, and was seated by the waitress. The menu was entirely in Italian and I was ready to take up the challenge of ordering all in Italian, as we had to do at a few other cafes and restaurants we had tried in our time in Italy. I ordered a pesto pasta and salad, and for dessert they brought strawberries in mascarpone cream. It was all very delicious but I was still rather full from this afternoon’s winery lunch so I just nibbled a little at each of the courses.
After dinner I walked around the river and streets of Florence for awhile more, just taking in everything and observing the people and the changes in lights, as the night lights started reflecting over the river. Today was a festival, so there were a few fireworks that kicked up over the river as well, with many crowded to watch it. As I was tired from walking and it was still very hot even for evening, I stopped at a bar and ordered an aperol spritz while sitting in their quiet but picturesque courtyard. After finishing I called a taxi back to my hotel where I filled up the tub and took the first bubble bath I’ve had in over two decades until I was so relaxed it was time to go to bed.
Since today is our last morning in Rome, we packed up all our suitcases and backpacks and then ate an early breakfast for the last morning on the rooftop patio. We watched the birds that always come to join us for breakfast, and this time a large baby crow-looking bird perched right next to us. The little nuthatches and chickadees were still bold enough to to jump right on the table as we left to get juice or coffee.
Our taxi arrived to bring us to the Roma Termini to take the train from Rome to Florence. We had booked tickets on the Frecciosa Treni, the express train that goes faster and makes fewer stops. On our way in several people asked if we needed any help or information, so we asked one woman the right direction to go, so she walked with us to show us where we would go and explained that the train wouldn’t be assigned a gate until 10-20 minutes before departure time, so we had to stand to wait an hour and then enter and try to figure out which was our train platform. The lady came back a few minutes later with her hands held out, “some money for the information I gave you, please,” she demanded, so I handed her a small bill for her to leave us alone and then she went away. I should have known better that the people offering information weren’t for free. She was even wearing a lanyard that made me think that she was an official train station employee. Oh well.
There were two other 10:20am trains, and their times and gates were posted, but ours still wasn’t showing a platform number even within 5 minutes of the posted time. Then we saw a bunch of people moving purposefully towards a train, and so I scouted the sign next to the train, only to find that it was the correct train towards Milan, with a stop at Firenzi, or Florence.
The train trip was a comfortable hour and a half, with gorgeous views of the Tuscan countryside through the train windows. The train attendant came with a light snack of packaged shortbread and juice/coffee. For most of the trip I worked on just trying to type up all my adventures from the prior days along, check in on our tours and itineraries, with a brief nap.
Arriving at the Florence train station we exited until we found the hotel shuttle driver holding a sign with “Brask” on the sign, standing over by the Pharmacia. He helped us load up his van and we drove through the city to our hotel. When I first saw the Duomo through the rows of buildings, it was then that I knew that I was indeed here in Florence!
We checked into our hotel, a very small and boutique artisanal hotel, a former palace of an influential and wealthy Florence family. The rooms have high ceilings and antique frescos on the walls and ceilings. The window of my room looked out into the hotel inner courtyard, my parents’ room looked out directly at the Duomo!
After checking in and settling, my father and I took time to go explore our neighborhood of Florence, making our way towards a cafe that was recommended by a friend who recently honeymooned here a few weeks ago. The city feels a lot smaller and less crowded than Rome, a little more comfortable and a little more beautiful. We arrived at Pasticciera Deanna and ordered an ice coffee and a cappuccino and we shared a small pastry. We sat outside watching the people walking by from what appeared to be a shopping mall across the street.
On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a hat vendor and my father got a small cap and I bought a wide-brimmed visor, very similar to a gardening hat I have at home but without the roof of the hat. We walked a bit more and ducked into a souvenir shop to browse. We returned to the hotel and rested for an hour or two before we caught a taxi to go to our dinner reservation at Il Latini, a small restaurant that serves authentic Florence typical food. This place came highly recommended from a gourmand friend, so we looked forward to the experience.
The place was cozy, feeling like we were in a wine cellar underground, with aging pork hanging from the ceilings. The tables were close together, and we discovered that there were fellow Americans at the table next to us so we chatted with them a few times. For dinner we ordered a pre-fixe Tuscan meal so it included house wine and 4-5 small courses. The first course brought was the tomato and bread soup, which was not just tomato soup with bread on the side, it was tomato soup with bread in it as part of the soup! What an interesting surprise!
Then they brought us three different types of pasta to try and compare which was our favorite. The main course included bistecca fiorentina, or Florentine style beef steak, a very soft cut of meat with savory seasonings and almost like prime rib. My father expressed how this was probably one of the best tasting and most flavorful steaks that he’s had before in his life, and I thought it was pretty good too.
Later they brought out dessert, a combination of a chocolate cake and something called cantucci and visanto. The waiter explained that it is very Florentine tradition to take the biscotti and dip it into the sweet wine before the actual dessert, to prepare the palette for the real desert. It was quite delicious! They brought over another bottle of the house wine but we couldn’t realistically finish it, so we gave it to the table next to us for free and hope they could use it or pass it onto the next party.
We took a taxi back to the hotel after walking around just a little bit outside to take in the piazza duomo at night, with the green and white marble walls all lit up from powerful strobes. Florence at night was actually a little busier and more active than Florence during the day, it seemed. I really liked observing the play of light on the ancient architecture at night. After dropping my father off at the hotel for the night, I continued exploring the city, looking for a wine bar by the name of Obsequiem, but once I found them they were closing. I walked along the river for a bit to take in the colors of dusk and the reflections of the lights on the water. Altogether it had been a wonderful first day in Florence! Tomorrow we are going to a winery and vineyard in the Tuscany countryside!
After such a busy few days and very little sleep, it was nice to finally have a morning when I let myself sleep in, until around 11am. My parents were really sweet and brought some breakfast vittles to my room since I missed the last chance to get breakfast from the hotels continental breakfast. After breakfast we took a slow afternoon and just lounged in our hotel rooms until around 2:30pm.
We went to a late lunch in the neighborhood nearby al fresco under a canopy surrounded by bushes. Where we sat by the corners of two streets there was a nice breeze. We started lunch with a little prosecco. After lunch we walked a bit around the nearby streets, gradually making our way to the Trevi Fountain, where we took a few photos and sat on one of the benches to take a break and watch some people.
After the Trevi Fountain we got some gelato, and then we went at a strolling pace to head towards Cafe Eustachio and the Pantheon. My dad purchased some of the same St. Eustachio coffee beans that I had gifted him from my last Italy trip. I ordered a hot chocolate that the three of us sipped just for the taste.
We snapped a few photos of the Pantheon and watched people go by, including a bunch of tour groups. We were pretty tired after walking around most of the afternoon, so then we caught a taxi back to our hotels, where we rested for a bit and changed up before heading to our dinner reservation at Ristorante Zodiaco, a hilltop restaurant with a reputation for gorgeous views of Rome at sunset and to see the twinkling of the lights at nighttime.
We took a taxi up the hill in time for our reservation. Just arriving, we could see that the views were indeed beautiful, with a 180 view overlooking all of Rome. Of course we snapped some photos before going in and being assigned a table. The interior of the restaurant actually has a whole wall of clear Windows and the tables are arranged in tiered floors so that no matter where a table is located it has an unobstructed view of the city.
Our appetizer of meats and cheeses arrived, followed by a long gap during which the sommelier decanted the wine over a single flame before very carefully lining the glass and then pouring the Chianti. The first course was various pasta, and the main course was variations on a beef theme. After dinner they brought dessert, which we all shared so we could each try a little bit of different ones for different favors. It was wonderful to be able to watch the sky out the window make the long and beautiful transition from afternoon to sunset to nighttime.
After we finished dinner we returned via taxi to the Piazza Spagna. We walked a little around the plaza, then we were convinced to take the horse ride, yet another series of wonderful moments of an otherwise very magical evening. The horse’s name is Roxy,the. Took went right through most of the main historical and architectural monuments, and it was much more pleasant to see everything via horse carriage in the evening when it was cooler and at less risk of burning (knowing me, I’d probably still get sunburn from the stars and moon even at night). Then we returned to the hotel and turned in for the night.
Today was the big day for the opening reception of my art exhibition in Italy! We planned to arrive at the gallery around 5pm, leaving at 3:30pm, so that we had some time in the morning to see some of the sights in Rome. We started the day with breakfast up on the rooftop in the cool of the morning. Then my father and I aimed to get to Vatican City early, around 8:30am so that we could get our Omni/Roma Passes and get ahead of the lines.
We took a taxi there, and then we looked for the store where we could pick up our Omni/Roma Passes. The last time I looked for this place it took 3 hours of getting lost with wrong directions so this time I knew the correct general area to look for the shop. We stood in a short line to wait for it to open at 9am, checked in with the tour group, and headed with the group immediately to the Vatican Museum, where the Sistine Chapel is located. We were able to avoid the long, long lines since we had the special pass and group entrance.
We made a beeline to the Sistine Chapel, following signs for Sistina Cappella. Even though we skipped the longest of lines, there were still a good amount of people in the museum. So my father and I went as fast as we were able to, given the fact that we had to just get shepherded through by the museum guides, along with the other tourist sheep. We passed many a Roman marble sculpture, many portraits of a popes or cardinals. We went up stairs and then down stairs and then up and down stairs again in order to get to the Sistine Chapel. Once we entered, the room opened up with the really high ceilings, and we could take in the grandiosity of Michelangelo’s painstakingly detailed creations on every wall and ceiling surface, even curtains that looked transparent!
It was interesting for this to be my second visit to the Sistine Chapel within 6 months. While the paintings on the walls and ceilings were the same, the crowds of people were a bit thicker and more crowded this time around. We were herded towards the middle of the room by a waving security official, like a parking attendant at a music festival directing us to which patch of grass upon which to park our vehicle. Speaking of parking, this time there were no open bench spots upon which to park ourselves to sit and rest to take in the artwork, only standing in the middle. All the while the security and museum administrators kept periodically yelling “Silencio!” Aand “No photo! No photo!” This time around seeing the Sistine Chapel was also nice because then I could see how my father reacted to seeing it all for the first time, asking questions and noting his own observations about it.
Once it became a bit too crowded for us, we left out the exit towards the Basilica of Saint Peter the Apostle. We had to negotiate the strange configuration of entrances and group entrances but we eventually located it. We walked counterclockwise around the outer small mini-altar areas of the Basillica until we came to the very large sculpture of the altar of St. Peter.
This time around I noticed the swirly, twisted texture of the columns, steady but not boring. Also a first time for my second visit to the Basillica, my dad and I followed a line of people that looked like they were descending some narrow winding stairs directly adjacent to one of the many saintly statues. As we went down the stairs we realized that we were entered the papal grottos, an underground network of vaults that housed the remains and memorial statutes and sculptures of popes and royals. It was nice and cool down in the grottos, and there were a lot of statues of sleeping men.
After we returned upstairs from the grottos, we continued on with walking around the basilica, snapping photos and taking photos of many of the things we saw. After the basilica, we walked for a little bit until we found a little cafe to get a coffee and do some people watching. From there we walked back towards where we saw that we could get a coffee then we did that until we hailed a taxi to bring us back to the hotel by the Spanish steps. We tried to hail an Uber but our trips got cancelled and rescheduled multiple times just in the 10 minutes we were waiting.
Upon returning to the hotel, I showered and got all prepped for my big night of the opening reception for my solo exhibition. I took some time to briefly write out my artist talk in English and then used Google Translate to translate it paragraph by paragraph into Italian. At around 3:30pm we were picked up by car to be driven about an hour out to Frosinone, where my show was being held at the Galeria Dei Villa Communale di Frosinone. We arrived about a half hour after we had anticipated arriving because of traffic, but we were not late for the official opening time, at least. There were only a few people milling about, and the musician was just setting up for the concert in the main gallery room. I found Alfio and touched base about the program schedule for the evening and when I would be giving my talk about the artwork.
After the accordion concert of traditional Italian folk music, along with some experimental ambient symphonic sounds, it was then my time to shine. Alfio gave a brief introduction of me and my artwork, all in Italian, and then it was my time to give a brief talk about my art. I had prepared a brief talk in English, which I then translated using Google Translate. My parents advised me to drop doing the speech in both languages, so I settled for giving only the Italian version my best efforts. I asked the crowd forgiveness in advance for any mispronunciations or wrong words that I might use.
I had practiced pretty fine in the taxi on the drive to Frosinone, but it’s quite another when my nerves get going while up in front of an audience. I stumbled over my initial introduction, but then I feel like I got into some better momentum with the language pronunciation the more I went, asking every few lines if the audience could understand me. When I finished everyone clapped, so I’m assuming that they understood me or that they were just being polite.
After I finished my talk, people got up and walked around looking at the artwork, and then a few people came up to ask me questions (in Italian) about my process and about my inspiration, or to give some words of encouragement. It was quite challenging to answer their art questions about my process using only the few Italian words and phrases that I know, and they helped to fill in some of the proper art terms in Italian. My parents were beaming with pride and smiling at me throughout the evening, helping me with their encouragement and their very presence here, and I was grateful for their support and love.
The evening flew by and finished up around 8pm and then Alfio’s wife drove my parents and I to the train station to catch the train back to Roma Termini, where we then took a cab back to the restaurant. We arrived back to the hotel and then went up to the rooftop deck for a glass of wine and some cheese for a late dinner, since the reception actually didn’t have any refreshments as we thought maybe they might. We laughed and debriefed about our experiences at the art opening. There was live music happening in the Piazza Spagna that we could hear up on the rooftop deck which gave a really nice ambience to finish off the night before we headed to bed.