Palazzi e Piacenza

Today was a relaxing and fun day throughout Piacenza with my cousin Cinzia and her husband Pino. Together with my dad, we toured a beautiful old building that their theater friends are turning into a performance and gallery space. There's the ancient structure itself, with tall arched windows, facing a courtyard/garden that can serve as a summer event space. Cinzia suggested that we work together on an event here!! Um, YES! A small group of friends showed up to check it out, and then we walked together to prendiamo caffe (of course). One of the men learned that I was a historian and he ushered me to the side of the street to point out Palazzo Farnese- the former center of government in Piace

La Famiglia in Piacenza!

Yesterday was surreal- maybe more than the rest of my trip so far. I prepared for my day, knowing that not only would I meet my dad in a town I'd never visited before here in Italy, but that our cousin- who we'd never met - would welcome us. I hopped a regional train from Borgo San Lorenzo through the stunningly gorgeous towns of the Appenines...and into the plains surrounding Milano. I had FOUR MINUTES to switch trains in Faenza, which is thankfully a small station...and made it just in time. Aboard the second train, I spoke Italian and French with a Senegalese immigrant. I watched factories, farms, and fields go by the window. I went through Modena (center of balsamic vinegar) and Parma (f

Grains of Connection

Cross-disciplinary collaboration is my favorite subject to "preach" on. And apparently I'm not alone. As I sit here at Officina Lieve coworking space in Borgo San Lorenzo, north of Florence, I'm sharing emails with people back home in Buffalo about across-the-ocean collaborations. I've seen many threads of connection between the work here (co-work, skill sharing, cooperatives, sustainable agriculture) and what's happening in Western New York. And while Italians have access to fresh, locally grown produce all year long, many of them don't have direct access to organic (biologiche) produce. Officina's "Cucina Lieve" program with 12 monthly dinners seeks to reconnect residents of the Mugello Va

Travel Transformation

Those close to me may know that this has been a particularly challenging and painful year for me- but not without its high points and joys. In part, I decided to take the trip to Europe because I needed fresh perspective. My life is at a transition point, and I am taking a hard look at the ways I spend my time and energy. Travel is, for me, a lot of hassle, to get to the good part. I don't think anyone is particularly fond of the work leading up to a trip- planning, packing, last-minute work details, making arrangements for care of your home. There can be a lot of stress in flying overnight, then taking a train into a foreign city, with no phone service, hoping that your host WILL actually m

The House of Medici, and some Mountain Wisdom

To say that yesterday was profound would be an understatement. However, it's the best word I have. I learned more about the history of the House of Medici in this region, and deepened friendships with my Italian counterparts. Read on... I gathered with three other women interested in the history and future of the Mugello Valley region- first, to have caffè and pastry in town- and once fortified, we drove up into the Appenine foothills. We stopped briefly in Firenzuola, a town founded in the 14th century and nearly completely destroyed in World War II. It was strategically important in the time of the Medici, and planned in 1350. It sat astride the road between Florence and Bologna...and its

Dear Reader, May I Present: The Magic of Florence.

I began my day on Saturday with another marker drawing of a Tuscan bird (well, not ONLY Tuscan, but it's one of the kinds I've seen frequently here)...the Eurasian Magpie. This is a closeup view of the drawing from the post yesterday: Copic markers blend beautifully, once you understand their tricks. One of them is: when shading in an area, color in circles so tones don't appear streaked. When you blend another color in at the edge, also shade in circles, "mushing" (yes, that's the technical term) into the other hue to blend. Yesterday, my hosts Pierpaolo and Alessia took a workshop based on U-LAB (check it out...very cool concept) and since my Italian comprehension is not 100% just yet, I d

Ricerca in Mugello? Si, per favore!

I've been meeting up with my new colleagues here in the Mugello region to visit historic mills around the valley this week. I am helping to research and consult on the possibility of a project which will revitalize one of the mills, maybe in a way that uses heritage grains. The project is still taking shape, but it is wonderful to be surrounded by a group of motivated and smart Italians who care about their region so much. Marta Landi in particular is from Borgo San Lorenzo, and her family goes back many generations here. She recently earned her Masters degree in Agronomy. Today, I start with my drawing of the old grist mill in Sant'Agata (both pen and ink and colored version using Copic mar

De Muline di Mugello- Part II

This week, I've visited two more historic mills with my new colleague, Marta Landi. She has driven us around the Mugello Valley to several beautiful villages, where working grist mills still stand. Above is a marker drawing i'm working on, inspired by the beautiful birds of this of which looks molto similare a Great Blue Herons - the Grey Heron. Also pictured is a Hooded Crow, and the Great Tit - pretty much a cousin to our Chickadee. Using Copic markers is a treat, as any architect will tell you. There is a learning curve, though- as alcohol is the main ingredient, which allows the shades to blend together. It's a lot different than watercolor, but I'm trying to just have fun w

Gli Alberi e Muline di Italia

The landscapes here in the Mugello region are jaw-dropping. I can't stop photographing all the roadside houses, trees, and mountain views. My latest drawing: Yesterday, I traveled with a small group of friends from Officina Lieve to La Mulino Faini - a grist mill in the Faini family for many generations. We toured it inside and out; it is the launchpad for a creative placemaking project during which I will help the people here document their history through muline abandonati (abandoned mills). They are the symbol of the ancient grain process in this area, and there are some experimental projects to bring them back to life underway. Perhaps we can help share this past with the public, and sho

Borgo San Lorenzo- un Paese Piccolo ma Bello.

The small village (and town) of Borgo San Lorenzo has many charming aspects, and I've explored it just a bit so far, walking from my host's space- Officina Lieve - il centro storico e vicchino. Being here makes me very reflective, especially when I can only understand 20-25% of what people say. That means I listen more, and speak less. Perhaps an important lesson to bring back home with me. Here are photographs from my walks around town:

Firenze e Bella!

Well, I can die happy now. Ok, I would have been happy before, because I didn't know what I was missing. But, ora, posso morire felice! Meanwhile, my reflections on Botticelli and art patronage, followed by photos: And here are images of my rainy wanderings through la bella Firenze! I started from Stazione di Santa Maria Novella, walked to Il Duomo, then to the Uffizi (which I had been told ALWAYS has a wait - no wait on a rainy January day), then to Ponte Vecchio, through the San Frediano quartire, back to Santo Spirito, a number of chiesi, and then again to the Stazione. Camera died toward the end, I'd been out so long! The Duomo... Outside the Galleria Uffizi: The courtyard inside Palazzo

Cucina Lieve- Intro to Seriously SLOW Food

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to participate in Officina Lieve's monthly dinner preparations, then the event itself. And learned just what slow food really means: going to a winery to pick up wine fresh from the producer, working with a regional chef, delivering tons of vegetables and other ingredients to a countryside commercial kitchen, then working, by hand, for six hours with a convivial team of volunteers. THEN packing all the food up, driving back to the co-working space, unpacking, serving, conversing, drinking wine, and having great conversations. Then cleanup. :) I give you: Cena Lieve. Dog neighbors (they look and sound like wolves- degli lupi!) The Pianuzzo vineyards where we

Mugello Day 1

The Mugello region north of Firenze is full of amazing history, fantastic architecture and tons of local food and wine producers. Not to mention, a group of dedicated volunteers who run the coworking and collaboration space known as Officina Lieve. They are hosting me for my residency, which is taking shape even as we speak. For now, I'll let my visual journal speak... Also I wandered around the hillsides near the town, and observed some really great scenery.

Paris at Dawn

Yesterday, I awoke before dawn to prepare my bags and head out into La Belle Cité pour le dernier jour. I departed my Airbnb with friendly goodbyes from my host, and wandered the streets toward Le Marche de la Bastille (note to self: screen shot the map next time before you leave a wifi zone). When I got a little off course, I flagged down a Parisian with a simple, "Pardon! Ou est le marché/Place de la Bastille?" Several people were incredibly friendly and helpful, including a jogger who, having left my side, indicated a turn a block ahead with a wave of his hand. Place des Voges and its arcaded shops were illumined by the near-dawn light. And suddenly, there it was - the golden statue ato

Second day in Paris!

Today was my second day in the City of Light (well, the other one, as far as I'm concerned), and it was loads of fun. I got so caught up in the fun that I forgot to take photos when passing by La Tour Eiffel! I suppose there are millions of 'em out there- use the internets if you'd like one. Check out my visual journal for a quick rundown: And here are my photographs from today. Unbelievable sculpture atop the cornice of Musee D'orsay, tasty crepes at a corner place with a heated patio (most are), and an afternoon of fun ending with a ride on the Metropolitain and Vietnamese dinner in le Marais!

Confluence à Paris!

Yesterday was the first day of my European journey. I am in Paris for two short days, and yesterday I had a great time, checking out a few tourist sites (from the outside) and just wandering. The little covered passages, street cafes and statuary covering so many buildings is all mind-boggling! First, here is my daily Visual Journal: I'm still playing around with the best way to format these, but it is a work in progress! And here are photos from my trip thus far, for those who have requested them!

Confluence Goes to Europe

This week, I begin my journey to Europe for my Florence art residency and "creative placemaking intensive". Many of you have asked what, exactly, I'll be doing when I'm over there, so here is a brief explanation: I will first fly into Paris for a two-day stay, then take the train into Florence. I'm heading to a smaller town just northeast of Florence, Borgo San Lorenzo, where Officina Lieve is located. It's a collective of creatives, entrepreneurs, makers, coworkers and localists. They believe in the merging of traditional and digital skills, knowledge and space sharing, and the promotion of locally produced slow food (and much more). I met Pierpaolo diCarlo, one of the organization's founde

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© Copyright Dana L.  Saylor            Buffalo, New York           315-525-7474

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