People often ask me what I do in Italy when I’m not facilitating retreats or hosting tour groups, and my answer sometimes surprises them. Because when I’m not with tour groups, I do exactly the same thing – explore hill towns, chat with locals, and learn from talented artisans. Because I’m continually interested in this amazing country and I’m driven to dig deeper and deeper into its beauty and its culture – experience by experience.
In fact, just yesterday my husband and I, along with our friend, Elizabeth, spent a day meandering through the spectacular Val d’Orcia – a part of Tuscany that one sees often pictured on calendars and postcards – on our way to Pienza. We didn’t have anything in mind, other than enjoying our drive and enjoying the beautifully preserved town of Pienza. Perfect.
Famous for its pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese), Pienza is by design an ideal Renaissance town with cobbled avenues that lead to breathtaking views of the Val d’Orcia, inviting restaurants and charming artisan shops.
As many times as I’ve visited Pienza, there is always something new to discover – or simply to notice – as is the case with virtually any medieval village in Italy. This time it was Bertozzi, an artisan shop that specializes in hand-stamped fabrics, including table cloths, dish towels and napkins. I’ve passed by Bertozzi many times, but having been distracted by so many pecorino shops I didn’t stop to properly browse! (How could that be?!)
In any case, I did stop yesterday and was captivated! Produced through an antique hand-stamping method that includes a vigorous vapor steaming method to set the colors and semi-secret color recipes that include rust, flour and vinegar, Bertozzi designs are truly beautiful. (The poppy napkins pictured below made their way home with me. I mean, how could I resist?)
Afterwards we visited inside the spectacular duomo, enjoyed a lovely lunch together and topped off the day with an excellent gelato. (Dark chocolate with strawberry for me. A classic.)
So what do I do when I’m not with tour groups? I dig – deeper and deeper into bella Italia.