Tag Archives: Norcia

Painting Piano Grande

Painting Piano Grande Alan Reed

Castelluccio and Piano Grande

I was Painting Piano Grande for the first time in September 2004. I’d seen spectacular photographs of colourful flowers growing in this vast plateau in the Sibillini mountains and hoped to capture them in watercolour. Of course it was completely the wrong time of year! I needed to return in late spring, early summer.

In May we decided to see if Piano Grande could be a day trip for our Painting Holiday Guests. We’d booked two nights at Agriturismo “Il Casale degli Amici” just outside of Norcia. We found it was well located, just a few minutes drive from Norcia and 45 minutes drive from Castelluccio.

Norcia, Castelluccio and Piano Grande

Nothing could prepare us for the devastation we saw in Norcia. Susan and I were woken from our sleep when the earthquake struck just after 3:30am on the 24th August 2016. We were staying more than 50 miles away near Chiesa del Carmine. The epicentre was south east of Norcia and left 297 dead from the villages of Accumoli, Amatrice and Arquato del Tronto. We’d heard that Norcia had been hit by another earthquake on the 30th October 2016 and the damage was plain to see.

When we walked into Norcia, renowned for shops selling amazing local produce, we could see many that had closed down. A young man selling wild boar salamis and cheeses welcomed us to try them. They were delicious and a few minutes later we’d made a significant purchase!

It was so sad to see scaffolding surrounding the devastated church and many other buildings effected by the earthquakes. I remember writing about the shop signage below on a previous blog post. Tragically it is now closed.

Painting Piano Grande Alan Reed

A Shop in Norcia

Shop Sign, Norcia, Umbria

Great Signage, Norcia, Umbria

Painting Piano Grande

After an amazing evening meal at “Il Casale degli Amici” and a great nights sleep, we set off for Piano Grande. The drive took us a little longer than usual because of damage to the roads. Several sets of traffic lights where the road was one lane held us up. The drive was spectacular, taking us through the rain clouds into bright sunshine where we were looking down onto the clouds.

We had to wait until noon to actually drive down into Piano Grande and Castelluccio because the road was closed for workmen repairing the road. This was not a problem for me. Painting Piano Grande was on my radar! Even though we’d seen poppies growing around Orvieto and Montefalco on our way, it was still too early here.

Painting Piano Grande Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Piano Grande

 

Painting Piano Grande

Painting Piano Grande

I had plenty of time to capture the few patches of snow on the Sibillini Mountains surrounding Piano Grande and the vast plateau where wonderful lentils are grown in the summer. When the road opened we had an hour to drive into Castelluccio which is sadly now a ghost town because of the earthquake. It’s going to take a while for Castelluccio to become inhabited again. It’s such a place of outstanding beauty I pray that it receives all the help it needs become a tourist destination, along with Norcia too.

 

 

 

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Paintings of olive trees

Alan Reed

Olive Grove, Spring Light

I’ve been painting “en plein air” in Italy since 1991 when Susan took me to Venice. I fell in love with its architecture, the light, atmosphere and culture. However, it was not until our first visit to Umbria in March 2002 that I started to make sketchbook studies of olive trees.

We were staying in the Relais il Canalicchio hotel, perched on a hill commanding stunning views of the Umbrian countryside. During the first night of our stay, having enjoyed a fabulous meal at their restaurant, there was a heavy fall of snow. We awoke to complete silence and total white out. We were literally snowed in until the following day. Once the snow had cleared we began to explore Umbria in earnest, taking in hilltop towns like Orvieto, Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Norcia.

On one occasion we drove to the Fabriano paper factory and I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their wonderful hand made watercolour paper that is so lovely to paint on. On our return to the Relais il Canalicchio I wasted no time in testing the first sketchbook by painting the view from our room as the sun was going down.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

It was during this period that I began to develop a sketchbook painting style in watercolour where I would deliberately avoid drawing out beforehand the scene in pencil. This meant that the brush marks became more considered, fluid and direct.

I also began to make sketchbook studies of the olive trees that surrounded the tiny hill top town of Canalicchio. These became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including the one below of the Relais il Canalicchio available as a limited edition print.

Painting of Relais il Canalicchio

Relais il Canalicchio

On our reedart painting holidays in Umbria we stay at Chiesa del Carmine. The gardens have plenty of olive trees for the guests to paint. They have fun painting and drawing their twisted branches and beautifully shaped leaves. I also join in the fun with my own sketchbook watercolours. These days I make my own sketchbooks using paper from Khadi Papers and leather from a local supplier.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Olive trees

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Norcia, Umbria

Shop Sign, Norcia, Umbria

Great Signage, Norcia, Umbria

Umbria is one of my favourite regions in Italy. It has some great wines, particularly Montefalco Sagrantino and of course, fantastic food. The first time we visited in 2002 we stayed at the Relais il Canalicchio, a beautiful old hotel that boasted commanding views over the tranquil countryside. I did a number of sketchbook studies around the hotel including a view of the hotel itself. The owners ended up commissioning me to do a limited edition print of the Relais to sell to their guests.

It proved to be an excellent base to explore from. On one of our day trips we visited a small town called Norcia, renowned for its truffles and wild boar salami. It nestles at the foothills of the Sibillini Mountains where there are “lupo”, wolves. We came across many shops selling local produce, the distinctive aroma of truffles and salamis drawing us in, but this one really caught our attention.

“We produced and we sell the bestest chocolate of the world” and “Bitter and Grappa to the truffles” are statements that are irresistible to any foodie. “Biscuits worked on stone” are a must! As I’m writing this post, I’m tempted to make a return, so one has to say that the signage, despite its translation, still works.

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