Posts Tagged ‘Tuscany’

Here we are in Hong Kong again.  We are up on the fourth floor in our little space in Hollywood Rd with the sounds of buses roaring by and children squealing in the gardens below, water always drip drip dripping from some overflowing pipe in the courtyard. A quiet moment actually, to reflect, as there is nothing to do just now.

Hong Kong Street

So beautiful this life, touching the lives of people everywhere, led to where our work takes us.  I guess that is true for most people considering work is such a big part of living.  I love it though.  Mike and I are naturally restless, so when an opportunity arises through our work, we take it, blown into the wind, unsure of where it will drop us.  It always worried our poor parents because it seemed to them that we took life on like gamblers, risking everything for the dream; selling houses we had bought just to have an exhibition – its profits would pay for all the bronze founding that had to be done each time.  When Jacob got into his school in Michigan we sold everything up, every possession we had to be near him, we got as far as Ireland, but it seemed only a hop and a jump compared to being back in Australia.  Michigan didn’t suit him and soon we would be back together again, taking stock and then residing for months in the south of France, creating new work from all that bountiful colour that filled our souls to the brim. When we returned to Australia from that particular trip, we had nothing but four suitcases of clothes and more dreams and somehow we emerged from the dust again and built a beautiful glass house in the hills of central Victoria, a part of nature and the elements.  But truly, the most wonderful dream has been Italy.  How lucky are we to have been able to do it. It has settled us too, because I think it is here that our hearts lie, here and southern France, we never could agree, but both are kindred spirits.

A valley mist in Bagni di Lucca

As I am sitting here I am remembering our last glimpse of the Tuscan hills as we departed for the airport.  Mists roiling in the valleys wrapping themselves around little hilltop villages, ethereally capturing renaissance cameos of bell towers and craggy pines.  A far cry from China, one day later, in the back blocks of Pudong where we are casting some work at a foundry.  Grey and tough, an almost colourless world, and yet the people are so lovely, so sweet and generous.  China has really changed, especially in these big cities.  The wealth is really apparent now, and you do not get the bargains you would expect, for instance the prices of foundry work is very similar to Italy and I know where I would prefer to be.  A few days later we are in the south, checking out an art residency for next year at a university in Xiamen.  More beautiful generous people and a leafy lovely city by the sea that we will enjoy staying in for a little while.

Sainteen Foundry in Pudong, Shanghai
A lovely old tree over a restaurant in Xiamen
A beautiful tea

Now we are back in Hong Kong after setting up the Guardians in their new home in Australia and we suffer squiggles of excitement as we reach into the very near future and place ourselves by the kitchen fire in Pieve after we have walked miles in the cold wintry air, collecting pinecones and chestnuts from the forest floor.

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We have an amazing life.   Here we are now, living in a little town in the mountains of Tuscany, a town that people for centuries have been coming to, to bathe in the thermal waters and enjoy a summer that is cooler than down on the plains.  All around us, gracious old villas with stately pines and magnolia trees are scattered between the old palazzos that were once hotels for all the people who came here; Byron, the Shelleys, Napoleon’s sister and mother;  the list of the famous is long.  A much reduced population now resides in this historic place and it must struggle a little to maintain all its splendid features, as the area of Bagni di Lucca is huge.  It takes in all the little surrounding hilltop villages and the locality of Fornali, Ponte a Serraglio and the Bagni di Lucca township proper, and yet it only has 6000 permanent residents.  It is on the edge of the National Park and is an area of such intrinsic natural and architectural beauty that it is extraordinary how forgotten it has become.

Lima river at Ponte a Serraglio

For us, life here is a joy.  We are able to create in tranquility and beauty and still be close to everything that is interesting to us; Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Pietrasanta, Pistoia, the beaches, the mountain walks, the visits to all the little hilltop villages.  Nowhere seems too far away.  It is a dream for us and it is a wonderful reality.  So daily we wander down to the local Patisserie, have a pastry and a cappuccino for breakfast while we talk to the local people, sleepily gazing up into the surrounding hilltops bathed in sunlight.  Then we take a little passegiata down the river to peer into the water and stand in the sun, all the while talk talk talking with all our ideas, all our dreams and all our plans, finally resting in the little park of Villa Fiori with its quirky towers and delightful old gardens.  Its wonderful.  The luxury to have the space and time to do this. Then we usually go home to our studios before going to the Borghesi for lunch….

Villa Fiori

The Borghesi for lunch.  Opposite the Banca di Toscana in Bagni di Lucca, The Borghesi is also a little bar and a Pizzeria at night. We love the Borghesi.  In fact, there are few people who don’t enjoy going there.  The food in this little trattoria with its rabbit warren of rooms is great country cooking and in traditional Lucchese style. There is a changing lunch time menu with heaps of choice, three courses including water and coffee for 9 euros and everyday it is crammed full of people, they have to turn people away and they also do as many take aways, so it is a raging business.  The latest owners, Michela and David, are very hospitable and charming, with Michela keeping a perfectionist eye on the service.

Normally we go home to our studios, but lately we have been fixing up our properties.  Our little Pieve house is getting a new roof and insulation at the moment, lovely new copper guttering, the outside walls are being ‘refreshed’ and inside too, a new paint job and we will soon have a working fireplace.

Restoration on our Pieve cottage

We also have an old apartment we want to sell on the river in Ponte a Serraglio that we have slowly been restoring. Now, at last, the last of the floors have been stripped from the miles of carpets and glues and linoleums, and we have unveiled some very special old tiled floors that have been protected for half a century below the sheaths of fashion.  Often with these old properties, the restoration is usually just undoing the ‘improvements’ of time and bringing the old place back to its original beautiful bones.  It has been a lovely process of discovery.

Dreams are special.  I am so glad we dare to dream.  Life seems to go so fast and now there seems to be nothing worthwhile to us anymore than finding the things in life that bring us joy and happiness and growth.  For us its not about being safe and secure, though we like it a lot,  its more about flying in the wind and trusting the abundant fertility of life to land you somewhere in the vicinity of that marvellous idea you had.  Scary, but wonderful, and we continue to say, we love our life!

Florence, the rebirth of beauty
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