Soundtrack [Stay Gold – First Aid Kit]
Just like Autumn comes back coloring the first leaves of the trees, there is something which almost cyclically brings me back to Gradara. If I think that until last year I didn’t even know where this little diamond town was, I can’t believe that now I feel at home when I am there.
There is an entire family waiting for me: a Mom who cares if I eat or not, a Dad who is always busy but with a chirpy mood, an always happy dog who wags the tail (which he has not!)… and a dear friend – almost sister, whose hug can erase in just a second the distance which normally divides us.The workshop that Valentina and I held in July together with Betty Liu (read here!) was the first of what we already knew would become a series.
September, the warm light and the already golden fields of wild flowers have been the perfect background for another short two-day workshop in the Valentina’s beautiful estate, amongst the hills of Gradara which already had hosted us before.
This time, two of my favorite people in the world were there to accompany me.
Francesco (@thefreakyraku), the other half of “The Freaky Table”, my trusty life partner and tireless assistant and Ingrid (@letstalkevergreen), my Dutch great friend and multi-talented blogger.
We left together from Venice by car, after spending a couple of crazy and beautiful days exploring Venice and the surrounding countryside where I live.
We went to Villa Pisani (previous post about it here!), one of my favorite place in this area, we ate some huge ice cream and we roamed by bike along the Brenta riverbanks. It was perfect.
We arrived in Gradara – pumped up by an impromptu insane karaoke to the sound of Spice Girls – with the car full of stuff because after the workshop Francesco and I left for an itinerant travel through Italy from North to South with a roof-top-tent over our car; but this is another story I will tell you very soon.
We waited for the evening going around the area, in those little villages near Gradara where the sunsets magically turn the landscapes into enchanted dreams, and where royal dining table can be glimpsed through the old gates of secret gardens.
The morning arrived early and so did the frenzy of the latest preparations before the attendees’ arrival. We went to pick some flowers among the olive trees before lunchtime, under the burning sun which surprisingly turned into a perfect bright light for some poseur pictures among the flowers and a couple of curious horses.
The moment before the attendees’ arrival is always the most exciting for me: I panick a little and have butterflies in my stomach while I am dying to know who’s coming – sometimes from far away – to learn something from us.
People turn out to be always the best part of everything and, exactly like in July’s workshop, I was once again surprised by the beautiful complicity and harmony which was quickly established within the group.
I got back home very inspired and with a new clean energy, good intentions and desire to make.
So, a warm big thank you goes to all these magnificent people, Pino, Elise, Eva, Denitsa, Romina, Claudia, Kristen and Joe (click for everyone of them, they really deserve it!), creative and brilliant blog authors, photographers, restorers, chocolate-makers, travelers.
All these precious talents gathered around the same table… which was made so graciously charming by our partner EaTravel, Maria & Tania and by the delicious homemade food which Valentina’s dear mother generously cooked.
We prepared a vegan chocolate cake to study the misteries of “chiaroscuro” in Photography in what has been renamed “Valentina’s Dark Room”, a room with dark walls and the perfect natural light where we could learn all about ISOs, aperture, depth of focus and all the basics of photography, composition and styling.
The styling lesson is probably one of my favorite moments. It’s not so easy to explain why props and food seem better arranged in a way rather than another, so I like to give a demonstration about my personal way of arranging everything in a set and then see how everyone finds its own way to do the same. There’s really no right or wrong way of doing it. It’s just a question of balance and harmony.
Everyone brings their own personality , their own taste of beauty and their own culture.. which often may be summed up into those few gestures aiming to create the composition on the set. I love to find out who you are, who’s behind those curious and watchful eyes, who’s behind those graceful gestures.
The styling lesson always reveals many interesting things… maybe that’s why I like it so much.
But the magic starts when evening falls, the first candles are turned on and the white napkins unruly fall on the side of the plates. Glasses tinkle as we cheer, while the golden light turns off very slowly, feebly filtering through the garden trees.
There’s something so simple and poetic about just being there together: lives crossing each other for a moment of pure harmony in the imperfect impermanence of a late summer evening.
These are the moments that, more than any other, make me feel the precious value of this life – maybe the only one – which sometimes seems to run too fast. Everything is constantly changing, nothing gold can stay. And while the shadows turn off the day and devour the moment, I know that I will find it again, among my best memories.