In Vino Veritas

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Aug 14, 2021

“In wine there is truth.” These now-immortal words were famously recorded by the Roman scholar—and recorder of nearly all things—Pliny of the Elder. (He also identified and named the hops plant, hence his popular namesake IPA beer.)

In the spirit of veritas there was a second part to Pliny’s aphorism that has been nearly forgotten—in aqua sanitas—which means “in water health.”

For years, In Vino Veritas has been embraced by wine enthusiasts the world over. But hard as it is to imagine, not all that long ago the land of La Dolce Vita was not even on the “wine map,” so to speak, despite thousands of years of viticulture. In 1967 the 716-page New Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits devoted exactly 4 1/2 pages to Italian wines. In truth, most native Italian wines were anything but world-class at that time.

Of course Italians, being masters of reinvention, have achieved nothing less than a total transformation of Italian wine-making—and the world has taken notice. Today virtually every wine anywhere in Italy, from Sicily to the Alps, is different (and far better) than it was 75 years ago. Have Italian wines surpassed French wines? Most experts would consider it a coin toss. Of the four wines that achieved Wine Spectator’s 2020 highest rating (97 out of 100) three were Italian and the other a French champagne . . .

And that’s the honest veritas.

So Many Reasons to Love Sicily

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Jul 2, 2021

“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all,  for Sicily is the clue to everything.”

So wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, after visiting the island in 1787. Just a little over 2X the size of LA County, Sicily really packs it in per square mile of wild landscapes, dramatic seascapes, an unrivaled cultural and culinary fritto misto that pre-dates Classical Greece that never fails to enchant the curious traveler.

My friend and colleague Allison Scola, Owner and Curator of Experience Sicily and the Cannoli Crawl recently created a marvelous blog titled 52 Reasons to Love Sicily – you’ll not want to miss one of them!
In the meantime, enjoy our 52 photo homage to this endlessly fascinating and magical island of myth and legend.

Tuscany’s Secret Garden

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Jun 12, 2021

Not far from the fashionable harbor town of Porto Ercole on the Tuscan coast is the little known Giardino dei Tarocchi – The Tarot Garden – where, for an enchanting afternoon, you can experience a whimsical alternative reality. An enchanting modern sculpture garden beckons with a surrealist landscape of twenty-two vibrant, massive, fantastical, multicolored depictions of the Major Arcana depictions of the Major Arcana of the mystical and mythical Tarot cards

The garden is the public art masterwork born of the fertile imagination of self-taught French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle. A vibrant celebration of feminism, the garden represents a beguiling fusion of pop, folk, outsider art and surrealism. A great lover of Italy, de Saint Phalle was granted the land to create her magical world after a chance encounter with Marcella Agnelli, sister of Fiat industrialist Gianni Agnelli. She began work in 1979 and the colossal project consumed nearly two decades of her life.

Fully immersed in personally designing and building the statues (most measuring between 39 and 49 feet tall), de Saint Phalle hand-painted and decorated each with ornately detailed mirrors, mosaics, multi-colored ceramics and Murano glass, creating a kaleidoscope of colors, textures and shapes. The garden’s largest sculpture is of the Empress, symbolizing the great mother archetype as voluptuous woman-sphinx. An enormous hollow shell, its interior served as de Saint Phalle’s home while she worked on the garden. One of the figure’s breasts housed a lavishly-embellished living, dining and kitchen area and the other, a bedroom and bath.

Throughout the project’s lifespan, the artist enlisted a group of skilled collaborators in her “garden of joy.” Chief among those was her husband, Jean Tinguely, whose mechanical skills helped motorize and breathe life into several of the garden’s features and monumental sculptures. But the overall phantasmagorical design could ultimately be the brainchild of only one supremely gifted individual.

In Giardino dei Tarocchi, a visitor can not only admire the art but interact with it, whether climbing the Tower or playing the Wheel of Fortune. Niki de Saint Phalle meant for her Eden-on-earth to be touched and enjoyed by adults and children alike with all their senses . . . an evocation of – but also a brief respite from – the lifelong game of chance that is the story of the tarot.