Within the Walls

•November 8, 2017 • 3 Comments


No, literally…

Not inside the walls…well, yeah, I guess we were INSIDE the walls…Anyway…

These are images from Lucca. Italy.  I won’t, on this post, go into my research into the historical facts about Lucca…this is about the modern art that has embedded itself within  and on top of the traditional marble, oil, and culinary art of Italy…or I guess I should have said UNDER…



Ostriches…or is it Ostrichi…?

So…briefly…Vicki and I made a quick stop in Lucca.  She wanted me to see it and I am again grateful for her suggestions and knowledge of what would interest, excite and inspire me.  As with every other stop, there was simply not enough time to do it justice.


Under the city




Back to the point…On our way out of the city we got turned around a bit and instead of passing through one of the gates out we found ourselves passing under…

This is what we saw there.  And there was no one else around.  We felt as if we had stumbled upon hidden treasure.

I guess we did!













More from Lucca soon.  My Italy edit has gotten slowed down because of that pesky work thing…


History Does Not Repeat Itself…But It Often Rhymes…*

•October 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sempre Allora…




The tourists have eaten their gelato, published their selfies and climbed back aboard their buses outside the gates…except for the few of us who are staying the night within these archaic city walls.

As the Autumn sun slowly declines and brushes the labor of a millennium, the stacked and mortared stones, with burnished gold, the crisply defined shadows of the city towers creep across the quiescent Piazza della Cisterna and close their cooling fingers over the ancient well, the former and current gathering place for wanderers, travelers, pilgrims, gossips and lovers.  Tonight, for now, the only voices in the square below are the residents and shopkeepers, ending their day and catching up on personal and public news.

The lilting speech with its universal inflections of joy, laughter, sorrow or angst conduct the smattering of sound into and through the dream state and touch upon and  eavesdrop on the ‘ghosts’ of this timeworn city.

Imagery is pulled by the voices across the times and concerns of the lives of those who have passed here over the centuries…the reverberation of whispers slumbering in the well.

As the chimera drift in and out through the window onto the piazza and down the narrow cobblestone streets where the echoes of a thousand years of footsteps trod, these murmurs from the past are passed through as an aural mist swirling around the central theme…

Sempre allora…


Ghost 6 plus


“…the poet who was here as ambassador from Firenze…?”

“Si, I remember him well. He is the first poet who made sense to me”

“That is because he speaks in our language, NOT the language of Roma.  Anyway, He has been banished from Firenze for life!!!”

“What?  Why?  Oh, Si, he was aligned with the Bianchi, no?  The wrong side of this constant political battle”

“All sides are wrong in their own ways, if you ask me…”


 Sempre Allora…


Ghost 12

“… is bragging about the tremendous tower he wants to build next to St. Agostino…did you hear?”

“Yes, I heard.  His fleet is growing and everyone in Pisa talks about his wealth…

…and laughs at his poor taste”

“They won’t allow it!!  He wants the tallest tower…We CAN’T allow it!  No matter how much gold he offers…”

“…and that wife of his…Aye…money cannot buy everything…!”

Sempre allora…



Ghost 9


“… it says, has been commissioned to carve the altar for the cathedral.”

“Another sculpture!?  Is that where my alms go? I could use new wheels for my cart!”

“Hush!  Don’t say such things!”

“The priest can’t hear me.”

“No, but God can….!”

“Maybe the Saint of cart wheels will find it in his heart to….”

“I said Silenzio! Chiudi la bocca!  Hush, shut your mouth!  You will be struck by lightning and I am right here next to you…don’t take me with you over that nonsense…!  We should feel honored.”


Sempre allora…



Ghost 10



“…is coming here to paint?

I must send some cinghiale for him to eat…you know…just as a welcome gift.  Maybe my daughter can borrow your carriage to deliver it to him.”

“Your daughter!?  My carriage?!  Why would….ahhh….”

“Si, the Madonna has to look like someone, no?, and she needs to look fresh and at her best!  Now, what should she wear…?  Oh…I know just the right thing…”


Sempre allora…



Ghost 7


“Ciao, bella donna, what is your name?”

“Shhh…Not here at the well…I can’t talk to you now…”

“Because of that fellow staring daggers at me from across the piazza?”

“That is Pietro.   And he is also carrying daggers…He thinks he is my boyfriend.”

“But he is not?”


“He looks mean”

“He is… so you must go. But do you know where the pools are at the end of Via Garibaldi…..? Meet me there after the bells of Matins and we can…talk… Don’t smile… Now pretend that I am giving you directions to the blacksmith and then you must go that way…and talk to the blacksmith because Pietro will check up on you…ask him about gate hinges or something…anything…!  STOP SMILING!!!  So, sir, if you turn down by the…..”

Sempre Allora…



Ghost 8


“Hurry up with that stone!  These towers won’t build themselves…”

“Scusa! I was thinking about what the Medici’s new wonder-boy said about our wine”

“Who is this?”

“The great sculptor and artist.  He said our Vernaccia wine, “Bacia, lecca, morde, pica e punge!” “

“What!?   It kisses, licks, bites, pricks and stings….? What does this mean?”

“I don’t know, but when a famous artist talks about us it must be good for business, no?”

“Bah…what does an artist know about wine except how to drink too much?!  Now, bring me the stone next to your foot…the OTHER foot…quickly so we can get home and see what this ‘great artist’ is talking about…maybe we can be bitten, kissed and stung…Ha, ha, ha, ha…!”

“Oh… wash your shirt tonight. The owner is coming to inspect our progress tomorrow.  I don’t want him to think we are building a tall stable and the horses are already here….!!!!!”

 Sempre allora…



Ghost 3


C’mon, C’mon! Fretta! Hurry!  We have to be back at the castle before curfew.  Coach says we start intensive training for The Games tomorrow at sunrise…”

“Sunrise?  No, no, no!  One more hour!”

“Absolutely not!  That pretty little girl I saw you talking to will have to wait until after Berlin…Now, Come on!”

 Sempre allora…




Ghost il treno


“Lucchio, did you see the new train that runs from Pisa to Florence?”

“Il treno? What? When?”

“It passed through the valley last night carrying marble from Carrara.  …A great lumbering beast that spits smoke and shakes the earth.  Surely you heard its whistle.”

“So, that’s the racket that awakened me…and the bambino also!  I’m with the Pope on this one…devilish work!  What is wrong with horses and burros?!”

Sempre allora…






“…The Nazisti?  What have we to do with the Nazis?  Why will they come here?  I thought we were on their side, anyway.”

“Ah, Il Duce is on their side but we are NOT!  It is said that if they visit, we are to open our doors to them and offer them wine, but in my opinion it is best not to let them smell our cooking or they may never leave.”

“Il Duce had better be careful. You have heard the saying, “If you lie down with dogs…”

“Si, si…”

“Do you think Il Duce knows about Sant’Anna di Stazzema?”

“No, dimmi!  Tell me!”

“A trader from Lucca came to buy saffron and he told me not to tell anyone because if it reaches the wrong ears…”

“But it’s me..!”

“Si…well, he says…but you can’t say a word to anyone…”

Sempre allora…


Ghost 11



“Grandma, Nonna, Nonna….!  I Favolosi are coming to Rome in Guigno!  Maria already has the tickets for her and me and Gina and she says we can stay the night with her cousin’s family.  Can I go?  Per favore, per favore?”

“How will you get there?  Your Papa’s car will not make it to Roma.”

“Oh no, Nonna, if Papa will drive us to Poggibonsi we will take the train…or, I could ride my bicycle…I’ve saved my money for the ticket and Maria’s aunt will pick us up at the station.  If I don’t go I will die…!!”

“Well, we can’t have that.   I’ll talk to your Papa.  He won’t understand but I will try to help…I know how to soften him up.  It wouldn’t hurt if you will make those torte dolci that he is so fond of…and clean your room…And you know what your Papa will say,  “Why  must I Favalosi try to sound so American with their “Yeah, yeah, yeah!?”

“Oh, Nonna….Grazie, grazie, grazie!!!”


Sempre Allora…


“Sempre allora” which literally translates as “always then” but, as explained to me is used to mean “always so”…possibly with a shoulder shrug thrown in…

Some things never change.

If you have managed to read this far, Thank You!  All images are from San Gimignano, or thereabouts, and this is an experiment, for me, in a photo processing style.  (I hope it worked!)  I didn’t capture any of these images with this theme in mind, but after being awakened in the middle of the night and experiencing the quiet from the piazza, these stories actually did carry me through the streets.  All ‘dream’ sequences are based on historical happenings.  There is a ‘ghost’ in each image…some more obvious than others…

The one color photo was from our bed looking out over the city, and No, I don’t take my camera to bed, but I do keep it close at hand.


*The post title is attributed, possibly, to Mark Twain but I got it from my buddy Jon.


… in Chianti

•October 28, 2017 • 3 Comments


Grapes, Olives, Hills and Villas…

On the 3rd day of our getaway to Tuscany we opted for taking the Fiat Panda through the rolling hills of the Chianti region.  Chianti is roughly situated between Florence and Siena, and is known for their wine grapes, olive oil, balsamico, and cinghiale…wild boar.

I had mapped a course that would lead us through Vinci, Panzano, and Greve in Chianti with a lunchtime stop to tour the Castello di Verrazzano, which has been in operation since the 7th century.  Their vineyards are mentioned in a manuscript from 1150.


Verrazzano 1

(I have yet to mention that for this entire trip I took only one camera and lens, a Fuji XT1 with an 18-55mm.  It was a great camera…light and easy to use… after a little manual perusing on the flight over… but I can’t tell you how many times I missed having a wider lens and especially a longer lens…along with the comfort of using a tool that has been a part of many very diverse situations.  But, not only will I remedy that on my next excursion, but also will want to spend more specific times to capture the wonderful light instead of driving and shooting sketches.  I could spend days at each of these locations, not only waiting for the perfect light, but also breathing in the air and culture.)

Okay, technicalities out of the way…there is no proven, authenticated birthplace for Leonardo in the small village of Vinci, but it becomes fairly obvious that this is where he first observed the nuances that distance creates concerning color, light and perspective and the development of his ‘sfumato’ technique…and the air was almost alarmingly refreshing!



It seemed that everywhere one turns, there is another villa, castle or cathedral nestled into the cypress and the hills…with grapes and olives planted in every valley and undulating slope.




















…maybe a  mausoleum or two…..



Castello di Verrazano is also a source of absolutely stunning balsamico …thick as syrup and sweet as honey…with a sting thrown in for balance…paired with pecorino cheese…!!!!!    When you stick your head through the window of this room, your mouth begins to water…actually, mine is now just looking at it.  And, I’ve got that little tingle in the back part of my lower jaw.




DSCF3904 crop

Balsamico, aged 10 years in oak barrels  (48 euros for about 8 ounces…237 ml)

Bruschetta made with Verrazano grown tomatoes, basil, olive oil and fresh baked bread.


…and the grapes…









These images were all taken in one half day…gimme 2 weeks and I’ll REALLY have some fun….!!!!





Olive grove…do these trees spell out something?


A Couple in Chianti…mtk

•October 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment





Still working through Chianti…more to come





Ghosts in San Gimignano?

•October 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Ghost 6 plus


I am still editing photos from Chianti but with Halloween coming up I couldn’t resist another view of San Gimignano… Is that Dante leaving the Sala del Consiglio…?

This is a prelude to a post that will be coming up hopefully on October 31st…mtk

How Did They Do That?!…Florence (Firenze)

•October 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment



I will start by saying that I feel totally inadequate to represent Florence in either my pictures or my words.

I’m sure most everyone has seen photographs of everything that Florence has to offer, so I am simply showing a few things that stood out…more than any other things?..No, not necessarily, but I had to start somewhere.



We only spent a day in Florence which is the first drawback.  We could have spent a month and not felt as if I had actually gotten a full taste.




Our first priorities were to see Michelangelo’s David and then visit the Uffizi where I wanted to see firsthand any Caravaggio’s that they might have. I’m only including a couple of details from the David.  There are MANY pictures of it, all over the world, but I was particularly astounded by the detail and the size…17 feet tall (5.17 meters)   How did he do that?

David's foot




The Caravaggios…One of the most fascinating artists from the 1500’s, not only in talent, but also for the fact that a good part of his adult life was spent on the run from the law…

Caravaggio Bacchus

Himself as Bacchus, painted while looking in a mirror.

Incredulity of Thomas

The Incredulity of Thomas


Caravaggio Medusa

Medusa, painted on a wooden shield for one of the Medicis.



But the Duomo…I mean, really, how did they do that?


The building was started in 1296 and completed in 1436 with the ‘crowning touch’ being Brunelleschi’s dome which is still the largest masonry dome in the world…But the detail in every building, every altar, every window casement, every statue….




Duomo 2 detail



Altar detail



Duomo 1



I heard a great story on a BBC program called “Italy’s Invisible Cities” where they talked about Brunelleschi getting the dome ‘contract’.

He was untrained as an architect but when they  gathered all the ‘bidders’ together, he brought out an egg and proposed that whoever among them could stand the egg up on its end was worthy of the project and should therefore get the commission.  After all others had failed, Brunelleschi tapped the end of the egg on the table until it cracked and then he stood it on its end.  When the others protested that he had not said they could crack it, he replied that if they couldn’t figure that out, then they were unfit for a project as massive as the dome….!  Bam!



When we returned to Nashville and I looked at all of the new buildings going up I couldn’t help but realize that in Florence, in that time, they were building monuments to God and mankind meant to withstand history, not steel and glass that may not withstand the current popular trends.



The lifespan at that time was approximately 40, so a 150 year building project would encompass about 4 generations of artists and masons. This marble mosaic floor may have been started by a man and finished by his great grandson….!





No cranes, no power tools, just passion and dedication to a cause, a project…

Oh…don’t get me wrong… there were some modern things in Florence.








Street performer

And then, the train ride back to Montecatini Terme



After a wonderful dinner of Gnocchi in Pear/Gorgonzola sauce we get ready to drive through Chianti…..













The Town of Fine Towers…sketches

•October 13, 2017 • 2 Comments




Road to San Gimignano

Our visit to San Gimignano (think of ‘Jim’ and the Spanish word for tomorrow…with an ‘o’… Jim-manyano) was midway through the trip but was so astounding that I’m skipping to it while I process the rest of the images…and impressions.


In the early 1200’s this Free Commune was governed by a Podesta (governor) who remained in charge for six months and was always a ‘foreigner’ to reduce the chances of governmental partiality…interesting concept…term limits AND an ‘outsider’…



At one time there were 72 towers in the small city of which only 14 or so remain.  Imagine the opening image with 5 times as many spires….!!!

Torre Grossa


This tower, the Torre Grossa in the Piazza del Duomo, is, and has always been the tallest tower in San Gimignano because a law was passed in 1255 that no tower could exceed its height. (On the right is the Duomo and on the left, the council chambers, known as the “Sala di Dante” named after the poet who visited in 1300 as an ambassador from Florence.)


The building of towers was the ultimate status symbol, and was reserved for land owners and usually, families who owned ships that sailed from the nearby port of Pisa. (And of course, they were the only ones who could afford this extravagance…)

Workshop on the ground level, living quarters above and the kitchen at the top to prevent the chance of fire spreading upwards.


Torre Grossa from room

Stories have it that one family who definitely had the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ mentality, decided to build twin towers that if stacked, would have been the tallest.  After much public uproar and outcry, the family was forced to tear down the towers and as punishment for their pomposity, they were sentenced to wear black for 10 years and the men could not shave…So there….!!!

Via San Giovanni

The streets are closed to autos within the walls except for residents, deliveries, and guests who needed to unload luggage and then drive back out.  It was fun, after it was intimidating, driving on these thoroughfares in a little Fiat Panda…

Piazza Duomo ramp


FYI…we stayed at Al Pozzo dei Desideri.  There are only 3 rooms of which ours was the one with a ‘city’ view, overlooking the Piazza della Cisterna, the communal well since 1326.

Piazza della Cisterna 2


Piazza della Cisterna 3

Piazza della Cisterna 4

This was a view from our room.

Piazza della Cisterna 1

The other 2 rooms looked out upon this…


Valley view


Oh, and the gelato….





Mi piace il gelato

…And just a few more…


Piazza Duomo











Next stop, Firenze….


Firenze Duomo 1





•October 8, 2017 • 5 Comments

We just returned from celebrating our 30th anniversary in Tuscany.  I am editing images and will post several ‘travelogues’ soon, but couldn’t resist offering a small taste from a place we happened upon in our meanderings….mtk


Secret place

Post: Epoch: Eclipse

•August 26, 2017 • 4 Comments

1_30_31 pm CDT

As expected, the incessant media hype leading up to the ‘Great American Solar Eclipse’ was centered around the traffic, the weather…would it or wouldn’t it?…the exorbitant hotel rates, the crowds…be sure you have gas in your car…etc.

Never did I hear any mention of the absolutely stunning, eerie, soul-grabbing, mysteriously overwhelming chord that would be strummed and planted into one’s psyche by witnessing this event.

The pictures that I am posting will be in chronological order.

As the moon was moving across the sun, I had the solar filtered camera on a tripod and would track and shoot an image every couple of minutes….sell a T-shirt or 2…shoot again…


12_17 pm CDT Sunspots

When I uploaded these to the computer, I thought that I had a dirty camera sensor that created spots on the Sun.  Then I saw an official NASA pic and realized that they were SunSpots….

12_28 pm CDT


12_52 pm CDT


12_59 pm CDT


1_13 pm CDT


1_19 pm CDT


1_27 pm CDT


When Totality hit, I was too enthralled to think about properly changing settings, removing filters, etc, so these images have a bit of motion blur…or maybe that should be ’emotion’ blur… as I sort of just took aim at the sky to possibly capture what I really mainly wanted to experience with my 5 or 6 senses.




1_30_30 pm CDT wormhole


1_30_31 pm CDT


1_30_43 pm CDT


1_30_52 pm CDT Diamond ring


1_33 pm CDT


1_36 p.m. CDT


1_51 pm CDT



And what an experience it is!  There is no way to describe the sights, the feelings and the sheer exhilaration of witnessing a total Solar eclipse.

I heard someone say that they had seen ‘partials’ and ‘totals’ and on a scale of 1 to 10, a partial was a 3 and a total was 1000….I tend to agree.


Now, some business…knew that was coming, right.  We did really well with my Hank Williams/Nashville inspired “I Saw the Light” T-shirt…lots of sales and many, many compliments, BUT…the big but…

I’ve got 100 or so shirts left over in all, not each, but all… the sizes, (Youth small up to Adult XXL) and I can only wear so many… so…as your reward for reading all the way through this, if you go to the www.toastedice.com store, order a shirt, or two, or six, and put in the coupon code… blog …the price will reduce from $25 to $10 and I will still pay the shipping.  That covers my production cost and the shipping costs and…. removes them from my inventory.


It really is a great way to remember the day, even if you or your kids never wear it, or wear it years from now….

Or just when you want to let people know that You “Saw the Light”!


New final eclipse front





Sketchbook…Memorial Day

•May 31, 2017 • 2 Comments



I’m not much for ‘titling’ images, I would rather you come up with your own appellation.  So, my post title applies to the series.  Memorial Day is the one holiday that stands for the ultimate sacrifice given by American soldiers, and as such is an important commemorative event.

Yet, one can’t help but wonder what it would be like if mankind could find a way to have no need for such a day…  Imagine….