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10 Reasons to Add Turin to Your Italy List

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There’s more to Italy than just the big cities. Don’t me wrong, I love the modern side of Milan and the bohemian quarters of Rome but a traveler visiting just these cities in Italy is missing a lot. One needs to re-consider and explore the unconventional choices as well and maybe add a few days to make it to Turin (an hour from Milan)

While searching for new places to visit in Italy I found Turin (Torino in Italian) many years ago. However, I couldn’t visit it until this year when I found really cheap deals from Delhi to Rome and Milan via Kuwait Airways. I think that was what pushed me to book my tickets and start my love affair with Italy’s first capital Turin.

Here are my top 10 reasons to add Turin to your Italian Bucket List:

1–>NOT AS CROWDED AS THE BIG 3: Would you like a holiday away from the crowds and for a change not be pushed and shoved at?? Turin is your choice then! It is less crowded and quieter compared to the big 3 (Rome, Venice and Florence) and also more pleasant. I was in Turin in the peak season and could eat, drink and walk around without being shoved at. Exactly how a vacation should be! So visit Turin before the city gets run down by mass tourism.

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2–>BICERIN BICERIN BICERIN: I cannot stress this fact enough….Turin=Bicerin and Bicerin=Turin. I refuse to have it anywhere else even if I am offered money! Until you haven’t had this heavenly drink, you won’t know what I’m saying… So go to Turin! And FYI Bicerin is a sinful combination of chocolate, espresso and milk with a touch of Turin magic!

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3–>CINEMA MUSEUM, EYGPTIAN MUSEUM AND …A FIAT MUSEUM: Museum and history lovers rejoice! Turin is a haven for all of you. There is so much to see and do in Turin, that you might find time to be short. Apart from the amazing Cinema and Fiat museums, there are also stunning palaces of the Savoy Kings and Queens to be visited.

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4–>EATALY: If you ever curious about an Italian food museum, don’t be now. There is one! And in my humble opinion, it’s called Eataly! You will find everything “Italian” under one roof. So imagine those tasty holiday treats that your Italian friends share or those vintage looking candy bars that you always wanted… Hunt no more… Consider going here with an empty stomach and a full credit limit! Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Excuse me while I sit errr…. have a hot cup of Illy 😉☕

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5–>RIVER PO: Before visiting Turin, I thought the only thing missing in the city was the water…. I was wrong. The river Po flows through the city and makes everything look scenic and romantic as it divides Turin in two. In the evening when the city lights are up, the river gives a misty element and almost make a lovely painting.

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“Senza l’Italia, Torino sarebbe più o meno la stessa. Ma senza Torino, l’Italia sarebbe molto diversa”- Umberto Eco

“Without Italy, Torino would be more or less the same, but without Torino, Italy would be very different”- Umberto Eco

6–>HISTORIC SHOPS AND APERITIVO: Vienna and Rome have been my top choices for cities with historic coffee shops. But now there’s one more to the list! Turin not only has excellent historic shops but also has the old fashioned vibe. Imagine furniture from the retro era and waiters serving in old bow ties….. In Turin time really stands still. The city is also the birthplace of Aperitivo. I’m not complaining. Are you??!

7–>GETAWAY TO THE COUNTRYSIDE: In about 30 minutes you can cross Turin’s elegant city life and head to the nearest vineyard or the prettiest side of the country! In about an hour’s drive you can reach the lakes of Maggiore and Orta that make for two stunning day trips. There’s a long list of historic towns such as Alba and Bra famous for truffles, wine and cheese. Mamma mia!

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8–>PIAZZE AND PORTICOES: The piazze (public squares) in Turin don’t call for attention…They are elegant, chic and effortless. Add a little drama of art nouveau and baroque and that’s Turin for you. Since the city happens to be very spacious, you can possibly be the only one at a piazza even at 8-9 in the morning.

Oh Turin, you are so royal!😍

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9–>LITERARY LOVE: There is literature surrounding the whole city as writers such as Umberto Eco, Mark Twain, Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, Friedrich Nietzsche have visited and admired the city. It is a celebration of Italian literature to walk the same streets as the writers of the bygone eras. Additionally, Turin has some amazing bookshops. Being an avid reader and bookish traveler, I could not “not” visit Turin’s bookshops. There are plenty on Via Po. And oh did I mention the book fair Salone del Libro?? It happens in May every year!

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10–>TRAMS: If historic stores and old world cafés aren’t enough for you, the city is also filled with vintage trams. There is a healthy mix of old and modern as a metro line connects the newer parts of the city. I, born an old soul, avoided the metro and loved hopping in different trams….Sometimes even without a reason.

So are you sold to visit Turin??

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From Murano to India with Ikroop

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Do you believe we are meant to meet people for a reason?? So far, in my life, many people have come and gone but there are some for whom I can vouch they came for a very solid reason. Today I will share this story about how I met Ikroop Dhillon -owner and curator of the Glass Art Jewellery brand Ikroop.

While browsing my Instagram feed one day, I came across an article that read how travels to Murano in Italy was a “life changing” event. This was an interview where Ikroop was talking about her glassware business for the Verve magazine. I was immediately enticed and soon contacted her.

Ikroop warmly asked to meet up for a cup of coffee and we chatted about her glass art jewellery and my love for all things Italian. Her story was so dreamy as most of her business inspiration comes from the island of Murano-renowed globally for its glassware.

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I picked this for myself.

The best part is that her inspiration got the better of her when she decided to turn her love for glassware to a business! Most of her collection is inspired from her Murano travel where she saw beautiful art created from blown glass. She started the brand “Ikroop” after working with the famous glass artist Atul Bakshi. Once she gained knowledge of the process, she realized her forte and started making minimalist glass art jewellery. Her collection is versatile and classy, making it every woman’s dream!

There are various colours fused together to create every type of pendants, rings, earrings and neck pieces. I felt that there is something for everyone on her website and I myself picked up a beautiful pendant that can be worn for both any kind of event whether a party or a business meeting.

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Image Credits: Ikroop Dhillon

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Image Credits: Ikroop Dhillon

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The lovely Ikroop

Owning a glass jewellery isn’t common in India as opposed to Italy and many other European countries. However, I hope that with brands such as Ikroop it becomes part of every woman’s wardrobe. I would have never imagined I’d meet a fellow Italophilie living only 7 kms from my house and inspired from travels to Italy as I am!

Thank You Italy for another fabulous connection.

Follow Ikroop’s stunning collection on her Instagram or Facebook page.

Wine Tasting Inside Piscine Romane

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The Piscine Romane or the Roman cisterns are located in the city of Fermo and form a huge underground archaeological complex. They are close to the main piazza and are built with mind blowing engineering details that makes it possible to use them even today. Thanks to the Mayor of Fermo, DiscoverMarche and the lovely hosts from Vigneti Santa Liberata, I was able not only to see the historic site but also have a specially curated wine tasting inside it.

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With our wines in hind inside the cisterns, we walked inside the dimly lit area which is believed to be built around 1 century A.D. It is a commendable feat that these cisterns made thousands of years ago work even today! Can you imagine that even now they are in working condition and almost perfectly preserved??! I am unable to fathom the time, resources and brains gone into making them and having an underground method to provide water to the city till today.

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What an experience!

Important Info:

-The entry to the Piscine Romane costs a mere € 6,50 which includes a guided tour along with entries to parts of Palazzo dei Priori, Teatro dell’Aquila and Scientific Museums of Villa Vitali.

-A jacket is highly recommended when visiting the complex as the underground is extremely cold.

-The Piscine Romane are one of the most intriguing places in Le Marche and one that should not be missed if you are crossing by or in Marche.

-For more information visit the town’s official page.

The Literary Town of Recanati

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Recanati in Le Marche is a literary town of/for/by the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. I say that not only because Leopardi was born here but also because he spent a majority part of his life writing poems inspired by the town. Even though Leopardi had a conflicting relationship with Recanati, one of his most famous poems L’Infinito” (The Infinite) was written from a solitary hill of his town where he used to walk to. Now, a famous vantage point, the hill is called “Hill of the Infinite” and has views that go as far as the Sibillini Mountains.

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Hill of the Infinte

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Piazza Leopardi

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Palazzo Communale

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Leopardi’s statue in the piazza

Giacomo Leopardi wrote many poems in his short lifetime of 38 years but there are a few that stand out. “A Silvia”, published in 1828, shows his sad and tumultuous life state as he describes a girl he is in love with. The girl lives opposite the piazza where Leopardi’s house is but he cannot win her as she is below his stature. Another popular poem “Il Sabato del Villaggio” (Saturday in the Village) describes the same piazza opposite his house and tells the tales of people who come and go.

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Silvia’s house (Was her name really Silvia?)

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Leopardi’s House a.k.a Palazzo Leopardi

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The piazza dividing the two places

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Leopardi’s Recanati

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The town evoked more sadness on a grey day

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If this corner could talk….

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and this one too..

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Chiesa di San Vito

Recanati is a fascinating town that evoked a sense of sadness in me. Even as I write I remember the feeling of walking through the streets and thinking of the story of Leopardi.

In 2014, the popular film “Il Giovane Favoloso” (Leopardi) captured the essence of the town and of the poet. Ever since then, the town has been revamped and the streets are decorated by the poems of Leopardi at every bend. It gives Recanati a real picture of being called a literary city.

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I found the Italian of that era extremely difficult. The translations online helped but I don’t know what is really correct.

Giacomo Leopardi: 1798-1837

The Sleepy Little Town of Castelfidardo

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You know the Italian town that makes the best hand made Accordions?? It is Castelfidardo in Le Marche. I never knew about it until I went there this summer! However, Castelfidardo wasn’t really for me. It does not come in my “must see” sights of Le Marche and can easily be skipped.

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Probably the rare time when I saw someone in the centre

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There is an International Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo

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The view from the main piazza

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From my apartment

The only good reason about going to Castelfidardo is its location- close to the sea and also other historic towns of Marche. Otherwise everything in this town is slow and practically closed. There is only one good Bar (usually not crowded) and a few odd shops selling goods such as the Accordion, books or quick service food.

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I don’t remember reading the name of this Torre (Tower)

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Vicolo

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The quaintest corner

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They were equally happy to get a picture clicked!

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Nothing is open and it was 7 p.m.

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There was a bookstore at the corner

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On a clear day, you can see the sea

However, there is one place not to be missed while visiting Castelfidardo and that is one of the oldest bread shops in Le Marche! Just at the entrance of the town, this Panetteria Pizzeria is owned by the lady in the picture below who has been making fresh bread for the town since years. Even after her husband’s passing recently, she makes sure the business goes on every day and starts her work at 4 a.m in the morning.

Fresh bread from the oven and a pizza rossa for me please!

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The owner of one of the oldest bread shops

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Be sure to visit and say hello to the lady!

 

Cooking at Fabrica del Gusto in Fabriano

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It was a usual day in medieval Fabriano for everyone but me because I was going for my first ever Italian cooking class! I wanted to learn something local and found the cooking school – Fabrica del Gusto to be perfect for my needs. 

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Fabrica del Gusto was a 5 minute drive from the city centre and I was welcomed by Silvia (one of the owners) at the door. To tell you all a little about the cooking school, it was started by Silvia and her business partner Donatella out of their passion for local products and their land.

The two ladies provide several creative workshops and cooking events for both individuals and groups alike. They even have workshops for kids! Fabrica del Gusto is an adorable corner in the heart of Fabriano and is filled with passion for all things local. It really is a very well thought space where I learnt to make “Ciambelline al Vino e Anice” which in simple words means cookies with wine and fennel.

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We made the Ciambelline quite slowly as we spoke about Le Marche and Silvia’s love for traveling and her curiosity about India. It was an afternoon of eating and relaxation with some cookies packed for my trip back home!

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Cookies dipped in red wine!! Isn’t that the ultimate foodgasm ever?? Do give it a try and if you are ever in Le Marche, take a cooking class with Fabrica del Gusto and say hello to Silvia for me! Donatella- I hope to meet you next time.

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I am linking my friend Rosemarie’s recipe for your use. To book a class with Fabrica del Gusto email them at info@fabricadelgusto.it or call at +39 3282234499.

Disclaimer: Silvia and Donatella were kind to offer me the cooking class for free but as always the opinions here are my own. Thank you for this connection, DiscoverMarche.

  

Medieval Fermo and it’s Historic Sites

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Fermo is a medieval town in the southern part of Le Marche. It is on top of a hill with a view of small surrounding villages and a sense of tranquillity far better than any of the other towns in Marche.

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Piazza del Popolo

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Regional flags make it look like a medieval set

Fermo is practically devoid of tourists and I am shocked and amazed why people don’t travel to this part of Italy. With the most beautiful and linear piazza in Marche, the town has lovely boutiques and cafes, a gigantic town hall and a rich historic library.

Unfortunately I was able to see only one of the things above because Fermo was hit by an earthquake in August 2016 that left most of its treasures in ruins. The thought of it is heartbreaking and it was even sadder to see the state of things myself.

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A line of shops and coffee shops

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I regret not tasting the Chinotto drink made from the chinotto tree

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Just a usual day in the piazza

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My cappuccino with Ginseng

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Fermo’s piazza from a part of Biblioteca Civica

Fermo has a line of rich cultural sites! The Biblioteca Civica Romolo Spezioli (closed due to the earthquake) is a popular public library with a Globe Room and manuscripts, documents and designs from the 17th century. There is also a modern library just next to it with computerized catalogues. The Biblioteca is known to be a treasure of the town and I have it on my list for next time.

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Biblioteca Civica Romolo Spezioli (Image Credits: ledonneincorriera.it)

Another important cultural site is the Palazzo dei Priori from the 13th century. The Palazzo was closed to the earthquake and so was it’s Civic Art gallery that is filled with Gothic artwork. Again, for next time!

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Palazzo dei Priori

Since these two were out of bounds, I went to the Teatro dell’Aquila-a spectacular site and one that surely should not to be missed in Fermo! Thankfully it was open and a local helped to get inside even though there was an International Violin Competition going on. The theatre was made in the 18th century and is known to be of prime importance for the cultural activities in Le Marche.

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Inside Teatro dell’Aquila

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There was a Violin competition going on 

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This chandelier was ordered from Paris in 1830

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Imagine listening to an opera here

Hope you enjoyed a walk in the town. I thank DiscoverMarche and the Mayor of Fermo for making my short stay in the town so rich and inspiring. The Mayor was so kind enough so as to gift me a frame of the Biblioteca Comunale. I will never forget Fermo! Grazie mille.

How to Reach:

You can reach Fermo from the Ancona airport or the Porto San Giorgio railway station. There are buses from the train station every 30 minutes to the centre of Fermo.

Vineyard Walk at Vigneti Santa Liberata

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If you ask me what is the most important part of Italy travel for me, it is first and foremost the people. I have been fortunate to meet and befriend many people over the past few years who have supported me for my love for all things Italian.

In Le Marche too, I met Giorgio Savini with his niece Martina Savini- two lovely souls who went an extra mile to show the best of their region. The Savinis run the Vigneti Santa Liberata near Fermo and their wines are made with great passion and care and it is evident the moment you talk to the two.

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Filled with great vigor and passion, it was a treat to walk in the vineyard and know that wine making has been their family business since 1934. I chatted with the pair to understand the method of making wine using high quality organic farming. The passion and love for their family and land was so heartwarming. I could see that they had really put their heart into it and Martina with whom I could instantly connect for the love of travel was a joy to speak to!

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We had a great walk in their vineyards followed by a wine tasting. I tried their Rosso Piceno DOC Le ReneRosso Piceno DOC Vigna Cacià and Marche Rosso IGT Dàidalos. My favorite was the DOC Vigna Cacia, it absolutely won my heart!

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Image credits: Santa Liberata

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If you are looking to taste some wines of Le Marche and have a splendid time in the region, I will suggest you to contact info@vinisantaliberata.it. They organize wine tastings and tours and are the best way to see something offbeat in and around Fermo. Even from Ancona it is well worth a day’s trip. I am so grateful to both Giorgio and Maria for showing their land. Grazie mille!! Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark Museum

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A windy morning in Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark museum with DiscoverMarche had me smitten. Not many know that the town of Fabriano in the region of Le Marche, Italy has been making paper since the 12th century.

Can you imagine how it felt to walk through the doors where this UNESCO creative city has been inspiring companies and individuals alike since centuries?!

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From the middle ages

Fabriano’s old techniques to refine and process paper is famous across the world. The paper made in the town goes everywhere you can possibly imagine and my own country gets paper for its currency from here- a fact that I got to know only then.

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Benvenuti! Welcome!

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Since 1264 stayed with me

That is why Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark Museum is a hidden gem. There are guided tours available in Italian and English, a little souvenir shop with inexpensive handmade paper and a demonstration of the finest watermarks in relation to the modern currencies.

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Have a seat while you wait for your guide

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Ancient and modern

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and told us about the story of Fabriano as an ancient city. She was working in the museum since over 2 decades and was very fierce about her work. A fun conversationalist, she was also interested in the Indian culture and hoped to visit Delhi soon.

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First floor display

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Does this mean a binder??

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The second floor

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An art and paper exhibit

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Old equipment possibly from the 18th century

We were shown a live demonstration of the process of paper making with working machinery from the 18th century. She also told us about the hydraulic hammer which was invented in Europe. It fascinated me immensely and I wished I had more time to spend in the museum.

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Our guide showing us the process of paper making

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Paper is left to dry

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More equipment

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Watermarks are so fascinating!

During my visit there was also an ongoing International Festival of Watercolor Paintings with hundreds of paintings to see. There was a children’s group from one of the neighbouring schools that came to see the legacy left behind. All in all, it was a captivating visit that left me intrigued. If given a chance, would you visit this museum??

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A school tour to see process of paper making

Important Info:

-Booking your tickets in advance is recommended since English guides are not available every day.

-Fabriano’s train station is a short walk from the centre. If you are traveling from Rome, it takes about 3 hours to reach. From Ancona it is only an hour’s journey.

-A little research online made me realize how easily the paper from Fabriano is available. For instance, check this link.

Ispirazione: Of Dreams, Miracles and Sketching Tours

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Today I want to introduce you all Kelly Medfort of Sketching Rome Tours! Kelly is an artist who takes Sketching Tours in Rome. The concept of these tours is exactly how it sounds. It is a unique way of slowing down and enjoying travels in the eternal city using watercolors. No prior experience is required!

Kelly’s story of living in Italy as an artist is very inspiring and am so glad to have met her this summer in Rome. Let’s know more about her….

How did Italy happen?? What made you think of choosing it??

Even though I am an artist I never thought or dreamt of moving to Italy to paint. I was studying in the U.S. and apprenticing to a painter and his wife who ever summer traveled to Italy to paint landscapes and stay with their friends in a castle on a hill in Tuscany, just outside the town of Anghiari. Since I was the apprentice they offered for me to join in for a month of landscape painting, of which I had little to no experience, I always painted still lives and such in the studio. Of course I said yes, what a magical opportunity it was and what I did not know is that it would change the entire course of my life!

Now, I did not speak one single word of Italian and that did not deter me, so off I went.

I stayed in a cheap hostel in Piazza Vittorio. At the end of our course and time painting together my painting teacher suggested that I apply to a small private atelier in Florence called the Florence Academy of Art. He personally knew the director and said he would give me a recommendation. When I got back to the US, I applied to the school only to hear back that there was a 1 ½ year waiting list. Time passed and one day just a week or so before Christmas I got a phone call, it was The Florence Academy. Apparently they had an opening, but I had to be there for class to start on January 2nd.

I said I would be there, having in reality no idea how I would get there. As a student I had no money to speak of, much less to fly, live and study in Florence, Italy. The next day I went to the study abroad office at my university and asked about any possible grants or scholarships. They told me that almost no one had applied to study abroad, so if I filled out the paperwork I could have a full year’s grant to study anywhere in the world. This included my airfare, tuition, living expenses, everything.

Nothing short of a miracle.

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Did you know any Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??

January 1st 2005 I moved to Italy and never looked back. I had started to take some Italian lessons, but still could by no means communicate with anyone about anything really, it was slightly disheartening, but I was not worried. After a year I still spoke very little Italian. I had to decide what to do, so I decided to stay in Italy and to paint. I wanted to see Italy, to meet real Italians, to learn more about the people, language, food, culture, everything I had missed out on during my intense year of study with people from everywhere but Italy. So I invented a (sort of) plan. My plan was to work as an artist’s model and to spend every other free moment painting. But this time I was going to take my easel outside and paint so that I could see Italy, interact with Italians. I realized that in Italy all of life and everything that happens is outdoors in the streets, the shops, markets and piazzas.

I moved to the countryside where absolutely no one spoke English and studied my conjugation book of Italian verbs like it was my new bible. I made a complete fool of myself more times than I could possibly count. Luckily Italians are kind and compassionate, each individual that I interacted with helped me to learn a little bit more each day by gently correcting and encouraging me to keep speaking with them in Italian.

When I moved back to the city of Florence I decided to take an actual Italian class and private lessons weekly. My Italian began to improve and I could have actual conversations about menial but important things like how I would like my coffee (a highly individualized affair in Italy). 

What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??

Over the years I have had many Italian roommates, a couple of Italian boyfriends, worked with and made mostly Italian friends. The best way I found to learn Italian is:

->By doing activities which give you a whole new set of vocabulary. For instance I took swimming lessons, joined the Rome urban sketchers group and went on guided tours in Italian or took any kind of classes if at all possible in Italian.

->I helped Italian friends translate documents into English so that I can learn more Italian.

->I went to networking mixers with Italians. Not only is it a great way to make new Italian friends, but also the way to keep expanding your vocabulary.

->Another amazing way to learn Italian is if you have a dog! Everyone else with a dog will talk to you and ask you first about your dog and then about you, that’s how I made a few friends who even invited me out for pizza.

What people don’t tell you, or what I never understood until I was here in Italy learning Italian, is that learning a language is not just learning how to string words together in the right order along with the correct verb conjugation, but in learning a language you have to learn so much more in order to know what people are talking about.

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What an inspiring story, Kelly! After hearing it, all I can say is that miracles do happen, never give up and keep following your dreams.

Follow Kelly on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.