The ugly beauty of Italy

Happily and thankfully, I made it back to Austin last night (on my last two trips back from Europe, I was marooned in Newark). On the plane ride home, I collected some of the more beautiful images I captured with my camera on the trip. Thanks for reading!

Rain clouds spotted from the home of my friends Laura and Marco, Montalcino.

In the nearly 25 years that I’ve lived, studied, traveled, and worked in Italy, I’m always amazed by its awe-inspiring beauty and its often revolting ugliness.

Cypress trees, between the villages of Torrenieri and San Quirico d’Orcia (Montalcino).

During my trip over the last two weeks, Berlusconi tried — as usual — to distract media attention from his political and legal problems by joking that he planned to rename his party Forza Gnocca, literally Go Pussy or Pussy Party (gnocca means knuckle in Italian and is used euphemistically to refer to the female anatomy). Politician Alessandra Mussolini said she thought it was a good idea, adding that it would bring people together.

Bistecca fiorentina with my friends, father and son Fabrizio and Alessandro, Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino).

After he failed to pass his budget (in what should have been a routine parliamentary vote), Berlusconi and his cabinet dodged a bullet when they survived a confidence vote. My friends in Italy say that he will continue to govern until 2012.

Gently botrytized Picolit grapes in Percoto.

Berlusconi didn’t need any help, however, finding media distractions: the so-called Black Blocs thrashed Rome in an otherwise peaceful demonstration by the Indignados. (Here’s the NY Times coverage.)

Frico served in the garden of Elisabetta’s home, Percoto.

But the thing that seemed so unreal — so unnatural, so far-fetched and unbelievable that I wondered if I was having a nightmare — was a television advertisement introducing a new sandwich at McDonald’s created by one of the greatest Italian chefs of all time and one of the architects of the 20th-century renaissance of Italian food, Gualtiero Marchesi.

Vintage bicycles in a show commemorating 50 years of the Brescia design firm Borsoni.

Blogger Massimo Bernardi called the move Marchesi’s “betrayal.” (See Massimo’s post for images of this tragedy.)

Distant Church Bells at the Monastery of Santa Giulia, Brescia.

But on the last day of the bloggers conference in Brescia, after I had ducked out of the last session to prepare my notes on the grand tasting for a talk I was supposed to give, I was stopped in my tracks by the Monastery of Santa Giulia set against a clear blue sky and the distant sound of church bells ringing.

And I remembered why the ceaseless beauty of this country has never lost its hold over me…

Thanks for reading!

10 thoughts on “The ugly beauty of Italy

  1. I was in Assisi once on a Sunday and walked into the Basilica di San Francesco. A mass was going on and they were all singing a hymn. It remined me of my childhood, sitting at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church in Montclair, NJ just praying for the mass to end! But for whatever reason, at that moment in Assisi, I was totally overcome with emotion and almost cried. Those church bells just get me every time!


  2. JP, I love this post because its so true. At times ugly, but arrestingly beautiful at the same time. There is so much beauty in the landscape, history and architecture, but also in the simple things like the slice of bistecca pictured, or a perfect caffe.
    Bet you’re glad to be home with the gals.

  3. Great photos! Love the cypress photo and the bike. My Bianchi in classic celeste green has some (on a small scale) of this same charm.

  4. Hi Jeremy.. it was so great to meet you at the ewbc… I am going to follow you all the time now on this blog. Very interesting from another fellow blogger who spends time between the US and living as an expat in Italy. Thanks so much for your inspiration:)

  5. thanks, everyone, for the kind words on this post. Every time I come back from Italy, I feel like I need to do a post like this one, where I balance the bello and the brutto…

    Thanks for reading… our community of folks means so much to me… means the world…

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