We love collecting travel tips from our guests. Some of our favorite guests told us that one of the highlights of their stay at Rocca di Benano was their visit to renowned ceramic artist Marino Moretti’s studio. After seeing the art they brought home, we decided we needed to get to know Marino.
It wasn’t hard. Marino warmly welcomes visitors, is very engaging, and speaks great English. And he lives and works in Viceno, a short walk from Benano. It’s easy to find him there because he lives in the castle at the top of the town. (Have I grabbed your attention yet, or is visiting a guy who lives in a castle “old hat” to you?) So when you reach Viceno, just keep walking uphill until you get to his studio. Here’s a report on a recent visit to Marino’s castle/studio, written by an American blogger who lives in Orvieto.
Marino literally grew up around ceramics; his father collected traditional ceramics and pottery fragments. When Marino was 13, he began copying pieces from his father’s collection. Three decades later, Marino’s whimsical work, which he has exhibited all over the world, celebrates his own unique interpretation of the traditional figures he first saw in his father’s collection and features fantastic scenes and brilliant colors.
Marino is always happy to open his studio to guests from Rocca di Benano. All it takes is a phone call or email to arrange a time to visit to his studio and watch him work (from Benano dial 320-265-1654, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org). Marino will demonstrate how he throws his pottery and paints his unique figures. Guests can choose between a visit lasting a half-hour (25 euros for the group) or an hour (50 euros). The price of each such visit will include a small ceramic piece to take home with you.
The market comes to Orvieto on Thursday and Saturday mornings. There’s something for everybody.
Vegetables, fruit, plants, and flowers
Beans, nuts, and grains
Fresh fish, lots of cured meats, and porchetta
(Look closely. That’s a tail. It’s the real deal.)
Plenty of answers to that burning question:
“What do people do without a neighborhood Target store?”
Plenty of time for a coffee break, too. I wouldn’t mind shopping at home if there was a bar like this on my way home. The nonna at the cash register, the mind-bending variety of types of caffes being served, and the choreography of the people behind the bar topped off a perfect trip to the market.
Antiques are all relative, aren’t they? When I moved from California to Ohio, a friend reminded me that “things sold here as antiques are, further east, just old things left behind.”
Paul and I just visited a store full of old things the Romans left behind. The store — rather, the beautiful showroom/warehouse — also carries things that people from the Middle Ages, like those who first inhabited our house, left behind. It’s called Lacole, and it defies an American’s concept of an antique store. They have things like the stone trim around old church windows, well tops (we saw one with the grooves from the ropes clearly evident), tiles, and stone sink basins. They also make authentic-looking new furniture out of beautiful old wood. Where better to look for some of the finishing touches for our renovation? This was the real Restoration Hardware.
If you have 2 minutes to watch their YouTube video, you’ll understand why Italians probably think our “antiques” are a little quaint.
Lacole is a bit north of Perugia, Umbria’s capital, so we made a nice day trip out of our shopping expedition and stopped for lunch in Perugia. It’s about an
hour and a half from Benano and makes a very delicious destination. (Does “Perugina chocolate” ring a bell?) There’s also a large international university there, and a lively spirit. (And did I mention the chocolate?) A friend from Seattle, Perugia’s sister city, once gave me a list of restaurant recommendations she read off a Perugia/Seattle calendar. We’re working our way through that list, which is copied below for anyone interested in the details.
We considered stopping in Todi for dinner on our way home from Lacole, but chose instead to come home and eat at our version of “Cheers” in this area – Ristorante Nuovo Castello in Torre Alfina. Connie’s simple but delicious spaghetti alla cippolla never disappoints, and it was good to see our friends there again.
Over dinner, we agreed that the highlight of the day might have been when the owner of Lacole, the antique store to end all antique stores, acknowledged the steep price of one item with an almost apologetic, “It’s Roman.”