Botticelli’s Mother

primavera 2The famous Renaissance artist known as Botticelli was born in Florence when his mother was 40 years old. He was nicknamed Botticelli which means “little barrels” by his family. A special fondness for his mother must have inspired him to create many of the paintings of women and mothers for which he is well known. In Botticelli’s eyes, women are filled with grace, beauty and strength.

madonna botticelli

Madonna and the Child (1480-1481) Sandro Botticelli

In the Uffizi Gallery in Florence hang two of Botticelli’s best known works of art, Primavera and the Birth of Venus. Both remind me of the exceptional role women have in Italy. In a culture surrounded by art and beauty, women are valued as a natural resource. The historical influence of women on Italian society and family values goes back to the ancient Etruscans where women were described as dignified, charming and free, caring for their families with great attention. Cultivating and preparing wholesome foods, Etruscan families enjoyed a well laid table and that heritage can still be seen on the tables of Italy today.

The maternal muses of Italy are a significant part of Italian culture and living where Mothers are still the center of the universe and Italian children and husbands happily orbit around them enjoying the attention and unconditional love of la mamma.


An Oenophilic Uffizi

What would you curate at an Italian oenophilic museum? I’m sure your choices would be varied and different than mine.The wines listed are from our personal tasting experiences eating and drinking at the tables of our Italian family and friends and at trattorie, restaurants, wine bars, vineyards and farms throughout Northern Italy, Tuscany and Umbria.


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Tuscany in a glass. Sangiovese wine produced in or around the town of Montepulciano. Evidence suggests it dates as far back as the Etruscan period, several centuries BC. Not to be confused with Montelpulciano di Abruzzo. A good general rule of thumb to avoid this confusion is if you see Montepulciano at the end of a wine name, it’s the place. In the beginning, it’s the grape.

Brunello di Montalcino

One Italy’s most famous and prestigious wines. Made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes around the Tuscan hill town of Montalcino. Our tasting at Tenuta Vitanza was wonderful.


The third most planted grape in Italy, popular because of its low tannins and high acidity making it a perfect pairing for tomato sauced pasta.


The grape grows in the foggy mist of the Langhe region of Piedmonte (nebbia is the Italian word for fog) used in the making of two of the classic bold wines of Italy, Barolo and Barberesco, the king and queen of Italian wines.

Chianti Classico

The iconic Chianti Classico. The oldest and most genuine expression of the wines in the Chianti region. Follow the Trail of the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) for memorable tastings in Tuscany.

Chianti Colle Senesi

From the crete senesi the hills surrounding Siena in the southern part of the Chianti region. A masterful landscape that affords a slightly lighter, less expensive taste of rustic Tuscany.

Albana di Romagna

From Emilia Romagna a rich, sweet passito wine made from partly dried grapes. I first had this wine after dinner at Trattoria La Romantica in Ferrara for an out-of-body wine experience.

Vin Santo

Wine of the Saints. Grapes are held in baskets then strung together on cane stands where they are dried for several months in a large ventilated room (vinsantaie) then fermented and matured for over 4 years in caratelli (small chestnut barrels). Recommended – Vin Santo di Carmignano (Prato) from Capezzana. Vin Santo from Avignonesi in Montepulciano including Occhio di Pernice (the Eye of the Partridge).


We first tasted this wine in March 07 on a trip to the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. After many trips to Italy, my Italian cousins decided that it was about time for me to venture into the Sudtirol. They wanted me to see the Dolomites, visit the Ice Man, eat some Italian/German food and taste Tyrolean Gold . The urban legend surrounding the wine says that its name is the German dialect for gold of Tirol.Grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige.


The main red grape of Umbria used to make the most excellent DOCG Sagrantino di Montefalco; “la dolce vita” squared (to the highest degree); high regard for the wine of this grape begins with an afternoon spent in a wine bar in Umbria with my friends, Luca and Luigi over a bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino

Brachetto d’Aqui

I first tasted this wine at an afternoon reception in the Milanese apartment of my friends Laura and Luccio and I have loved it ever since. The color of rose petals, it has been described as soft and creamy with hints of wild strawberries and raspberries. Brachetto d’Aqui is from the Piedmonte region of Northern Italy in an area known for its effervescence. Asti Spumanti comes from this region.


Another Piedmontese grape; dark, purple skinned; the everyday wine of the region.


From the vineyards of Valdobbiadene, north of Venice, the Colli Trevigiani and Brenta Canal.One of the most memorable glass of Prosecco was part of an afternoon meal I had with my Italian cousins in a restaurant along the Brenta Canal in a town called Mira. We had a spectacular feast of scampi giganti alla griglia (giant grilled shrimp) and other assorted fresh seafood. Our cousin Roberto suggested we begin our meal with a glass of Prosecco which we did. His suggestion was perfect.

The Wines of Carmignano

Tuscan wine is more than Chianti. So I traveled outside the belt way, NW of Florence to Tenuta di Capezzana near Carmignano outside of Prato. Here I spent a wonderful afternoon experiencing the warm hospitality of the Contini Bonacossi family at the table in the dining room of their villa eating a Tuscan meal fit for a Medici and tasting their signature wines. In 1716, Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici issued an edict identifying the region as producing one of the highest quality wines.

The Wines from the Hills of Piacenza

The wines from the hills of Piacenza have been appreciated by popes and kings and those who would be including Napoleon and Michelangelo. Colli Piacentini Mont’Arquato Duca di Ferro Gutturnio Riserva is made from two of my cousin Roberto’s favorite grapes, Barbera (70%) and Bonarda (30%). It has a brilliant ruby red color with shades of purple red and an aroma of dried cherries and spice. Paired with the illustrious pecorino formaggi of Piacenza.


The vine was introduced to the area by Venetian merchants who brought cuttings from Greece; my favorite is the sweet Arquatum-Passito di Malvasia that I have had at the Leon D’Oro Castell’Arquato Hotel de Charme Ristorante Don Ferdinando in Castell’Arquato with my friend Rita.

If Anyone Needed Saving It Was Caravaggio

The formidable temperament of the artist Caravaggio was always getting the best of him. Despite his success a as painter, he repeatedly found himself in trouble with the Italian law. In 1606 when in Rome, he killed a man in a street fight and fled the eternal city never to return. His paintings like his life tended toward dramatic areas of darkness with dramatic points of light.

Ever ready to get into a fight or argument he was constantly getting into trouble for his drinking and his bad temper. He died on the run and how he died remains a question. In 2010, on the event of the 400th anniversary of the painter’s death, a renewed interest in all things Caravaggio took on rock star status with exhibitions, projects and discussions. A bad boy image exploited for box-office attraction. On February 29th a long-lost painting by Caravaggio is being shown to the public for the first time at an exhibition in Tokyo. Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy was found in a private collection in 2014 and is one of 11 Caravaggio works in the show, Caravaggio and His Time: Friends, Rivals and Enemies, at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Japan.mary

Caravaggio as one of world’s most famous Italian Baroque painters certainly needed saving but saving the wild and tempestuous life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was not to be accomplished. Carravaggio