Monthly Archives: October 2010

Florence & Tuscany are next on our stops – two beautiful regions of Italy. Florence is a very charming town and everywhere you go, you see the dome or The Duomo. It appears from every vista, at the end of many streets and from the surrounding hills. It looms over the city as almost a guardian. And, it is beautiful. You will see many shots of the dome in this post and some everyday scenes around Florence.

I am in love with this image. You may have seen it before in another post, but I had to share it again. This probably my favorite shot from Florence and maybe all of Italy. It was taken on my Holga with the now discontinued Fuji B/W film. I had just a second to capture it and I love the composition of the couple below the arch and the activity of the carousel beyond. The fur coat on the old woman, her cane and the little dog are just my favorite.

Tuscany, oh Tuscany! Talk about beauty. This region of Italy is so beautiful and so different from all of the other places I visited. It is so quaint and charming and paints a picture of living in the countryside. From the rolling hills to the olive groves, vineyards, farms & villas, this area is definitely one of my favorites (but not THE favorite). On my first trip to Italy, I spent a few days in this region, but on my second trip, I had more time to explore it and see many hidden jewels. I could definitely live in Tuscany. It’s laid-back atmosphere and nice residents make you feel like you are at home. A holiday in the Tuscan hills is definitely on my list of vacations to take. An entire week or two laying at the pool in the summertime and driving around in a convertible enjoying local wine sounds great to me!

Many of these images in Tuscany were taken at the Fontebussi Resort and La Selva Villa. The Fontebussi is built around an old, abandoned Tuscan village. The accomodations were great and the rooms were very spacious and had views of the surrounding hills & farmland. The resort had a small conference center that looked out onto a terraced herb garden & the fields beyond. The owners also own all the land around the resort and farm olives & other crops from the hills. The olive groves were unbelieveable as you may have seen from THIS POST of the shoot we did in the grove at The Italy Workshop.

So, as you can see, we’re at the end of the week BUT…I still have a few more places to take you on this trip around Italy. We’re going to keep the Italy posts going into next week so you can see it all! Stay tuned & I hope you’ll be dreaming of Tuscany all weekend while you wait to see where we go next. I know I will be dreaming of Tuscany. Ciao e buon fine settimana a tutti!


Exactly one year ago today, I was at Day 2 of The Italy Workshop with Jose Villa & Gene Higa. One year. So much has happened in that one year – all because of this workshop and this trip. Really, there are no words to describe the experience properly and how it has affected my photography, my business and me as a person. {You may want to see my friend Molly Michel’s post HERE who more eloquently describes the experience. Molly also attended the workshop and has become a great friend.}

I can’t imagine having not attended this workshop. When I think back, I was struggling when making the decision whether to go to Italy or not. But now, I could not imagine my life without this experience. So many wonderful things have happened and I am humbled by them all. Not only was the learning experience great, but I also met so many great colleagues who are now some of my good friends. In true fashion, the Italy peeps LOVE to travel and we’ve been everywhere. In this short year because of The Italy crew I’ve traveled to so many new and fun places. It is so nice to be able to share my passion and love of photography with people who equally are in love with the medium. Give us a new city (or country), a camera and we’ll be entertained for days – or until the film runs out.

Here’s a recap of the workshop:

We all met at the Florence airport and made our way to Tuscany. We stayed at the Fontebussi Resort and it was absolutely breathtaking. Immediately, we got out our gear and started shooting the landscape all around us. It was gorgeous and we were totally in love. Check out my post from last year for a recap of Fontebussi & my experience HERE.

Day 1 of the workshop was filled with talks by Jose & Gene and ended with an Engagement Session with models. Oooo…this is when I fell in love with the light in Italy. Bellissima! Also, meet my friend Gio who is a fabulous Italian model. He is coming to WPPI/Vegas in February so if you need a model, you should definitely hire him!

I could have never prepared myself for Day 2 of the workshop. Again, more fabulous sessions with Jose & Gene as well as a fabulous model shoot. Well, fabulous does not begin to describe it. Picture this…an abandoned village in Tuscany with a resort/villa built around it, nestled in the hills and surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, the sun setting, the crisp fall air, the smell of firewood coming from the surrounding hillsides & villas who were preparing their nightly meals. Oh, and did I mention, the olive groves? They were divine. Check out the two model shoots at Fontebussi & in the olive groves HERE and HERE to see more, or click on the photos below for my original posts with tons of images.

Giordano & Valentina in the old, abandoned Tuscan village:

And Georgia & Omar’s shoot in the olive groves!

The third day of the workshop, Jose & Gene surprised us with a trip to Florence! One of the biggest things that we learned at the workshop was shooting for yourself and shooting to shoot, to learn to practice and get better. The trip to Florence was just the thing we needed to put this lesson into motion. The only caviat…we could only bring one camera!!! So, I am a digital shooter and always have shot digital since I started shooting weddings. But, there was a time when I was young and until after college that I shot all film. So, since I had brought my toy Holga camera, I decided to take one roll of film to Florence and shoot. And it was a great experience. Not only did I get to hang out with the gang in Florence, walk around, eat pizza & gelato, I came back with some wonderful shots of the city. And in the end, I probably had more spectacular shots in 16 frames than I probably would have with 100 shots from my digital. And it all had to do with using my eye to look at the entire frame and really think about the shot before releasing the trigger.

Here are just a few from that fateful roll of film from that day:

My favorite, and most profound memory of the workshop was the last night, after returning from Florence. We all sat down for one last family-style dinner cooked by Maria and you knew that something big had happened. Everyone was talking and hanging out like we were old friends. Once Alicia started telling how this experience had changed her to the group, the waterworks started flowing and everyone was truly touched by the experience. Everyone exchanged hugs and thank-yous, but who knew that was just the beginning.

I will never forget this experience for the rest of my life.

Stay tuned for some of the results that came out of the workshop as well as several more posts on more Italian cities and regions as well as a post on my favorite part of Italy – can you guess what it is?


In 2005, I traveled north from Rome to the little town of Orvieto in Umbria and to Cortona in Tuscany. Orvieto is so cute and charming – a little medieval town built up on a large, flat butte of volcanic rock. The steep cliffs leading up to the city are topped by walls surrounding its perimeter. The highlights of Orvieto was the medieval architecture, labyrinth of underground caves, the duomo & the views of the countryside surrounding it. Other notable spots that I did not get to see were the papal palace & residences & the etruscan ruins which I would love to see on another trip.

This old little town was a nice break from the larger, more touristy cities and was very laid back. In the streets were families walking, kids playing & scenes of everyday life in a small town. In the evening, the traditional passeggiata, or “nightly stroll” by the local residents filled the streets with people and energized the town.

There were so many little old churches. This particular church smelled of oldness. It was very dark and damp. Somehow these old frescoes painted on the walls and columns had survived over the years. They were beautiful.

The Ponzo di San Patrizio well is an awesome structure, designed to provide water in case of a disaster. The structure is constructed with two spiraling ramps going all the way down to the bottom of the well. Openings in the stone provide views down the center of the well. The ramps allowed mules to carry water from the base to the top.

View of the Tuscan countryside from Cortona.

We also stopped at a winery for a tasting and tour. They were bottling wine while we were there.

Beautiful view of Cortona and the hills in the distance.

Today, let’s stay in the north and travel to Venice! On my first trip to Italy in 2007, I did not get to go to Venice. So, it was only fitting that my first stop on my trip last year was Venice. Like my arrival in Milan, I arrived in the dark – this is never fun by the way. I couldn’t see anything outside of the train and was so excited to see the water and the canals. Upon exiting the train station, we made our way to the water taxi to take us to our hotel. It was hard to take in my surroundings just because it was so dark and I was so excited to just see the canals, but couldn’t see much. I was also exhausted, so that didn’t help. After some rest, we woke to a somewhat foggy Venetian day and had a traditional Italian breakfast of croissants, prosciutto & cheese…more on that later. And, we finally got to get out and explore the canals and get lost along all the little streets and passageways.

One of the first stops was Piazza San Marco which was a little flooded. It was almost rainy season in Venice, so I knew that there could be some flooding. It was really sad to go into Duomo di San Marco and see the beautiful church floor buckling so bad it looked like waves on the Pacific shore. Part of the entrance was completely flooded and we had to walk on raised walkways (literally cmu blocks & wood planks) to enter and exit the cathedral.

Next, we headed over to Palazzo Ducale (next to the Duomo) to tour the old palace. It was amazing! The decoration was beautiful, the rooms so large and so old. I loved seeing all the court chambers and art decorating the palace. One of the larger rooms in the palace, The Council of the Great Chamber, which looked out onto the lagoon. It was one of those fall days where the color of the sky and the formation of the clouds told you that winter was approaching. Just loved this view.

I took my holga camera on this trip and these two shots are from that camera. I love the look, feel & colors of the images. It enhances the already old & decaying city of venice and its structures beautifully.

Doors, doors & more doors. I was obsessed with all the old doors in Venice. Not only were they so detailed & beautifully decorated, some doors rose out of the water in an almost ghostly way. You can tell that the water had risen over the years and now was hitting the doors.

The Fenice Opera House was a must-see. Just wish I could have gone inside to see an opera.

I know the water in Venice is highly polluted, but the color was absolutely amazing! It was a strange, but beautiful milky blue color. Depending on your view and if the sun was hitting the water, the colors changed and reflected the old buildings or gondolas floating down the canals.

The spires & domes of Duomo San Marco. This church was very haunting. Unfortunately, it was one of those churches that you could not take photos inside. It was hard to capture it from the piazza, but I got this shot from the Palazzo Ducale next door. I was on an upper floor almost level with the roof of the church.

This was the hotel I stayed at. It was very charming and sat right on a canal with a gongola launch nearby. It was the main thoroughfare from San Marco to Cannaregio and had lots of activity.

Here are a few shots from the neighborhood of Cannaregio. This was definitely a more residential area and really gave you a feel as to what daily life was like for Venetians. It was very quiet and I loved strolling down all the streets and canals. It is less crowded and not touristy at all. Up towards the northern end of Cannaregio is the Laguna di Veneta with the Dolomite Mountains in the distance.

I loved all the gondolas that were lined up outside of Piazza San Marco just waiting for passengers. These gondolas were at a busy area near the southern end of the Grand Canal.

This image was shot from the Ponte Rialto just as the sun set. This was a busy area with shops on the bridge, restaurants lining the Grand Canal down below and off to the left was one of the main docks for food & other deliveries to the island. It was a great spot to people watch and see all the action in the Grand Canal.


For the first stop on our little trip to Italy is the very first city I visited when I first arrived in Italy – Milan! Milan is a beautiful city with lots to do and see. We began in the city center and first stopped to get a bite to eat – panzerotti at the famous Luini Panzerotti near the Duomo. Panzerotti is an italian pastry, similar to a calzone, typically filled with tomato & mozarella. It is a must if you are in Milan. Next, we visited the Duomo di Milano, a beautiful gothic cathedral in the heart of the city. It is still my favorite cathedral in all of Europe to this day. It was raining that day, but the beautiful white marble facade contrasted the dark, looming clouds beyond.

Off of many of the streets in Milan were tons of arched walkways with gates. Each were so beautiful and I must have taken hundreds of photos of these passageways.

We sought refuge from the rain in many of Milan’s churches. This particular church had a beautiful courtyard. The large wooden doors were carved with so much detail. I definitely grew obsessed with churches in Italy and insisted that we visit each one we passed.

The old architecture in Italy is amazing. I found myself entranced with the details of all the buildings. From the intricately carved doors of churches to the sculpted columns down to the doorknobs & locks on the doors, I loved the details and spent alot of time photographing them. The locks and doorknobs were probably my absolute favorite.

Hmmm…where should we go next? Stay tuned to see!