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Saturday, December 17, 2022

Bee-ing in Italy

Bees and Being in Umbria

I've come to appreciate the natural and animal life in Italy, as you can see from my previous blog, Life with Animals in Rural Italy. But I admit that I've never been fond of insects, I admit. Many are curiously beautiful to look at, but I don't really want them living too close to me. They do, of course.  Bugs of all sorts inhabit rural houses, especially. Wasps, spiders, and all species of flying bugs get into ours as unwelcome guests. Or, perhaps they think it's theirs and we're the intruders. Anyway, I'm not a bug-fancier. 

Perhaps there is an exception. I've become interested in the incredible bees here. I've never seen bees like these, and wasn't even sure they were bees until I looked it up. I thought they might be beetles because they are so big (easily 1-2") and shiny black, like a tiny new black VW beetle car.  But they are identified as Carpenter Bees because they nest in burrows of dead wood. At the house  we're in, they congregate at the bushes near old wooden railings (perhaps nesting there). 

I've read they're good pollinators and also lay the largest eggs of any insect. Unusual for bees (usually living in large, crowded colonies), these are solitary bees. Female carpenter bees may live  alongside their sisters or daughters in small clusters.  I believe the bees living beside our house are of this coffee-klatch variety. Their buzz is evident as they swarm around flower bushes. They're big enough to watch as they extract nectar (photos from internet).

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery.                                                                                The revery alone will do, If bees are few.

--Emily Dickinson

Thinking About Bees

All this has led to thoughts about bees and about being. The physical and metaphorical aspects relating to bees. 

Bees buzz through many world mythologies, an archetype of inner circumambulation and internal order. Often they serve as symbolic creatures connecting the natural world to the under- or other-world, conveying themes of immortality and resurrection. Such ideas occur in the inscriptions and drawings of ancient near-east and ancient Aegean as well as Mayan cultures, among others. Bee-insignias have  served as symbols of kingship and dynasties, including Napolean's.

Learning more about bees and after reading about the central importance of bees to our planet in Margaret Atwood's After the Flood, I have a new attitude toward them. I walk along the path of a once active apiary (now unattended) near our rented home with respectful admiration. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to call us friends, but I do my best not to bother them or make a fuss when they cross my path. It encourages me to hear them, knowing there will be more flowers because of them, and honey as well. 

Among our first house gifts, here in the Umbrian countryside, were a jar of honey made by bees on this land and a flask of olive oil from these trees. Talk about "eating Italy", indeed!

A Honeyed Recipe

Struffoli are Italian honey-ball fritters. They are golden balls of dough drizzed with honey and best served warm. Typically served at Christmas time in Italy, they're a treat whenever in need. Click here for recipe in English.

Tenement Bees

I created this digital painting (detail shown of work exhibited in Vancouver) called Tenement Bees as a tribute to bees from crowded urban areas, many of them  blighted with neglect and decay. 

As a long-time city dweller myself, I'm grateful for the opportunity to live in and enjoy the countryside and rural areas wherever I now live. I intended this painting as a tribute to bees who do their bee-ing in settings that offer little and who struggle against circumstances set against them.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about Italy, plus other travels and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News click  https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

The Pasquarella: A Hike with a Purpose

A Hike with Tradition 

Hiking the high hills of Umbria has been formalized into a religious tradition for certain times of the year. The Pascuarella is one such traditional pilgrimage occurring in springtime. It's a tradition that occurs in several parts of Italy, but it's in Umbria that I experienced it. The term "Pascuarella" derives from the Epiphany, considered the first feast celebrated in Catholicism after the new year.

The Pascuarella in Umbria

It's springtime in Umbria (the photos were taken a few years before Covid). The sun is shining and the green land glows with new vegetation. We've driven out from our little village of Morruzze to a major highway (the one going to Orvieto) in order to join a procession of people on the Pascuarella.

Our destination is the sanctuary called Madonna della Pascuarella, located in the Forello gorge in Baschi. It started for us by parking our car wherever we could find a spot among the many cars lining the highway. We then joined others walking down the steep path down from the highway's verge. We continued on the path that winds its way up again, across the gorge, and up to the church that sits among rocks and vegetation across the highway.

Sanctuary of the Madonna della Pascuarella

The small church, dating from the early Middle Ages, fell to ruins and became the residence of religious hermits, then was restored and re-instated as a parish church in the 19thC. It comes alive during this festival.

A Family Affair

It's a family affair (with baby strollers ),  the goal being to reach the shrine by walking a somewhat arduous path. But there's a celebratory aspect to it, as well. Traditional religious songs making the occasion are often sung along the path, and street musicians often perform at the given destination.  I've learned that the songs are generally simple, consisting of sacred praises along with inducements to charity. Often they are enriched with appendices of profane or bizarre images, and always conclude with the wish of happy holidays or with requests for gifts and food. Popular food carts (now trucks) serve the traditionally good porchetta (pork) sandwiches in this region Trinkets and memorabilia fill the sanctuary area as well.

The Destination

The church, itself, is a small one. It held fewer than 50 people inside when I took this photo. We all sat on wooden benches in this rather lovely little nave.

The tone of the whole event was pleasantly communal and memorable, even during the trek back across the gorge and to our cars, waiting on the highway. 

 More Creative Life News

You can read and see more recent posts about Italy, plus other travels and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at my  Creative Life News site here.


Friday, July 30, 2021


This creative-living blog is moving. I've written about creative adventures in art, culture, and travel
for years on blogspot. Now it's all being integrated in one online spot: on my website (click).
I'll keep this Blogspot location as an archive while posting new creative-life material on my website
'news' section titled Creative Life. These new in-depth columns focus on creative living, travel, culture, art, and occasional tips and inspiration for creative living. Along with its well-designed blog section, my website contains art collections and a new art shop where you can purchase directly.

Enjoy the Creative Life journey. I look forward to hearing from you.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Friday, July 23, 2021

That's Disgusting!

Don't Look!

DON'T LOOK AWAY! I know you might want to, given the title, but read on. It will be interesting and perhaps even fun. 

Origins of Disgust 

Disgust is one of the worst reactions we can have. Whatever stimulates our disgust reaction, we want none of it! It revolts us, forces us turn away. We want to vomit. Infants show disgust clearly by tightly closed eyes, scrunched face, pursed lips, and agitated head turns away from the offending food. This kind of physical reaction, persists through life. You may be curious about why.

drawing by Janet Strayer

Disgust begins as an involuntary emotional response, one of several basic emotions we start out with in infancy. Hardwired into our facial expressions, disgust functions to defend us from something objectionable while it also alerts others. Charles Darwin thought it was a universal human reaction to something nauseating, sensed primarily via taste. Disgusted faces look like they want to prevent intake, or promote expulsion of something bad from mouth and nose. Originating in expulsion of food that might endanger our survival, Darwin thought disgust was associated with anything causing a similar reaction via other senses, including vision.

Why Focus on the Disgusting?

Why focus on the disgusting? Why focus on the ugly, as much art historically has done when portraying war, slaughter, human excess, etc.? Not only the beautiful or tasteful merit our attention. Art and human inquiry are curious to explore all aspects of human experience and expression.

charcoal drawing by Janet Strayer, from Caravaggio's Judith cutting the head of Holofernes

 Disgust Merits a Museum. 

The Disgusting Food Museum opened in Malmö, Sweden in 2018, and has since travelled worldwide. It challenges the concept of 'taste' quite literally by presenting presumably disgusting foods to eat. Let's explore this a bit --- from a safe distance. 

The foods include freshly served, often smelly items native to different regions of the world:  poop wine, fish-heads, rancid shark, Spam, stinkbugs, dog meat, kosher fried locusts, and durian (a delicious custardy fruit I ate in Singapore only after months of habituation and only after it's awful smell was altered), also worms and grasshoppers.

People at the Museum try out more foods than they expect they will. Some are reported to taste surprisingly good, if one can get past a pre-formed idea of them.  On the other hand, the museum has 

also been rebuked as culturally insensitive, even racist. I've not been to this museum so can't speak first-hand to its emphasis or impact. Thinking about it, though, considerations of beauty (or ugliness) across time and cultures are appropriate in art and cultural anthropology, so why not the same for disgust? 

Cultural Differences and Biases

I recall  years ago being the guest of a friend invited to a very traditional Bedouin wedding. It took place  in a beautiful dessert location in the Middle East. I was offered a delicacy in a bowl. My translator friend told me it was a soup containing ungulates' eyeballs. It looked like mucus to me. Minding my manners, I ate some of it. Almost immediately, my gag reflex forced me to exit the scene, accompanied by laughter from my former friend. 

How much of the disgust reaction resides in the eye (or idea) of the beholder rather than in the actual stimulus? Was it the soup, itself, or my associations that prompted my reaction? 

Different cultures and socio-cultural groups have their own taste delicacies and taboos. Foie gras, for example, may ignite your tastebuds or your outrage. Education and necessity can also change what you consider disgusting. We aren't fussy eaters when starving. Necessity quite dramatically trumps appetite and taste preferences. Any travelling we do outside our comfort zone also challenges our taste preferences. The curiosity that accompanies travel offers opportunities for such changes, and the required bits of assimilation to foreign cultures helps us to learn quickly. We acquire new tastes, expand our preferences and opinions.

Going Outside Our Comfort Zone

What we learn from this foray into Disgust applies to art and creative living. We know how hard it is to move outside our comfort zone, and not everyone is equally curious to do so. If we find ourselves in "other" territory (other than familiar), our reactions can be weaponized for either malice or political correctness. Both these goals seem to limit experience and growth. They needn't. If we can remain open to new ideas and experiences, taking various perspectives into account, we can greatly expand our possibilities, choices, and even pleasures. They can move in the direction of exploration and greater range and dimension to of our views...  and the diversity of our tastes. I'm for that!

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 




Wednesday, November 6, 2019

My Saturna Island Art Studio in Action

Welcome to my art studio on Saturna Island in the Southern Gulf Islands of B.C. Canada. 

That says it all, for now. 

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels and tips rom this itinerant artist at Creative Life News click  https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Retro is Always in Style

I've been thinking about time. It's tricky, as we know--  an elusive, immaterially real concept that entwines us as we live each moment, day, year of our lives. Time marks our memory, our mirrors, and leaves traces on everything in our world. Like the wind, we "see" time only in its effects, its collaterals.

Then there's the fairly uniform way we mark time by clocks and calendars. Civilization must agree on some things at least, though we take our liberties there too, like the idiosyncracies of local yes-or-no "daylight-savings time". And the wildly different personal timescapes of individuals. Some are highly compartmentalized, others not.

Me, for example, especially at this time of my life. I experience time as a rapidly moving conveyor that blends many elements backwards and forwards. Each minute is vast with so much flowing into it. Yet, I'm also acutely aware of the relentless ebb of minutes, the finality that will be reached... who knows when. 

For most of us, looking back through time's traces in photo albums, old magazines, and even historical art work is often a moving experience. Given that time is nonstationary, looking "through time" necessarily moves us from now to then, wherever and whenever those places exist.

Art history has always seemed a treasure-chest to me. How it cycles back and forth between stylistic preferences and different "avant-gardes". How amazing break-throughs seem to occur alongside advancing tradition. How styles change, are assimilated or absorbed into new treatments. How old things come alive again in new contexts.
painting by Janet Strayer, 36"x36", acrylic on canvas

 I'm pleased to have this work, Lady Cranach Likes Early Modern in an exhibit of Federation of Canadian Arists (click for Retro show). It's my take on a bust-portrait by Lucas Cranach that  I've appreciated for its outrageous costume and stylistic slyness --re-envisioned in this painting with a different face, lower body, and setting.

painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder
The  headress and upper clothing, especially the sleeves, identify her as a Northern Renaissance Cranach  -- but the face, setting, and mixed stylistic devices used in my painting play anachronistically with art history. My intent is to convey, more generally, the convergence of many epochs in painting, which typically builds from the past, acts in the present, and thinks of the future. I really enjoy this spiraling  of art-history and different styles.

Time moves on... in many directions. 

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Monday, January 7, 2019

A New Year and What Have You Got to Show for It?

It's a new year and, as for every beginning, we wish it to be a good one. What's good, of course, is relative and subjective. So, with each of us wishing for a good year, there are bound to be conflicts among all those incompatible goods. Still, I like to think there might be some universal ones, like peace. I know: if wishes were horses, beggars could ride.  It seems worth it to keep thinking beggars might ride. In any case, it seems impossible for some of us not to keep wishing.

New Year's brings out customary but odd habits. Not the staying up until midnight and drinking champagne (if you're lucky). That's dandy so far as I'm concerned. But the typical old year's reckoning and new-year's resolution-ing is not something I want to do. Not personally, and not more generally in terms of  the society in which I live.

But it's unavoidable: the new year coundown of "best" (and of course it also brings to mind "worst". To me, there seems something so culturally sad and diminishing about going through  "the 10 best hits of of the old year" and similar lists. We still like to do it, though my own lists hardly match up. The flip side to our customary backward-looking reckoning is all the forward-looking resolutions we project into the future for bettering ourselves or our world, There's something reassuring about that forward-looking, I suppose. A little optimism about our own decisiveness for future action. So I'm picturing a petty con-artist saying to him/her-self, "Yeah, tomorrow I'm gonna quit all this petty theft and get into some serious crime!" Well, we do what we can.

I was wondering when this habit of new-year-resolutions started. Seems it has ancient and religious origins.  Thought the seasons differed, the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year (Spring) that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Whereas in the winter, the anciet Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus (January).

We're hardly  surprised when, yet again, our actions disappoint our resolutions. No one holds us accountable for them anyway.  So what if, instead of momentous resolutions, we just decided, "keep being humane each day"? Does that sound too defeatist, not striving enough? How about just trying to be decent, as a good friend of mine once said?  I'll try that.
Detail of painting in Flow series by Janet Strayer

  So what have I got to show for the new year? Fortunately, since I set myself up for this one, I've got a new art show, with its opening reception next week: FLOW: Nature, Art, and Mind. Some of the paintings from my previous exhibition on the same theme are included,  as well as many additional ones.
Here's the write-up:

FLOW: Nature, Art and Mind is a collection of abstract and expressively representational paintings that seek to capture the dynamic energies of land, sea and sky. Inspired by the natural world on Saturna Island,  Strayer depicts the shifting currents amongst natural forms, which serve as a daily reminder of the delicate balance of geo-organic life. The seemingly solid Earth is alive with telluric energy and tectonic shifts, the Sea with oceanic flows, the Sky with atmospheric currents . . . each interacting to form and transform our world.

The exhibition is at Place des Arts in Vancovuver, a large and friendly setting that will be showing three separate art exhibits simultaneously: mine, those of another painter who uses alcohol inks in lovely abstract compositions,  and a photograhic work that is quite dream-like. You can read more about it all here.   

The exhibitions run until Feb. 6, ... enough time to set  your resolution? Happy New Year.

Your comments are always welcome: click below this post where "no comments/comments" is noted.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Scrooge and the Gift of Giving

The air now is cold  but not crisp. It's wet and grey-toned here.There must be at least 50 shades of it. Hardly a cause for celebration. The sky is mostly overcast, giving a dull and laden feeling to most everything under it. Certainly including me. 

No birds sing. Exception: the crows and ravens still quarrel, sounding a bit impatient with the state of things. Strong winds sometimes break through this diminished daylight, with occasional gusts blowing away the endless clouds and fog to show a moment of sparkle upon the waters or a glimmer of distant snow-covered mountain. 

Winter-solstice is approaching. I feel like a bear., Truly. I should be hibernating, but there's just too much to do. Although I do want to do much of it, a seasonal lethargy has gotten into my bones and makes me cringe at taking action. Instead, it directs me to the couch. Where I have been sick with a cold-flu-(whatever) just to justify it.

Not the right attitude for Christmas, Chanuka, and winter holiday season. Humbug! I feel like Scrooge, without his ill intent. I'm just morose and lethargic. Hardly a time to join in on the generic la la la la lah. More in tune with some old blues music, which is exactly what I have playing. Oh, Bessie. 

Nothing like the blues to get a gal out of this sorry state. Which brings me to the good news in all this glum . It's a genuine gift of giving in the form of an art donation to the VGH-UBC Art Foundation. For many years this foundation has collected a rather remarkable art collection, with works adorning Vancouver's main hospital locations. Art acts as a form of connection, healing, joy, contemplation, enrichment, and all the many varieties of experience it offers. 

I am very pleased and grateful to know that three of my works have just this month been selected for the Art Foundation collection. I have donated the paintings, and am told they have a new setting in mind for them, which I will be most interested to see. Even on less than happy occasions visiting the hospital, I have been so very impressed by the art that greets me in all sections of it. How much of a difference art makes. Perhaps this is especially so when it is seen in unlikely moments and settings. 
I'm so thankful to be a part of this. 
All Things Bright, Greeting, and Praise: 3 paintings by Janet Strayer, VGH-UBC Art Foundation

And so, I will end on this up-note and wish you well this season of gifts and giving.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Island-Hopping Art

Saturna Island, a little-known wonder of the world, is home ot many creative people... as you might imagine it to be. 

Yesterday, for example, I went to a book-launching  for the first novel published by a friend and neighbour, Lyne Gareau. Her book, La  librarie des Insomniacs, written (and currently available) in French, will no doubt soon be available in English as well. The launching was held at a gorgeous and locally well-known spot at Saturna's east-most point, the FAB building, a Saturna Heritage Site.
photo by:http://saturnaheritage.ca/node/10

Another creative event is coming soon. In this one, Saturna Island shares a bit of the spotlight with its neighbour, another of the very special southern Gulf Islands (an archipelago west of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia,

A group of artists from Saturna has been invited to show their artwork at the Sea Star Vineyards on Pender. Island  This vineyard has been making a good name for its wine ... and for its art exhibitions.

I'll be showing a few paintings with the other Saturna Island artists mentioned in the poster  (original painters, photographers, textile artists) from Saturna. We're a bunch of interesting individuals. You can find out for yourself at the opening celebration.

 If you have the opportunity to visit during our art exhibition, please raise a toast with us... to ever-inspiring art and creative life!

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Saturna Island Studio Tour 2018

Saturna Island is magical place to visit... and this tour is a very congenial way to meet the creators and see their work in their own studios. You can see original paintings, fabric art, photography, and ceramics, and woodworking. 
Check out the artsaturna.blogspot.ca for full into.
This showcase of the fine creative artists and their work in their studios on Saturna Island has been a an event  for some years. Very different from the mostly crammed studio spaces in city-tours, the studios here are in wonderfully unique rural settings.  You can also see a group show  to give you an overall view of what's in store.
It's a fine time to visit if you can make it! I'll be partiipating and we can meet at the PRISM Gallery  near the ferry dock.

Your comments are always welcome: click below this post where "no comments/comments" is noted.

Happy summering.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

PRISM Art Gallery Opens for the Season

June inaugurates my second Spring-Summer season at the PRISM Gallery on beautiful Saturna Island (open weekends and holiday Mondays 11am-5pm).The PRISM is located at a fine little spot near the ferry dock and pub, so you can drop in and browse when coming, going, or lingering.  

The new show features my paintings of fabulous faces.I love faces. They are like windows from which we look at others and others look inward into us. Faces fascinate if you just look. But we're not supposed to look, and certainly not to let our gaze linger. Perhaps that's why I especially love to paint faces-- real and imagined.You get to look and linger and see inside as well as out.  

These imagined faces I've painted come from fables (hence they are fabulous), dreams, reveries, and idiosyncratic amalgams of people known or created. Mostly female because I am.

I've used a range of styles for different purposes:Sometimes the idea (or abstract concept) of a face is what I'm seeking, so I've painted in an abstract style.Other times it's the emotive quality of faces, so I've painted expressively to catch this aspect.Yet other times it's the narrative quality of faces, the stories they hold within them, so I've painted what I think and feel the narrative might be. Themes expressed in these works include the links between human and animal, child and doll/puppet, and the beyond.

Saturna Island is filled with a variety of wonderful artists and crafts-people. Each has his or own studio, which I'm happy to help you locate. My own working studio seems a bit hard for many people to reach, so I've opened this new spot to welcome you to my artwork.

The B&Bs and camping spots on Saturna are well recommended and range across preferences and budgets. Plan a get-away here if you can. And include a visit to the PRISM.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more about creative life, travels, tips and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at Creative Life News at https://www.janetstrayer.com

Regards, Janet 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sorrento and Naples

Sorrento is a Treat

Living anywhere can be an adventure. But living away from home is one, for sure. 

In Italy. Today was another reminder of the dramatic contrasts of Italy.  Sorrento was our reward after our grueling stay in Matera during an unexpected snowfall (see blogpost)Nothing could be more of a contrast than our experience of this morning in Matera and this evening in Sorrento. 

We continue to think of Sorrento as a "reward" city when we want a respite from more challenging travels.  What a lovely and welcome site it is, even in winter, to come from harsher weather to this sunny seaside town filled with orange trees. 

A bit broken by our recent adventures in Matera, we decided to rest in the luxury of La Minervetta a  little boutique hotel in Sorrento. Here's looking out our huge window at Vesuvius. 

Vesuvius through hotel window (Janet Strayer photo)
                                      View of Vesuvius, Naples and Seagull over bay (from our window) 
The  Minervetta is a small and beautifully architected modern white house standing several stories along the slope lining the sea. The interior and all rooms are individually decorated with professional but also delightfully eclectic care, with wonderful art pieces and good books and magazines in all private rooms and in the hugely comfortable lounge and corridors. It's a feast for eyes and senses.

Unruly Naples: I Like It! 

We stayed in Sorrento but took the train daily into Naples --a city that eats cars, among other things. Every guide-book screams NOT to take your car into Naples if  you expect to get it back intact. Driving in the city is lawless. Every guide-book, as well as some city notices, also warns of pickpockets. We know: we'd been hacked by nimble fingers on previous trips.

But I like Naples. It's an overwhelmingly noisy and grungy city that has too much of everything unrefined. Since reading Elena Ferrante's books, starting with My Brilliant Friend,  which conveys the often brutal but very human life there, I felt a bit more of a  personal connection to Naples . Not that I'd take anything for granted as a visitor here.

Touring the Sights in Naples

It was just going to be a "look-around and make it easy" kind of day.  We ended up just strolling busy old streets, with construction repairs going on all over the city center. It was fun window-shopping along the main streets from the train station, no visible signs to guide us. 

Each of the main streets branched into many little side-streets, each devoted to different products. One was filled with presepi, originally Christmas manger scenes in miniature, now extended to include whole village populations, political commentary, and activities involving moving parts. The sculptural quality of some of the work depicted was really quite good. Another little street was fitted with lovely old chocolate shops, another with embroidery and sewing shops. Outside stalls sold varieties of small items from keys to candy.  Probably anything could be found, if you knew where to look. Except maybe your car.

Santa Chiara

                Cloister, Sta. Chiara, Naples (photos Janet Strayer)

We ended up at the massive complex of Santa Chiara (monastery, church, tombs, archaeological museum, cloisters), built in early 1300's by the Queen of Majorca and her husband, King Robert of Naples. Too much, too big, and the architecture, well, just too heavy .... so we settled for a visit only to its famed cloisters. 

The cloister, transformed in 18th C. grand Rococo style, has a brashly colourful floral decor. 
The  huge frescoes that remain visible (damaged by time and war) are religious in theme , but the tiles decorating the perimeter foundations of the pillared cloisters show bucolic scenes of  country life beside the sea (see above). You'd think the nuns who strolled there might have come from the Follies Bergère. The decorations seem so gay and frivolous.  Every inch of unplanted area is filled with decorated majolica tiles. What kinds of contemplative thoughts did this lavish decor inspire in cloistered nuns? 

photos Janet Strayer

Pizza Napolitana

Walking down from Santa Chiara we came to our final destination of the day in Naples: one of six top-rated pizzerias (by Michelin) in a city famous for its great pies. We ate in the last room of the plain, white-tiled L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. This place serves just two types of wood-fired pizza (red sauce, white sauce), but there's no need for more. We had one of each.

We walked back to the train station, having walked about 6 miles in Naples that day.  It was winter but the orange trees bloomed. The train was packed with commuters. It was dark outside by now, with the train travelling through tunnels and above ground. Every now and then the train doors opened and, though you could not see them, you could smell the scent of oranges in winter.  

It was a good trip. Car and wallets intact, and so much more to adventure to bring home with us.

More Creative Life News

You can read and see more recent posts about Italy, plus other travels and creative adventures by this itinerant artist at my  Creative Life News site here.