A Luxury Country Inn - Umbria

Renoir’s “Onions”

Knowing about my art history background, one of the most common questions guests ask me is “what is your favorite painting?”  They are clearly expecting me to name one of the great Italian masters, perhaps a Botticelli or Leonardo or Raphael.  I have always answered that I loved too many to simply name just one.  Last year, a guest insisted, not satisfied with my answer.  I told him I would think it over and see him the following morning at breakfast.  When I came at 9:00 AM, he was already on the panoramic porch, smiling in anticipation of my”proclamation”.

I held a postcard in my hand, face down, as I announced that I was indeed ready to name a favorite of favorites!  I will never forget the surprised facial expression of our guest when I turned the postcard over,  proudly showing and sharing, “my favorite is Renoir’s Onions”!


While this painting was purchased by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in 1955, I first saw it there, in Williamstown, MA, in 1987 when I accompanied Mar on a college tour.  Because she had an Admissions interview at Williams College, we spent a few days there visiting the campus and the gorgeous area.  The highlight of the area, along with the beautiful Williams College campus, was the amazing Clark Art Institute, still today one of my favorite museums (along with the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia) which I rank highly even when compared to many of Europe’s greatest collections.

Each and every time we visited Mar during her four years at Williams, we would spend long, blissful hours at the Collection.  Mar even gave concerts with the Williams Collegium Musicum that she directed in the Impressionists’ Room 7 with Renoir, Degas, Monet and other notables looking on!

My particular love affair with humble onions was forged long ago:  Mother was eating her favorite red onion sandwich just before I was born.  Moreover, I was assigned onions in a fifth grade vegetable-growing school project, winning first prize on my presentation of the experience:  I remember standing in front of the class, proudly showing my five onions and describing them as beautiful, intriguing in their tight inner layers and their paper-like outer skin, geometric symmetry, appealing roundness and smoothness, warm golden or burgundy colors.  I mentioned their remarkable culinary versatility, how my mother used them in so many different ways in our dinners. I told the class about their amazing taste.  I’m sure that experience was fundamental to my passion for onions.




 Onions are delicious in so many ways:   fried,


 in a sweet and sour sauce,


stuffed with an array of ingredients, 


as a pizza or a focaccia topping,


or grilled!

Renoir transports the commonplace, humble onions to absolute magnificence, treating the mundane subject matter with a skillful but “casual rigor”:

 I love the apparent haphazard arrangement of the onions and the few garlic heads piled loosely on a crumpled, nondescript kitchen linen devoid of embroidery or fancy borders.  It is important to know that Renoir painted the “Onions” during a visit to Naples in 1881.  Clearly influenced by the bold light of southern Italy, he inundates the entire painting – and literally bathes the subject – in the clearest light.   Fluid and rapid brushstrokes define the onions’ round, solid forms and skillfully capture the shiny – almost translucent – papery quality of their thin skins.   I am not surprised that Sterling Clark often stated that this was his favorite of the many paintings by Renoir in his collection.

Renoir’s other 1881 painting of Naples focuses on the hustle and bustle of daily life near the chaotic harbor. The scene is full of local flavor—characteristic Neapolitan boats, donkeys loaded with supplies, men and women carrying large baskets of goods on their heads.  In the distance, smoke exits the mouth of Vesuvio, an active volcano.  Parallel strokes of paint delineate the composition:  reds and oranges contrast with the purple and blue shadows as well as with the pastel and creamy white buildings across the Naples Bay.

The long shadows cast by the strong Mediterranean sun bespeak ever so loudly of southern Europe.  While worlds apart in many ways, these two 1861 Naples paintings share stylistic similarities:  Renoir wrote during his stay in Naples that he felt freed of the expected “classic rigor” that was prevalent in France – that he felt a unique whiff of fresh air in Naples.  In the Onions, there is no premeditation of compositional form.  Instead, it is as if the subject is portrayed in a happenstance configuration, set in stark contrast against rapid, irregular, diagonal strokes of the coolest hues of light blue and pale yellow.  No less important to its form is the Renoir’s use of subtle white and green highlights, loosely dabbled – casually here and there –  on the onions’ golden skins.


We have always grown onions and garlic in our vegetable gardens for the sheer pleasure of having our own.



Two locations in Italy are most famous for quality onions:  Tropea in Calabria and near-by Cannara in Umbria.  Various types of Cannara onions are celebrated in a September Festival in Cannara, our favorite food festival that we never miss.  Every dish on the menu has onion in its ingredients, even the amazing desserts.


P1120182 (1)

beautiful onion art1

How I would love to have Renoir’s Onions in my kitchen.  Perhaps I should search for a quality print of the Onions to hang in substitution and in celebration of my favorite painting!


It’s Time to Pause…continued – Part 2

 …to reminisce, to indulge more fully than was possible at the time, in the delicious afterglow of so many happy memories of 2017.

More than making New Year resolutions, I like to take a look back on the past year to remember, to put in perspective, to fully understand, to appreciate, to reflect…and to be grateful!  I especially like to take the time to relish the many magic moments… to indulge more fully than was possible at the time in the delicious afterglow of myriad happy memories,  to take stock of a great year.

It’s time to remember the joy of:


of Jessi, such a wonderful new member of our family


light-hearted music making at the piano


food preparation for Mar and Jessi’s wedding reception for our extended Italian family

FullSizeRender 7

having our almost-entire family gathered at Genius Loci 


the fun and laughter of the cousins “hamming it up”


ricotta-filled, baked zucchini flowers and tomatoes with fried capers for a leisurely dinner at Redibis in Bevagna


the marvel of a new day – everyday


the super abundance of mid-summer fruit in spite of the severe drought and intense heat


the creative buzz of professional artist Kelli Folsom teaching a Workshop


professional artist Monte Thompson demonstrating his portrait painting techniques


 home-cooked lunches and conversation each day with the artists


admiring weeds as beautiful as any planted flowers


celebrating our summer birthdays 


Summer Solstice



smelling the roses


 late-evening, relaxed, outdoor dinners


vacation days to revisit the amazing Byzantine art in Ravenna



exploring the countryside around Ravenna


an unforgettable fish dinner at a restaurant in Marina di Ravenna


stocking up at our favorite fresh fish market in Comacchio before driving home


walking around Comacchio, admiring its one-of-a-kind bridge – Il Ponte dei Trepponti


the beauty of Maratea on our way to Sicily for a vacation





bringing home 10 lbs. of delicious prickly pears


Piazza Armerina to view the stunning, extensive Roman mosaics


gorgeous Cefalù


the THRILL of visiting the Duomo di Monreale


overwhelming beauty of the mosaics


wandering around charming Sicilian fishing villages


groves and groves of my favorite tree – the eucalyptus


the awe of the Agrigento Valley of the Temples


the amazing fall beauty




spending time with the Crimson and Golders





of yet another excellent oil harvest


our cold-pressed pure extra-virgin olive oil 


celebrating the holidays and bringing the wonderful year to an end!!!  Thanks for joining me.


It’s Time to Pause…

 …to reminisce, to indulge more fully than was possible at the time, in the delicious afterglow of so many happy memories of 2017.

More than making New Year resolutions, I like to take a look back on the past year to remember, to put in perspective, to fully understand, to appreciate, to reflect…and to be grateful!  I especially like to take the time to relish the many magic moments… to indulge more fully than was possible at the time in the delicious afterglow of myriad happy memories,  to take stock of a great year.

It’s time to remember the joy of:

the garden wedding with Jessica's father

Mar and Jessi’s unforgettable and gorgeous wedding


 the stunningly beautiful wedding cake


unexpected and amazing surprises


 surprising friends with a fun, hearth-cooked dinner of sausage and lamb


a rare snowfall


a lovely meal with friends at one of our wonderful local restaurants


toasting to many years of a happy marriage


celebrating a life together


 the 16 years with little Virgola


intricate and intriguing plant patterns all around us


the vibrant beauty of spring and heavenly scent of lavender


delicious food


and more delicious and beautifully-prepared food


early summer beauty


our magnificent and awe-inspiring view

smiling sunflowers welcoming us back

the delight of cheerful sunflowers


the abundance from so many fruit trees


the taste of our very own succulent table grapes

S. Cipolla '15 - 4

eating at the local Sagre


sharing that food festival fun with friends



Kelli Folsom & Monte Thompson


Meet the Artist Series


                                 Kelli Folsom

“I believe in beauty. I hope that you see the beauty that I see and experience the excitement that I feel through every energetic brushstroke. I hope that my paintings open you up to a whole new appreciation for your world.” -Kelli Folsom

Kelli received a B.F.A. from Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT, the first impressionist colony in the U.S. established in 1899. It is here that she studied traditional life drawing, painting and sculpture with great emphasis on in-depth study and classical techniques and the joy of working in a direct impressionist style in nature. Every still life arrangement is set up in her north light studio and painted directly from life in a matter of one or two sittings.

 She paints directly so that her relationship to the subject is heightened in the moment in order to pass on that perception and experience to the viewer resulting in a painting that looks like a painting and not a photograph. Kelli chooses objects and arrangements to create the most aesthetically beautiful design and a feeling of abundance and intimacy.  These arrangements are influenced by centuries of traditional still life painting from the Dutch Masters of the 1600s  to French Academics of the 1900s.

 Kelli is an award winning artist who at a young age is already exhibiting in museum shows and garnering attention and inclusion in some of the highest organizations in contemporary representational art like Oil Painters of America, American Women Artists, American Impressionists Society and Women Artists of the West.


              Kelli teaching and demonstrating at Genius Loci Umbria, Italy


          Monte teaching and demonstrating his techniques at Genius Loci Umbria

19260390_1554610484578793_2690772438302406210_n Monte Thompson

Monte’s artwork explores the beauty that surrounds us through visual simplicity, movement of light, and the tension of opposite but complementary qualities.

From his studio in Colorado, Monte works in the painting tradition of Caravaggio where he creates a harmony between chiaroscuro and modern concepts.  Through these concepts, he reinforces the intelligence that underlies all human endeavors.  With a bold and impassioned style, he creates the feeling of order and devotes himself to the greatest beauty in life.



Red on yellow, light on dark. Dark on light, yellow on red. These contrasts give drama and unity to the work. La bella figura!

“Apples in Red and Gold”

the two paintings above by Monte Thompson

Kelli and Monte met at art school and both fell in love with art making and each other…and later, with Italy. They conducted an exciting and successful Oil Painting Workshop in July of 2017 at the inspiring and stunningly located Inn –  Genius Loci Umbria  – and, by popular demand, are returning to Umbria to Genius Loci  in November 2018 for their 2nd Workshop during the riotously beautiful, peak foliage season.


                  the inspiring fall view from Genius Loci

They are a perfect teaching team as their styles support and complement one another.  Monte’s strong understanding of form, anatomy and spatial design is complemented by Kelli’s grasp of atmosphere, light and intuitive exploration.  His work is currently represented in Arts at Denver Gallery.

 Both Kelli and Monte are exhibiting members of Oil Painters of America.

Kelli Folsom and Monte Thompson are academically trained artists, working exclusively from life in oils. They create museum quality paintings combining an old master feel with rich color and painterly brushstrokes. Their work brings refined beauty of the highest quality that uplifts the soul and is held in the highest esteem by collectors.


                                                                                 painting by Kelli Folsom






above paintings by Kelli Folsom


                                   painting by Kelli Folsom

Rose Room 2

                                              inviting and comfortable guest rooms at Genius Loci Umbria

sagratino 2

                                                     spacious suite-like guest rooms at Genius Loci


relax in comfort and beauty at Genius Loci Umbria


               the gorgeous views from Genius Loci inspire painters




Won’t you join us for the exciting November 2018 Workshop at Genius Loci Umbria, Italy.  

Please click here below for more information.



A new Painting by Barbara Fluty

Inspired by the general ambiance of the near-by Umbrian hill towns and by so many of the picturesque details, from her own photo taken while visiting Spello, Barbara just finished this remarkable…and ever-so charming 24″x 30″ oil painting:


to learn more about Barbara’s art or to inquire about any particular painting featured in my last blog post, do feel free to contact Barbara by email at:  bfbokc1@cox.net


Meet the Artist Series – Introducing Barbara Fluty

FullSizeRender_1Barbara Fluty

Barbara was a guest at Genius Loci recently as a participant in our Artist in Residence Kelli Folsom’s Oil Painting Workshop (please stay tuned to learn more about Kelli in this same Meet the Artist series!)

IMG_1107enjoying en plein air dining

IMG_4837 along with en plein air painting

 I had the pleasure of perusing her photographic gallery of paintings and was delighted that she graciously accepted to be featured in our Meet the Artist series.  A warm, elegant, soft spoken soul she added much to the very special Workshop Week.

 Barbara shared, “As a child my parents sparked my creativity with drawing and painting lessons whenever available. We were rewarded throughout my school years with many awards and a scholarship to Kansas City Art Academy. I attended Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University earning a fine arts degree in design”.




Barbara continued, “After graduating I spent many years designing and buying art for several retail furniture companies. Eventually I returned to my original passion of painting, bridging my experience from interior design to decorative painting. I had a successful career enhancing clients interiors with beautiful walls and furniture accents.



   Five years ago I had the opportunity to get “off the ladder” and concentrate on my favorite activity, painting on canvas. Since then I have studied with many wonderful artists including Judy McCombs, Laura Rob, Kelli Folsom, Greg Kreutz,  Rick McClure, and have been greatly influenced by the works of Richard  Schmid and David Laffel. I have shown in several galleries and many art shows. You can see my work on www.dailypaintworks.com/artists/barbara-fluty-4840/artwork.”






Barbara concludes, ” I love the experience and process of creating, and hope it will enhance others lives!”

Her beautiful still lifes of bold and penetrating colors, contrasting textures, uncluttered compositions,  excellent juxtaposition of materials…and her skillful use of chiaroscuro will, as she hopes,  most certainly enhance our visual experience!



Feel free to contact Barbara by email:  bfbokc1@cox.net


May 2016 View from Genius Loci Country Inn

10th Anniversary Celebration

As Genius Loci celebrates its 10th season, I have enjoyed pouring through old photographs and am so very pleased to share visual moments of and some thoughts from this amazing adventure.

Even with our clear vision for an inviting inn, anchored in but not limited to, Umbrian tradition (its rural setting,  antique building materials, architectural details, no-fuss furnishings, and colors), reaching our goal, nevertheless,  often seemed so far away… and so dauntingly overwhelming when we first began.

The history-filled 1880s farmhouse needed extensive renovation and ever-flexible creativity to overcome the many obstacles. It required such unwavering steadfastness and attention to detail in order to finally reach our desired goal of providing guests with a welcoming, comfortable, relaxed ambiance inn that provided luxury…but with an “easy” sense of  a feel-good rustic elegance.

We aimed to create a tranquil and refined oasis, exactly the type that we ourselves always sought/seek during our travels.  We knew/know well the certain feeling that we yearned/yearn for at the end of our culturally stimulating (and often exhausting) days exploring Italy’s endless treasures of history, natural beauty, art and world-famous food – that certain feeling where we found/find peace of mind and psychological well-being –  both so necessary to reload for more of the fascinating stimulation the following morning.

Towards our goal and in keeping with our particular genius loci (the spirit of place), we aimed for:

*  luxurious rooms ideally positioned to enjoy the sweeping views

Loft 2

*  an inviting outdoor portico with magnificent views and comfortable seating for quiet time


*  a large-enough panoramic solarium and pool to provide private spaces

Pool 3

*   delicious and beautifully-presented breakfast buffets which reflected/reflect the very best of local traditions and specialties

Breakfast 5

*  an inviting Honor Bar


*  a charmingly comfortable Library/Reading room

Genius Loci - A Luxury Country Inn - Reading Room at Genius Loci

Enjoy the slideshow for a glimpse of our attempt to implement our vision of creating the welcoming hospitality, refinement and relaxed elegance that is Genius Loci Country Inn.

Won’t you come to experience the magic for yourself and share our 10th Anniversary Celebration?


A Medieval Festival in Bevagna

  June is a magical month at Genius Loci:  we are surrounded by endless fields of stately, majestic sunflowers, the days are long with balmy evenings…and just down the road, Bevagna is alive and abuzz with one of Italy’s most highly acclaimed and marvelous festivals.  Il Mercato delle Gaite runs for 10 days in the second half of June.

smiling sunflowers welcoming us back

This period is a wonderful time to visit Umbria.  Book your stay today at Genius Loci and let us help you with the information you need to get the most enjoyment out of this magnificent festival.


adorable youngsters - look at those shoes!


the blacksmith


silk thread


wool dyeing with all natural herbs


a woman in the procession

             a huge thank you to guest/friend Julie Thomas for her amazing photos above

Italy is famous for its festivals.  They were originally organized in small towns, by the local people who all participated in one way or another to keep expenses to a minimum, devolving the profit either to a charity or to the needs of their own town or village.

Over the years, many of these once local festivals began to outsource the work to national cooperatives that send in a team.  As you can imagine, this utterly changes the spirit and atmosphere of the festivals.  Maurizio and I have been to some of these outsourced festivals and much to our dismay, they were entirely different, less coherent and much less enjoyable:  the towns had “sold their souls”.

Luckily Bevagna continues true to itself.  Year after year it is awarded its due recognition as one of the Top 10 Festivals in Italy.  It meets and exceeds the basic criteria for this award – that an historic committee approve the authenticity, that the medieval culinary traditions be strictly respected…and above all, that a high percentage of local residents be involved in myriad ways.  Bevagna has one of the highest percentages, in fact, of local participation of all the top-rated festivals.

Its soul is intact, as are all those of the magnificent Umbrian towns.  The towns are just as well-known for what they have not become as for what they are.  

Each June, the locals don medieval garb as they go about the Festival activities.   Each quarter - gaita – creates a tavern where dishes are prepared exclusively from documented medieval recipes.  The four gaite compete intensely in horse races, archery, processions, medieval street music, banquets, workshops and tavern menus.  

Artisan workshops are recreated, welcoming visitors with demonstrations and explanations.  While all the workshops are interesting and worth visiting, we find the paper-making, candle-making from local beeswax, cloth dyeing from local herbs,  silk weaving process (complete from raising the silk worms to spinning the thread),  blacksmith, basket weaving and thatching using local river reeds truly remarkable. 

These finished products are exhibited and sold on “market days” .

Bevagna delle Gaite

 one of the typical street markets

Candle makers

 the pure beeswax candle-making workshop

A weaver working on an antique loom

 the silk weaving on antique looms workshop

Street vendors

 the ceramic market


 flat bread and local acorn-fed pork sausages


evening processions and pageantry in the town square


beautiful Bevagna – one of the rare flat Umbrian towns

Won’t you join us in June for this amazing Medieval Gaite Festival in Bevagna?


Sagra della Cipolla Festival

S. Cipolla '15 - 4


Food Festivals abound in Umbria.  Traditionally they were always centered on a local food of the town where the sagra was held.  More recently, eager to jump on the bandwagon, many towns have sadly “invented” sagre that have nothing to do at all with their own tradition or have hired “teams” from other regions to come in to run the food festivals.  We have long stopped going to those, finding them much less enjoyable with little or no local citizenship participation…with little…if any…ragion di essere.

There is an interesting national listing of Sagre that takes into consideration many factors in assigning the top 10.  Local participation of the townspeople is one of the most important factors.  Umbrian festivals, for the most part, score well along these lines.

La Sagra della Cipolla in the small, flat (one of the few in Umbria) town of Cannara (about 15 minutes from Bevagna), held the first two weeks in early September,  satisfies all the criteria for an excellent festival:  it is centered around its very own traditional product – the humble onion –  AND has an almost 100% local participation in its organization. It does allow people from other regions to come to sell their fair-like goods along the streets, but the cooking and the serving are done by local residents.

The food in any and all of the taverns is excellent:  soups, parmigiana, pasta sauces, stews, starters…even desserts are based on onions.  As you can see from the photos we took this year, Cannara grows a wide array of onions – all of excellent quality.

S. Cannara '15

S. Cipolla '15 - 2

Sagra della Cipolla 2015

S. Cipolla '15 - 5

S. Cipolla '15 - 3

S. Cipolla '15

The Sagra della Cipolla in Cannara celebrated its 35th year this September.  I don’t think we have missed but three or four years.  We always enjoy going, trying to go for two dinners in the two-week time frame.  We have been fortunate to share this experience some years with guests who have enjoyed it as much as we always have!

La Sagra della Cipolla in Cannara – one of our very favorite food festivals.


The Island of Ponza – Final Part 3 – Food and Return to Formia


Driving around the island at different times of day, the light was very different, offering spectacular sights and varying colors of the crystal clear waters.

Ponza turquoise water

Ponza island

lunch at our hotel

Ponza magnificent

Ponza palms

Ponza villa



the sights, amusing or stunningly gorgeous, never ceased to amaze.  Each evening we ended our blissful days with a late dinner at Punta Incenso Restaurant, a family run, informal place that served dinner only.  Several of the family members spent their morning fishing, serving their catch of the day at dinner.  What a treat to enjoy only the best local, seasonal FRESH fish.

Our Ponza restaurant

Ponza grilled calamaro, swordfish and ricciola

Ponzese alici

Ponza - alici

Ponza -soutè di vongole


Maurizio on boat end of vacation

end of vacation

twilight at Ponza

Five glorious days on the beautiful island of Ponza with a total change of pace, scenery, food and activities made for the perfect late August-early September mini-vacation. We couldn’t help but wonder why we had never gone before!