Italian Intermission

The strange this is, I’ve only been away for a week. But looking at all these photos, it feels like double or triple that. How beautiful it’s been to be back in Italy, to re-connect with so many favourite places (and people).

Charlie has been at home in Dorset, tending the incredible garden of Eden and preparing for all his astonishing shows. Tomorrow, early, I’m on my way home at last. Can you imagine how much I can’t wait?

But in the meantime, before the memory fades, a week in Italy in 200 pictures.



I’d started near Livorno, looking at a beautiful house which is a potential new project for the office – but had a night in Florence at the end of the day.  Wonderful Florence. The light was perfect as I arrived at the Duomo.  Brunelleschi looking upwards at his great dome, forever.

After supper I walked back to the hotel in a huge thunder and rain storm. I arrived drenched to the skin. A good feeling. The following morning was bright and clear and hot already. I went for a very early walk.  My favourite time of day in a great city.  One of my favourite buildings of all time – the Ospedale degli Innocenti.  The wonderful walk back to the Duomo.  Rustication.  The market stands – so beautiful in themselves. 


And then to Pienza, to meet Valentina and Kate. I arrived in time for lunch, overlooking this view.

A sleep and then an afternoon walk.  Dinner that night. On the way home, proving the rule that in Italy, no cathedral or church square shall be without a small posse of tiny kids playing football long into the night.  And the elders, chatting.  Another early morning.  First light on the Duomo.  I had coffee at the Caffe la Posta.  Putting the world to rights again, as they had been the evening before… The summer palace of the pope – so beautiful.  Another rule – no Italian arcade shall be without a stack of chairs. 



And so we arrived on Sunday in Gaoile. A perfect day of doing nothing.  On the Monday, we went to Radda to do a bit of food shopping… More sitting watching the world go by.  It was a week of huge skies and heavy thunderstorms in between amazing heat.
A walk to Brolio, most mornings. 


We arrived with all the anticipation of the first Palio in three years – but it wasn’t to be.

At 5 o clock, the most intense downpour rained down for not more than ten minutes – but ten crucial minutes in which the course was completely saturated and rendered un-ridable.  Tears of sadness on the face of the little ones.
Despair.  More despair…. Within minutes the sun was out again but the race was postponed to the following day.  The course was a muddy quagmire.  Putting the world to rights.  More putting the world to rights.  But we arrived home to a beautiful, serene evening.  The next day bode much finer.  All the fun of the Palio was there to be enjoyed.  Anticipation mounts and then the insane 90 seconds race and a victor – this year, Leocorno are the victors.  And then the intense, velvet blue of the sky over the Campo di Siena that is like no other sky I know. 

We went back to Siena the next day, cloudy and grey and perfectly suiting the palette of this most beautiful city.  Removing the course boards.  So carefully fitted around the campo.  Each carefully numbered.  The colours of Siena. 


G A I O L E   I N   C H I A N T I

A visit, as always, to our favourite butcher in Italy, Chini.
Home, more beautiful sunsets.  And astonishing sunrises.  The baker in Gaiole, another favourite place.  And then, our last happy night….  And soft, pink dawn. 


That afternoon, Kate and I took the train and bus down to Rome. We had just a short evening before I was heading back to London and Kate to New York, but what a beautiful two hour walk we had.
A favourite spot.  Sadly Orso is closed in August.  Piazza Navona, simply the most beautiful.  (Do you mind my interrupting this hitherto perfect set of images to say I don’t think that Richard Meier’s Museum of the Ara Pacis is aging very well?  Built 2006.). How to age beautifully, effortlessly: I’d prefer to be a building that looks better after two hundred years than on its first day.  And then…. we arrived in front of the greatest building of all just as the sun was setting. 

Nothing more really need to be said, or written, or shown.

And now, home.  It’s been a busy two days, but I still have that glow, the reflected light, of all that we’ve seen.


Wow, just delicious to see all those images of Italy, I remember Florence well from my visit, did not see all the lovely places you have been to, but I felt as though I might have travelled there after viewing your images….always a pleasure to wander somewhere with you! Jennifer, NZ


Dear Ben,
This post took me back to some of my very favorite places in Italy! I long to go back – maybe next year? How wonderful that you were able to see the Pantheon at the end of the day – my favorite building in the world. Thanks for the beautiful photos!

Alicia Whitaker

Wonderful post, dear Ben. I knew that you would find a pile of chairs somewhere. Thank you so much for sharing.

Pierre B.

Enjoyed your fantastic photos!


a friend has just directed me to your site and this post, for purposes of nostalgia .. your photographs are wonderful! Re the Pantheon – see Barbara Grizzutti Harrison’s Italian Days (1989) for her description of that ‘perfect space’.. cheers, J.


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