Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The authentic Italian art: interview with the Art Historian, Laura Morelli

Today's post in Flavours blog is an interview with the Art Historian and Author, Laura Morelli.  We met Laura and we discussed everything about Italian art and what is art inspiration for her (..we were delighted to hear that painting holidays in Italy are among these things)!  

Welcome to Flavours Holidays blog Laura. Please tell us a bit of your background and what inspired you to learn about Italian art. What is about Italian art and painting that fascinates you the most?

I am a traditionally trained art historian, so of course I studied the great Italian painters, sculptors, and artists of the past. However, when I had the chance to live in Italy I quickly realized that many of the traditions of the past are still living traditions. The skills, the forms, the knowledge, and more importantly, the spirit of the past, is kept alive in the hands of thousands of artisans who, even today, take pride in passing the torch from one generation to the next.

Some of our favourite Italian regions are Tuscany, Venice and Sicily. Have you visited any of these areas? What art venues and places do you find more characteristic about Italian art there and would you recommend to visit?

Tuscany: Tuscany has become such a popular destination for international travelers, but some of its most important traditions remain little known. You can discover them if you know where to look: the generations-old ceramics studios of Montelupo Fiorentino, the terra-cotta ovens of Impruneta, and the alabaster mines of Volterra.

Sicily: Ceramics are one of Sicily’s most vibrant traditions; the major ceramics centers are Caltagirone, Santo Stefano di Camastra, and Monreale. Coral jewelry is also a favorite. The Roman author Pliny mentions the artisans of Trapani, on the western coast of Sicily, working coral pulled from the sea.

Venice: In the history of Italian craftsmanship, Venice plays a unique and critical role. Tourism has been a double-edged sword for Venice. On the one hand, the industry has prompted the importation of cheap knockoffs that are made overseas. On the other, tourism has ensured that important Venetian handmade traditions such as mask-making and glass-making continue to thrive in our post-industrial society.

At Flavours Holidays we consider artisan making traditions, like limoncello making, a kind of art. We also believe that passing this kind of knowledge to the next generation is a type of art. What do you think?

So many of Italy’s culinary specialties are world-renowned: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma, traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, grappa, and of course, let’s not forget limoncello!  If you think about it, the history, regional tradition, and artisanal processes that yield many of these culinary specialties are exactly the same as those that yield world-class artistic traditions like Florentine leather, Murano glass, or Deruta ceramics. It’s a very special recipe of family tradition, regional pride, and the teaching of traditional methods. 

Lastly, we want to ask you if you paint. Would you be interested to join painting holidays in Italy, like the ones that Flavours offer? What would you find inspiring on such a residential course?

I did start out as an art major in college, but luckily I realized my utter lack of talent early enough to change my field of study to art history! I can’t think of a more inspiring place than Italy to take a painting holiday.

Laura Morelli holds a a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University. Her books include Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, which lead travelers to some of the world’s most authentic experiences. She has written for many national publications including USA Today and the New York Daily News, and has authored a column for National Geographic Traveler online called “The Genuine Article.” She has taught at Trinity College, Tufts University, Northeastern University, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and has spoken to public audiences across the U.S. and Europe. To find out more about Laura Morelli please visit her website and follow her on Facebook: and Twitter:

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