Category Archives: Italy

Grottaglie A Ceramics Town – My Addresses

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Grottaglie from the terrace of Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

All photos Copyright Carla Coulson 

Imagine a town that has survived for hundreds of years on making beautiful hand-made ceramics. Add a twist of Southern Italian charm, workshops dug into soft stone to form grottos (grottaglie – that’s where the name comes from) and hundreds of artisans turning clay into pots, jugs, plates, cups, saucers, statues and other works of art – then you would have Grottaglie.

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Ceramics  La Grotta Ceramiche  Copyright Carla Coulson

I discovered Grottaglie a couple of summers ago when Francesco and I were at the beach and it became too crowded so we decided to head inland for lunch (no Italian in their right mind would do this in August) but this is one of our tricks to finding something magical and real.

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Ceramics  La Grotta Ceramiche  Copyright Carla Coulson

And that is exactly what happened. We found the magical Grottaglie.. I could hardly wait to finish lunch to start snooping around the hundreds of ceramic workshops.

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Hand turned vases at Fratelli Ciro e Grazio Monteforte

And we didn’t walk away empty handed…

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Hand turned pots  La Grotta Ceramiche  Copyright Carla Coulson

So when I started planning the Caravan Travel Photography Workshop I started to think of all the things I loved about Puglia and Grottaglie sprang to mind.

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Carmelo takes a break at Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

I decided to include the things I would do if I was to shoot a story on a region, include the things that I love, that visually excite me and I knew would make for interesting pics.

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Collection of antique water jugs Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

So back I went to Grottaglie and with the help of Francesca Frisa we toured many beautiful workshops and met many great artisans.

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hand painted plates in the workshop of Giuseppe Patronelli

Grottaglie has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age and is just up the rode from one of the first Greek settlements in Italy, Taranto.

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Wash basin Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

The local stone is called tufo In Italian and is soft enough to be able to dig into.  Since Medieval times there have been caves dug around what is now the castle and slowly they were taken over and used as ceramic workshops.

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Seconds on the terrace Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

Many finds around Grottaglie date back to the Classical age and the Museo Delle Ceramiche in Grottaglie has the whole story!

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Mimmo Vestita painting at Mimmo Vestita Ceramics

But on any given day you can turn up in Grottaglie and walk the area known as the Quartier dell Ceramiche and go from one workshop to the next and see artisans turning clay, painting, dipping statues in white and creating every imaginable statue possible.

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 Paints and brushes at Giuseppe Patronelli

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Ceramiche Domenico Caretta di Pietro Caretta

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 Workshop of Giuseppe Patronelli

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Antonio La of La Grotta Ceramiche  Copyright Carla Coulson

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Exterior  La Grotta Ceramiche  Copyright Carla Coulson

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 Fountain Casa Vestita

Whilst walking from workshop to workshop with Francesca she told me about Mimmo Vestita who had an incredible Mediterranean garden right in the middle of town and who recently whilst renovating the garden had discovered the floor of a Roman Villa and a byzantine crypt.

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Antique Mediterranean garden Casa Vestita

I had co-incidently seen his garden and crypt in the beautiful magazine Cote Sud and begged to have a look.

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Ancient wine pots in the  Mediterranean garden of  Casa Vestita

It was a garden like I had never seen before. So beautiful in it’s simplicity and it’s devotion to the Mediterranean climate, plants and his collection of over 4000 pieces of ceramic.

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 Mimmo Vestita in his splendid Mediterranean garden Casa Vestita

Mimmo generously opened his garden to the ‘Caravaners’ and kindly showed us the floor of the Roman Villa his renovator found whilst restoring the garden.

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Byzantine fresco in the crypt at Casa Vestita

He also lead us down in to the exquisite Byzantine crypt that had been closed for over 400 years.

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Part of the byzantine crypt at Casa Vestita

Whilst restoring another part of the garden and pulling away broken debris and trees the gardener found a carved column. They called in the archaeological society and together they went on a magical mystery tour and found a true treasure the underground crypt.

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 Grottaglie’s Mediterranean garden in front of the castle entrance.

If you are in Puglia don’t miss a visit to beautiful Grottaglie. She’s real, she’s artistic, she hasn’t been trussed up for the tourists and there are many wonderful photos to be had.

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A giant vase inside the Ceramics Museo della Ceramiche Grottaglie

The fabulous Ceramics Museum has a collection of ceramics from the beginning of time, it’s a journey through history and habits, of simplicity, decoration and form and…. it’s free.

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 A view of the castle from Mimmo Vestita’s terrace

All photos Copyright Carla Coulson 

A giant round of applause to the all the artisans who gave their time and talent to us, who allowed us into their bottega’s to see how they work, create and maintain an ancient tradition. True southern hospitality at it’s most generous. I look forward to showing the participants work soon.

By the way, try leaving empty handed!

My addresses:

Casa Vestita

Via Crispi, 63

Grottaglie

This is a private Mediterranean garden and the best one I have seen to date. Mimmo Vestita, the owner has a ceramics workshop up the road and not long ago unearthed a Byzantine Crypt underneath his garden and the floor of a Roman Villa. He opens the garden to the public for a small fee in August from 6pm to 10pm and regularly has exhibitions of some of his 4000 pieces of antique ceramics. DON’T MISS IT!! Follow on Facebook here.

Mimmo Vestita

via Santa Sofia

Grottaglie

Mimmo’s bottega is up a little set of stairs and removed from the street but worth sourcing out. He sells beautiful objects for the home, vases and water jugs.

Antonio La Grotta Ceramiche

via Papa Leone XIII, 9

74023 Grottaglie

Antonio La Grotta comes from a long line of ceramists and still hand paints beautiful traditional design in all forms.

Guiseppe Patronelli

via Crispi, 23

Grottaglie

Specialises in hand painted plates and pure white dinner services (I bought one)

Fratelli Ciro e Grazio Monteforte

via Salita Camini, 1

Grottaglie

Beautiful Maolica pieces with colourful traditional designs

Cocci D’Autore

via Santa Sofia, 11

Grottaglie

Heavenly white statues dipped in white

Pro Loco Grottaglie

This is the local tourist office and one of the most helpful in Italy. This should be your first stop when you arrive in Grottaglie to gather information on what you are looking for and where to eat!

You can follow the fabulous Casa Vestita here

THANKS GROTTAGLIE, WE LOVE YOU!

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“Each has his own happiness in his hands, as tehartist handles the rude clay he seeks to reshape it into a figure; yet is is the same with this art as with all others: only the capacity for it is innate; art itself must be learned and painstaking”. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Puglia – Masseria Cimino

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 Ancient Olives Trees Puglia Copyright Carla Coulson

Long before you arrive at Masseria Cimino you are struck by the sight of ancient olive trees that resemble sculptures, twisted over hundreds of years with winds, run and the scorching sun.

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 Olive Trees Puglia Copyright Carla Coulson

These ancient olive trees have always been one of my favourite things about Puglia, a reminder of how old this land is and how deeply ingrained the olive tree is in the culture and history.

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 Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

I decided to make Masseria Cimino a part of the first Caravan Travel Photography Workshop for a couple of reasons. I loved it’s exquisite make-over, not too flashy and not too rustic, somewhere in between.

And I knew it would make the perfect setting for the photographers to take interior and exterior shots and as a background to shoot food.

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 The sun beds copyright Carla Coulson

Masseria Cimino is an exquisite palette of white broken only by the local vegetation of cactus trees, olives and rosemary and the soft blue they have chosen for the doors, windows and furniture.

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 Entrance Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

There is one original red wall and we all went mad shooting it.

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And Masseria Cimino has the coolest uniforms.. beautiful Viviana in her gorgeous uniform.

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The Bar Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

The furniture in the interior of the bar has been constructed of concrete in the simple way they do in the Greek Islands and a clever interior designer has added lovely soft furnishings in white and beige. Cactus leaves hang as decoration in the main room. I learnt later on the trip this was a traditional custom, the Pugliese do this to conserve the fruit that grows on this plant so they can eat it fresh for months to come.

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 Details of the Cactus leaves Copyright Carla Coulson

I was a little bit excited about the cactus leaves!

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Rooms Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

Although I was teaching and didn’t have a lot of time to shoot it was such a graphic exterior to shoot I couldn’t help but grab a couple of shots on the hop.

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 Rooms Masseria Copyright Carla Coulson

I adore the textures of traditional stone paving, white walls dotted with blue and a grapevine for shelter. Divine colour palette..

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Athalee Brown and a stone wall Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

Workshop organiser Athalee Brown’s caftan matched the stone wall and cactus and I couldn’t resist a pic..

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 Dining Room Masseria Cimino Copyright Carla Coulson

Masseria Ciminio has respected many traditional ways and incorporated them into the decor, design and food. Tomatoes hang in the dining room, food is served on locally made ceramic plates with beautiful white linen and the menu is ladened with local products.

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Tomatoes Hang in the dining room Masseria Cimino copyright Carla Coulson

I hoped you enjoyed a little glimpse into this beautiful space in Puglia. I loved staying here and if you are visiting Puglia you might like it too! You can check out their website here.

“There is a single thread of attitude, a single direction of flow, that joins our present time to its early burgeoning in Mediterranean civilization.Arthur Erickson

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PS: We are getting ready to announce plans for the Caravan Travel Photography Workshop in June 2015. If you would like to be the first on the lists please get in touch with workshop organiser Athalee Brown at info@carlacoulson.com

An Affair With Italy

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Carla Coulson by Julie Adams at An Affair With Italy

So honoured and thrilled to be interviewed today on An Affair With Italy about my journey to photography and Italy. It’s been a long road and having a chat with Emma brought up things I had long forgotten about.

This is one of the most heartfelt interviews I remember having in all these years, thanks to the brilliance of writer Emma Scott.

And what a treat to be photographed by the talented Julie Adams, with whom I share so many similarities, photographer school in Florence and a deep and profound love of Naples.

You can read the full interview here.

Deep love, respect and thanks to the girls..

“Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.” Bertrand Russell

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How I Photographed The Emotions Of Naples

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Shooting a book from scratch of a city you love is a wonderful project especially when it is as rich photographically as Naples.

Naples is Italy on steriods, everything is on surround sound, emotions are strong as is the driving! Life is rich, markets overflow on the streets and the Neapolitans inhabit their emotions (all of them) like a comfortable shirt.

I wanted Naples A Way Of Love to reflect this richness of emotions.

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Fab author Lisa Clifford and I discussed and researched Naples for months before shooting.

Lisa the true pro that she is got on the batphone straight to the Italian Cultural Association who gave us access to photograph so many special places out of hours and normally out of bounds.

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But for me what I really wanted to capture was the heart and soul of this great town and it’s people.

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On previous trips to Naples during a 12 year period I was astounded by the passion and verve with which the Neapolitans live life.

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They literally throw their bodies into a discussion on the simplest subject, live their lives on the streets for all to see, worry just about enjoying today as tomorrow is another day and revel in spontaneity.

I adored the body language of this guy!

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To capture this as a photographer you need to be part of life. Lisa and I walked the streets of Naples most days from daylight to dusk talking with the locals, drinking coffee with them, entering kitchens and pizzeria’s and watching life unfurl before our eyes.

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I am always looking at body language, trying to capture movement, being as discreet as possible in some moments and let life play out as naturally as possible in others and then provocative when I need to be so the image is full of life.

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I am always looking at life like choreographed music and what it is saying to me? A linked arm, a tender moment, fun, body language and when the moment it is right and all the legs and planets have aligned I snap!

This was the first time I have shot Italy since Italian Joy with total freedom and no agenda. Naples A Way Of Love and it’s photos were taken from the heart, in awe and wonder of this great town and for the pure joy of taking great photos.

Where can you get it?

All good books stores in Australia and New Zealand and if you can’t make it into one you can order it online here

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“The crisis is not financial: the crisis is in people’s hearts. We need more love and happiness not money.”  Anna Matuozzo from Naples A Way Of Love 

Florence – Winter Address Book

Florence Address book Carla Coulson

Fountain of Neptune in Piazza Della Signoria Florence

My Italian adventure and my new life started in Piazza Della Signoria 13 years ago and this week the 30th October will be special for 3 reasons.

I will have been married to Francesco for 3 years (woohoo), I will be drawing the winners of the Naples A Way Of Love book giveaway and I can apply for an ITALIAN PASSPORT!! Did you hear the scream all the way to Oz??

The adventure feels like it has lasted 3 lifetimes. So many wonderful people I have met along the way, the good days and the scary days, the places, the happiness and joy, the learning, the listening, the dancing and the photography have been more than I could have ever asked for or dreamed of partaking in.

Cesarina-Italian-Joy-Carla-Coulson

Yes, Carla’s long and winding road has been AMAZING and is now leading directly to the Ambascita Italiana in Paris and an eventual (hope) Italian passport.  I will be shouting from the windows, rooftops and to anyone who cares to hear to listen, the day that little baby (aka passport) is delivered. Talk about excited!

Florence Carla Coulson

I was bewitched by Florence the first time I visited and when I moved back to study Italian and eventually photography it felt like ‘home’ after so many years living in a big city and thanks to the magnificent Popi Florence became my second home.

Popi Carla Coulson

Popi took care of me, fed me, offered me friendship and love and became my darling friend and confidante. She gave me a safe place, a happy place and made it easy for me to stay.

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And Florence did the rest! And as they say the rest is history…

My favourite season in Florence is winter. I love winter because out comes the glam winter wardrobe of the Florentines, up go the beautiful lights in the streets and when the dark descends there is atmosphere ‘a go go’  like in no other season.

Collezioni Sposa Night running Carla Coulson

You want to wrap yourself around someone you love, sip hot chocolate at Rivoire and sit around a big solid wooden table with good friends and hearty Tuscan soups and a glass of chianti.

So today in preparation for ‘International Carla Starts Her Italian Passport Application Day‘ on the 30th October I want to share some of my favourite things to do in Florence in the winter.

 

CHIC WINTER ADDRESSES

Piazza della Signoria

Florence

Best hot chocolate in Florence and delicious pastries. Costs a couple of euros if you drink and eat at the bar in one of Florence’s exquisite historical caffes otherwise grab your loved one and sit at one of the little tables inside and enjoy the view.

Gilli Caffe

Via Roma 1/R,

50123 Florence

Some of the best pastries and sweets in Florence. My darling dreams of the Sfoglia alla Crema and I try to bring one back to Paris each time I visit..Hard to resist it on the plane. Great coffee at the bar..Sitting down will cost you a fortune. In winter the inside room is one of the prettiest historical rooms in a cafe in Florence. Romantic!

Paskowski

Piazza della Repubblica

Florence

Another of  one of my favourite cafes and I always have a coffee and brioche in the morning for 2.50 euro.. The pastries are baked on the premises and the barista’s are some of the best in Florence.

Hotel Gallery Art

Vicolo dell ‘Oro, 5,

50123 Florence, Italy

The Ferragamo family own this stylish hotel with a fabulous art gallery in the foyer. There is a wonderful Aperitivo hour of delish picks that stretch the length of the bar. Buy a drink and help yourself! And ever so cosy in winter.

Atrium Bar

Four Seasons Hotel Florence

Borgo Pinti, 99

50121 Florence, Italy

Possible Florence’s most beautiful hotel! Palazzo Gheradesca once the home of the Florentine noble family of the same name is now a spectacular hotel with many of the original features. The atrium bar is a super chic destination for a drink with a loved one.

 

HEARTY WINTER ADDRESSES

Buca dell’Orafo

Volta dei Girolami 28,

Florence, Italy

Hidden underneath one of the arches near the Ponte Vecchio the Buca dell’ Orafo serves good Tuscan food. If you want to avoid the tourists go for the second sitting..

 

Fiaschetteria Nuvoli

Piazza del’Olio

Florence

Great for a glass of wine around 7pm with the locals in a quiet piazza just behind the duomo. You can venture downstairs for a typical Tuscan lunch that won’t cost much.

Sostanza

Via Porcellana, 25/r

 Florence

Old school trattoria serving classic Tuscan cuisine. Men in grey jackets, no email, no website. Old school in every sense. I have always eaten well here and found the staff delightful.

13 Gobbi

Via del Porcellana,

9R  Florence, Italy

13 Gobbi is a typical Tuscan trattoria with generous servings and a great mix of locals and tourists alike. I was introduced to this trattoria by my shoe designer friend Sarah.

Colle Bereto

Piazza Strozzi, 5

Firenze, IT

I love Colle Bereto for a couple of reasons, divine aperitivo hour. A huge choice of wonderful snacks to have alongside of your fab drink and the location is in the heart of Florence in front of Palazzo Strozzi. People watching central. In winter they crank up the heating in the bar outside.

Trattoria 4 Leone

Via dei Vellutini, 1r

Florence

Located in the small piazza della passera in Oltrarno Quattro Leone is a good solid trattoria where we have had many a great night. I love the fiocchetti with pear and cream and in winter the atmosphere inside is typical Tuscan.

Da Rocco

In Mercato Sant’Ambrogio,

Florence, Italy

Amongst the bustle of market day in Mercato Sant’Ambrogio Da Rocco is a local canteen that serves good basic Tuscan cuisine. Rocco is super friendly and has a limited daily menu. Francesco and I spent many a winter’s lunch at Da Rocco eating bean soups and falling in love. Ha ha..

If you are lucky enough to be in Florence this winter I hope you check out some of these addresses.

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” Fanny Burney

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