Category Archives: Italy

A Greek Island Dream House

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 Claire Lloyd and  rescue dog Mavrula copyright Carla Coulson

Any of you who have been following along for a while know that I am nuts about the Mediterranean in particular Greece and Italy. Well this summer I travelled to beautiful Lesvos and stayed in a very special guesthouse owned by the fabulous designer Claire Lloyd and partner artist Matthew Usmar Lauder.

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Felix passes the Iron bed made with antique linen copyright Carla Coulson

I knew I was going to love this place as I know Claire has a beautiful eye from all those years working as an art director in London and I adore her  beautiful book My Greek Island Island Home. Throw into the mix Matthew’s divine art and his knack for creating individual pieces of furniture and objects from found and recycled products and it was sure to ignite something big inside of me.

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Loungeroom from the front door copyright Carla Coulson

But as a photographer I have learnt that the photos never do something really beautiful its true justice. It’s all those other dimensions that bring on the love rush, like the scent of jasmine, the exquisite view to the sea, the textures of floorboards under your bare feet, the sound of a home-made wind chime tinkling in the breeze.

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A corner of the lounge room copyright Carla Coulson

You all know since the day I left Italy a piece of my heart has been hankering to go back to a simpler, slower  way of living with a little vege garden out the back and to belong to a community. To belong to a community has been my life long ambition!  I feel very fortunate to belong to a cyber community of wonderful people scattered around the world and for this I will be forever grateful.

My Greek Island Home Carla Coulson Claire Lloyd Matthew Usmar Lauder

 Beautiful bedlinen and Matthew Lauders.. Copyright Carla Coulson

So here in this exquisite house not only did Francesco and I have a chance to relax and enjoy the fabulous scented candles, the fridge stocked with Greek Yoguhurt, local fruit and delicious local wine but we had the chance to taste what it would be like if we left our lives and went to live on a Greek Island.

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 Loungeroom copyright Carla Coulson

There was nothing touristy about this experience. We were in a small hill village about 4kms from the sea in a part of Lesvos that has no tourist shops or noisy bars just the local tavernas and a rich daily life.

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Matthew’s art, a found table and vintage Turkish runner copyright Carla Coulson

I loved heading down to the Platia which is in the centre of the village, a wonderful tavern sits under a 100 year old tree (they just had the party to celebrates it’s birthday) which is akin to the village outdoor lounge room. Everything happens here, you can drink coffee, play cards for the entire day if your desire, eat lunch or dinner, check your Instagram or wile away the hours swapping stories with the locals.

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Detail Loungeroom Copyright Carla Coulson

And right next door was the vege garden of my dreams. I adored watching the man tending it dressed in white collecting the biggest zucchini flowers I had ever seen.

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 Corridor Downstairs Copyright Carla Coulson

And going on long walks with Claire and the dogs and dropping into’s Matthews heavenly studio (blog post coming soon) to see what he was up to.

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Traditional Wooden box to display treasured icons Copyright Carla Coulson

I have long been in love with Greece, Francesco and I have spent the past 6 years trying to find the most out of the way Islands, to get as faraway as possible from our busy lives in Paris to recharge with long days swimming and resting.

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Kitchen Copyright Carla Coulson

But this was the first time I felt like I actually was living there, when I dared to ask myself ‘what if..?”

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 Beautiful ceramic plates in the kitchen copyright Carla Coulson

What if we had the courage to walk away from the security? What if we could live a simpler life like the one like we had all those years ago in Florence? What would we do and how would we do it?

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Francesco’s Hat on the kitchen chair and local woven rug Copyright Carla Coulson

What if we could give our cat a better life?? LOL!

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Bedroom with antique French Linen sheets Copyright Carla Coulson

Together we explored the island, had long lunches down at Kalo Limani and long dinners where there were just the four of us, a setting sun and simple Greek fare of grilled calamari, fresh fish and local veges.

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 Corner of the bedroom – Copyright Carla Coulson

Matthew and Claire’s generosity has no limits, they took us to their favourite beaches, we ate in their favourite restaurants all over the island and showed us the wonderful co-operatives where local ladies make traditional products.

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Corner of the Bedroom Copyright Carla Coulson

I adored popping down the road to see them, like we had all lived their forever, swapping ideas and advice on all things creative and practical and talking about our hopes and dreams.

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Bedside table detail Copyright Carla Coulson

Matthew’s studio in the centre of town is filled with his beautiful artwork and found treasures. It’s also filled with curious locals who can’t help sticking their heads in to see what was going on.

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Bathroom Copyright Carla Coulson

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 Collection of local plates in the hallway Copyright Carla Coulson

Lesvos is so close to Turkey we even jumped on the ferry for the day and went to Avyalik on bazaar day. It was a frenzy of photos and shopping before we took the evening ferry back.

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View from the terrace to the sea copyright Carla Coulson

I wanted My Greek Island Home experience to go on forever!

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 Felix and Fluffy Boy catching up on a little sleep Copyright Carla Coulson

Oh and for a cat lover missing her baby, not a problem there were a couple of stand-ins to help out..

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 Claire in the courtyard Copyright Carla Coulson

So to dearest Claire and Matthew the stay at your house was not only the loveliest experience yet to happen for us in Greece it was something bigger, it was a catalyst just like that Thai Takeway all those years ago in Darlinghurst that set me on a life of adventure and going after the things that really mattered to me in life.

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 Courtyard Copyright Carla Coulson

Even though I have left my life once before it was beautiful reminder of what I hold dear. Thank-you for allowing me to see that again and experience your beautiful island and lives through your eyes.

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Front door Copyright Carla Coulson

The beautiful My Greek Island Home Guesthouse has it’s own lovely website and if you would like to rent the guesthouse you can get in touch with Claire and Matthew here

Claire Lloyd is the author and photographer of My Greek Island Home and Sensual Living and you can check out Matthew Usmar Lauder’s work here.

“True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.” Suze Orman

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Please share if you dream of another life or love beautiful homes

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 

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