Passion for Painting – Bert Jacobs

Passion for Painting – Bert Jacobs

A few years ago we were invited over to our friend’s house for supper in Montefiore. We arrived late, as usual, my fault not Michael’s!  We were introduced to a lovely Dutch couple, Constance and Bert Jacobs. I liked them instantly, they have a zest for life and adventure and love Italy as much as we do.

I was lucky to be seated next to Bert, a striking man with a wonderful laugh and enviable thick wavy hair! We ate delicious food, sipped wonderful wines and chatted all night.

He told me they chose to move to Le Marche because life here fits like a glove, I know what he means. The first time they visited le Marche, they fell in love. Twelve years on and they still feel blessed to have discovered this special part of Italy they call home. When the sun is setting they love to sit out on their terrace with a glass of wine, watching the changing colours of the sky. Quality of life is important.

Bert has a wonderful, calm aura and as the evening went on he talked to me about his greatest passion, painting. I love meeting creative, positive people who love what they do. I felt this was going to be an interesting evening.

He was born in the Netherlands and trained as a master painter in Utrecht. When he finished collage he wanted to go on to the Art Academy, but had to do military service. After the army he needed to earn some money. He started out as a freelance interior stylist, creating set designs and shop interiors.  He moved into the advertising business and stayed there for many years. His ambition was always to return to art, now retired and living in Italy he has the time and inspiration to paint.

I arranged to visit his studio the following week.  They have a beautiful town house in the historic centre of Montefiore. The living space covers four floors, the gallery is on the top floor. The house is beautifully designed, both Constance and Bert have an exceptional eye for detail.


When I entered the studio I was speechless and quite overwhelmed.  Surrounded by huge vibrant paintings, each one telling a story with colour, movement and passion. I gazed at each painting.  I step back, move to the left, to the right. Each position gives me a glimpse of something new, something hidden.

Bert is quite uncomfortable when asked how, what or why he  paints a particular piece. He told me he paints to express his creativity, feelings and emotion. His favourite theme is women, they are exquisite and unique. I agree!
He is inspired by beauty. A ballet, an ancient tale, a movement or an object. Expression, excitement and colour are characteristics of his work.

He paints on large wooden panels, using a spatula and acrylic paint. Working on a wooden base allows him to use more force when moving the paint around. The paint is colour fast, adheres well and is quick drying.

The paintings are very dynamic and have a powerful use of colour, but they also have a subtle and refined emotion. They are created with passion and sense of composition.

He is the most unpretentious artist I have ever met, which is very refreshing. He loves to hear what people see in one of his painting, everyone sees a painting through their own eyes.

Over the last few years we have become good friends and I visit his studio regularly. We have several of Bert’s paintings hanging on our walls at home. They bring a smile to my face and brighten up the day. Each time I visit his studio I fall in love with another one and always manage to find space for one more!

Family, friends and our owners constantly admire them and visit his studio to see his latest creations. Last year Bert was commissioned by our American friend to paint eleven paintings!  They now hang in her beautiful home on Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information on Bert’s paintings visit his Facebook Page or he is happy for you to visit his gallery: Via Garibaldi 2463062 Montefiore dell’Aso  Highlights info row image +31 6 24909723

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artisan Pasta from the Sibillini Mountains

Artisan Pasta from the Sibillini Mountains

Italy is famous for many things, especially food! Their passion for pasta is on a whole different level. Browse the local supermarkets around Le Marche and you will find aisle after aisle displaying every shape and make of pasta. Most Italian’s eat pasta at least once a day!

Here we give you a small insight into a special pasta made locally.

Regina dei Sibillini is a farm in Montefortino, Le Marche. They cultivate durum wheat on the Sibillini Mountains and use it to make pasta.  The late growing wheat is sown at the end of October and grows slowly under the falling snow between November and March. During this time, it rests, keeps warm and is slowly hydrated. The wheat grows and sprouts and from this originates the popular Italian saying …. ‘Sotto la neve, pane – under the snow, bread!’

The durum wheat has a strong ear of corn that overhangs on a very tall stem, usually measuring between 150-160cms. Its rustic nature contributes to the production of an excellent durum wheat flour. The fragrance released during the pasta making process is an intense scent of bread and biscuits!

Regina dei Sibillini produces pasta according to the artisan process. It is drawn through bronze wire and then put to dry at low temperatures.  Only wheat that comes from the topsoil at an altitude between 600 to 900 meters above sea level is used. Their philosophy is to cultivate a quality product.

The geographic position of the farm in the Sibillini Mountains guarantees a truly uncontaminated ambient: water and air.  Essential elements in the production of quality pasta.

This raw material cultivated, wholesome and with unique properties gives the product a characteristic taste rich in flavor. The aroma is distinguished the moment the pasta is cooked.

Compared to other durum wheat its low gluten content makes it much more tolerable.

“It is the bond with the land where we live, love and respect that brought us to undertake this journey. The nature that surrounds us is what inspired us. The best way to honour this is to capture the taste, smell and colours.”

Respecting the Italian tradition Regina dei Sibillini produces all the classic shaped pastas.

Their logo and packaging was inspired by the mountains. The icy colour of the snow, and the winter sky. The transparent opening on the front of the box allows you see exactly what you are buying. The irregular form of their logo reminds us of the white slopes and the mountains profile. The snow that covers and protects the wheat.

REGINA DEI SIBILLINI
via R. Papiri, 30 – 63858 Montefortino (Fermo)
Marche – Italia

Mangia Bene: Osteria Pepe Nero Cupra Marittima

Mangia Bene: Osteria Pepe Nero Cupra Marittima

Osteria Pepe Nero is a marvel.
Hidden away in the hilltop village of Cupra Marittima Alta is one of our favourite restaurants. Make the effort to search out this restaurant, you will be well rewarded.
A wonderful warm welcome from Michele Alesiani will greet you as you walk through the door. If you are carrying excellent wines watch that warm welcome turn into a huge grin. Michele loves wine, and knows what he is talking about. He loves to go around each and every table sampling the wine and giving his opinion on your choice!
I love the fact you bring your own wine it adds to the whole experience.
The evening is an event, be prepared to have your taste buds tingled. The interior of the restaurant is eclectic, warm and fun. The exterior terrace is ideal for evenings during the long summer months. Michele has an individual style that is evident in his food and every aspect of the restaurant experience.
The food tastes fantastic and is presented with an artist style that encourages you to take a food selfie! Our most recent experience was Dawns birthday at the end of January. A great party with good friends and family. Non-meat eaters are well taken care of and Michele always substitutes amazing options for the few dishes that have meat.
Great value for money and well worth making a special trip to experience this unique and special restaurant.
A few of the wonderful dishes we enjoyed that night:
A great all inclusive menu, and amazing value for money:

 

 

 

 

Michele Alesiani & his lovely family…

Address and Bookings….

Osteria Pepe Nero

via Castello s.n.
63064 Cupra Marittima, AP, Le Marche, Italy.

Highlights info row image+39 335 611 5534
Letters from Le Marche…..chapter two

Letters from Le Marche…..chapter two

Chapter Two – Florence

I gazed around the Piazza and sipped my cappuccino elegantly, copying the glamorous Italians on the next table. Trying not to get the milky froth all around my mouth.

I love to people watch.  The tourists racing to keep up with their flag bearing tour guides. The Nonna’s dressed in black, carrying their heavy bags of shopping back home to their families. I listened closely to the sing song melody of the Italian language, exaggerated with arms and hands waving in the air. Everything about the Italians is passionate and dramatic.

I meandered back to the hotel, absorbed in the sounds of the city. The walk should have taken me ten minutes. You guessed it, luckily for me I took another wrong turning!

I stumbled upon a lovely little shop halfway down a narrow street. The window had a wonderful display of tassels, braids and ribbons.

As an interior designer I am always on the lookout for things fabulous and unique. This was an Aladdin’s cave of colour and texture. I bought tassels in every shape, size and colour.  Natural greens, blues and siennas with a hint of gold.

Each item was lovingly wrapped in tissue and delicately placed in a posh paper bag. No sign of plastic in this shop!

Shopping in Italy is a very different experience.  Most shops are owned and run by family member. They are proud of what they do and love to tell you how many generations have worked there. Their knowledge is extensive, and they take the time it takes. Note to self, allow more time when shopping in Italy!

I floated back to our hotel, clutching my purchases and feeling rather proud of myself, I had found my way back.

My husband, Michael, was happy.  The rugby match had gone well, his team had won and he was celebrating with a cold beer in the hotel bar.

He looked suspiciously at my shopping bag. “What have you bought”? I told him,” gorgeous tassels in natural hues………” I received the typical response from a man who thinks shopping is only to purchase essential items, food and drink. “How many tassels do you need, what are they for, how much did they cost”?!!! I quickly changed the subject and asked about our dinner plans for that evening, while visualising one of the tassels threaded through an antique key, hanging from wardrobe I had recently finished painting.

I eat fish, no meat. Michael loves meat and eats fish. He had spoken to the hotel manager earlier and asked his advice on fish restaurants on the outskirts of the city. Away from the touristy eateries and high prices. He knew the perfect place!

We were picked up in a taxi later that evening, it was the first and only time I have travelled in a taxi in Italy. The manager had given the driver directions to the restaurant so we both sat back and enjoyed the drive across Florence. Thirty minutes later we pulled up outside a large wooden door, with no sign, in the heart of an industrial estate. We stepped out of the taxi and looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. This can’t be right. Before we had chance to get back into the taxi, it roared off into the distance.

We rang the doorbell and waited. I was feeling a little nervous. Not about my surroundings, but it was nine o’clock and Michael was hungry, we needed to find food before he turned all hunter gather on me.

The door opened and we cautiously stepped into another world. Before our eyes was a busy, bustling restaurant. A beautiful, yet simple décor. Delicious aromas wafting from the open kitchen blending with the lively voices of sixty plus Italians all talking at once. In the large walled courtyard, huge interconnecting sunshades provided a soft textured ceiling. The lighting was low and atmospheric, with a blend of candles and fairy lights. Each table dressed with a small vase of fresh flowers. Crisp white linen tablecloths draped down to the cool cotto tiled floor.

We were shown to our table, and looked around. There were large families, three generations enjoying a celebration together.  Young lovers with eyes only for each other. Young children out with their parents, babies peacefully sleeping in their pushchairs. Children are always made to feel welcome in restaurants in Italy, however posh or expensive. Family is very important and younger members are never excluded. Another plus for the Italian lifestyle.

Our waiter came to take our order.   This was going to be tricky. He spoke no English, we spoke no Italian and had left our phrase book back at the hotel!

We shouted “menu” at him and mimed opening a book.  Why do people shout in their own language at foreigners, expecting them to understand once the decibels are turned up?

He shook his head “no menooo, you wanta da otta fish o colda fish”. Whita wine o reda wine? Hot fish we both said, white wine we agreed

I glanced across at Michael, he was looking a little concerned. He’s lovely, but he likes to know what’s happening at all times, in the present and the future. I knew he would struggle with the concept of not being able to converse with the waiter, he loves to talk!

He also likes to see a menu, ask questions and check nothing has vinegar on it. He likes to see the wine list and chat about different grapes, countries, regions, years. He especially likes to see prices and mentally calculate how much the whole meal will cost. He likes to feel in control of the situation.

Our waiter disappeared into the kitchen and we sipped our wine, poured from a glass jug. Michael shared his concerns about not knowing what food would arrive and how many courses would be served. I tried to reassure him. “Let’s just relax and enjoy the experience, it will be fun to try new tastes and not know what to expect”.  He looked doubtful and took a large swig of wine, it was delicious, he looked happier.

The more courses we ate, the more wine we drank, the more he relaxed. I wish I could give you a detailed description of the food we ate, but I can’t. I can remember the interiors, because I seem to have a photographic memory for those. I think I drank too much wine and the food detail got lost. It’s a little hazy. What I can remember is that every dish was exquisite, fresh and unpretentious. The seafood was scrumptious the pasta cooked to perfection. I think we had seven courses, to be honest I lost count.

I have never seen Michael so relaxed, enjoying the present and not worrying about the future.  We had no idea how much this dining experience was going to cost, we didn’t care.

The waiter brought over bottles of grappa, mistra and limoncello, to help with the digestion! The limoncello was divine. Michael was so, so happy, he tried all three, twice.

We swayed over to the bar to pay the bill and hopefully order a taxi. Michael was very pleasantly surprised when he saw the total, half the cost he had toted up in his head. The bar man generously offered him another drink on the house. I began to wonder if I would be able to get him back to the hotel.  The taxi arrived and I managed to steer him onto the back seat and close the door.

We were dropped off at the end of a one way street, only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel. We needed a walk! In the distance we could hear opera music, as we walked closer I recognised an aria from La Boheme, one of my favourite operas. We entered the Piazza, and there under the moonlight of a warm summer’s evening were hundreds of people enjoying an open air opera. I looked up to the balconies of the surrounding apartments, each one crowded with local Italians holding a candle and swaying to the music. It was truly magical and that was the exact moment I fell in love in love with Italy.

 

Letters from Le Marche …. chapter one.

Letters from Le Marche …. chapter one.

flo2

Over the past few years many people have asked me to write a blog, me, I’m not even on Facebook! But, I do like writing and relish the opportunity to share our Italian adventures with you.

Was it the classic midlife crisis move, maybe, maybe not, I like to think of it as making the most of life. In 2001 we had reached a cross roads in our lives, and the desire for adventure and change were strong. With four children almost grown up, we saw a window of opportunity, and jumped!

People frequently ask me why Italy, why Le Marche, quite simply we fell in love. Let me explain, up until a few years ago I had never visited Italy, we had travelled extensively around Europe and lived in America for a few years, but Italy remained undiscovered.

Out of the blue my husband, Michael, was invited on a business trip to Florence, and asked if I would like to join him, of course I jumped at the chance to visit the one country I had been longing to see.

I was so excited, landing in Pisa and catching the bus into the centre of Florence, I was finally in Italy for two whole days. As with every weekend, at home or away, there is always an important game of rugby on TV.  Michael searched out a bar with sky TV to watch the game that afternoon. I was determined to make the most of the short time we had, plus I knew the shops were fabulous. I have a terrible sense of direction, no inbuilt compass, no natural feeling of north, south, east or west. Sometimes I get hopelessly lost, but these are the times I discover hidden gems.  Florence was no exception, I was lost in minutes, wandering the crowded narrow streets which often led onto a beautiful piazza. I found a little café in the heart of the city, and ordered a cappuccino, my first lesson in Italian etiquette, don’t order cappuccino after 11am, it’s bad for the digestion!

Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs

To be continued…….

Somewhere for the weekend : La Dolce Vita

A new photo exhibition at the Estorick Collection reveals Italy’s golden age in the Fifties and Sixties was as dark as it was glorious, says Alastair Smart

The Italians have always been rather big on symbolism – and you don’t have to look as far back as the fruit in Renaissance paintings. To many, the arson attack this February on the Café de Paris, in Rome’s Via Veneto, felt like the end of a golden era.

Golden age: Carlo Ponti takes Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica for a ride through Rome in 1961
Golden age: Carlo Ponti takes Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica for a ride through Rome in 1961

Now a battleground between the authorities and ‘Ndrangheta money–launderers, the elegant café once served as a magnet for stars and socialites, and an inspiration for Federico Fellini when making his classic film, La Dolce Vita. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, Rome was the most stylish city on Earth. The economy was booming, renowned fashion designers such as Roberto Capucci imbued the city with glamour, and American film–makers flocked to Cinecittà Studios, that “Hollywood on the Tiber”.

For those keen to revel in nostalgia, the Estorick Collection, in north London, is about to open an exhibition of 80 photos from that sumptuous era. Raquel Welch is pictured dancing on a table while Marcello Mastroianni looks on; Brigitte Bardot sips champagne; Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor lounge on the deck of their yacht; and Mike Hargitay sweeps Jane Mansfield off her feet, and into a waiting limo.

This golden era was epitomised by Fellini’s film, featuring Mastroianni as the suave celebrity reporter Rubini, who’s in thrall to the age’s idols and employed to follow their every glitzy move: from exclusive nightclubs to aristocrats’ villas.

On the back of the film’s international success, the term “dolce vita” – literally “the sweet life” – found its way into English, and it’s easy to make the unflattering comparison between Italy in the Fellini era and Italy today, in the (post-)Berlusconi one.

Raquel Welch and Marcello Mastroianni on set of ‘Shoot Loud, Louder… I Don’t Understand’ (1966)

Even the stars back then were greater, distant to us not just in time but in the way they maintained a mystique and always kept something of themselves back – which is why there’s still a thrill to seeing them pictured here, off–guard and off–duty.

Yet, we must be wary of regarding Fellini’s Rome through rose–tinted spectacles, for that is to distort the director’s vision. The film wasn’t a celebration of the dolce vita so much as a critique of it, his use of the title highly ironic.

The opening scene features two helicopters – one flying a statue of Christ to St Peter’s, the other (with Rubini on) following it – only for the latter to get sidetracked by a bevy of bikini–clad beauties sunbathing on a penthouse roof. The implication? That this was a godless, pleasure–seeking age. As Evelyn Waugh put it, there were new barbarians at Rome’s gates.

And then, of course, there’s the character of Marcello’s sidekick, Paparazzo, whose name – in another gift to the English language – now serves for a whole breed of intrusive, celebrity snappers. The Estorick show is drawn largely from the archive of real–life paparazzo Marcello Geppetti, and many of his shots prove that the stars didn’t always ooze cool. Franco Nero is seen attacking one photographer with his fists, Anita Ekberg pursues another with a bow and arrow.

It was just one facet of Fellini’s genius that his world differed so markedly from our own, yet also at once foreshadowed it.

‘The Years of La Dolce Vita’, at Estorick Collection, London N1, to June 29; estorickcollection.com 020 7704 9522