Gorgiano Black Run – the birth of a Nightcap

Tina, mother or invention?……

As I sink further into middle age I have discovered an ever increasing fascination with liqueurs, the sillier the better (if I still lived in England I’d probably be sipping sherry).


We make our own Sloe gin and Finocchietto (discovered on a recent trip to Puglia) and Rudy, Andrea’s dad, keeps us topped up with Limoncino and Norcino (made from walnut husks, and not for the faint hearted). Added to that is the work of the Vernelli brothers. Based in Muccia, about 15 minutes drive away, I imagine most of their meetings are of the theme ‘what shall we pickle in alcohol next’ and ‘what is the silliest name we can give it’. I am a great admirer of all their work. If they were musicians I would have all their albums. Their greatest work must be ‘Skipass’.


I originally bought it as a joke, because that is one silly name, but it has proved popular ever since. Thick and chocolatey it is half way between liqueur and pudding.

Then Tina arrived, expublican .

‘Yes,’ said Tina ‘it’s good, but I bet it would be even better with a dash of that’, pointing at Arancio, an orange liqueur from Ancona. She was right, it was divine. The next night Tina sips her orangified chocolate

‘Yes,’ said Tina ‘it’s good, but I bet it would be even better with a layer of fresh cream’. So the next day in comes the cream, floated on top – magic.

‘Yes,’ said Tina ‘it’s good, but I bet it would be even better with a few shavings of bitter chocolate on top. Next day we go to Crystal, purveyors of all things chocolately in Camerino, and a few shavings of 90% chocolate were put on top.

‘Ahh’ said Tina. Absolute heaven and so the Gorgiano Black Run was born.

Imagine a Terries chocolate orange in a glass – except, of course, it’s not Terry’s, it’s mine.


…. or victim of her own success?


Old enemies and new friends

I am meant to blog every week – oopps. So suddenly here we are again in mid-November.
No olive oil this year thanks to the wet weather which particularly suits the evil olive fly grr! The internet has revealed several forms of trap so I will be ready for them next time.

Meanwhile here are some pictures of some (we had over 50 bookings this year) of the new friends who came on our courses this year.


Rafaello Association Painting Course

angel600 Rafaello Association Painting CourseWe are planning a special course for 2015.  All the  proceeds of this course will be split between

a) Associazione Rafaello – a charity local to Camerino who support the families of children with cancer, and who have been an invaluable help to us

b) Leukeaemia & Lymphoma Research – a UK charity funding research in Leukemia, so that in the future no families will have to go through what we have, and whose great website helped me when I really needed information and support.


The course will follow the usual structure of the 7 day course.

Artists will be asked to pay the deposit to us and the balance directly into the bank accounts of the charity concerned (so you don’t pay tax twice).

Please note, in order to maximise funds for the charities artists will be asked to share a room.

Mr Darcy Vs Fireman

107_0205I was asked recently to paint some prizes for the local kennel club.  Of course if I had known then what an uninspiring bird the woodcock is (think flying christmas pudding with a long beak), I would have politely declined.  So it was that Sunday found me painting gamebird watercolours whilst listening to Pride and Prejudice on Radio 4, and wondering when I had become quite so very Edwardian, Sir.

Fortunately the biblical roar of a chimney fire roused me from my musings.  I did some extremely useful running around and shouting whilst Andrea calmly climbed onto the roof with the hosepipe and washed out the chimney.  Problem solved.

It strikes me that Mr Darcy would have been rubbish.  Ms Austen never knew the joy of a really useful bloke.

Monogrammed sketchbooks/journals – because you’re worth it

Gorgiano Sketchbook, monogrammed sketchbook or journalA flurry of bookings and some really dank weather has sent me hot foot to the book press.  My scalpel skills are so honed now that I am thinking of opening a minor surgery unit.

These sketchbooks have proved very popular with our artists so I thought I would spread the joy, and make a determined assault on the Moleskine stranglehold.

Beautiful handmade monogrammed sketchbooks featuring  embossed and debossed cover, with initials of your choice.


 The books are available in either a sewn binding (24 pages) or a concertina format (42 page) ideal for journaling as it can be read either conventionally or pulled out to form a string of pictures.

Both are filled with high quality 200gm Fabriano paper which is capable of carrying pencil, pen & ink, watercolour, gouache and acrylic


My trusty press.. it’s got brass knobs on



Dimensions – 18×15 cm (contact me for other sizes or papers)

The cover is in a silver sage, black or red cloth. Inside cover any of a variety of colours, although I would recommend the sage/purple combination

€25 (including postage to Europe) please add €3 for America/Africa/Asia and €5 for Australia and Oceania

We can also provide leather bound sketchbooks, in gorgeous Italian leather. We can do most colours, €40

If you would like one just let me know through the form in the footer, please add initials and any customised features.

Alternatively – if you would like a free one why not come on one of our painting or journaling holidays?

Fresh Oil, – who knew?


 Here’s a thing I never knew about olive oil – it goes off!

Well, to be more exact it changes over the first few months. I always thought the issue was about virgin or not, cold pressed or not. But actually the taste of the oil when it has first been pressed is quite extraordinary – sweet, nutty, utterly delicious and quite different from the same oil a few months later. It somehow makes winter a whole lot better.





So the trick is, in the winter months, to look for the date of the bottling – or the words ‘nuovo racolta’. The best way to eat it? on plain cooked beans with a little salt. Andrea’s parents, Rudy and Laura, came over at Chistmas and brought with them a special pot for cooking beans slowly near the fire. Suddenly the traditional lentils and trotters on New Year’s eve made sense. I may have had seconds



Revamped Website

Hurrah it’s here, the new revamped website, capable of adapting to any screen. I’ve spent ions tweaking code (I’m particularly proud of what the young webbie coves call “jellyboxes”) and frankly I’d rather do my own dentistry. Happy to hear of any typos. Catch it before ‘they’ invent new stuff and I have to start again. Like and share at will.

Double dutch – August painting holiday in italy

We have learnt now that for some reason different nationalities come in waves.  This month we had a distinctly Netherlands feel with artists from Holland, Belgium and Isreal of dutch abstraction.  Virginie (Belgium) was one of our youngest visitors at 28 and painted a great oil painting of the vespa – we have discovered that as many people are seduced by the idea of painting the vespa as the landscape – whatever, they are both so definitely Italy.    Tilly (Isreal) was our oldest visitor at 89, definitely young at heart both she and Jenni added their warmth and enthusiasm to the group, even if Jenni doesn’t want to admit that there is an oil painter struggling to get out from the watercolourist.  Margriet (Holland) was interested in abstraction and went on a particularly joyous journey moving through an olive stump, the landscape, the vespa and a particularly wonderful rendition of the hipbone – whose we do not know.

Also joining us was Rona from Northumberland, a veteran from many painting holidays she was fascinating to talk to.  She blossomed with the increased personal attention of the relatively small group of five, explaining that she had learnt more with us than on any of her other previous jaunts.  Discussing with Andrea we have decided that that will be our niche.  Small intimate and intensive groups, so that we can continue to send people away so very happy and relaxed.