When Leonardo and Paola head out on errands and invite me along, I just grab my coat. Not only do I get a chance to do a little looking and shopping in places I cannot reach on foot, but I also get out of Spello to see more of my surroundings. This time, we headed for Deruta, about 25 minutes away by car, to pick up some ceramics that Paola had painted for Don Venanzo.
Paola has been doing small and large commissions for Don Venanzo for about two years, and the latest was to paint small ceramic rondels with abstract flowers, eight matching pairs, to affix on wrought iron planters that he was having made for his windows. As usual, he was pressing and pressing for the completion, but now Paola has added a new grandchild to her B&B and household duties—leaving even less time for her to paint.
She had delivered the painted rondels to the kiln at the art supply store in Deruta the week before, and we were going back to pick them up. She examined each one before taking them all to the register, looking for any cracks or defects from firing. Leonardo and I just circled around the store, looking at ceramic blanks and green ware (fired once, ready for glazing), and other offerings in the store. We found (of course) a plaque of Pope Francesco, and Leonardo was making faces when I told him I didn’t see any resemblance at all. Only the glasses. Maybe.
I looked around at all of the sketch books, brushes, paints and tools that the store had to offer—more than I’d seen in any other location. I’m not sure why I’d need anything there, but maybe I can recommend the place to Suzanna, another artist who might not be aware of this store and kiln.
We left for Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the caseificio (“creamery”), where dozens of types of cheese are made by hand each day. Paola goes to the two side-by-side stores, each with particular cheeses that she prefers, but today one was closed for lunch. She got some fresh mozzarella, and talked me into trying one, too. It was SO much better than any other cow’s milk mozzarella I’d ever tasted—almost the quality and flavor of the mozzarella di bufala, made from the milk of water buffalo. Here, when I am with them, I have to talk myself into restraint. I could take a chunk of EACH type of cheese home with me. I am only feeding one person, however, and mold would catch up to the cheeses before I could get them eaten. I do love their goat cheeses, too—some smooth and creamy like Brie, and others as aged and crumbly as Parmeggiano Reggiano. Another favorite I always see in the case is scamorza affumicata, a smoked mozzarella that is hung by a string while being smoked. It is delicious and full of smoky flavor, but I do have to limit my cheese intake—a really tough assignment when there are so many good choices.
Soon we were on the way back to Spello, to deliver the rondels to Don Venanzo, and to tear open the paper wrappings and try some of those cheeses!