Monthly Archives: August 2014

Santa Giuliana – The Little Village Below

Borgo di Santa Giuliana Monte Corona

Borgo di Santa Giuliana Watercolour and ink. 15cm x 24cm (For Sale)

Over the next three weeks I’ve moved onto the hill’s of Monte Corona, just south of Umbertide. I’m staying at a lovely agritourismo. Prato di Sotto, which sits on the slopes above the old, walled, Medieval village of Santa Giuliana.

Santa Giuliana, Umbria photo

S. Giuliana from Prato di Sotto

The first time I visited Prato di Sotto and saw the village as I came around the winding white road I decided I had to spend some time up in the hills and draw this gorgeous little place.

Records of the village date back to 1362 but it’s probably older than that. It was abandoned and in a ruinous state for many centuries but recent times have seen this fine example of a medieval village, faithfully restored. Forty years ago, the developers were keen to keep as much as possible to the original plan, thus making it a fabulous little treasure.

Medieval watchtower

Torre Santa Giuliana

Along with the defensive walls, gate house and towers, the villages has a 16th century chapel, dedicated to Sant Antonio. About 1 km from the village there is an old watch tower that forms the centre piece to another B&B guest house and once acted as a lookout point for the village of Santa Giuliana.

Six Ways to Guard Your Borders – The Castles of the Niccone Valley

Tuscany Umbria Border

The Niccone Valley

Watercolour and ink on heavy duty cartridge paper. 74 cm x 29 cm, cream mount and dark wooden frame with gold trim.

Painting the historic castles of the Niccone Valley proved to be a fun project. Selecting the largest piece of paper I could get my hands on, which in retrospect still seems too small, I set about drawing the landscape. In the end the painting was more like six little pictures, blended together to make up the valley landscape.

Valley castles

Niccone castle sketches

Niccone castle sketches

The subject covers the starts on the left with the village of Niccone, (although not shown) with the weather worn Castello Montalto perched above. Instead we have the nearby restored, medieval village of Borgo di Migianello on the opposite hillside, hiding Niccone. On the hill behind Montalto is Polgetto’s castle, now a hotel, with the distinctive double bumped shape of Mount Acuto.

Niccone Valley

Reschio Castle

Travelling to the valley’s mid-point, Sant Andrea di Sorbello and  Reschio castles watch over each other. Reschio lovingly restorted, private residence and Sorbello with its distinctive “dovetail” crenellations, identifying it’s owners, during the turbulent years of the Renaissance, as supports of the Ghibelline political cause.

Continuing on to the head of the valley, you reach the crumbling, but still habitable remains of Lisciano Niccone, protecting it’s village below. Nowadays a slightly rag tagged building but still showing a hint of its once grand status. The trip ends at Borgo di Vegli and the massive edifice that is Castle Pierle, still imposing after 500 years as a ruin. The remains of its ivy covered, crumbling walls are a testament to just how well it was constructed over 700 years ago.

Valley photos and sketches

Niccone landscape

Niccone landscape

Photographing and sketching the valley gave me a good idea of its feel, the flow of the hills, the wide valley floor, strewn with crops and tree lined fringes. The slopes vary between vineyards, olive groves and deciduous woodland. The roads wind their way along the length of the Niccone, with strada bianca disappearing up into the hillsides.

Polgetto drawing

Polgetto drawing


Some of these roads lead to the castles that protected the borders, others over the mountainous terrain to Umbertide, Cortona, Calzolaro and San Leo Bastia. To truly appreciate the surroundings you’d have to drive it’s 16 miles but what the painting does is convey a sense of its verdant slopes, the collection of forts and villages and the patterns, farmers have left in the landscape.




Painting dark sky

Stormy sky over TuscanyThe weeks while painting, during the summer of 2014 were we saw one of the wettest July’s on record and the skyline had a constant tide of grey, dank, rain laden clouds. These were especially beautiful at dusk as the setting sun gave them a myriad of hues, purples, pinks, deep blues and orange/yellow linings.

The normal clear, bright blue sky had been supplanted by a dramatic alien summer. Violent, tempestuous but fascinating to watch. While I much prefer the sight of a cloudless, sunny day, these weeks provided the backdrop for an unseasonably dark sky. One, the poor tourists to the area will probably remember with frustration.