Sorrento

Up Pompeii

Continued from Neapolitan Sunday

The next morning we took the local train to Pompeii. From one of the most expensive forms of transport (Capri ferry 40 Euro) to one of the cheapest – Sorrento-Pompeii return about £4 – we rattled our way to the wonder that is Pompeii. Hiring the guide was a good choice but I did find him arrogant and plain rude, perhaps that’s my English nature.

Pompeii was astounding in scale, detail and preservation. You can quickly forget that this was a Roman town almost 2 thousand years old and think you’re in a Umbrian hill town where you expect a vespa to buzz round a corner at any moment. The guide provided a wealth of interesting information but I prefered just wandering around discovering amphitheaters, forums and cemeteries. Luckily the weather was not too hot (I can imagine it becomes a furnace in the summer) and we could ramble about for around for a few hours quite pleasantly. The good weather also gave us a glimpse of how close Vesuvius was and we were able to see the crater rim, giving us an idea of how much of the original volcano was projected into the air. I had taken my sketchbook but the scale of Pompeii meant I had no no time to use it. But I did draw this scene later.

Pompeii italy

Arch in Pompeii by the necropolis

Tired, but refreshed by a gelato and cold orange juice while waiting for the train we returned to the hotel. An hour or so later we were in another Tango class, with Sandra and Santiago, who introduced Colcadas to us. Thanks to Machiko who was a model partner, she got me spinning her like a top!

In the evening we all went to the local theater and enjoyed a very local song and dance show of all the southern Italian favorites (i.e. O sole mio). Well sung, danced and performed the evening was a delight but I was caught napping a couple of times – well Pompeii and Colcadas are a tiring mix.

 

Sorrento Theatre

Sorrento Theatre

The next day (our last full day) I spend the most of it getting to know Sorrento and drawing in the port, finishing off the drawing from Sunday. I hadn’t realised how important marquetry and inlay work was to Sorrento. I mention this because I used to do this as hobby about ten years ago. It was fascinating to see the quality of the work achieved by the professionals (and also the prices) but I think my boxes were not too far off. Here are a couple of examples I created.

 

inlay

Jewelry Box

marketry

Horse-chestnut Marquetry

The final lesson was a review with the inclusion of a female sacada, which I will be using when brave enough. We created our own Milonga on the final night, by the bar and joined by our friendly Austrian/Germans. Thanks to Sandra and Santiago for organizing the wonderful holiday, it all went very smoothly. And I made some lovely new friends and had many beautiful dances- thanks ladies.

 

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Volcanoes and Volcadas

I’ve just returned from a wonderful dancing holiday to Sorrento, Italy. Organised by tango teachers, Santiago and Sandra of Lets Tango, it was the perfect autumn break. Naturally I took my sketchbooks along with my dancing shoes and was inspired by the beautiful scenery to attempt some drawing.

The trip covered 5 full days and we packed in a full itinerary, visiting Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii and Naples. I managed a handful of sketches and improved my tango – the perfect combination! The dancing group was around twenty dancers, making for a good variety of dance partners. We all got on really well and I’ve made some lovely new friends.

I’ve split this post into several parts, covering the first of my sketches and our trip to Capri. The whole region has been shaped by the huge eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, which has formed the dramatic coastline and fertile but hilly countryside.

The first opportunity to sketch came on the day of arrival, where we had a short lunch break before the initial tango lesson. I walked to a point I had seen from the map & Google streetview, which has several seats and a panoramic view across the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius. There were plenty of spaces and I sat on the edge of one bench and started to sketch. It was working out well but as time was limited I wanted to keep drawing to a minimal and paint the washes in early. There was heavy cloud covering the summit of the volcano and an impressive Gin Palace was anchored in the harbour. Having started the washes I was interrupted by a member of the public peering over my shoulder. Normally this is okay as they usual mutter something and wander off. However, when she put foot on the bench beside me I felt this was a little different. There were already three of us on the bench and as I had my paints out there was little room for anyone else. But I was wrong. She placed her foot on the bench beside me, peered even closer and plonked herself down beside me while I laid the broad blue washes of the sea.  Then the elbows in my back started. It felt she was wrestling a crocodile behind me and tapping out a tango on my spine. Inspiration was gone, comfort evaporated and rage took hold. I slammed my book shut, splattering wet washes, Rorschach style across my pages. I glared at her and told her it was going to be a real pleasure to find another bench, as clearly her need for this one was greater than mine. My mood ruined I walked back to the hotel, with her antics etched into my sketch forever.

I worked on the sketch a couple of days later to rescue something but more still needs to be done. Note the Umbrella Pine beside the building, which is special to this coastline.

Sorrento

Bay of Naples

I was restored by the excellent tango class given by Santiago and Sandra in the afternoon and we had a lively night out at the Foreigners Club, dancing to a range of ballroom songs played by a duo with a wide repertoire. Trying to remember my Cha,Cha Cha and Rumba moves was testing. Apologies to Sheila & Sandra for any crushed toes.

I was really lucky with my room as I faced out to the sea and had wonderful morning views of Mount Vesuvius. Before going to breakfast I took time to soak in the colours and tones of the morning sky around the volcano. I knew the camera I used could not capture the subtleties of the light so I made an attempt with paint. I needed more time and better paper (and skill) to do this but the sketch will remind me of the glorious mornings.

Bay of Naples

Mount Vesuvius from Hotel Flora, Sorrento

That morning we had an even better lesson, spoiled only by the floor surface, which was solved by copious use of volcanic dust (talc).

We traveled to Capri in the afternoon, expertly organised by Sandra. The expensive crossing was justified by a dramatic and beautiful island, with an extremely wealthy undertone. We took the funicular to the Capri piazzetta and walked to the gardens of Augusto. Stunning views of the spectacular cliffs greeted us and I settled down to draw one of the vistas.

Capri Island

Capri from Augusto Gardens

Painting views like this is especially difficult. Finding the right spot, out of the sun, with a seat and out of the way of other visitors is really tricky. I couldn’t get out of the sun and I crouched for a while, balancing paints and brushed over a precipice. So this is not my best but it does provide me with a memory.

Later, in the evening we danced in the bar of the hotel to wonderful music provided by Santiago and a small but appreciative audience of hotel guests. We were also joined by a German/Austrian couple who we met at the Foreigners Club the night before.

The next post will take us to Naples, Sorrento  and Pompeii. Below are a couple of photos from the trip.

Sorrento

Sorrento

Capri Marina

Capri Marina

From Capri Piazzetta with Gabbi our guide

From Capri Piazzetta with Gabbi our guide

Capri Cliffs

Capri Cliffs