Inspiration in an Italan Hill Town

Oct 14, 2010


Rainbow over Todi 

Todi as Muse

Todi come musa

by John Jay Gebhardt

For the last ten years I have traveled to Todi to paint during the month of August. This past summer I arrived anticipating another beautiful painting experience. I was not disappointed.

Carlo, my friend and proprietario of La Gardenia, where I stay, picked me up in Pian Di Porto-Todi for the short drive to the historic city center. I immediately saw many familiar friendly faces around the Piazza del Popolo. It felt like I was returning home. 

Todi is an amazing paradise, relaxing and exciting at the same time. There are friends to enjoy and share caffè and food at Caffè Ciucci or the Caffè Giardinetti or at each other’s homes. Everywhere one looks one sees old and new engaging artifacts: a hidden Roman church; the 9/11 Memorial, an incredibly moving six-foot granite slab inscribed with the words “in ricordo delle vittime dell’ attentato terroristico di New York Settembre 11, 2001” (in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in New York); an Etruscan vicolo (alley); a rare medieval window with two arches and a column down the center; a larger-than-life wooden statue of the eighth-century Pope Martino I da Todi; and a bronze statue of Pope John Paul II, originally intended for the Vatican, by a Todi artist. Most amazingly this summer, after a refreshing rainstorm, a double rainbow (arcobaleno) appeared spanning the entire historic center . 

Todi is the perfect place to paint because the city and the surrounding countryside are wonderful settings. I plan my days around my painting. In the morning I usually stand with my easel (cavalletto) in the shade looking out at my subject, draped in the ever-changing Umbrian sunlight. 

After lunch (everyone in Todi lunches at 12:45 p.m.) I paint one afternoon painting and then another around 5:00 p.m. It takes three outings for each painting. The past two years I have been painting outside the Porta Perugina near the Cimitero Vecchio as the sun goes down (mentre il sole tramonta). 

With the changing colors of the sky and reflections on the terrain, my color choices are more vibrant. The sky turns red or yellow or green; the landscape becomes more fantastic. One day, recalling the magnificent rainbow I’d seen over Todi, I introduced a triple rainbow into my painting (below) and, boy, that really did it for me. 

Rainbows painting

Words and Expressions

dipingere — to paint 

dipingere dal vero — to paint from nature 

pittore — painter, artist 

dipinto, pittura — painting, picture

Guest blogger John Jay Gebhardt is a Manhattan painter whose main subjects are the landscapes of his native New York and of his adoptive Italy. He is represented by six galleries. See more of his recent Todi paintings and get additional information at his website.   

If You Go

Federica and Gabriele of Umbria Lovers, who specialize in non-touristic travel experiences, provide a terrific guide to Todi's top sites. Find out more about the region and their services at their website.

But you don't have to leave home to travel to Italy. Just  enter the Viva l'Italiano Book Bonanza Contest to win my favorite books on Italy's language, culture, people, food, and wine.







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