Afternoon in Olivola, oil, 8×10

I painted this vineyard en plein air, looking down on it from the town of Olivola during a recent stay in Italy,

Olivola is a tiny hilltop village, population 120 souls, in the Monferrato hills of the Piemonte region of Italy. My husband and I discovered this hidden gem one afternoon in September while driving among the gold and garnet vineyards of the area. Olivola is a handful of houses, all constructed from local tufa stone, perched in panoramic positions around the main piazza. There is a silence in these small Italian towns unlike anywhere else; it is a silence that has the quality of physical presence and weight. We parked the car in the piazza and walked up to the small Romanesque church crowning the grassy hilltop at the edge of the village. From here we could look out at the Monferrato countryside and see five other hilltop villages, each adorned with a medieval watchtower or campanile. Magical! We were to see the elderly couple chatting on the bench outside the church on each subsequent visit to Olivola, and I believe I could find them there today were I to arrive just after riposo.One day, we arrived to find that the grape harvest (la vendemmia) had started,and as I began to paint, music and the sound of singing came from the little church to accompany our work. (The organist and vocalist had come to practice for an upcoming wedding.) We had conversations with several residents, some of whom had been living in Olivola for over fifty years. We felt welcome indeed, as if we were expected guests. Only in Italy…