Friday, August 14, 2009

Turning a Tuscany Trip Into a Tome

Chianti From a Tuscan Villa
By the R. Thomas Berners
Publisher: Coal Cracker Press
ISBN: 978-0-578-03123-1
Available at

The authors, both retired from the Pennsylvania State University, spent seven days on a modest group tour of the Chianti region of Tuscany, staying in a Tuscan villa and going on day trips around the area, to Castellina, Florence, Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, and Volterra.

On those day trips, they both photographed extensively with the idea of creating this book, a combination of Thomas’ photographs and Paulette’s paintings, to create our interpretation of the region that gave birth to the Renaissance and Chianti wine. On two spreads, the Berners play off each other, with a painting by Paulette of the same scene photographed by Thomas on facing pages. Otherwise, each photograph and painting is unique.

And although they visited places not on the tour, such as the Beaded Lily Glass Works in Florence, their plans for other sites did not always pan out. Thomas wanted to see the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the English Cemetery in Florence, but the cemetery was closed for renovation work. He did manage to get some photos from a distance. (If you want to see Browning’s tomb, watch the movie Tea with Mussolini. The film opens at her tomb. The film also shows frescoes of Santa Fina in San Gimignano’s Collegiata. )

Alas, museums and churches, for the most part, did not allow photography, and if they did, it had to be without flash (no problem) and tripod (which made getting good photographs in low light a challenge). One church, Santa Lucia al Borghetto in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa (the town where the authors stayed), allowed photography and the use of a tripod, one of the few times indoor photographs could be taken at a slow speed.

The Berners call this 8.5-square-inch book a Pixels and Bristles™ production.
R Thomas Berner is professor emeritus of journalism and American studies at the The Pennsylvania State University. He blogs at
and is an editorial consultant, freelance writer and photographer

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