Italy Upon Arrival: Pace, Pace, Pace

I was so very tired when I arrived in Italy. We had only about 3 hours of sleep when our mini cab came to take us on a 45 minute drive to the airport at Stansted, where we were required to arrive two hours prior to our 3 hour flight’s departure. The trains were not running on Sundays between London and Stansted as a result of improvements being made to the tracks. In London there is an express train that takes not much time at all to get from the City to the airport. But such luxury would not be ours. We wiggled our way through all kinds of serpentine streets and made our way to the airport where resourceful, and youthful budget travelers had made their way early and were camped out on all the free seats and had spilled over on to the floor everywhere in the terminal. We fled to the airport café, dragging our wheeled luggage in tow and waited for the window to open. Ah! A table with two chairs and something warm to drink.

firenze santa maria novella by ilmungo.


The beautifully skylighted Santa Maria Novella train station, Florence

Riding the train from the airport in Pisa, Italy toward Firenze (Florence), I began seeing rainbow-striped flags hanging from the windows. I began watching for them and quickly saw that the word “PACE” was centered on them. Peace. After we changed trains in the amazing 1930’s Art Deco station in Firenze and headed toward Cortona, I continued to see these flags hanging from multi-storied apartment buildings, grand homes, overpasses, ruins and hung by farmers out in fields of grain. Sometimes there were six of seven flags hanging on the laundry lines on the side of an apartment building. They were everywhere! As we passed through amazing, long and dark tunnels through the hills of Toscana I saw more and more of these flags. Clearly, many of the people of Italy had their minds focused upon Peace and they wanted one another to know about it!

And I felt as if my prayers were being heard somewhere in a language that I did not speak. “Join me in this prayer for peace.” My meditation became “Pace, pace, pace…” as I rode through the ancient pastoral landscape, past the ruins of fortresses, towers, gorgeous vineyards and fields of grain, lovely gardens, orchards, olive trees and stopping at every station, where I saw more and more “Pace, pace, pace.” And then I saw Cortona and its glorious stone buildings on the hillside, imposing, powerful, overlooking the valley below it.

When we arrived in Cortona by taxi from the train station in the town of Camucia at its feet, we sat in the square at a café with our luggage all around us awaiting the key to our little apartment, it was 3:00ish as I looked up to see the time of our arrival on the clock tower which we sat beneath, and to the right, hanging from a Citta de Cortona office window there was another flag, I was home for the month: “Pace.”

Cortona Clock Tower by jschneid.


Pace by gremionis.

Pace Flags by GeorgePinecrest.


Michaelangelo’s Lesson

“That which is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Lupetti 1

Roberto Lupetti was well known in Carmel, California.  Many local artists studied with him; he in fact taught for many, many years, even prior to coming the the Central Coast and he included teaching my ministerial teacher, Dr. Bill Little.  Teaching Dr. Bill to paint, and the examples of those works that I saw,  indicated to me that he could teach anyone to be a better painter than any expectation would have predicted.  It’s as if he infected people with a love of painting and the precision required for the romantic, Classical Realist style that he employed.

I only knew him very briefly before his 1997 death.  In my home I have two objects d’art that were used by him in setting up still lifes.  One a woven basket that resembles a duck, and a pot that was burned in an open fire in the way that Southwestern and Middle American pots were fired.  I treasure both of these for having been his possessions and the subject of works that I could not afford to own.

He shared with me a story of being selected to work on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel while he was still a student at Brera Liceo Artistico.  He was clearly and appropriately deeply honored to be asked to do such historically important work.

It was painstaking, slow and exceedingly careful work that seemed to go on and on, days on end, weeks pouring into the next endlessly.  One day he was high up in scaffolding, and to steady himself he put his hand against the fresco and his hand slipped right into an existing hand print in the ceiling, the hand print of Michaelangelo, who it was said was the only one who had worked on the fresco.  It wasn’t exactly duplicating the subject matter of the ceiling, but it did seem instructive to me in the way that follows.


As you can see exemplified in the illustration, the color was eventually restored to the frescoes, and while there has been great controversy about whether or not these colors should have been used, we will not embroil ourselves in the arguments of art historians and restorers of great works.  Roberto Lupetti worked on the penultimate restoration about which there are no longer any arguments.

There are two principal ideas that I think we can take from this story.  The first being that history does reach over time and touch us in ways that are incredibly important for us. For Roberto it was the lineage of his artistic style reaching through the ages and affirming his life’s work at a time when he was very young and the encouragement of being selected to do this work in one of the most historic and beautiful places on earth, and then to have that sacred experience of slipping his hand into the handprint of Michaelangelo, as if a sacred trust was being passed along to him.  Through the years as a teacher he passed on ancient techniques and knowledge as a result of the culmination of his experiences as a significant artist himself, always remembering that moment of realization high up in the scaffolding as he carefully worked to return the fresco to its early glory.

The second idea that I want to share is that Roberto was always willing to be inspired.  It was as if he was a clearing in the forest awaiting the light of day to shine upon it, illuminating all upon which the eye could fall.  He was not embarrassed to be so inspired or to teach others to allow inspiration into their hearts as they worked alongside him.  Each of us, has the opportunity to live as he did, as a man who opened himself completely to the artist that he was, to the experiences that presented themselves and who was willing to go far from his home in Milan to live on another continent if it meant that he was able to express himself fully as an artist and a teacher.

He was a very humble man in failing health when I met him near the end of his life.  I understand from mutual friends that he had always been a warm and simple man with a wicked gleam in his eye, just as he was when I briefly knew him.

Through the years I remember sitting at the kitchen table at Dr. Bill’s house talking with Roberto and his telling me that story, and I was struck by the lightening, as if I, for that sunny afternoon, was one of his legion of students, enlightened by my brief contact with the story of his realization.

Roberto Lupetti was a master of Classical Realism. A graduate of the famed Brera Liceo Artistico in Italy, he assisted with the restoration work on the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and the fresco “The Battle of Ponte Milvio” by Giulio Roman, a disciple of Raphael. Lupetti earned five degrees at the Reale Accademia di Belle Arti, receiving professorships in Art, Art History, Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture. A man of vision, Lupetti’s art is timeless.
Some examples of his work are at

Roberto 2

Robert Lupetti Biography at Simic Gallery, Carmel, CA

Lupetti Rabbi