Excitement, Near Death, and an Offer I Don’t Want to Refuse- Painting in Vernazza, Italy

A Brush with Catastrophe, A Near Death Experience, and An Offer I Don’t Want to Refuse: Just Another Day of Painting Plein Aire in Vernazza, Italy

You know what I’ve figured out?  Painting on location is a lot like camping.  I love camping, but something always seems to go wrong!  In both realms, the adventures are always unexpected.  If you survive to tell the tale…oh what great stories you come home with!  Today was no exception, and in fact 4 different events reminded me how much fun it can be to paint in the open with your subject right in front of you!

As you probably know, I’m traveling in Italy for couple weeks on my own.  Today I hopped on a ferry from Portovenere (my current  home base) to Vernazza (a gorgeous little town of the Cinque Terre).  The ferry system along the Cinque Terre (the Five Lands) is fantastic0!  For 30 Euros you can hop on and off the ferries all day.  On the way, you get to enjoy cool sea breezes and unequalled views of these gorgeous little towns situated high atop the hills along the Italian Riviera.  The weather here is much like Myrtle Beach in September…Hot and sunny.  A great day to be on the water.

Here is one of the pretty towns along the Cinque Terre…each more beautiful than the next!

Beautiful Piazza in Vernazza- Cinque Terre, Italy


Visiting Vernazza gives me a feeling of Déjà vu…I have been here before…and I bet they’ve been missing me!  Let me tell you that story…

Last time in Vernazza I had a big expensive meal on the main square. As I received a cappuccino, the waiter got very unhappy as he saw me get out my sketchbook.  The restaurant was very busy and I understood his desire to turn over the table, but I had a glass of wine and a cappuccino left to finish!  Since my meal was not yet done, I thought I would do a short sketch while I sipped.  My waiter was probably having a bad day.  Repeatedly, he was quite rude to me as I finished my wine, insinuating that I was a problem, even though I was drinking it pretty fast.

I finally had to look at him and say, “Why are you being so mean to me?  I haven’t finished my meal yet!  I want to finish my wine and my coffee so please leave me alone.”  That really didn’t stop the dirty looks, but hey, my meal cost me $30 Euros, and I wasn’t going to let him spoil it!  Besides, the wine was GOOD!

The end of the story…

So, on the way out, I was standing in line for the ladies room when my waiter passed me and glanced my way.  I looked him straight in the eye and shook my finger at him with a big smile saying,” You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone!”.  Then I smiled an even bigger smile.  That did it!  Processing what I said, he stopped dead in his tracks.  Then he came over and planted a big kiss on both my cheeks, Italian style!  We both laughed and went our separate ways.  Ahhh, I love Italy!  Passione!

So today, I went back to Vernazza and it was so crowded I couldn’t get a table for lunch.  (If you want to eat lunch in Vernazza, make a reservation from your hotel ahead of time)  So, poor me had to settle for a gelato.   Not too shabby as a substitute.  Afterward, I settled in to do some painting.  Seating is crucial when you’re painting outdoors, and though I brought a small stool, I decided to sit in the shade on the sea wall where the view was good. This was my view…what’s not to love, right?!

Rebecca Zdybel-Vernazza ©Rebecca Zdybel


My sketch is done…time to start painting!

Adventures I want to write home about: TODAY!

Boats were everywhere!  Coming and going… There’s lots of life at the waterfront in these seaside towns.  I love the Cinque Terre because people actually live here!  No cars or few cars in the streets, and though they are tourist towns, it is not crazy with souvenir places.  All of this makes these towns feel authentic and very inviting to me.

When you paint in the streets, people love to stop and see what you’re doing, but they usually don’t stay for long.  I don’t generally engage them if they stop, but I try to be friendly if they say something nice. I usually attempt to thank them in whatever language they are speaking.

Adventure #1- A Brush with catastrophe

At one point, a cute family loaded into a boat in front of me and the child in the boat called out to me pointing wildly at the water…there was my favorite brush floating in the water 5 feet below me!!  The sweet kid rowed the boat backwards and used his net to retrieve it for me.  With my very limited Italian I wished them a good voyage (buon viaggio)  and thanked them.  They were obviously going on a Saturday afternoon family boat ride.  Bellisimo!

Vernazza resident good samaritans- ©Rebecca Zdybel

Adventure #2- A Near Death Experience

As another boat pulled up, out hopped a young lady and her dog.  She climbed up to the boardwalk from the water.  Then she urged her dog to jump up and follow her.  The dog leaped…and MISSED!  Tumbling back into the water with a huge splash! He was under and then bobbed to the surface.  Her friends pulled the dog from the water and carried it up over the sea wall themselves.  Poor thing!  It was so disoriented that it walked right into my palette and started shaking the water off right next to me (thankfully not on my painting!).  Once it shook it off, I realized that he was fine but he wasn’t the only one who was a little shook up!  All in all, a happy ending…

Dog Rescue ©Rebecca Zdybel

Adventure #3- An offer I Don’t want to refuse…

I don’t speak much Italian, but I’ve been here enough to be familiar with some words.  A child stopped to watch me paint (kids are often the least self-conscious spectators).  He said something that kind of registered with me, “Avendre?”  I looked up, and realized he was asking me if it was for sale. His father was looking over his shoulder.  “Maybe…” I said, “Though, it’s not really finished.”  The dad replied, “I like your painting very much.  That is my home.” And pointed to the location of his house in my painting.  (Thankfully his house was located in my focal area! It’s the one with the white awnings and the teal laundry.  Yes, there really was teal laundry on that red building…a convenient complementary color arrangement. What are the odds of that?!).  He then said,” Finish your painting and bring it to my restaurant later.”

Keeping it fresh- You don’t always have time to finish your painting on location

This is how my painting looked when I left Vernazza today. I call this phase “ugly adolescence”.  They need a lot of love to get past this point and on to full maturity, but no time to dawdle…the ferry was leaving and time was up!

Vernazza Plein Aire- Aquarelle @Rebecca Zdybel

Done! Finito!

After some touches back in the hotel I think it’s Done! Finito!

Exciting right?!  The only problem is, I forgot the name of his restaurant!  His name was Truglio, I think (but God only knows how you spell it).  I didn’t have time to search for him, because  I needed to catch the last ferry out of town at 17:15.  I may have to make my way to the main square of beautiful Vernazza another day.

So my day of painting on location ended after a brush with catastrophe,  a near death experience, and an offer I don’t want to refuse.   Like camping, the stories we survivors tell create fun memories that get even more funny as time goes by.  The beautiful commute back to Portovenere provided this gorgeous view of Manarola where I plan to go tomorrow.  Isn’t the lighting incredible?

Cinque Terre Italy- ©Rebecca Zdybel

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

What will tomorrow bring??? I’m hoping to tackle something I’ve never tried before…hiking a mountain! I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get to the other side!

Love and Limoncello(s),


PS- If you’d like to explore this beautiful area of the world with me next year, check out the description and details for registration here.  The past 3 years have SOLD OUT, so if you’re feeling it may be time for YOU to get yourself to Italy, then here’s how!

My brochure for Eat Paint Cook 2017- Tuscany, Cinque Terre and Portofino

PSS- Subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you more of my painting adventures direct to your inbox. If you enjoy what you read or have a shared memory of painting outside, I’d love to read your comments!  I promise to respond when I have WiFi available. <3













Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at RebeccaZArtist.com.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Nancy Newman says:

    Brought back many good memories. Last time I was there was when they were recovering from the floods. Love the area. Get back to selling that painting.

    • Hi Nancy! I hope this funds you healing well and getting ready for some new adventure! They’ve recovered beautifully from the landslides here. The only repercussion I’ve noticed is that the Via del Amore trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola remains closed. I just took the higher trail between towns and plan to write about THAT crazy idea in my next blog. Stay tuned! I found a new after dinner wine you’d love, called sciachettra. It’s kind of like the Vinsanto we enjoy in Tuscany. i love traveling with you, even if for now it’s via the Internet m. Love and limoncellos my sweet friend❤️

  • Barb Marks says:

    Great stories Rebecca. I hope you find Truglio! One day I will be in Italy. My Grandparents are from Avellino, Italy.

    • Hi Barb! Yes you NEED to come one day. Especially with family roots to explore. Italy is the BEST! Lots of beautiful places in the world but to combine scenery with history, great food and WINE…well, nobody does it better than the Italians. Hugs coming your way!

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