03 January 2012

An American in Rome

Oil on Panel
© Kelly Medford, 2011

Recently the Italian coffee company Lavazza wrote to me and asked me to share some of my Rome paintings along with a story about my painting and life experience here in Rome for their ongoing project called The Italian Experience: Italy Behind Italy. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to synthesize some of my thoughts and experiences thus far into a small yet concise story. You can find the story below, or see it on their website (in Italian).

A big hearfelt THANK YOU to Lavazza and for their ongoing efforts to engage and promote the public in Italian life and culture, something much needed during these times in Italy.

Sometimes I think I’m old fashioned trapped in a modern time. I stalk the streets of Rome on a bicycle and a French box easel, stopping to paint the different neighborhoods in their strange, layered beauty.

In the process everyone stops to talk and I get to learn about Rome firsthand from its inhabitants.  I paint what I see, as the light and life unfold in front of me, although my compositions are strangely absent of people in such a bustling city. Somehow I wish the city would stop and I could capture just the light casting across the buildings, fountains, ruins and piazzas.

This was my way of getting to know Rome. I moved here a year ago after living 6 years in Florence where I studied art. After spending many dark days in the studio, one day I had enough and took my easel outside to paint and never went back. My easel on the street has been my induction to Italian life and culture. Painting the scenes and places of a city slowly introduce me and let me see all the layers past and present.

One subject that I painted was Rome’s nasone. This is something truly unique to Rome- the public water fountains that are placed all over the city and surrounding neighborhoods and used to be the center of life in each neighborhood. Still people stop to drink and fill their bottles. While standing and painting one, I must have seen 50 people stop to drink and everyone stops from workers to business men who jump off their scooters to housewives coming to fill jugs for their homes.
Being an American in Italy, I see my compatriots everywhere, wandering the streets lost with their maps, drunken college students trudging the streets at night with their boisterous voices and their signature sneakers and flip flops. And I am not one of them, and neither am I Italian. I rather feel myself a timeless observer suspended in  slow moments of time.

December, 2011 


  1. Kelly, I loved reading about your insights! I've been invited to teach a 1-week watercolor workshop in Cortona (April 21-28) through Toscana Americana, and I can't wait to see Italy again! I envy that you are able to live there. I truly find myself in a different state of mind when I am over there. I look forward to hearing more about your time there!

  2. Beautifully written Kelly...congrats on accepting the challenge and doing such a lovely job of it. And that painting is one of my favs.....5 stars!

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  4. Hi Helen and thank you for your comments. You are so lucky to have the chance to paint in Cortona, a true paradise for the landscape painter!

    If you ever want to paint in Rome, I love painting buddies. Keep in touch !


  5. Thank you Cindy! It was such a privledge to have the chance to share some of my paintings and experiences, I hope to create more opportunities this upcoming year. Can't wait to paint with you over here and to see what we create!