Category Archives: Travel & Culture

Street Art, Firenze

Art takes many forms, and Firenze offers up an abundant supply!… I am so happy just walking around the streets of town, and all of my senses are on beauty overload. Whether it’s beautiful chalk paintings on the streets…


…the art of PASSIONATE conversation…


…a beautiful blue bike leaned up against a stone wall… (don’t you just LOVE these two ladies?)…


…the art of graffiti, negative space, and madonna portraits…



Beauty is everywhere – you need only look for it 🙂

x. Christa

Cry Me a River


‘Cause I’ve cried a river over you

x. Christa

A Stroll through Boboli Gardens


Stop and smell the roses!.. and contemplate the statues, observe the fish, get lost in a maze, and marvel at the view.  Meander about the magnificent Tuscany Renaissance landscape architeture of Boboli Gardens in Florence, just south of the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio, where steep hikes are rewarded with amazing views and guilt-free pasta later in the evening 🙂 Of course, getting lost in a maze is always more fun with a friend…


…and now off to another stroll through sunny Firenze! More pics of the city as well as several boudoir shoots coming up soon…stay tuned 🙂



Buon San Valentino!

Just up the long winding street from my villa in Firenze towards Fiesole is this wonderful work of art… Every time I pass by, it takes my breath away – amongst all the grey stones and greenery, is this bright red message of amore. It’s simple, yet just as moving and meaningful to me as any painting by Botticelli, Michelangelo or Da Vinci that I encountered at the Uffizi Gallery. It appeared on this wall a couple of years ago, and apparently, the man comes back every so often to make sure it doesn’t fade and remains fresh and bright…

with the soul
with the heart
I love you
my only

Buon San Valentino 🙂



A Walk about Fiesole

One of my favorite things to do here in Italy is to just walk and see where it takes me. Step outside the villa where I’m living, and in any direction is rich beauty, history, nature, soulfulness, and wonderful characters… everything and everyone a fascinating romantic story in itself. If you keep striding up the steep hillside, about 40 minutes up, you’ll arrive in the small ancient town of Fiesole, where there are remains from civilizations dating back to 8th century BC. There is a Roman-era amphitheatre where they hold classical and jazz music concerts in the summer, a temple, thermal baths, and relics showcased in a museum on site. There was only one other person walking around the ruins when I walked around this day, and she quickly left. The beauty, the quiet, the overwhelming history of this place took over, and the afternoon was magical! I absolutely loved walking on the stones and on the proscenium of the stage and along the baths walls – it’s all open for you to enjoy, contemplate, and frolick around.

One of my absolute favorite things here on the Tuscan hillside is all of the Olive trees! They are everywhere, and this particular tree (shown above) was right next to the amphitheatre (shown below) and with the breeze and sun behind it, it was just stunning.



Lots of walking up and walking down, on narrow cobbled streets with stone walls overgrown with moss and vines… all for the benefit of the spectacular views of Florence and the Tuscan countryside… as well as working off that pizza!



You don’t run into many people in and around Fiesole in February – a few ladies heading to early evening mass, a motorcyclist or two, a local nun, a few shop owners… Most of the mazes of streets are quiet and have high stone walls with an amusing dichotomy of either enormous estates behind gated entries or a teeny tiny door in the wall where a family lives – I love that!


Thank goodness my neighborhood is so beautiful, walkable and fascinating! Otherwise that daily salami and cheese habit would be the ruin of me 🙂

thanks for taking a walk with me!



A Villa in Firenze

With less than 24 hours before my big move from Los Angeles to Italy earlier this month, I still did not have an Italian home, hotel, hostel or any sort of accommodations booked. I was the only person in my life not deeply concerned about this. I had booked my flight, sold most of my stuff, suspended my iphone account and packed all I need in life into two bags. I just knew deep in my soul that everything was going to click. And boy did it ever. I went online the night before my flight to do a search. When I clicked on the listing for this Villa – I felt in my gut This was it.

Every moment since arriving at the Villa has confirmed that this beautiful home in the Florence hills is everything I wanted and more. I craved restoration after an overbooked year and wanted to dive into pleasure.  The villa is such a special place, and after only one week here, I feel at home, relaxed, centered, feminine, creative, sexy and inspired.

The Villa is filled with beauty, character, history and art. I picked up my camera yesterday afternoon totally inspired and enjoyed capturing what I love about the villa. But my number one favorite thing about this place you won’t see a picture of: the owners/hosts, Frederica and her family, who have given me such warmth and generous hospitality. She’s responsible for the villa being in the beautiful state that it’s in, and so much more importantly, she makes this space feel like home. My dad used to say, “The people make the place.” And I am eternally grateful to Frederica and the other wonderful guests here for making this place the truly amazing and memorable experience that it is.

So allow me to show you around!… This is the view from my bedroom window… phenomenal, right?!

The villa is brimming with beauty both inside and out, and the building is full of art – you seriously can feel it in the air and in the stones.  This is the front patio and side garden. And that’s the dresser in my bedroom.  I love having this painting in my daily view.


The foundation of the villa dates back to 1400. I love the unique location – so close to the city, yet a complete quiet oasis. We are situated on a huge hillside, just below the famous Fiesole hills in Florence, about a ten minute walk down a beautiful stone-walled street to where you can easily walk, bike or bus into the city center.


There are hundreds of paintings within the Villa, and an original fresco dating back to the early 1400’s! These breathtaking panels were painted by Frederica’s grandfather.


I’m in love with this green natural patina (and the Chianti candle).


The villa consists of 3 independent apartments. On the right, one of many gates and doors that I enter through to get into my home. I think my villa key ring has 5 front gate/door keys. I kinda like that. There seems to be hundreds of doors in the Villa, and I am always amazed when I discover that what I thought was a painting or a closet is an actual doorway leading into an entirely new area of the villa.


The rooms are authentically furnished, simple, gorgeous, and totally soothing.


The pic above is the view outside my bedroom window to the southwest. I feel incredibly blessed daily to live fully amongst such beautiful surroundings and the fact that this was Michelangelo’s and Leonardo daVinci’s stomping ground is just a fun bonus.

In addition to mother nature’s finest work on the surrounding Tuscan hillside, I’m sure the villa’s long artistic and literary history have a lot to do with the inspiring energy of this place. Quick history lesson before I run off to have my third lunch today: there’s a plaque on the villa’s wall dedicated to famous author and resident from 1889-1935, Violet Paget. Known by her male pseudonym Vernon Lee, Violet received visits from literary greats: Henry James, Aldous Huxley, Edith Wharton, among others, and part of the plaque reads:

“she loved Italy… and spent her long life in the passionate search for beauty…”

I can relate soul sister.



Symphony in Color, No. 3

Gorgeous color! Here are just a few favs from the final installment of my photography series of downtown Los Angeles…  It was hard not to turn them all into black and white… as one of the Workshop attendees this past weekend noted, “Christa, you see things mostly in black and white” – she’s right! I usually go for the moment, the relationship, light/shadow, lines, etc… color is secondary for me.  But in these pics, color is the star for sure!

God and palm trees are everywhere… even in Downtown LA 🙂


And to follow-up on the beautiful black & white’s of the Walt Disney Concert Hall from my Symphony in B&W No. 1, here are some of my favorites that showcase the beautiful blue notes of the sky reflected in the steel…


Ahhhhhh, just let this one wash over you 🙂  Bliss….


Hope you guys enjoyed my series of Downtown Los Angeles as much as I loved shooting it!

Lots of fun coming up on the blog – gorgeous boudoir pictures, workshop attendees’ pics from this past weekend’s Portrait Workshop, and some Polaroid lovin’ 🙂



Symphony in B&W, No. 2

Just a few lines of light that I love from my recent downtown LA Art Installation project.  As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, Symphony in B&W No. 1, my goal was to capture the energy of the city.  I played around with slow shutter speeds and high contrast settings to capture movement and a play on line and perspective.  Here are just a few of my favorites…


Stay tuned for the color shots!

Have a great weekend!



Symphony in B&W, No. 1

I love photographing portraits… it’s my passion, and I am pretty confident now that I can capture the subject’s personality in a single frame and nail it.  Shooting landscapes on the other hand, when there’s no living breathing human in the picture and no interaction between subjects… well now that’s a challenge!  So when the Library Lofts in downtown Los Angeles went looking for a photographer to shoot their art installation, suddenly, I was so on fire and told them I was their girl.

My goal was to capture the energy of the city.  When you think about it, places are living breathing subjects too… and I wanted to create an art installation for the lofts that people feel when they pass by.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was an obvious on my list of must-have’s.  Created by the world famous architect, Frank Gehry, the Disney Concert Hall is probably the most photographed building since it’s opening in 2003.  The sun was setting fast when I arrived at the Hall and I had about 10 minutes to shoot before it would be too dark… So I went with what I know best and I chose to shoot the hall like I shoot my boudoir photography… walk around the subject, notice things, the curves, the lines, etc… and suddenly the Hall took on a life of it’s own and became a boat at sea, a mountain top, waves in the ocean, and many other things…

What do you see?


A big thank you to one of my self-proclaimed blog-stalkers, John Batdorff, an extremely gifted photographer, especially with landscapes, who generously gave me some advice before I started shooting… Thanks John!

More in this series on the blog tomorrow and this weekend – I’ve prescheduled the posts so while I’ll be teaching the Portrait Workshop this weekend, you can enjoy a peek at downtown LA!



Sunday Jazz on a Monday

This street musician is one cool character… some of my most popular pictures this year were posted in March called Sunday Jazz on a Tuesday, courtesy of this sweet jazz fellow, and I’ve always wondered about him since… I wanted to hear him play again, know more about him, and tell him that people have contacted me to purchase his portraits.

So in between two family shoots and a wedding yesterday, I ran over with my camera to the Farmer’s Market in the Palisades to try my luck… Would that jazz player be there?

After a first walk around I didn’t see him, and then just as I was about to leave… he turns the corner with his sax case!  I ran up to him like a gushing teenaged fan, rambling about how happy I am to see him, how everyone loves his pictures, asking what’s his name, etc… and this poor shy guy just smiles modestly and answers quietly, Oh thank youIt’s BillyThat’s nice… And he keeps walking.  Woops, lol, I think I frightened him.  But that didn’t stop him from setting up and belting out the smoothest notes and the sweetest songs… real “tearjerkers” sighed the lady next to me.  And I just let the lovely fall day and this man’s beautiful music stop me in my busy day and mellow me the heck out 🙂

Back by popular demand and without further ado, here’s Billy…


Oooooooh… the sweet and the slow notes.


“Pavement Portrait: Street Musician”


And of course, such character begs for a close-up…


Nude in Charcoal

The first lesson my Dad taught me was how to look at an object and see the light and shadow. I had the extreme pleasure yesterday of stealing a break from my busy fall schedule to meet up with my dear friend and incredibly talented fine artist, Michelle Dunaway.  Michelle called me up last week to let me know she’s back in town teaching a drawing & painting workshop and asked if I would photograph her for American Artist magazine.

Best of all, she offered me the opportunity to sit in on the class and draw!  Now, I haven’t picked up a piece of charcoal since 1992, but I was so excited!  Like a kid at Christmas kind of excited.  Michelle took me yesterday to buy supplies, and after taking loads of photos for her, I sat down at an easel bench and a blank piece of paper.  Michelle wandered over to give me a quick demo on drawing 101, and I began some 5 minute sketches.  The above picture was done in maybe 6 or 7 minutes. I had such fun with the process – very liberating.  I’ll be going to Michelle’s class over the next few days after my morning shoots, and will post pics of Michelle and her incredible work soon.

In other news, today is my 1st Anniversary! The Studio + Gallery, Christa Meola Pictures, is 1 Year Old!  The Grand Opening party last year was a blast, and today I’ll have to celebrate with a cupcake, candle, some friends, some photos, and a lot of nude drawing!



I Like New York in June

Been singing that Gershwin tune for weeks. I know it’s July, but I can’t get New York off my mind and wanted to share some pics I took while visiting back east.  After the fab Photo Party in CT and a beautiful visit to my old home in NJ… I was on to NY and so excited to unwind, dine, geek out, and girl up with my favorite gal pal Jayne Jewell.

It was a gorgeous sunny day when the weather and air are just right, and it feels so good every cell is vibrating with an indescribable great energy!

Here are some pics of our afternoon jaunt in Central Park.  I love the richness of character, nature, and activity happening in the park on a daily basis…


Some moments are quite serene…


…and make you want to do this…


…then you stumble upon this guy and it makes you feel energized and happy to be alive.


Characters abound where you’ll see everyone from a dapper gent to a… well, less dapper fellow.




Lastly, here’s a couple of pics of Jayne and me geeking out big time.  Jayne is a Master Life Coach with Tony Robbins, and she… well, she pretty much kicks a**!!   Jayne’s a phenomenal partner to paint the town red with and a naturally gifted photographer…


Here’s a shot she snuck of me creating the “serene” water shot above.  No wonder why my back hurts…


I miss New York, but I know I’ll be back there soon!…