Explore San Diego: A taste of Tuscany

FALLBROOK, Calif. – Tucked in the hills of Fallbrook is a home that fuses art with nature, modeled after the Tuscan countryside.

Enter the gates of Villa con Cuore and you’re stepping into a land where time runs slower — four acres dotted with sculptures, a small vineyard, outdoor amphitheater and even a chapel.

All of it belongs to renowned artist Jerome Gastaldi, the man behind every painting you see at Yard House restaurants around the country.

“I just finished a restaurant in Burbank and some of the paintings were like 10 feet tall,” says Gastaldi.

Each mural is painted in Fallbrook, then prepared and shipped across the U.S. His artwork even adapted into menus and coasters.

His style is vibrant, his method freehand.

“It’s a really fun way of painting,” Gastaldi said. He describes how he tosses paint high up in the air, waiting to see how the colors fall on the canvas. “You can’t get that with a paintbrush, there’s no way…it’s just something happens, it’s like magic,” he said, referring to the way wet paint drips, mixes and settles.

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When he’s not making magic, he’s entertaining – hosting painting parties and turning his home into a retreat for wounded warriors or for those who just need to get away from it all.

“I have a lot of people who come here on their own…they can come meditate and pray,” Gastaldi said.

They also wander into his gallery where he shows off work near and dear to his heart. His latest exhibition is inspired by his Catholic faith and a trip he took to Saint Paul’s Basilica in Rome. It was there that he took a photo that changed his life.

“It was an image that came out that I didn’t recognize for 5 years…and pretty much jumped out of my skin when I saw it and that inspired this whole body of work and this catalog,” Gastaldi said, referring to what he believes to be the spirit of Saint Paul hovering over a nun in a photo he took.

“I personally believe that art has a power to communicate without verbalizing,” says Gastaldi.

And after decades of creating art, he has one main message.

“I think if you’re an artist you’re very blessed,” Gastaldi said.