favorite views of rome and the fatal charm of italy

 “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

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The top of the Castel Sant’Angelo from the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning. – Giotto di Bondone

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The golden hour of sunset on the ruins in the heart of the city.

A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority. – Samuel Johnson

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Looking over the city at dusk from the Villa Medici where the Pincian hill and the Spagna area meet.

“I sometimes fancy,” said Hilda, on whose susceptibility the scene always made a strong impression, “that Rome–mere Rome–will crowd everything else out of my heart.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The casina view on the tip of the Pincio (Pincian hill) overlooking the Piazza dell Popolo. It is my favorite spot in Rome to watch the sun set. Get to it by the Popolo, Piazza di Spagna or the Villa Borghese park.

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More views from the majestic Pincian Hill. There’s a particular happiness I experience whenever I am on the Pincio. I have so many beautiful memories there. It represents everything I love about Rome; the history, the beauty of the landscape and architecture, the art, the people watching. I love the ivy covered apartments and Renaissance architecture.

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Another one from the Villa Medici with the silouhette of Saint Peters in the distance.

In the world Rome is probably the place where most in beauty has been accumulated and subsists in span of twenty centuries. It has created nothing, only a spirit of greatness and order of beautiful things; but the most magnificent monuments on the earth have extended and were fixed in it with such energy to leave the most numerous and indelible tracks in it, more than in anywhere else on the globe. – Maurice Maeterlinck

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From my hotel balcony overlooking the Aurelian wall, the Villa Borghese metro stop, apartments and the Villa Borghese park. A sign of Rome is the countless antennas on rooftops.

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On top of Saint Peter’s Cupola, Vatican City is laid out.

From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe. – Mark Twain

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Peeking through a gated fence and cypresses to a private garden.

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There are a thousand little views of the Vatican from different corners of Rome.

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A glass of prosecco and a view from my hotel balcony on the Via Veneto at the Grande Albergho Flora.

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From a Vatican Museum garden, another breathtaking cupola and manicured, statue studded garden.

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Rome through a glass of Sicilian wine at sunset.

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The Coliseum from a distance on a tele photo lens.

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Rome from the top of the observation deck on the Vittoria Emanuale Monument.

Yes, I have finally arrived to this Capital of the World! I now see all the dreams of my youth coming to life… Only in Rome is it possible to understand Rome. – Goethe 

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The Via del Corso from the Vittorio Emanuale (aka the Wedding Cake).

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The rooftops of the historic center of Rome.

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

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The Roman Forum and the Alban hills.

“She had always been fond of history, and here [in Rome] was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the sunshine.” ― Henry James

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Cupolas and sky high statues.

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Churches over the Forum; layers of history, people and ruins.

“Rome was mud and smoky skies; the rank smell of the Tiber and the exotically spiced cooking fires of a hundred different nationalities. Rome was white marble and gilding and heady perfumes; the blare of trumpets and the shrieking of market-women and the eternal, sub-aural hum of more people, speaking more languages than Gaius had ever imagined existed, crammed together on seven hills whose contours had long ago disappeared beneath this encrustation if humanity. Rome was the pulsing heart of the world.” ― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Forest House

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A beautiful frontpiece to an old church and an arch.

Rome is beautiful, so beautiful, I swear, all the other things seem nothing in front of it. – Charles de Brosses

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Cypresses and stone.

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The cypresses, umbrella pines and verdant green against red stone and brick and roof tiles are gorgeous.

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A lone goddess in a corner.

See the wild Waste of all-devouring years!
How Rome her own sad Sepulchre appears,
With nodding arches, broken temples spread!
The very Tombs now vanish’d like their dead!
Alexander Pope

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Borken temples and pillars.

Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
George Eliot
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Ancient Rome, Baroque, fascist architecture and the 21st century in one sweeping glance.

You cheer my heart, who build as if Rome would be eternal. – Augustus Cæsar

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The Alban Hills appear blue against the sky no matter the weather or season. They once hid Julius Caesar from his enemies in his earlier youth.

For me, Rome is the old center, with her narrow streets, in warm colours, orange,red and even gold. Here is Rome like a house. The alleys are passages, and in three minutes you are in the most beatiful squares of the City, Piazza della Rotonda with the monument, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. These are my reading rooms, my refreshment rooms, my salons where I meet my guests. – Rosita Steenbeek

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The Wedding Cake view of Rome is the view of the gods.

The light that reveals Rome’s monuments is not that to which we are accustomed; it produces numerous optical effect plus a certain atmosphere, all impossible to put into words. The light strikes Rome in ways that I’ve never seen. – Stendhal 

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The back view of the Wedding Cake of the Forum, the Coliseum and Palatine Hill, where the Emperors and the Patricians lived in Ancient Rome.

The traveler who has contemplated the ruins of ancient Rome may conceive some imperfect idea of the sentiments which they must have inspired when they reared their heads in the splendor of unsullied beauty. – Edward Gibbon

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The Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536–1546 at one of my favorite museums and spots in Rome on Capitoline Hill.

O Rome! my country! city of the soul! Lord Byron

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Julius Caesar and the ruins.

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Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, connected to the Via Appia, the old entrance to the city for ancient pilgrims, wanderers and the 17th, 18th and 19th century Grand Tour.

A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome. – Alaine de Lille 

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Another peek from the Pincio.

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The alternate view of Rome from the Janiculum Hill, the Giancolo.

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The Pantheon, which draws me to it at night to admire it’s immortality against a navy sky.

The Roman evening either keeps still or it sings. No one can behold it without growing dizzy, and time has filled it with eternity. – Jorge Luis Borges

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Did I mention how amazing dusk is on the Pincio?

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A private rooftop garden, the Auerlian Wall on the original “1950s & 1960s La Dolce Vita” street of the Via Veneto, not too far from the Lord Byron statue.

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The Twin Churches of the Piazza del Popolo and the Vatican.

“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” —Mark Twain

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A palm tree (or descendent of) left over from ancient Egypt, planted a millenia or two ago perhaps.

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This spot is disarmingly charming. Below to the left is the luxe 19th century Hotel de Russie with an enormous garden terrace and marble stairs with cafe tables, coffee and cocktails from an outdoor bar.

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” — Fanny Burney

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Wandering around the city at night, the cobblestones lit up by cafe lights.

“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” —Erica Jong

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The Villa Borghese gardens leading out to the Pincio.

For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery… back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.” —D.H. Lawrence

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The sun falls over the Piazza del Popolo through construction fencing. At the center of the square is an Egyptian obelisk — it was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus.

I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble. Augustus; quoted in Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

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The Fontana del Mosé Salvato view of the Pincio.
Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city. – Anatole Broyard

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The wide view of Via del Corso always reminds me of the film Roman Holiday and Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s vespa ride.

“Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy!” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Near the Piazza di Spagna, at the top of the Spanish Steps. Young lovers are all over the park snatching amorous  moments out in public.

Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy. – Bertrand Russell

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The sun rises and sets in Rome and each golden hour the view becomes more and more beautiful. It’s what brought the Romantics and the artists for centuries. The landscape, the ruins, the fountains, the art, the cupolas  and the stone and marble bathed in the Italian sun. It’s why I keep returning to the Eternal City. It’s what I live for.

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” – Anna Akhmatova

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Henry James in Rome

The Protestant Cemetery from THE ITALIAN HOURS by HENRY JAMES

“I recently spent an afternoon hour at the little Protestant cemetery close to St. Paul’s Gate, where the ancient and the modern world are insidiously contrasted. They make between them one of the solemn places of Rome – although indeed when funereal things are so interfused it seems ungrateful to call them sad. Here is a mixture of tears and smiles, of stones and flowers, of mourning cypresses and radiant sky, which gives us the impression of our looking back at death from the brighter side of the grave.”

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“The cemetery nestles in an angle of the city wall, and the older graves are sheltered by a mass of ancient brickwork, through whose narrow loopholes you peep at the wide purple of the Campagna. Shelley’s grave is here, buried in roses – a happy grave every way for the very type and figure of the Poet. Nothing could be more impenetrably tranquil than this little corner in the bend of the protecting rampart, where a cluster of modern ashes is held tenderly in the rugged hand of the Past. The past is tremendously embodied in the hoary pyramid of Caius Cestius, which rises hard by, half within the wall and half without, cutting solidly into the solid blue of the sky and casting its pagan shadow upon the grass of English graves – that of Keats, among them – with an effect of poetic justice.”

 

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“It is a wonderful confusion of mortality and a grim enough admonition of our helpless promiscuity in the crucible of time. But the most touching element of all is the appeal of the pious English inscriptions among all these Roman memories; touching because of their universal expression of that trouble within trouble, misfortune in a foreign land. Something special stirs the heart through the fine Scriptural language in which everything is recorded. The echoes of massive Latinity with which the atmosphere is charged suggest nothing more majestic and monumental. I may seem unduly to refine, but the injunction to the reader in the monument to Miss Bathurst, drowned in the Tiber in1824, “If thou art young and lovely, build not thereon, for she who lies beneath thy feet in death was the loveliest flower ever cropt in its bloom”, affects us irresistibly as a case for tears on the spot. The whole elaborate inscription indeed says something over and beyond all it does say.”

 

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“The English have the reputation of being the most reticent people in the world, and as there is no smoke without fire I suppose they have done something to deserve it; yet who can say that one doesn’t constantly meet the most startling examples of the insular faculty to “gush”? In this instance the mother of the deceased takes the public into her confidence with surprising frankness and omits no detail, seizing the opportunity to mention by the way that she had already lost her husband by a most mysterious visitation. The appeal to one’s attention and the confidence in it are withal most moving.”

 

The whole record has an old-fashioned gentility that makes its frankness tragic. You seem to hear the garrulity of passionate grief.”

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Boston a week after the bombs.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHI was born in Boston and lived there until I was six. We moved a lot, sometimes every six months and I lived in a series of small coastal towns on the south shore of Massachusetts, lining the seascape and woodsy old New England towns from the edge of the city to Cape Cod. I spent a lot of time in the city and its influence never really left me even when I was shuffled about the little beach communities. I moved back to Boston for high school and college and I’ve lived and worked there or nearby ever since, barring travel and living for a little bit in Los Angeles, Seattle and New Orleans. I have loved my city my whole life. It’s a different city for different Bostonians and it certainly has changed for me over the years. In the most compelling ways its been a city of art and books and learning (and difficult weather) and funny accents. It’s a college town, it’s a historical city, it’s mixture of working class and tony neighborhoods and has great hospitals and art museums and concert halls. It has a rich literary past. It’s full of Irish pubs, seafood restaurants and is home to one of my favorite Italian neighborhoods in the US. It’s a tough city at times and it’s a pretty one too. It has its own troubles but ultimately I found opportunity and inspiration here. I rode its trains and wrote about Boston life in the aughties. I photographed it in the last few years. And like most other Bostonians I was hit hard by the terrorist attacks at the 2013 Boston Marathon. About a week after the attacks I took my film camera and some art film and shot the makeshift street tributes and some of the scenes of the attacks. I also shot some of Cambridge (MIT – another scene of the attacks and Harvard Square and Tory Row/Brattle area) and other spots of Boston. I wasn’t surprised by strength of the city and its people in the face of the manhunt and the aftershock of violence which was palpably felt in every square mile. What struck me most was how much Bostonians were trying to be normal and live their lives and pick up the pieces on a beautiful spring day. The killers had not yet been caught. The aftermath was laid out in the closed off city blocks and there was an air of somberness in the heart of the city; at famous Copley Square, on posh Newbury Street, on beautiful, brownstone-lined Comm Ave, at the Public Garden and on Boston Common, in Back Bay and the South End. But it was also a sumptuously lit afternoon, the birds were finally out, the blossoms were opening on the cherry trees, the swan boats emerged, children ran about in the park, tourists walked with their maps and Colonial attired guides and there was a wedding in the gardens. We were still alive. We had to be. We were Bostonians. Life goes on on a lovely spring day despite ourselves. In spite of it all. Because we want to live. We have to.

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My art deco building – I lived here in the dormitory for Emerson College. The location was incredible. Now they are luxury apartments.

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if you find yourself in naples…

When you go to Naples, go to the top of a beautiful hill and enter the serene parco Capidimonte and stroll through large hedgerow pathways. You’ll find a glorious fountain covered in thick hanging moss and mariner figures. There is a lovely view of the hills of Naples nearby. The fountain is decaying, partly buried under the thick growth of moss and greenery. I couldn’t possibly love it more. After you wander around and linger on the grounds, go into the museum. See wonderful pantings and sculpture. Go to the second floor for the three Artemisia Gentileschis currently available for public viewing. Dream of returning before you’ve even left. Fall in love with beauty all over again.

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Charles III of Bourbon era fountain detail, Capidimonte Park, Napoli, Italy, autumn 2012 (digital)

snapshots of posthumous john keats in rome

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This is the view John Keats had of the world for the last months of his life. Once he was too sick to climb the Spanish Steps to the Pincian Hill view of the sunset over the piazza delle popolo and take in the sweeping view of the renaissance rooftops of cupolas, churches, houses and hotels of Rome – he had one final view, the Bernini fountain outside his room, at the end of his deathbed. He could hear the passersby and the fruit sellers. He could hear the horses hooves and the coaches. He could hear the rushing water of the fountain and smell the scent of the sweetest water in Rome. Sometimes he could drink it, a few shallow sips in a brief moment of respite.

I stood and looked out his window and took this shot with my phone. I stood there for ages alone and stared out the window and looked for John Keat’s ghost or a shadow of his memory, an imprint of him somewhere. I think I found him in the golden glow of dusk which touched everything in Rome for the last hour before sunset and made everything so pretty it hurt to lose it each night.

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Keats’ Rome house is located at the Spanish Steps by the Bernini fountain.

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A white rose I brought for John Keats’ Plaque near his grave on the wall to the left of the garden in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome in the Non-Catholic Cemetery near the Pyramid of Cestius.

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The annual/ bi-annual pilgrimage to the Protestant Cemetery never fails to give me chills when I read the epithet Keats intended for himself; Here lies One Whose Name Was Writ In Water.

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“Forlorn! the very word is like a bell. To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu!”

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Each time I follow that sign it still feels like a mystery unfolding. No matter how many times I retrace my steps to the back garden, to the memory of him, it feels new again.

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Really delicious prosecco at Caffe Greco, Rome, Italy, Oct 2012 (iPhone).

From the bar napkin I penned this:

Tonight I looked for Keats’ ghost.

Spotted Byron in the Borghese and heard Shelley was somewhere around the Villa Medici. Caught a glimmer of him.

Goethe kept a respectful distance when I passed him on the pincio. 

Keats silently joined me somewhere on Via delle Magnolie. He slipped out from the shadows and fell into step with me. I felt him quietly by my side for the rest of the night.

Down and Out In London with South London’s Most Disappointed Man

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Recently I’ve begun listening to podcasts while I drive to work or take a long walk. Snippets of English Romantic poets or classic novels in audio book or the latest episode of This American Life on NPR. Then there are the hilarious British podcasts I’m addicted to now.

 

Despite my great public love affair with Italy I am a serious anglophile. Most of the television I watch is from Great Britain or Ireland and I listen to various BBC Radio stations throughout my day and on my long commutes. My smart phone has come in handy on these accounts and through a random “UK” podcast shuffle I found two disparate shows which really stuck on me. One was Helen and Olly at http://answermethispodcast.com/ It’s a witty, funny, silly podcast where Helen and Olly answer odd questions in clever ways. They are very big and popular.

 

The other podcast is by renegade podcaster Daniel Ruiz Tizon, whose audio journey down and out in London is funny, intense and strangely addictive. I can’t stop listening.

 

The Daniel Ruiz Tizon Is Available podcast is what I want to discuss tonight. I think it’s criminally underrated. There’s a heavy realism to his work, very timely in the face of the economic downturn. He faces temp jobs, public transport, high rents and the high cost of living with his own kind of panache mixed with grit. I wrote this little review after listening to several podcasts of his about one week after the first one of his I stumbled on. 

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I cannot help but think of this Khalil Gibran quote whilst listening to Daniel Ruiz Tizon Is Available; “Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.”

 

He engages the listener in a rolling monologue about a perceived flaw or an awkward exchange at a queue or the umpteenth failure of gripping the bus railing properly when ascending the stairs with the finely tuned detail of an obsessive… who can spin a good yarn. Even when he returns to recurring themes he’s entertaining; the career follies, lamenting hight rents, fetishizing chin fissures – (I don’t know either), rhinoplasty, worrying about dirty looks from the cashiers, cafe workers, and other strangers he has to face in his every day life in London. The guy even makes nectar points sound interesting and just the tiniest bit glamourous. But maybe that last part is because I am an American and everything sounds just a little bit better with a British accent?

 

The English voice and the self deprecating, dry, deadpan humor is what drew me in but the rawness, the edge and the honesty are what kept me returning for archives of the podcast. I shouldn’t even relate to him. I don’t think I’m his target audience. I don’t even understand all the references and I was bred on BBC and have a degree in British Literature but his musings are oddly universal. They reflect a commonality between everyone (at least the misfits and the socially awkward folks) even as they sparkle with his own vision of his terminal uniqueness.

 

And he has a passing resemblance to a young Massimo Troisi which adds to the warm eccentricity.

 

He’s like an International Man of Mystery without the mystery – he’s stripped it all away and wants to lay bare to the world his every fear, real (and especially imagined), his motivations for wearing a particular shirt or his stubble a certain way so as to manipulate his image in relation to the eyes of the world. He wants to disguise himself so he is not judged by outsiders but with his audience nothing is sacred, no stone is left unturned, he will dissect his every tick and quirk. He will eviscerate his very being for the audience. He’s in on the joke even if he’s not laughing. His self-satire is subtle, his send up of every one else is never a deep cut, more like a thousand pin pricks of mild disapproval and astute observations on the ridiculousness of people, places and things.

 

He makes an art form out of agonizing over choices of wearing a t-shirt in the summer because of his hairy arms or what topic of conversation will make him seem the most unaffectedly cool person in the room or at least not stand out uncomfortably.

 

In one archived podcast I particularly liked he described his anti-adventures in night school where he sums up the member of each class and assigns them each a classic role. He laments he always seems to buddy up with the one or two students who leave halfway through the term. And then he’s left hanging for the rest of the semester, ostracized from the others he initially shunned in favor of the friends who once again left him to manage on his own.

 

He uses experiences from his own son of Spanish émigrés identity and his working-class childhood to search for the meaning of himself and where he “fits” into the world in the minutiae. He’s not afraid to look at the mundanity of the common life most of us all have to plod through but he manages to be authentic and funny at the same time. Because, don’t get me wrong, he is funny. Laugh out loud funny some times.

 

It’s refreshing to not have yet another tidy, pasteurized, tony sounding, middle class Englishman trying to discuss the Spanish Civil War or the irony of wanting to live forever but not having enough nectar points to last long enough. I mean I just don’t think I would buy them at it, you know?

 

But with Daniel I believe every damned thing he says because he speaks with authority, the authority of forty one years of uninterrupted navel gazing with a purpose. To bring laughter to a bunch of repressed anglo saxons and three or so yanks and counting.

 

My favorite parts of the podcasts are the non-sequitars of overheard public conversations, his random musings on the secret inner lives of acquaintances, the memories of his parents (and of the 90s), the frequent references to his age like a death knell, his fragments of conversation with a young colleague and the unfiltered brilliance that pours forth from his young, dumb and full of… mentality.

 

Lastly, his interviews with a friend who is maybe a cockney or is a Charles Dickens character sprung to life in a London bedsit who runs the gamut of Vulgarian to Thoughtful Lover to Speaker of Romantic Languages to Answer Man for The Ages. He’s definitely a keeper. And so is Daniel Ruiz Tizon and his funny, amazing, crazy, addictive podcast. And he’s very available.

 

You can listen to the very funny podcast of South London’s Most Disappointed Man here: http://1607westegg.wordpress.com/

his fb fan page https://www.facebook.com/DanielRuizTizon

the podcast twitter https://twitter.com/1607WestEgg

Catch his latest podcasts or peruse his archives. I always give a show a few chances (a few shows) before I make my mind up about them.

more wandering off the beaten path on capri

The most quiet places on the island are the pedestrian back roads along the sea and in the heart of the woods. Climbing up the island’s vast hills and weaving in and out beautiful homes and churches and shops and into nature brings you a contemplative ramble among the ruins of emperors.

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Walking along more pedestrian streets of antico Capri.

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Lush lemon trees, a sight and scent that always makes me happy instantly.

 

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Another beautiful niche.

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A still life of modern life.

 

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The hand painted tiles and stairs are stunning on Capri.

 

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A gorgeous private garden glimpsed past an open gate.

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A Capri cat, a local who probably descend from the cats of ancient Rome who lived on the island with the emperors.

 

 

 

save the antico caffé delle pace in rome!

tumblr_m3j0701vo21qznevxo1_1280The Antico Caffè Delle Pace / Bar Delle Pace in Rome, Italy. I took this shot in March 2012.

I am posting a photograph of one of my most favorite 19th century cafe-bars in the world because it is in danger of being lost along with many other beautiful old cafes and shops in the historical center of Rome! Romans are protesting these closures. 

I have palpable memories of sitting outside people watching with a prosecco or an espresso, soaking up the beautiful patio, cafe tables, the renaissance church and museum to one side, the hanging greenery. 

One evening we were caught in the rain and had the sumptuous, historical, cozy, beautiful cafe interior to ourselves as I sipped pinot nero and nero d’avola and he had endless pots of smoky tea. I remember the 19th century cash register and the bust of Augustus and the antique mirrors and the waitresses and waiters who looked like fashion models. 

It’s the kind of place that’s built for the “beautiful people” and can be a magnet for the rich and famous (and more interesting the Roman Who’s Who of writers, artists, intellectuals) but I never felt like an outsider there. 

It is a low key, lovely cafe. I enjoy the walk to it on sunny afternoons or on cloudless, starry nights anytime I am in Rome. It is one of the highlights of my trips. 

And if we lose another historical, old world cafe or shop – Rome will love it’s very heart of the centro storico. 
the impossibly cool caffe & bar della pace, rome, italy, 2012.

http://www.wantedinrome.com/news/2002440/rome-s-bar-della-pace-faces-closure.html

http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2013/06/28/news/per_il_bar_della_pace_arriva_lo_sfratto_a_sorpresa-61990474/

I’m not sure what I can do to help but I would like to do something. Any Italians or people living in Rome have a site or petition or anything? I would love to spread the word. alovelettertorome@gmail.com