Shots from Rome in October.
There’s old Winston Churchill watching Big Ben, in Westminster, London, in March 2014.
An anglophile’s dream: the omnipresent iconic red telephone box.
Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.
The street art / grafitti is like The Sex Pistols and the Bbc all rolled into one.
Tea at Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s house was quite amusing.
Enjoyed searching for british china tea cups and white darjeeling on a half deserted faire.
Making the pilgrimage to John Keats house at Hampstead Heath, London, after years of visiting the flat he died in, and laying flowers at his grave, in Rome.
A room with a view…over the Thames, I was always excited to wake up to (and to raise my glass to) Big Ben.
Saw the beautiful La Boheme set in 1940s Paris at the Royal Albert Hall.
From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London
From the beautiful garden of John Keats home, where he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and wrote some of his greatest poems.
From the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. I do love a cloister.
You have no idea how deep my anglophilia goes because I am always going on about Italy but these signs gave me a profound joy.
This sign is so British it hurts.
One of those moments in London an American or most foreigners savor.
Down the cloistered hall… like a dream of English classics, literary characters dancing in my head, London, a city looming in my brain of larger than life characters and eccentric, wonderful stories and frightful tales.
The heartbreakingly beautiful dream of Italy view from my dreamy Sorrento hotel room terrazzo.
Walking along the Appian Way on a quiet, car-free Sunday in Rome or along the Renaissance Via Guilia, I am forever excited and in awe over the small beauties and signs of the ancient world in this magical, mysterious city open-armed to the world.
The architecture and cafes are familiar but I feel and live Rome anew each visit. There’s always something new to discover or a passion to stumble onto. Life is in the moment. It is heavy with the past, it is so alive it smacks of the future, but it is so wildly, lightly felt in the now, in the moment, Rome is like dreaming awake, feeling everything. Everything!
Finding new off the beaten path cafes was a big favorite of mine in Italy this year. Always in search of the quiet moments and the hidden corners of Rome. This cafe was in Trastevere where you can sit and sip espresso and gaze at a Baroque Madonna painted onto a church exterior wall.
I love the Eternal City because it has so many layers of history and love and unknown stories and marks of time and beauty in decay and new life bursting forth in a macabre, colored, brilliant celebration in Roman life today.
Took a boat around my favorite island and swam in the Tyrrhenian sea on Capri, a place which invokes everything beautiful, lush and ancient about Southern Italy. There’s nothing quite like it.
Returned to a lot of the same pleasures of the past, freshly squeezed oranges and lemons, under the Italian sun, by a Neapolitan woman who sings all day as she flitters around her Kiosk on the gorgeous Via Tragara.
A return to Pompeii, the fascinating buried city with Vesuvius watchful in the distance.
Meeting new friends abroad 🙂
Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.
Architectural details in half-obscured gardens of small villa art museums (full of amazing Renaissance, ancient and baroque Italian art)!
Being the foreigner in a city you fall into like a comfortable affair.
The moments you can’t anticipate but happen upon in the most beautiful of happenstances.
My favorite spot on earth for the golden hour, on the Pincian Hill in Rome. This is before the view of the Popolo.
A typical Roman street, wrapped into the mystery of fragments and pieces of history.
The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.
Cafe life in Italy, a class of wine or a coffee, a little treat, there is nothing like it. Another layered moment captured, to be savored and remembered palpably.
On every wall there is a reminder of death and a reminder of love, the eternal kind, of love that lasts, and of life in the hand too.
Rome, a city to return to, one that keeps its shutters open to the world, long enough for an unforgettable peek.
Since that first moment I arrived there, now, and always, for Roma.
For traveling, for seeing the world, for meeting new people, and for being at home in the world.
Here’s to 2014… and here is a cheers to 2015 and a new year of adventure and experience and chasing beauty!
One fall afternoon in Naples the clouds snuck out from behind the Pantheon-like San Francesco di Paola Church as I stood in the main square in the sunshine.
Approaching the large, Bourbon Piazza del Plebiscito from the Santa Lucia waterfront district is one of the most dramatic views I’ve ever seen in a city. There is an old monastery on an ancient hill and from this vantage point it looks like the Certosa di San Martino is floating on clouds.
A closer look as you come upon the piazza.
Caffe Gambrinus (Oscar Wilde’s old haunt and one of my favorite cafe-bar-tearooms) and the gleaming dome of the Galleria Umberto I, a strikingly beautiful marble-covered shopping atrium.
All photographs shot in Naples, Italy October 2013 and were shot on velvia 35mm film slides by Rebecca Price Butler alovelettertorome.com email@example.com
The old Greek section of Napoli, Italy is a recurring fascination of mine.
A closed boulangerie with a broom leaning against the store front. Painted pastoral scenes on plates. Rusted piping and peeling posters. Grafitti in bright colors.
Caffe chairs sprinkled throughout the back streets of Spaccanapoli.
The sun finds it way though the velvet black shadows. Posters advertise operas I won’t get to see. Padre Pio forever in the background, his face found in taxi cabs, on walls, in churches, in caffes.
Hanging bronze dyed pasta, bufalo mozzarella from campania, rows of inviting rum-soaked baba cakes filled with rummy yellow cream, tiny wild strawberries, Sfogliatelle.
Two “lovers” embracing in front of an iconic “second hand shop” full of Neapolitan treasures overseen by a curious little dog.
The simple cafe tables and chairs in front of artisan shops and caffes with a sculpture of an old man in the background.
Every day life in an alleyway; people, a truck delivering goods, empty vegetable and fruit crates, the golden mustard apartments and hanging laundry.
A baroque awning, layers of brick from different centuries, buildings and façades built on top of each other, a neapolitan girl on her mobile, another caffe beckoning the passersby.
Hanging fruit and ripe red campania tomatoes and an early pasieggetta.
I love the corners and crevices and surprising bursts of yellow in between the rust.
Ancient pillars in residential neighborhoods, forming millennia old foundations.
Another beautiful church front and a charming caffe.
The quintessential graffiti of Naples, as ancient as the tags and scribblings on Pompeiian walls.
The old guard and the ‘new art’.
Bursts of color and brightness and the scent of glorious coffee floating in the air at every turn.
More graffiti, and the vespas and cars and Neapolitans seem all the more nonchalant about it.
I always seem to find the caffes… I always feel like I’m on some unspoken mission to drink the best coffee.
A whole street filled with beautiful second hand and rare book shops and musical instruments and conservatories. I never wanted to leave.
When the little girl walked by I knew I had to capture her in that moment of contrasts and colors.
A gorgeously appointed restaurant, intimate, and romantic in a baroque neapolitan way. I could have lingered for hours with a glass of nero d’avola and flirted but I had less than a day to shoot Naples because of all the rain prior to this day.
This is a wider shot of the restaurant. It looks like an opening to another, older world. I told you it was beautiful.
Stunning churches, colorful architecture, dark and ancient looking alleyways filled with street theatre and trash on the street… the extremes of modern Napoli.
There is so much to see, just to read on the walls.
I like when the grafitti becomes art.
Even the scribbles are a crying out and bleed every color onto wood and stone and brick.
Back to this fellow. I remember his likeness on other walls on other visits to Naples.
The priest or monk, grafitti iconography and protest.
I found this hollowed out frame and the lettering (name of the one time King) very delicate and beautiful looking.
Mirrors and antiques and the scrawlings every where.
A delightful music shop.
I know Napoli isn’t for everyone. I know street grafitti on historical buildings can be a bit of a shock. But once you visit Naples a few times and fall into the rhythm of the city and of its people, the fright wears off and you begin to see the color is all the more bright in contrast to the shadows. If you are like me and find beauty in decaying things and centuries of history piled up on top of each other, you may just find yourself falling in love with the heart stealer of baroque Napoli.
All photographs shot on portra 400 and 800 – 35mm film.
Notes on a little about my photographic process. I’ve been asked about this and it’s mostly the use of fine art films and my analog camera, but it’s also my digital camera and my iPhone too, that I shoot images with.
vintage sky blue vespa in napoli, italy, portra 800, october 2013
Yesterday I picked up my 35mm film photographs of Capri, Ana Capri, Sorrento and Napoli – shot in portra 160, 400 and 800, kodak pro h, and a few spare vintage-style rolls of color film, the names of which escape me at the moment. I shot some velvia slide film, which was developed into individual slides and I poured through each slide on a light table with a magnifying glass and chose the best ones (and the lab will scan them onto cd so I can post them here and in some articles and guides on Italy for other publications – AND which cost me $5 per slide)!!!
A roll of art film can be $15-$75 just for 35 mm film… 120 film (medium format/ large format) can be even more. Some times one can luck out with a five pack for $55, depending on the film. The film slide film is usally $25+ per roll and there is some incredibly beautiful discontinued slide film is now $75-$125 per roll with an expiration date! My fridge doors are not packed with cheese or juice or butter but with endless rolls of film, the cheap stuff, the mid range and the criminally expensive. It’s vitally important to buy your film from credible sources. That’s why I tend to buy the film in person, from a few credible photography shops in the Boston area, who properly store their unexpired film in a film fridge.
So for this trip, the 11th to Italy (ahh, makes me think of Doctor Who!) – I spent a couple hundred dollars on the film, a couple hundred to develop the rolls and a few hundred more once they scan the velvia film slides onto CD.
I shot about a hundred pictures on digital but focused mainly on analog because I prefer the dreamlike, tonal quality and the color and beauty of these special films. It’s sad how incredibly costly it is to shoot with fine art film; it’s truly a dying art form. But there is still the drugstore deals on fujifilm and kodak (buy one 5 pack, get one free, etc) I collect in bulk because that film is great for every day shots and practice. But for Italy and for shoots where I’m looking to tell a story, I still rely on those rare gems: portra, velvia, etc.
neapolitans in spaccanapoli, portra 800, october 2013
As I return to writing and shooting and editing I’m thinking of arranging this into a book or extended project of my version of Off The Beaten Path Italy so I’m thinking of the tremendous cost as an investment. We’ll see.
I have a busy weekend but I’m going to get some pieces together soon and post some of the photographs here. I do post some of the stand alone shots on tumblr here.
I 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.
My art deco building – I lived here in the dormitory for Emerson College. The location was incredible. Now they are luxury apartments.
Espresso served hot, rich, never bitter and with a creamy head, like a caffeinated, non-alcoholic guinness. No-one will ever convince me that coffee is better anywhere other than Napoli, Italia. They have their own sweet and savory versions of coffee drinks, their quality roasts are never acidic or dull, they would never dream of serving up a cappuccino Roma-style – lukewarm with 20 minute old foam – but are hot, foamy and always fresh. They have this divine beverage: nocciola, espresso with ground roasted hazelnuts and a little sugar made into a hazelnut cream.
I have to restrain myself in Naples cafés otherwise I would stalk the café barkeeps and photograph and video their coffee making and ask them a hundred questions on their process in really bad Italian.
A wonderful thing about Naples cafés are their wonderfully low key, around the corner neighborhood places to imbibe espresso and the most luxurious, art nouveau paradise, extra fancy grand caffes to choose from. REMEMBER IF YOU WANT THE CAFE SOCIETY EXPERIENCE AND YOU WANT TO SIT AROUND AND LUXURIATE YOU WILL PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE. IT IS WORTH IT DAMN IT – AFTER A LONG HOT DAY OF WALKING EVERYWHERE OR IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE A SPENDTHRIFT OR HAVING A ROMANTIC ASSIGNATION OR HOPING TO HAVE ONE OR MEETING FRIENDS. OTHERWISE, AND READ THIS CLOSELY, STAND… STAND… STAND… S T A N D… AT THE BAR AND PAY HALF – H A L F – THE PRICE (WHICH MEANS YOU CAN DRINK TWICE AS MUCH). ALSO: NAPLES IS WAY WAY WAY WAY CHEAPER THAN MOST OTHER PLACES IN ITALY BUT THE FOOD IS INSANELY AMAZING.
DON’T BE SO AFRAID OF NAPLES PEOPLE! I AM JUST SOME AMERICAN BROAD WHO USUALLY DOESN’T PASS FOR ITALIAN AND I AM NOT SCARED.
Granted the city has it’s grotty grubby moments like any ancient city or city with an employment and crime issue but if you have your wits about you, stick in touristy areas at night, stay out of ghettos, see the old Greek neighborhood Spaccanapoli, hang at Piazza Plebiscito day or night, hit Caffe Gambrinus, get chocolates at Gay Odin on (noisy, dusty, busy but family filled Via Toledo) and see some goddamned art and sculptures at Archeologico and Capidimonte. By the way, all this is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many funny, hilarious, crazy, cool moments in Naples, just go already. And drink the coffee for god sakes. Do I have to keep convincing you?
Seriously, all of these drinks are so good all other coffee should bow down to the coffee in Naples.
At the edge of the garden at the Villa San Michele on Anacapri there are beautiful architectural details and greco roman fragments displayed among the trees and flowers.
“My house must be open to the sun, to the wind, and the voice of the sea, just like a Greek temple, and light, light, light everywhere!” – Axel Munthe
I find the ramble through the gardens of Anacapri (especially the Villa San Michele one) to be a bit fairytale-like, a bit dreamy. The dark, lush, green paths over stone and fragments of ancient Roman columns and statues; the intoxicating scent of flowers and herbs; the layered calls of forty different species of birds – all hold one’s attention. When the garden is not crowded one can find themselves utterly alone, with the run of the place. There’s a sense of timelessness walking the stone paths and climbing stairs which boast unreal views of rugged coastline and layers of rocky, verdant cliffs.
A nonchalant rustic garden with the aesthetics of a museum, an olive jar, shadows between the sunlight and a verdant spread accompanying a stroll. The stairs beckon and frighten a little when alone.
The gorgeous cloak of wisteria entwining the columns and topiaries. Mighty cypresses soaring like some needly skyscrapers. The hint of other villas and other stories are tucked neatly into the mountain.
Bright yellow flowers grow in impossible places, their faces outstretched toward the sun.
The heady flowering of spring, clean white blossoms breaking up the velvet thick gloss of leaves and tangled old branches, is in every turn.
“The sacred mountain above San Michele is full of birds on their way home to mate and rear their young. What a joy to me that they can rest there in peace! Yesterday I picked up a poor little skylark, so exhausted from his long journey across the sea that he didn’t even at- tempt to fly away, he sat quite still in the palm of my hand as if he understood it was the hand of a friend, perhaps a compatriot I asked him if he wouldn’t sing me a song before he went off again, there was no bird-song I liked better than his; but he said he had no time to spare, he had to hurry home to Sweden to sing the summer in. For more than a week the flute-like notes of a golden oriole have been sounding in my garden. The other day I caught sight of his bride hiding in a laurel bush. To-day I have seen their nest, a marvel of bird-architecture. There is also much fluttering of wings and a soft murmur of bird-voices in the thicket of rosemary by the chapel.” The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe
On the old stairs a soft moss lies on the stone, suggesting an endless year of spring and life growing in the garden.
Far below a tiny shock of blue sits in between the fields and the bay of Naples; while all those lives play out from an Emperor’s ancient vantage point.
“The whole bay of Naples lies shining like a mirror below my feet, the columns on the pergola, the loggias and the chapel are all ablaze with light…” The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe
The best view is a private spot of solace, a corner to stop in your tracks and allow the view to overtake your senses. A sip of the island’s limoncello, the scent of flowers and the sea, the sound of the birds and the south wind, the feel of the stone along your hands and under your feet – all senses are occupied with Capri from here.
On certain days when the weather is perfect it feels as if one could see the whole world from here.
Some of the paths are winding, some are hidden until you come upon then suddenly, some form straight lines with edges and niches laid out for yards.
“The pergola was already covered with young vines; roses, honeysuckle and Epomea were clustering round the long row of white columns. Among the cypresses in the little cloister court stood the Dancing Faun on his column of cipollino, in the centre of the big loggia sat the bronze Hermes from Herculaneum.” – The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe
Follow the ivy climbing over the columns and stone walls as you explore the garden, every corner is a delight.
At the top of the steps are uniformed pots of green plants and spring buds, standing at attention for your wander about.
On one path a sign leads to the café, a welcome distraction after all that beauty. Doesn’t everyone at a museum always love a café? This one is a rooftop one in the garden.
Gnarled vines from long dead plants wind themselves around majestic trees along a columned loggia.
The exotic and native flowers in every hue are marked and greet thousands of visitors each year.
A stone water fountain which looks completely natural bubbles forth in between ivy, basil and shiny leaves. There’s mint and rosemary and too many herbs to count.
A few Egyptian looking palm trees and several umbrella pines recall Capri’s ancient Roman days when the island played host to emperors and sirens.
This is one of my favorite spots…I feel a sense of happiness and pleasure whenever I pass under the leafy canopy and approach the café. This is my dream garden.
Whenever I see a Bird of Paradise I think warmly of my mother and her love for them. This was the most perfect one I’ve ever noticed.
The Loggia has many windows to the sea and other curves of the garden. They are filled with manicured folder pots and Greco Roman statues. Roses climb the walls in every soft color.
Some of the architecture reminds me of a Spanish style church, some is a bit Occidental, some a little Roman and the rest an eclectic mix of early 20th century and Capri-style.
Each path ends with a different corner of the grounds, each turn is so inviting it’s difficult to choose one lane over another for the promise of their beauty.
Where ever you end up in the next step, it’s easy (and enjoyable) to get lost. You always wind up at the heart of the garden and of Capri herself. If you remain quiet and strain your ear just a little bit and listen past the songs of birds, you may still hear the faint call of the sirens on the rocks below you.
“Like children in the trackless forest we grope our way through our lives in blissful ignorance of what is going to happen to us from one day to another, what hardships we may have to face, what more or less thrilling adventures we may encounter before the great adventure, the most thrilling of all, the Adventure of Death. Now and then in our perplexity we venture to put a timid question to our destiny, but we get no answer for the stars are too far away. The sooner we realize that our fate lies in ourselves and not in the stars, so much the better for us. Happiness we can only find in ourselves, it is a waste of time to seek for it from others, few have any to spare.” The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe
Interesting perusal in relation to Anacapri and Capri:
The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe (Full text)
This is part three in a series of photo essays on the Island of Capri’s museum The Villa San Michele. All photographs copyright Rebecca Price Butler at alovelettertorome.com
A Greco Roman bust outside the chapel in the Italiani Giardini. The white tile stairs lead up to the former bird conservatory.
The winged Egyptian bust overlooking the Marina Grande with Ischia faintly shimmering in the background through the low clouds.
The sphinx watching over the sea, an ancient siren calling wanderlust to travelers.
The bird’s eye view.
The beautiful sweeping coastline of Capri.
The tiny chapel in the garden.
Cypress trees and gorgeous pillars on the terrace overlooking the sea.
There are a series of stairs leading to sumptuous turns of the garden and pathways further up the hill.
Although the villa is high up on Anacapri, there are soaring rocky cliffs surrounding the grounds. One rock was the the fort overtaken by the pirate Redbeard, which was later owned by Axel Munthe and donated back to the island (but owned by) his Swedish foundation.
The veranda, home to the sphinx, is inviting in white tile and stone, with benches to rest on and views everywhere you look.
The charming path way walks are lined with greenery, flowers and fountains.
Every turn on the grounds is more and more enchanting. I cannot recommend enough an hour’s visit to the Villa for it’s peacefulness and beauty. On hot days it’s a cool and shady refuge.
Olive jars, more cypresses and Roman Umbrella pines!
A side view of the Egyptian winged pegasus-like female sphinx.
The exterior of Axel Munthe’s chapel.
Potted urns along the walk.
Herbal garden, leaves and trees.
Hedges and shrubbery grown over decades forming fences.
Another angle of the sphinx’s view.
A tiny boat leaving the shore.
The clouds and mist find each other.
Because of Axel Munthe’s tireless advocation for the exotic array of birds who migrate to the island each year, Capri is now one giant bird sanctuary. Bird hunting is outlawed. The beautiful song of many different birds can be heard from morning to night, when the nightingales come out. It is then when I can feel Keats poem, Ode To A Nightingale, alive in the air.
I worry some of the pictures are a bit repetitious but they were all beautiful reminders of being there. Even a subtle angle change is reminiscent of walking through the grounds and seeing the beauty unfold a step at a time. And believe it or not I am actually restraining myself.
A semi hidden niche at the end of Villa San Michele’s labyrinthine gardens and loggias.
This was part one of the Villa San Michele series shot on portra 35mm film, velvia film slides and vintage kodak. The history of San Michele, more garden rambles, the cafe and interior of the villa, the flora and fauna of the grounds and excerpts from Axel Munthe’s book on his Villa to come in following posts. For visitor information visit: villasanmichele.eu . If you find yourself on Capri, even for a day, you must take a convertible taxi or the bus up to Anacapri (because it’s less crowded, lovely and full of hand painted tile, jewelry and sandal artisans) and it is the home of the Villa San Michele! You won’t regret it!
More to follow! These photographs and travel essays are copyright Rebecca Price Butler, alovelettertorome.com
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.