standing at the ruins on a quiet roman night

Rome is pieced together by fragments old and new; a broken clay pile of people who have lived and died, and are forgotten, rivaling the Monte Testaccio in size and obscurity.

Rome is the heaviness of time. It is the marks left on humanity. It is a walkable history book, forever unfolding its pages.

Rome is monuments of the big whigs leaving you breathless with their grand scale and an overwhelming rush of beauty.

‘Everyone is dead here’, the city whispers, in a voice softened against the bone-white marble of ruins.

The palatine lies silent under the stars. This is your one moment to catch your breath and savor Rome.

Try to stop time by breathing it in slowly. Hold it in, and take a sensory snapshot. Stand there, holding your breath, recording, feeling as immovable as a statue; a Henry James’ American willing a sacrifice to the pagan gods.

‘Just let me remember this. Let this enter me. The endlessness of it. The cobwebs. The broken stone. The bones. The dust. The pulse remaining somehow. Let me carry Rome where ever I go. Let it become a part of me. No, let me become a part of Rome. Another story never writ, another name unknown.’

     

   


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Italy and England 

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There’s old Winston Churchill watching Big Ben, in Westminster, London, in March 2014.

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An anglophile’s dream: the omnipresent iconic red telephone box.

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Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.

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The street art / grafitti is like The Sex Pistols and the Bbc all rolled into one.

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Tea at Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s house was quite amusing.

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Enjoyed searching for british china tea cups and white darjeeling on a half deserted faire.

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After wandering the many lovely garden parks of london wound up at  Buckingham’s Gate.tumblr_n2din7vCpZ1qznevxo4_1280

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.

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A room with a view…over the Thames, I was always excited to wake up to (and to raise my glass to) Big Ben.

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Saw the beautiful La Boheme set in 1940s Paris at the Royal Albert Hall.

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From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London

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From the beautiful garden of John Keats home, where he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and wrote some of his greatest poems.

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From the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. I do love a cloister.

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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.

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This sign is so British it hurts.

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One of those moments in London an American or most foreigners savor.

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Always, a pilgrimage, a  beauty, a joy. John Keats forever. English Romanticism forever. B3-yzpZIAAIuVOk.jpg-large

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.

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The heartbreakingly beautiful dream of Italy view from my dreamy Sorrento hotel room terrazzo.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A return to Pompeii, the fascinating buried city with Vesuvius watchful in the distance.

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Meeting new friends abroad 🙂

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Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.

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Architectural details in half-obscured gardens of small villa art museums (full of amazing Renaissance, ancient and baroque Italian art)!

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Being the foreigner in a city you fall into like a comfortable affair.

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The moments you can’t anticipate but happen upon in the most beautiful of happenstances.

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My favorite spot on earth for the golden hour, on the Pincian Hill in Rome. This is before the view of the Popolo.

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A typical Roman street, wrapped into the mystery of fragments and pieces of history.

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The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.

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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.

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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.

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Rome, a city to return to, one that keeps its shutters open to the world, long enough for an unforgettable peek.

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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.

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Here’s to 2014… and here is a cheers to 2015 and a new year of adventure and experience and chasing beauty!

his direct gaze

photograph by rebecca price butler
photograph by rebecca price butler

I had one shot. I couldn’t blow it. I wanted to hide and be invisible and take his portrait across the piazza. I had one frame. And then it would be lost, the moment, the intensity of feeling, his direct gaze before self awareness gets the best of him. He gave me more than I could have hoped for, my Neapolitan. My soldier. I cannot hide from his direct gaze.

art in rome in may

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I have thousands of photographs (digital images and film shots on digital files) I am pouring over for this blog and the strictly photo tumblr connected to A Love Letter To Rome. I found this shot of the ruins and cupolas bathed in pink and gold to be a temporary antidote to living in a snow-covered, rainy, icy, slushy, terminally grey winter which is stretching itself past the first rite of spring tomorrow.  Since I have so many shots on multiple hard drives, it’s taking me a while to sort them and organize them for posts. My main vision for this blog is moments in Italy, a walk, drinks at a cafe, a neighborhood, a painting, a quote, a sunset – some long and detailed, some short and simple.

 

For my upcoming return to Napoli in May I am compiling arts and culture listings for museum exhibitions in Italy for day trips.

 

Here are some links from great Rome blogs on current art exhibitions:

In Rome Now good info

Revealed Rome good reviews! great articles!

The Pines of Rome “Exhibits on Now” – great blog!!

The Titian exhibit at the Quirinale looks great. I’ve seen nearly all those works at one time or another, but not housed together under one roof.

 

the borghese & pincio

The Pincian Hill statue and fountain, walk to the end of the Pincio and stand where the people are for a breathtaking sunset over Rome’s nearby and far away cupolas, churches, renaissance homes and marble and stone.

The Villa Borghese garden park is the most beautiful, breathtaking city park I’ve ever seen. When in Rome, we usually stay on the Via Veneto at the gorgeous Grande Albergo Flora. It’s next to an 1100 year old wall which leads to the park.

Families and couples rent these little golf carts to stroll around the park on the weekends.

We take a leisurely stroll through the park every morning, passing by cyclists and flaneurs, children and fruit sellers.

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In one section of the large park there is fresh fruit and juice sold by a Parisian looking cart. The juice is amazing.

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Romans bicycle in the park and visitors rent bicycles to ride all afternoon through the beautiful surroundings.

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The stone and marble details of the ornately carved benches and walls are commonplace, tourists perusing a map or Romans can sit and take in the lush outdoor decor. There is nothing like this in America.

yeah, so i’m pretty much going to be photo bombing this tumblr with a lot of pincio photographs because it’s only the prettiest place on earth & insanely photogenic, especially with the sun slung low.

You know you’ve walked into the Pincio part of the Borghese when you see all the statues and busts of Italian notables.

There’s a bird aviary, 18th centurary statuary, fountains, winding garden lanes and wide boulevards, with the scent of lemon and orange and cypress trees. There’s a pond and lazy Sunday park benches and fields where Roman’s lunch and steal kisses.

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Borghese pond, Rome, Italy, 2012 (digital)The pond in the Borghese is stunning. People rent charming little rowboats and children sail toy boats on the lake. There are ruins nearby and this “boat house” is historical and beautiful.

if you find yourself in rome close to sunset, get yourself over to the ancient pincio hill and allow the dusk to soften the cypress, the cupolas, the church bells, the renaissance busts, the gorgeous little paths. The golden hour right before sunset is the most magical time to be here. 

I thought nearly all of my holiday photographs of two weeks in Rome were gone forever… tonight I came home from work to find my 16GB hard drive key in the mail on my doorstep… I have loads of beautiful pictures to go through. I am so happy and grateful I could sing. Editing and sharing a few while I sip champagne pink grapefruit cocktails and re-watching the series Rome. Full of bursting gratitude my pictures aren’t lost forever!

Kids rollerblade on the Viale delle Magnolie (avenue of the Magnolias) – a magnolia tree lined paved street leading to the Pincio that reminds me of New Orleans when the magnolias are in bloom.

The Borghese homes (now museums,boutique hotels and lavish restaurants and quiet cafes) are all high renaissance architecture, housing some of the greatest of the world’s art treasures; Bernini, Bellini, Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Canova, among countless beautiful objects and amazing paintings and sculptures.

nice little lunch and drink cafe in the beautiful villa borghese park. rome, italy, 2012 (digital)

This was a great cafe right in the park with good espresso, wines, juice, small plates and desserts. It had perfect outdoor ambience.

The original gardens were the famed ancient Gardens of Lucullus and later “became the favorite playground of Claudius’ Empress Messalina (after she forced the current owner, Valerius Asiaticus, to commit suicide – Tac. Annals XI.1), and was the site of her murder on the orders of the Emperor Claudius, her husband. In the 16th century they were owned by Felice della Rovere, daughter of Pope Julius II. In 1605, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and patron of Bernini, began turning this former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity.” (Wikipedia)

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Orange trees from a “secret garden” – through the gate.

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Lemon trees from a “secret garden” – through the gate.

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Outdoor garden architecture!

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One of the spot’s I love most is the secret garden with the orange and lemon trees, next to the incredible Galleria Borghese. One looks through an iron fence to the 17th century splendor of the greenery.

A far away shot of the garden architecture of one of the “secret gardens”.

I slipped my arm between the iron fence and picked two beautiful oranges from a tree in the borghese gardens, planted in the renaissance, forbidden to commoners, on the former spot of the ancient roman gardens of lucullus. The fruit was bittersweet.

A far away shot of the orange and lemon trees from one of the “secret gardens”.

After enjoying the park, the gardens and perusing the art, we then walk to the Piazza d’Espagna (the Spanish Steps) and drink tea and eat scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam in the most British of all afternoon tearooms, the sumptuous, very 19th century, Babington Tea room.

If we’re feeling really ambitious we pop a couple doors over to the Keats and Shelley house, recite a little poetry, watch the passersby, and walk further into the city.

“The Secret Garden, is a charming characteristic which can be found in italian parks and gardens of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, when there was a revival of interest in all things ancient. These lovely enclosed spaces, often near their owners’ homes, were reserved for the invited and the privileged. Such places have a lovely atmosphere of seclusion, secrecy and tranquility, adding new dimensions of beauty to their surroundings.

The Villa Borghese had two “secret spaces”: one, shrouded by trees, is the garden of bitter oranges (Giardino dei melangoli) and has a lovely eagle fountain in front of its adjacent mansion; the second “The Flower Garden”, is the beautifully laid out formal garden. A third secret garden stretches in front of the Aviary, accompanied by the Meridiana (Sun dial) mansion, designed by Rainaldi.”

( http://www.italyguides.it/us/roma/rome/villa-borghese-gardens/villa-borghese.htm )

This will not be my last writing on the villa borghese parks and gardens. It’s a place I keep returning to and each visit brings something new to my world. If you go to Rome one day you must walk through this park and see a sunset on the Pincio. I hope you can explore this lovely place. And see the art work at the Villa Borghese museum, too!

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.

On Rome

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I have a wanderlust for all the beautiful and fascinating places in the world, especially art filled cities full of history and literary haunts.

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In 1998, when I was 22 I first traveled to Italy. From the moment we stepped out of our tiny Hotel Genio and around the corner to the Piazza Navona, we knew Rome was going to answer our wildest dreams with an even greater beauty. I tell people who have not been there or who have been there and have somehow not appreciated the treasures of Rome: Rome is a feast of all senses, an open air museum, a celebration.

Rome is the place I love and crave and long for because nowhere else in the world can I wander into a church and see several Caravaggio’s against the backdrop of somber hymns and sit in a pew and admire his work in silence.

There’s the wild strawberries to eat on cobblestones from a market.

There’s the ruins at night, to stand above them and linger there for an hour, to feel transported back in time, very far back in time.

There’s wandering in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde wandering in the footsteps of Keats and Shelley. There’s Babingtons (there’s my anglo side which needs to be satisfied).

There’s Artemisia Gentileschi paintings scattered across Rome (and Florence and Naples) awaiting my worshipful gaze.

There’s Sundays in Rome, the greatest day, the only place you feel you should be in the world on a Sunday when you are there. Away from the awful pollution of the cars (my one pet peeve of Rome)… to roam on the Appian Way, to stop and eat somewhere or pick red poppies along the road.

Pizza at Bafetto. Pinot nero. Frascati. Tears of Christ. The view of Rome atop the Wedding cake. The Borgia rooms. Artichoke season. Hazelnuts. Pine nuts. Capreses. Prosecco. Oranges. Lemons. Olives. Trastevere apple bread and long lunches there and hours photographing the grafitti. Nuns walking through the city. Red domes turned gold. Unexpected art exhibitions. Villa Borghese. Penne alla’arrabiata. Porcini. Truffles. White fish. Fisherman’s stew. Capotoline Hill.

There are a thousand other moments I love in Rome. These are just a few.

I love the cemeteries of Rome. I live for all the architectural details. And the marble. And a thousand saints and angels and statues. And all the Renaissance art and intricate Pompeiian mosaics. And the ruins. Not to mention I have an almost inexpressible feeling of happiness in certain slants of Italian sunlight and shadow, with the scent of lemon and orange trees accompanying me on a ramble, content with a glimpse of a white dove on Palatine hill or brushing past an olive branch. Just fountain hopping at night makes me happy. I cannot tire of the umbrella pines and cypress trees. Or taking afternoon tea at Babington’s or daydreaming in 18th century splendor at Caffe Greco, where the English Romantics mused and drank at the same tiny marble tables.

Finding a room with a view. And following the Roman cats through the ruins! And trying to visit all nine hundred beautiful old churches. (Impossible). And the Borghese gardens and palazzo museums and the sound of water fountains and sculptures and Italian gardens and vespas and red roof tiles. And a hundred thousand other things I will try to capture on this blog. (And I love Naples & Florence & all of Italy, which will be featured some times, as well as related art exhibits, books, music & films)!