Rome laid out before you from far far above the rooftops

Take an elevator ride on the “wedding cake” and see the Roman gods’ view of the Eternal City. 

The ruins are laid out before you betwixt cupolas and Renaissance rooftops of villas and apartments like dollhouses.

Hints of the past stir some ancient feeling in you you never knew you possessed until you saw Rome from a mount.

The sign of greatness and the sign of a fall and all around you the beautiful noise of life that will not stop long enough to extinguish itself into the remains of dust it lives among.Rome lives among the shadows and the bones and the blood and the ghosts and the stone and the picked away marble because it is the heart and the remnants of the past are the nervous system which still courses with life from that heart center of a slowly dying immortal, entombed in the blessing and the curse of a memory which feels like a dream.

Church bells ring and ring through the city when the golden hour colors everything and there’s time for one last sun-glow walk and one last smile exchanged like kisses on the mouth, not the cheeks.

I will remember you even if the imprint of my self is swallowed up in the city of too many stories and too many lights and too many songs to find a memento mori for me in some nook or cranny when I’m gone.

And so I have Rome written on my soul should I be able to take it with me.

Bury me not in the earth of the place I love but burn my ashes to the sky so I may float like some augur of another time, a shadow to pass over a new face with her own love flashing on her face as she falls in love with the Roman sky at sunset, as she dreams to be remembered somewhere somehow in the eternal city, to leave her mark somewhere and to be known and felt by some future stranger intoxicated by the same love for the same city and the same ringing of bells and the orange becoming purple and the golden lamps flickering on and the smiles becoming kisses, not on the cheeks, but on the mouth. 

Advertisements

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.’

     

   


Italy and England 

FH000036

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

FH080025

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

tumblr_n2m2boeRBt1qznevxo1_1280

Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.

tumblr_n2m3vm4QKN1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_n2jpi8fjpD1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_n2td6nd9hv1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_n277oxPbB41qznevxo9_1280

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.

tumblr_n25cocvIUQ1qznevxo6_1280

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

tumblr_n277oxPbB41qznevxo10_1280

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

B5BU7bICUAE64GN.jpg-large

From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London

B3-31pGIYAAu66l.jpg-large

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

B3-zkWjCMAAMYrJ.jpg-large

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

B3-uIR-IEAAdpcl.jpg-large

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.

B3-2OnVCIAIZ5PE.jpg-large

This sign is so British it hurts.

B3-nT6QIUAAD_4A.jpg-large

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

B3-3i1BIAAAWb_P.jpg-large

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.

tumblr_ncpjorBGx51qznevxo1_1280

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

0505823_0505823-R9-077-37

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.

0505823_0505823-R9-071-34

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!

0505823_0505823-R8-028-12A

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.

0505823_0505823-R4-047-22

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.

B30QipuIYAAsZ8r.jpg-large

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.

0500158_0500158-R1-037-17

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.

0500158_0500158-R3-012-4A

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

0500158_0500158-R2-059-28

Meeting new friends abroad 🙂

0500158_0500158-R8-021-9

Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.

0500158_0500158-R7-046-21A

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

0500158_0500158-R7-072-34A

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

0500158_0500158-R2-067-32

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

0500158_0500158-R8-055-26

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

0500158_0500158-R10-049-23

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

0500158_0500158-R10-037-17

The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.

0500158_0500158-R10-013-5

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.

0500158_0500158-R4-025-11

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.

0500158_0500158-R4-059-28

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

0500158_0500158-R10-059-28

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.

tumblr_mauq7qjOcf1r82902o1_1280

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

I’ve returned back to the United States from Italy

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.

FH090002

 

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.

FH090010

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.

a walk through the ancient porta san sebastiano on the grand old tour

1firstseb

The entrance to the Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, through which the Via Appia, now the Via di Porta San Sebastiano at that location, left the city in a southeasterly direction. It was refortified at the end of the 4th century and was again renovated in the sixth century by Belisarius and Narses. The gate, a brick structure with turrets, still stands and has been restored to good condition. Modern traffic flows under it. Inside and upstairs is a museum dedicated to the construction of the walls and their recent restoration.

The gate is next to the Arch of Drusus. – wikipedia

1seb

After walking for hours on the ancient Appian Way (an experience in itself of the historic pastoral Rome) we found our selves heading toward the porta san sebastiano and the celio district. It was one of the best walks I’ve ever had in Rome, practically isolated and beautifully quiet. There was even a local’s park without a tourist in sight (except us but we were trying to be incognito)!

seb2

I felt like I was truly transported back in time, even with the odd car or vespa popping through the arch. Millions of ancient pilgrimages have passed this same way into Rome. I followed the steps of Keats and Goethe and Shelley and Byron and countless other Romantics and writers who went on the Grand Old Tour of Italy between the 17th and 19th centuries.

seb3

Rome is modern sprawl springing itself forward from scenes of eternity.

seb4

An ancient or centuries old pilgrim’s grafitti of an angel.

seb5

The old cobblestone and bricks, filled with ancient marble and stone broken pillars for mending holes along the centuries.

seb6

seb8

seb9

 

It is so enchanting.

seb10

The side of the ancient gate.

seb11

The Celio district is strictly off the beaten path and wonderful!!

seb13

seb14

seb15

 

There are signs of an old way of life all along the way.

seb16

seb17

 

Greenery hangs everywhere.

seb18

seb19

 

So inviting.

seb20

seb22

 

And we stumbled onto this magical place!

seb23

sebcasar

 

By the forum far away but somehow fitting for this post I think.

sebcasar2

Caesar and cupolas; my idea of Rome, the ancient and the Renaissance.

favorite views of rome and the fatal charm of italy

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

tumblr_ml2hirZuPq1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mjwu2molBj1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mjtz2hVIWM1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mh7wvmFNFd1qznevxo1_1280

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.

tumblr_mh07e3fSuQ1qznevxo1_1280

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.

tumblr_mgx020fzK41qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mglb2p0p231qznevxo1_1280

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.

tumblr_mgji7ekBSN1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mfr2b4FQ7n1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mfqz3qpIax1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mf14v27KML1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mdluj6xlNa1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_mcz8sj11u61qznevxo1_1280

Rome through a glass of Sicilian wine at sunset.

tumblr_m8608dFrW81qznevxo1_1280

The Coliseum from a distance on a tele photo lens.

tumblr_m804jmTVV31qznevxo1_1280

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 

tumblr_m7wm54KCsG1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7tsknIDs91qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7tqf0qpVE1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7to47AJwz1qznevxo1_1280

Cupolas and sky high statues.

tumblr_m7tnsoxYTT1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7tn90BmQu1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7qv9lK4qn1qznevxo1_1280

Cypresses and stone.

tumblr_m7owduSTiU1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7ow3a5vTQ1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m7o4koVDfy1qznevxo1_1280

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
tumblr_m76g4pOw0Y1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m75nb3VNGm1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m6o2fhfYue1qznevxo1_1280

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 

tumblr_m6iii6nYqN1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m694fw53lV1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m5tjhfzTB11qznevxo1_1280

Julius Caesar and the ruins.

tumblr_m5tih1zqcg1qznevxo1_1280

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 

tumblr_m51q1fUYJC1qznevxo1_1280

Another peek from the Pincio.

tumblr_m48cj2dAg51qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m41h51Huhk1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m3zq0nEDFb1qznevxo1_1280

Did I mention how amazing dusk is on the Pincio?

tumblr_m3ku3gtdGY1qznevxo1_1280

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.

tumblr_m3j3wxYOkQ1qznevxo1_1280

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

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

tumblr_m3j3tfMy3Q1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m3j0liYcU01qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m3j0atiIqX1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m3ha37oYAf1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m3h9jexW5m1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m38yjtKTgo1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m38vnrkL3i1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m2ciruvecK1qznevxo1_1280

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

tumblr_m2cgkvHm3U1qznevxo1_1280

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

off the beaten path via li campi & via posterula

I’ve gotten to know the ancient island of Capri and ana Capri fairly well over the last ten or so years and love still getting a bit lost when I go off the beaten path.

caprii1

A quiet, labyrinthine neighborhood, Via li Campi, away from the crowds of Capri Town.

capa1

I wandered without a map past schoolchildren as they walked home from school. I wanted to find a local place not marked by tourists.

capa2

This was probably one of my favorite afternoons. I like to get a little bit lost in old neighborhoods.

capa4

Every corner held a new surprise… usually just another curvy turn but still, it was a surprise.

capa3

This was a tiny apartment courtyard . I would love to know the history of these walls and stairs.

offcapri

I could walk this path all day. There’s a quiet in the shadows I long for.

capoff1

So many colors and hues over decades.

capoff2

Via Posterula

capoff4

Further into the maze of private pedestrian streets.

cap6

One can hear the call of birds and the echo of footsteps on the rock.

cap5

Here the gardens are on the rooftops or behind high walls in private courtyards.

cap7

There are Capri hand painted tiles were all over the small neighborhoods.cap8

Ana Capri is a great place to buy the artisan handmade tiles. I brought a few back home myself.

cap9

I’m working on a piece I did on my favorite tile shop, an interview with the owners and a photographic tour of the shop. I should be publishing it in the next few days.

shadows and light in the gardens of san michele on anacapri

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

FH030003

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.

FH030004

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.

FH030005

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.

FH030006

Bright yellow flowers grow in impossible places, their faces outstretched toward the sun.

FH030007

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

FH030008

On the old stairs a soft moss lies on the stone, suggesting an endless year of spring and life growing in the garden.

FH030009

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

FH030011

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.

FH030014

On certain days when the weather is perfect it feels as if one could see the whole world from here.

FH030012

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

FH030016

Follow the ivy climbing over the columns and stone walls as you explore the garden, every corner is a delight.

FH030017

At the top of the steps are uniformed pots of green plants and spring buds, standing at attention for your wander about.

FH030018

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.

FH030020

Gnarled vines from long dead plants wind themselves around majestic trees along a columned loggia.

FH030022

The exotic and native flowers in every hue are marked and greet thousands of visitors each year.

FH030023

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.

FH030024

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.

FH030026

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.

FH030027

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.

FH030029

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.

FH030030

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.

FH030033

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.

FH030034

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)

Elsyium Press, Capri publications, Rare photographs and lithographs, Norman Douglas.

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