a secret garden to the sea

There is an overgrown but perfect secret garden path behind an old villa in Sorrento we stumbled upon one day, and we followed down the rambling, winding trees and shrubbery and lemon and olive trees and blossoming flowers and into the shadows of green.

The further in we wandered, the thicker the growth grew. And yet everything was lush and cared for. Nothing dead, nothing abandoned.

We could smell the sea and the sun rays in the air, carried through cracks in the dense thicket. And so we followed the salt and the promise of blue until we reached the top of a cliff cut thousands of years ago, overlooking the crashing sea and rocks. The birds cried and dove for fish and soared the bright skies. We were alone in our own little paradise. It’ll be ours forever in memory.

a valentine “aphrodite / venus” book

I’ve designed, printed, and hand wrapped an amazing Romantic Valentine’s Bundle deal that lasts a lifetime for your beloved. 

A sleek soft bedside or coffee table book, each book contains 38 pages printed edge-to-edge on 100% recycled photo-paper, perfectly bound in a soft matte cover.

I’ve filled with the A LOVE LETTER TO ROME aesthetic of classical and Renaissance art details, paintings of Aphrodite and Venus, photographs of art, Roman ruins, the Pantheon, sculptures, columns, the Tyrrhenian Sea on Capri where the Roman Emperors lived and holidayed, images of cupolas among the ancients, images of beauty, sensuality, and Eros. It’s an elegant gift for a lover or Classical Antiquity or Italy or ART enthusiast. It’s gorgeous and romantic! BUY HERE only $50. See the site for deals as low as $5

  • 38 pages of full-bleed photos.
  • Measures 8 x 10 inches.
  • comes with Tea or coffee, Perugia Italian Chocolates, and a blank Valentine Card
  • hand made packaging
  • shipping worldwide!
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A Love Letter To Rome … Italy photo & book shop is online now! I ship worldwide! Beautiful images of Italia in handmade packaging & surprise gifts.

My labor of love has come to fruition. Off the beaten path and iconic fine art film and hi res digital images of Italy are available at my online shop.

Prints, postcards, books, and more!

High quality museum reserve paper and books, made in the US.

I also make custom bundles and prints and books: a Rome theme, an Amalfi Coast, an Art / Architecture theme, a Church / pilgrimage theme, a Pagan gods and goddesses theme, Florence, Naples, Capri, La Dolce Vita / Cafe mix or a Mix of Italia theme… or any personal requests. Romepix.com/prints

Ten dollars off (12) mini Prints ($10) or (9) Postcards ($20)! Special includes hand made packaging with special surprise gifts and souvenirs of Italy inside until Jan 31!

Perfect as souvenirs of your favorite country or for a dream board of future destinations. The sweeping views of Italy, the beauty of the Eternal City of Rome. The ruins. The art. The cafes. Getting lost in the moment under the Italian sun.

Shipping worldwide! romepix.com

Postcards can be used as photo art or real mailing postcards. Designed and printed in the USA on 50% recycled, Museum reserve high grade photo lab paper with a light UV gloss ink. Shot in Italy on fine art portra and velvia film and high res digital.

Made by a “local” artist who loves Italy I ship worldwide!

shop here Romepix.com

Thanks, Rebecca ❤️🏛

The Villa Farnesina in Trastevere, Rome

Trastevere is a lovely residential neighborhood of Rome just across the Tiber from the centrale storico (historic city center)… a taxi or bus ride away or a rather lengthy but enjoyable walk on a sunny spring or autumn day. 

It is a must see for an authentic side of the city with wonderful local restaurants and little shops and cafes and bars and a piazza which boasts one of the oldest and most beautiful (and Byzantine!) churches in the city. 

It is my favorite place in the Eternal city to people watch and to get out of the crowded tourist spots. The Almost Corner Bookshop is there and sells books in English, too, and Trastevere has an ancient portico and a sumptuous small villa museum built in the sixteenth century, the Villa Farnese, owned by a Sienese banker named Agostino Chigi, who commissioned the architect Baldassarre Peruzzi to build him a splendid little palazzo. 

The interior of the Villa Farnese is decorated with frescoes by Raphäel Sanzio, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giovanni Bazzi (known as il Sodoma), Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni, and Baldassarre Peruzzi himself… among their studio artisans and apprentices, as well. 

At the end of the sixteenth century this Villa was purchased by the famous Cardinal Alessandro Farnese from whom it takes its name “Farnesina” to distinguish it from the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber (which I will be writing about in detail soon). 

The Villa was also used by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and is used for other important Roman events and groups today.

It is a “boutique museum” so its intimate setting is a perfect place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of what it was like to live in a Renaissance villa, and to imagine the Farneses wandering the halls or Raphäel painting the walls… 


The garden is small and lovely to view, with architectural details and lush trees and other hidden gardens among the grounds you can peek at through gates. It’s one of Roma’s many green spaces and respites from the crowds.

From the official website:

OPENING HOURS

Villa Farnesina is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm, closed on Sunday and holiday.

Visitors who present their admission ticket to the Vatican Museums (within 7 days from the date of visit to the Vatican Museum) will be entitled to a reduced entrance fee to the Villa Farnesina
GUIDED TOURS

On Saturday at 10 am (english), at 12.30 (italian)

Audio guides are available to visitors (italian, english and french)

SPECIAL OPENINGS

The Villa will be open the second sunday of each month. Info: +39 06 68027268; farnesina@lincei.it

The website is villafarnesina.it

All photographs are by me, Rebecca Butler, shot on analog film in spring 2008, for alovelettertorome.com
I have some interesting stories I picked up about the Villa Farnesina I will post next time. This will be included in my FARNESE family chapter in my book. There is a fascinating Borgia and Medici connection to the Farnese and I’ve spent a lot of time in their amazing Roman and Neapolitan villas (now museums). Alessandro Farnese eventually became pope. 

the renaissance Boboli Gardens of Florence Italy  

The Palazzo Pitti is a large villa museum built in 1458 for a Florentine banker near the river Arno, in the heart of Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and is sumptuously laid out with antique furnishings and priceless works of Italian paintings and sculptures. It contains nearly 500 Renaissance  and baroque frescoes and masterpieces by Artemisia Gentileschi, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Fillipo Lippi, Perugino, Correggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Bartolomeo, il Rosso, Canova, Verrochio, and Pietro da Cortona, among many many others. I am writing a piece about these incredible collections, accompanied by photographs, and the background of some of the most important and beautiful works to see if you can visit. It’s highly recommended for serious art or palazzo fans.Surveying the grand grounds and estate from a distance as visitors have admired the beauty and harmony of the Boboli Gardens for centuries. The house and land were bought by the de’Medici’s in 1549 and they filled it with their incomparable art collection, second only to their nearby famed Uffizi Gallery and residence. Napoléon even used this as his main living headquarters in Italy in the late 18th century. The exterior courtyard where horses and carriages would draw up. Paris and Helen of Troy.Themes of alchemy and the occult mingled with myths of classical antiquity in the natural caverns decorated to enhance an atmosphere of enchantment.Far away seashells and coral encrusted on water formed stalactites. Sea nymphs and faeries and aristocratic crests.The prisoners in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.The fascinatingly carved and decorators part natural, part artificial cavern the Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens is a fascinating place, is encrusted with seashells and stalactites, housing mythical, fantastic, and allegorical elements, as well as symbols referring to esoteric subjects. The Grotta di Buontalenti (also known as Grotta Grande or the Big Grotto) was built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, and commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici.

Winding labyrinthine hedge walkways to get lost in or sneak into for a stolen kiss.A brilliant blue heron rests in an artificial lake. Naked trees promise a boast of riches at the first bloom.Wild iris and flowers of delicate violet and pale lavender dotted among tall wild grasses of rolling meadows.Oranges a reminder of the beautiful year round climate of most of Italy.I was there on an overcast early spring day before the beauty of the garden really bloomed but shall return their in autumn to take photographs of the richer, fuller gardens. The little wildflower meadows and orange trees and statutes were lovely against the grey sky and ornate fountains (turned off in the cold) but I long to see this place teeming with color and fullness after the long hot summer, as autumn turns the leaves Amber and gold. I get that chance this early October.
Watch this highly interesting and gorgeous historical and visual tour of the Boboli Gardens by Brit and garden expert, Monty Don. Boboli Garden — Tour of Italy – Florence

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!

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

naples scenes in a few steps

napi4I love walking down the little market walk ways under Renaissance awnings. There’s nothing on earth quite like the streets of Naples. I’ve heard it said certain spots in Napoli hearken back to the ancient world, only a few other spots in the world like Calcutta can recall another time so long ago.

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In the connecting pedestrian streets of the picaresque Spaccanapoli, Naples boasts one charming cafe after cafe another. I love the coffee of Napoli; the rich, strong demitasses of espressos, the sweet nuttiness of a nocciola (espresso, sugar and ground roasted hazelnuts), or a frothy and properly hot cappuccino.

napi5The children of Naples play in the grotty, wonderful streets against the backdrop of statues, paintings and colored walls peeling for centuries. In between the tiny fiats and citroens and three to a vespa. They find their games anywhere and everywhere, cheerfully kicking their “footballs” under the feet of passersby, in front of store windows, around fountains and niches of ruins. There is such a sense of play underneath it all.

napi2From the moment I first walked these streets a few years ago I became enchanted with the market trinkets hanging from stalls, the smell of cheese and bread, tomatoes and fish wafting out of trattorias. I loved the cobblestones, the gorgeous archways, the warm colors. I am enchanted with the best people watching in Italy.

napi1Old world art, architecture and pop culture kitsch mix in any given corner of the historic center of Napoli. There before me is amazing street art graffiti, a sticker of a carefree Einstein placed prominently over a cafe and a quiet tea shop tucked up in the most unlikely of places. There is an empty neighborhood chair left leaning against a wall amid an array of inexplicable traffic signs – there’s even a post-modern Madonna under the auspices of a revolver.

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Near to the beautiful garden Cloisters of Santa Chiara, is a street art Eve with Eden’s snake, underneath an old Campania tree. The hand painted Spanish tile, fountains and arched windows of the cloisters are a near silent oasis in the heart of the city. Lemon and orange trees and flowers line the green, manicured gardens of the inner courtyard. It is a private, clean and calm spot to pop in for a little bit, for a lovely walk or a sit on a bench with a book or a friend.

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.