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.

Saint Barbara of the Books

This small church, also known as Santa Barbara alla Regola, after the district in which it is situated, was founded, in the 11th century, in the ruins of the Theatre of Pompey. (It was in an annex in the gardens of the Theatre of Pompey that Julius Caesar was assassinated).

Saint Barbara of the Books, Rome, Italy. 186 Largo dei Librai

The church is just off Via dei Giubbonari between Campo de’Fiori and Piazza Cairoli.

This is a small but absolutely stunning church. It’s definitely an off the beaten path small church. One minute you are walking through a charming neighborhood, the next moment your turn the corner and are stopped in your tracks by this glorious architecture. It looks surreal – a tiny church stuck between houses and a yogurt gelato shop. It’s worth a stop, a snapshot and a walk up past the perfect olive trees into the doorway for a look around the interior. The video below is a literal film walk through the church. Armchair travel at it’s finest.

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//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me. (photographs: portra 400 35mm film)

the gods’ eyed view of rome

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A few years ago I stood on the roof of the “wedding cake”, aka “Altare della Patria” (Altar of the Motherland) or “Il Vittoriano“, to spy, for the first time, a bird’s eye view of Rome, a city I had only seen from the vantage point of a mere mortal.

There is something about the view from the top of the layers of ruins, buildings, trees, cars, vespas and people one can’t capture quite like standing where the gods would have been watching in Caesar’s time.

It is really a beautiful experience. And down the elevator, rife with enviable views of the ruins from a closer perspective, is a cafe, selling delicious sandwiches and antipasti, wine and espressos. If you ever find yourself in Rome, it’s an experience you cannot miss.

art at the vatican museum

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Raphäel rooms and frescoes.

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The sumptuous Borgia Apartments.

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The Vatican museum has room after breathtaking room of gorgeous golds, greens, purples, blues, reds and every soft and lush color and tone the eye can see. Everywhere you turn is the famed likeness of Lucrezia Borgia.

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The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago: The sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons was discovered 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture of Laocoön and his sons on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery. (Wikipedia)

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The minor Colossus reminds me a little of a fallen David.

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One can wander room to room in renaissance splendor.

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Minerva or Diana?

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A Roman woman as goddess.

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Venus or Aphrodite?

If you find yourself at the Vatican museum – don’t visit in August, get there early or off season to miss waiting in an interminable line – and before you see the Sistine Chapel make sure you don’t skip the sculpture gardens and statuary courtyards and the Borgia Apartments and the Raphäel Rooms!

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

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

At the Mattei di Giove

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The Palazzo Mattei di Giove ,Via Michelangelo Caetani 32, other entrance in Via dei Funari, Ghetto, Rome, 00186

Last year I decided on our two visits to Rome I wanted my husband and I to spend some time hunting for off the beaten path spots we’ve not yet visited. I picked up some new books on the subject, City Secrets of Rome by Robert Kahn and Quiet Corners of Rome by David Downie. Upon seeing photographs of this amazing place I had to see it for myself. We started out having a splendid lunch at the Campo di Fiori after picking up gifts and alla’arrabbiata and carciofi alla romana spices at the charming outdoor market. We stopped, as is our custom, under the Bruno statue to pay respect and read the inscription,

A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE
(English: To Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned).

We walked to the Jewish Ghetto section of Rome (an ancient and fascinating section of the city with a complicated history). We had to ask directions several times and still walked by the spot a few times. But, we found the Palazzo Mattei di Giove and it was worth the effort.

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Mattei di Giove, designed by noted baroque architect Carlo Maderno—who also designed the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica—teems with busts, bas-reliefs, and sarcophagi collected by the palazzo’s namesake owner, Marchese Asdrubale Mattei. (Info source: National Geographic Traveler)

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The House of Mattei was one of the most powerful noble families of Rome during the Middle Ages and early modern era, holding high positions in the papal curia and government office.

The Palazzo Mattei di Giove is the most prominent among a group of Mattei houses that forms the insula Mattei in Rome, Italy, a block of buildings of many epochs.
To distinguish this section from the others it carries the name of a Mattei fief, Giove. The Mattei owned a number of other palazzi that carried the family name including Palazzo Mattei di Trastevere across the Tiber as well as properties in Umbria, the Palazzo Mattei Paganica.

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Carlo Maderno designed the palace at the beginning of the 17th century for Asdrubale Mattei, Marquis di Giove and father of Girolamo Mattei and Luigi Mattei. He was also the brother of Ciriaco Mattei and Cardinal Girolamo Mattei. It was Maderno who was responsible for the extravagantly enriched cornice on the otherwise rather plain stuccoed public façade, the piano nobile loggia in the courtyard and the rooftop loggia or altana.

nyny1For the interior of the palazzo, Pietro da Cortona was commissioned to execute the pair of compositions on the ceiling of the gallery, dating before 1626. In the early 19th century, a group of paintings from the collection at the palazzo was purchased by William Hamilton Nisbet and removed to Scotland.

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Like others of the Mattei family, Asdrubale Mattei was an enthusiastic patron of the arts. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (better known simply as Caravaggio) is recorded as living at the palazzo in 1601. (source: Wikipedia)

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The loggia and architectural details are exquisite. This is the kind of place you see in sweeping vintage films set in Rome, the kind of place you read about in the Grand Old Tour by classically educated travelers from the 18th and 19th century. The students who spend time here are so lucky.

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There’s not a corner or ledge that is not interesting. If you visit make sure to view the whole courtyard and go upstairs to the top terrace.

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Go through the arched “doorway” in between the large statues, underneath the carved lamp.

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Across the small cobblestone road is an ancient fountain and face sun dial with beautifully carved in stone.

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

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

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.

borghese ramble, rome, italy, 2012 (digital).

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

rome in the spring time, 2012, (digital)

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

The Dandy Travelers, Rome, Italy, 2008 (film)

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.

Villa Borghese statue niche detail, secret garden courtyard, rome, italy, 2012 (digital)

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.

villa farnesina

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The Villa Farnesina is an early 16th century Renaissance suburban villa in the Via della Lungara, in the district of Trastevere in Rome, central Italy. It has incredible frescoes by Raphäel,  Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and Il Sodoma. The villa was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and the treasurer of Pope Julius II. It was later purchased by Cardinale Farnese (future pope and brother to the Borgia mistress, Giulia Farnese).

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I had always missed visiting the lovely Villa Farnesina on earlier trips to Rome so I was delighted to finally see it in person in October 2012. The villa has a pretty little garden in the courtyard and larger gardens (fenced off) on one side. There is an understated elegance to the grounds and exterior architecture for a Renaissance palazzo. There are pink roses and pomegranate trees in clay pots.

FH050003And little lemon trees and stone lined pathways. Trastevere is a great neighborhood to visit when in Rome and this villa is even more off the beaten path if you are looking for an alternative to the usual Roman Holiday Tour.

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After the initial two or three visits to Rome I’ve tried to visit more of the quiet corners of the city and get to know my favorite spots better. It’s a “slow food” approach to travel and it’s worked pretty well for us. FH050004The large grande dame museums of Rome are wonderful to visit, especially if you have limited time in the city. But if you have an extra day or the off the beaten path vacation is more your speed, I suggest visiting one, two or three small villa or palazzo art museums. Farnesina, Doria Pamphlij, Spada, Borghese (the Queen) and a few others.

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The Loggia of Psyche by Raphaël and his workshop

It’s difficult to convey how astounding it is just standing on the marble floors, looking up at all the beautiful frescoes. Walking the same halls so many infamous and interesting figures had crossed centuries before.

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The museum was quiet and there were a few small groups moving in and out of the rooms. I had time to view the work in complete silence and solitude which rarely happens in a larger, more popular museum.

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Venus, Ceres and Juno

I had run out of color film so I shot these magnificent frescoes in black and white. I think they at least capture the richness of the dark colors and the creaminess of the “skin”. The color in person was vibrant for such old masterpieces.

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Cupid and The Three Graces, 1517-1518

A part of the great appeal Renaissance art has for me is it’s allusions to classical literature and mythology. In order to understand the works beyond my emotional response to them or my aesthetic pleasure in them, the allegorical works force me to learn the meaning behind them and catch a glimpse of the artist’s intention behind the work. What does the piece mean philosophically? Politically? What does it say about love? Man? And God? About life? And death? What historical event are they re-imagining? Beyond the beauty I am hungry for the history.

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Venus on the Chariot Pulled by Doves, 1517-1518

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The Council of the Gods, 1517-1518

FH010011Venus and Cupid, 1517-1518

When I was there I was amused to find graffiti carved into one of the walls in German! Well, normally I’d be less amused but it’s from a later Barbarian Invasion of Rome in the 16th century! At the time I couldn’t find anyone to translate it for me.

During recent restorations, an ancient “graffiti”, in German gothic, came to light between the columns. It marks the passage of the Lansquenets and states: “1528 – why shouldn’t I laugh: the Lansquenets have put the Pope to flight.”

From the windows on the first floor there is a beautiful view of the gardens. A pleasant stroll under the laurel bower leads to a marble plaque which bears the inscription:

Quisquis huc accedis: quod tibi horridum videtur mihi amoenum est; si placet, maneas, si taedet abeas, utrumque gratum.

[Trad.: Whoever enters here: what seems horrid to you is pleasant to me. If you like it, stay, if it bores you, go away; both are equally pleasing to me. ] – Academia Nazionale die Lincei

The Villa Farnesina in Rome, Italy is open from

Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,

Closed on Sundays and holidays
Guided tours on Monday, Friday and Saturday at 12.30

 

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

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

Roman Cats

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The cats of Rome.

FH010021Watching over the Theatre of Pompey.

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The Portra 400 and 800 35mm film really brings out the colors and tones of the beautiful cats.

FH010023Through the looking glass.

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One can imagine how far back into ancient Rome these cats ancestry lies.

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Pink shoes and rich fur.

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A job well done.

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