Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Does anyone know what this is?

During our trip to Basilicata we saw this "fruit" in a tree and all around it on the ground. I asked a very old man what is was and did not fully understand his answer but do know he said not to eat it. So, what is it and why grow it if you can't eat it?

According to Ginger: "It's called an Osage orange(Maclura pomifera)actually native to the US. Not edible. they were used for a thorny hedge plants between fields because they are hard to kill and withstand just about anything M.Nature wants to dish out."
Thank you Ginger

Monday, January 29, 2007

More Rome

Teatro Marcello (like the Colosseum, but smaller)

Teatro mask mosaic (Musei Capitolini)

St. Peter's Basilica detail

Painting "The Immigrants" (Galleria D'Arte Moderne)
(I imagine the little girl in the red scarf could be my grandmother)

Images of Rome

Colorful tassels in a Rome shop window

"Dying Gaul" Capitol Hill Museum, 1st century BC copy of a Greek original

Leonardo Di Caprio's ear and Rosemary's arms
(that's Rosemary taking a photo at left and Leo's ear under the blue cap and somebody else famous we think, taking a photo behind Leo. Anyone know who he is?)

Capitoline She Wolf
(Wolf from the 5th century BC, Romulus & Remus were added later)

The Roman Forum at night

Rome, January 25-25 2007

Marble Bust in various types of marble

Andrea & Vincent at the Trevi Fountain (look for her coin in the air)

Caravaggio's St. John the Baptist

Capitoline Hill at night

Andrea and Vincent say goodbye

Visiting Rome with Andrea and Vincent 1.25-28.06

It's a very cloudy, grey day here in Vietri and temperatures are definitely lower than they have been. The weather here has been gorgeous, unseasonably warm everyone said but they also warned that colder weather was about to begin. When we headed north on Thursday it was under very threatening skies and we could see a dusting of white on Mt Vesuvius where big heavy snow clouds swarmed above and around the volcano. The tops of the tallest mountains between here and Rome had snow on them and rain fell on and off as we approached the city.

I haven’t done much painting since the Christmas holidays and of course I’m feeling guilty about it! Here I am in Italy, wasting time when I should be working!!! But then I brought along a little sketch book with me and had fun in the car doing these very quick little “gesture” drawings of the passing scenery and putting in washes of color later. This is one of those little black journals (like the one I had taken from me in Sicily) so it’s very immediate, just for me stuff and I enjoyed it very much. No pressure to “make a painting” – just record what I was seeing. The time is passing very quickly now and I just know that before I know it we will be heading back to the states. I want to feel that I have made the best of it and go home with things I feel proud of.

We had reserved two rooms in a small bed and breakfast/apartment near the train station and instead of driving the 3 hours back to Vietri and the Amalfi Coast with our young friends whose wedding we attended in Köln, Germany in July, we decided instead to spend the short weekend with them in Rome, visiting the sights. Andrea had been there before but Vincent had not. We never tire of this wonderful city and have been there now more times than we can count but always enjoy ourselves.

We arrived late Thursday and planned to spend one night on our own there so that the next day we would be rested and ready to sightsee. Of course, we ended up doing our share of walking anyway, visiting the Musei Capitolini and its wonderful view over the Roman Forum (where I walked right past Leonardo Di Caprio and didn’t realize until he and his entourage left and Bob told me “That was Leonardo Di Caprio!” Much to the chagrin of his bodyguard, Bob took a photo of him but only managed to capture his ear!) on Capodoglio Hill and an exhibit of works by Matisse and Bonnard in the Complesso del Vittoriano that is connected to the Vittore Emmanuele monument, next to the Roman Forum. On Friday morning, with rain pouring down, we took the train and walked uphill and down, near the Villa Borghese, to the Galleria D’Arte Moderna and spent a few hours immersed in modern art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection consists of mostly Italian artists but with some works by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and the impressionists, as well. We enjoyed it so much and think perhaps we might have to go back again. Andrea and Vincent were expected around 3pm and we had just finished having a coffee in the museum cafe when they called to say they had landed at Ciampino airport, giving us about half an hour to get to Termini train station and meet their bus. It was still raining when we walked back to our bed and breakfast but by the time we hit the streets again, it has quit and didn’t bother us again the entire weekend.

It was wonderful to see them again and be able to spend even just these few days together. We saw them last, as I said, in July when they were married and you can imagine how busy they were with all their guests, it was not possible to spend much time alone with them. We brought their things to the room and stopped for a bit of lunch then headed first for the Roman Forum which was by this time closing for the day (one hour before sunset) so we simply did a walking tour around it pointing out the sights we knew and walked by Trajan’s Market, the monument to Victor Emmanuel, the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti with its fancy (expensive!) shops. We had a quiet dinner in a little restaurant called Osteria del Crispi, on Via Francesco Crispi and called it a night.

We made them get up early the next morning so that they could visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. We didn’t think the crowds would be as great at this time of year as usual and arrived around 8:30. Andrea had not been to this museum and both of them seemed to enjoy not only the chapel but the other parts of the museum as well. We stopped in the café of the museum for a slice of pizza (mediocre by Italian standards but we were hungry) and a bit of a rest.

Afterwards we joined the queue waiting at St. Peter’s Basilica and after a short while, entered the church. They decided to go up into the Dome while we opted to rest our feet a bit while these youngsters climbed the 500 or so steps and waved down to us from the balcony that surrounds the dome. St. Peter’s never fails to impress with Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s masterpiece bronze canopy, not to mention its sheer size and the magnificence of its works of art. This really is what I like to call “the Pope Show” because it does seem to venerate the Popes more than God, but that may just be a personal prejudice on my part, born out by all the statues and monuments to them throughout the church.

We never made it to the Roman Forum as by the time we got back there it was once again closing time! (darn these short winter days when the sun sets around 5pm.) We did take them up the Capodoglio Hill for a view of the Forum as the sun was setting, and then another break for a gelato and a well earned rest. We caught a bus to the Pantheon, walking through the lovely Piazza della Rotunda, passing the Spanish Steps again and over to the Trevi Fountain for the obligatory coin toss. Back towards our B&B we walked up more steps to pass the Quirinale, where the president of Italy has a residence and two pretty Italian soldiers (women, not men) stood guard.

We enjoyed our dinner at the Antica Pizzeria Fratelli Ricci on Via Genova, not far from where we were staying. This pizzeria, we were told is the oldest in Rome but after having pizza in Naples, well, that’s a tough act to follow. This restaurant started as a wine store and we did enjoy the crisp, white wine, Est! Est! Est! that they produce. The service was friendly and we thought our waiter was American when he said “there you go!” and delivered our appetizers (really yummy olives stuffed with meat and fried in a tasty batter and deep fried pumpkin flowers). It turned out he is Italian and Dutch but his English was impeccable. Andrea, who speaks not only German and Hungarian, but also French, Italian, English and Spanish, had no trouble communicating with anyone! Vincent, her husband is French and keeps up with her linguistically – it was so fun to listen to them speak to each other in German and then French and English!

They had a noon flight on Sunday and we shared breakfast in our rooms and then walked them to where their bus was waiting. After tearful goodbye hugs and kisses we promised to see each other again as soon as possible and they promised to come visit us in America after we get settled in and we will hold them to it. The sun was shining as their bus pulled away from the curb and we waved at each other until it was out of sight.

We made really good time getting back to Vietri and were home by early afternoon, took a nap and ate a simple dinner. Andrea called to let us know that they had made it home safe and sound and would probably do the same. We miss them already! That is the hardest part of this adventure! The world is too large. It’s too difficult to see everyone when we all live so very far apart. Perhaps someday travel will be faster and easier and we can pop back and forth across the ocean like going across town and have dinner with our friends in Europe as easily as with our friends across the street. But until then we will have to content ourselves with email and the telephone and be grateful we have both.

It meant so much to us and we were delighted that they wanted to come for a visit and look forward to the next time we can be together.

Now the sun is setting on this cloudy day. It has not rained in spite of the clouds and we don’t know what to expect from tomorrow. We stayed at home all day today but who knows what tomorrow will bring!

Buona sera,
Rosemary and Bob

Due Fratelli (two brothers) rock formation in the Bay of Salerno

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pino's family in Ripacandida

These photos of our friend Pino's (of Pino's Pizzeria in Phoenix, Arizona) family in Ripacandida, in Basilicata are for him and for them. Grazie to them all for the kindness to us. We hope they enjoy seeing them here.

Chiara with Gerardo, her papà

Paola (Pino's sister) and her husband Rocco

Pino's mother with her granddaughter Giulia

Pasquale, Pino's papà

Nonna with Chiara

Ripacandida, hometown of our friend Pino

Railway in the countryside, Basilicata

The well in the Giardini Communale, Ripacandida

View of Ripacandida from above

Giardini Communale, with its canopy of trees overhead

Basilicata and the city of Ripacandida

Fresco detail in the 12th century church of San Donato, Ripacandida

The rolling hills of Basilicata

Palazzo Leopoldo Chiari, Ripacandida

The Cathedral in Ripacandida

Giant Sequioa in the Giardini Communali, public gardens

Ripacandida in The Basilicata 1.22.06

On Sunday we took a drive east of here to another region in southern Italy, called The Basilicata. It sits between Campania to the west, Calabria to the south and Puglia to the east. It stretches across the ankle and the instep of the boot of Italy and touches both the Mar Tirreno in the east and Mar Ionio to the west. (the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas, parts of the Mediterranean). This was uncharted territory for us and the main reason we wanted to go there was that it is the birthplace of our friend Pino, whose pizzeria (at 139 West Thomas, just west of Central) was our favorite in Phoenix, Arizona where we lived before moving to Italy. We shared a pizza or pasta or whatever happened to be the special of the day, at least once a week and our favorite times were those when the restaurant was not crowded and Pino would sit and visit with us. We witnessed his tiny pizzeria expand and grow and we happy to see his business succeed.

We shared our dreams for living in Italy with him and he would try to help us with our Italian. In those days, when we were just learning he teased that he had to use "baby talk" with us. Now we say that we speak Italian like "Tarzan" (you know, "me Jane, etc.") - we've improved somewhat from those days where we could hardly put together a coherent sentence or understand a more complex one than "Come sta?"

Before we left Phoenix, Pino gave us his father’s address in a small village in Basilicata, near Potenza, in the northwest part of this region. We have wanted to go there since we arrived in Campania but couldn't remember where we put his address until this weekend and decided to go now before we ran out of time.

Driving across Italy is like passing through the United States, each region has its own unique features and seems to change dramatically in some cases as you go from one to the other. As we passed from Campania into Basilicata we drove through the most gorgeous scenery, green rolling hills, mountains dotted with farms and little villages, it felt a bit to us like driving into the interior of Sicily, unspoiled, virgin territory not yet marred by too much tourism, hotel signs, gas stations, souvenir stands. The area is lush with rolling fields of still green wheat, the silver green grey of its olive groves and castles built by Frederick II and his son Manfred. It has a sense of expansiveness and openness and it is an area we wish we had more time to explore.

We passed the city of Potenza, shrugged off by the guide books as a modern city with little to show for its illustrious history as a Roman city, where so many earthquakes have washed away its past but know there is more there than the guidebooks indicate. In spite of having our GPS system, we still got lost trying to find our way to Ripacandida, Pino’s village. We misinterpreted some of the directions and drove past the turn off but finally came in sight of a lovely city on the crest of a hill, its bell tower reaching for the sky and layers of buildings toppling down the hillside and were delighted to find that this was the birthplace of our friend.

We are embarrassed to tell you that we did not give them any warning that we were coming, not sure we would actually be able to find it and not wanting to really make a big deal of it. We thought we would just stop there, say hello, tell them we were friends of Pino’s and wanted to visit his village. When we arrived in the town we asked directions of some people walking by and they pointed out the house and even rang the doorbell for us, letting Pino’s lovely mother Antonella know she had company. When we told her we were friends of her son she immediately called his father who was working repairing fences on their property and he hurried home, much to our increasing embarrassment, now having interrupted his work!

Their son-in-law Gerardo kindly offered to take us on a tour of the city and we walked with him through the streets of the town and up into the center, as he pointed out the sights. As it was a Sunday, and during pranzo to boot, everything was closed but it was still evident that this is a sleepy little place, much in need of restoration but a little town with a lot of character and charm, filled with marvelous little nooks and crannies and we detected a sense of pride and frustration in Gerardo who is an architect and well appreciates what he has there. There is some restoration going on, some done in keeping with its historic nature, others not. He pointed out that once this city was white, gleaming, like Ostuni in Puglia and that is what he would clearly like to maintain. We saw some palazzi that had been restored whose owners decided to add more color – some horrible greens and even a shocking pink faux finish (An American is restoring this particular palazzo with an eye towards investment and should be slapped for not doing it in a way that respects the authentic qualities of the city, in our humble opinion.)

We walked back down to their house to find them all ready to go off to lunch and thought we would say our goodbyes at this point and get out of their hair. Nothing doing! They planned to take us to lunch to treat us to a typical meal of their region and a bit embarrassed again that we had made them change whatever plans they had previously had for the day to entertain us, we piled into Pasquale’s car. They were so kind, so friendly, making us feel welcome.

We dined with Pino’s sister Paola and her husband Rocco, Gerardo and his adorable 3-year old daughter Chiara whose mom was home with their 6-month old baby who had been sick and Pino’s Mom and Dad, Pasquale and Antonella. The meal was delicious! We drank local wine, had antipasto of different types of prosciutto, salami and cheeses (including a fried scamorza that was delightful), both sweet and salty ravioli in a mushroom and cinghale sauce, and fettuccine with mushrooms. Already stuffed by now, this was followed by a mixed grill of different meats – veal, lamb, and pork, all delicious. They finished it off with a gelato-filled crepe topped with berries and of course, a caffe! When we told them how much we appreciated their generosity and kindness they denied having done anything special, saying something like “Is hospitality dead in the north??” We hope they understood that we really did appreciate their stopping everything to show us around and make us feel welcome and apologized for not calling prior to showing up on their doorstep.

Paola called Pino long distance and we had a chance to say hi to him and we hope he got a kick out of knowing we had made it to his hometown. Bob took photos of the family and we promised to return, sharing phone numbers and giving them the address of the blog before we said our goodbyes.

Rocco and Paola escorted us to the medieval “Castel Lagopèsole” that sits on a high position overlooking the valley below and the views are nothing short of spectacular. We missed seeing the sunset however and do hope to get back to this area for another closer look at some of the other cities in the region, like Matera, with its cave-like homes cut in the steep rock of a ravine and Maratea, a pretty hill village tucked between cliffs by the sea. We also want to spend a few days in Puglia so perhaps we can combine our travels and see more of Basilicata at the same time. Clearly there is more to see and we are excited that we still have nine weeks left. Not enough time really but it will have to do!

Today it’s stormy and rainy. We even had some hail on our terrace. This morning there was a break in the weather after a rainy night and we bundled up and took a walk down to the sea. It’s colder than it has been, but not unbearable. The tide is high and the waves are larger than we have seen, and it would not have surprised us to see surfers out there but did not. We stopped for a cappuccino at Martine’s bar in Marina and when the rain started up again we headed home. We need to go and do some grocery shopping later on. Our “German daughter” Andrea and her husband Vincent are coming to visit us for the weekend from Germany. Tomorrow we will drive up to Rome where we plan to spend the night, picking them up and taking them back here on Friday evening, after a whirlwind tour of Rome! We are looking forward to having them here and can’t wait to see them again.

Now we’ll say ciao and buona giornata.

Buon fine settimana (Have a good weekend!)
Rosemary and Bob

Oplontis, Villa of Poppaea Sabina, the wife of Nero

Our friends Marco and Annalisa from Perugia (originally from Naples) told us about the Villa at Oplontis, an excellent example of a sumptuous Roman villa buried in a mud slide as a result of the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. This was only discovered in 1964 and included large gardens (being restored), porticoes, private baths and a pool, originally situated in the countryside and now surrounded by the modern city of Torre Annunziata. The frescoes are extraordinarily beautiful.

Peacock and Mask, fresco detail

Doing preservation work on the wall frescoes

Fresco detail from the Grande Sala

Fossil of Wooden Doors, encased in hardened mud

Notice how thick the plaster is on these walls.


Columns and Frescoed Wall

Birdbath Fresco

Oplontis Exterior

Column details

Fresco detail

Ercolano (Herculaneum)

Ercolano Overview

Forum Baths changing room

Carbonized Wooden Stairs

Red Columns

Mosaic Floor Of Triton

Ercolano Scavi

College of the Augustals Fresco

Triton and Sea Creatures (second version)

Neptune and Amphitrite Mosaic

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ruins of Pompeii

"La Muntagna," (the mountain) Vesuvius - a sleeping giant

An example of the ruins of Pompeii

The streets of Pompeii (note the cart tracks from ancient times)

Human remains - bodies were found encased in Volcanic material