The Eternal City

DSCN4949Enchanting and romantic Roma.

Ahhh bella Roma. This city of eternity has so many stories to tell. There are levels and layers of religion, architecture, emperors, sculpture, temples and more. What century do you want to discover? It’s all here, although perhaps parts of it hidden which is what makes this place so intriguing.

Temple bones in the Forum.

Temple bones in the Forum.

My traveling partner decided precipitously to take the next flight home almost as soon as we arrived. It’s a strange feeling to suddenly be deserted in a large, foreign city. A little frightening, a little challenging, a lot pushing my courage and self-confidence. I took a deep breath and regrouped.

Getting out of the taxi and heading toward the hotel, at first I thought, “So what, just another big city.” Am I really going to enjoy this as much as the country life I had just relished? A little hesitant and leaning in favor of the countryside, I decided then and there to let my expectations dissipate.  Alone in this vastness of ancient ghosts and relics,  the city slowly revealed its charisma to me.

Andrea, the historian and guide extraordinare takes me back in time.

Andrea, the historian and guide extraordinaire takes me back in time.

The first day there, my expert tour guide Andrea Valentini spent hours educating me on ancient Rome. As we strolled from temple to museum to Forum and Coliseum, I strangely felt a déjà vu, like I was back in time, walking the same pathways, viewing the builders grow the city, and experiencing the elaborate and majestic art in its glory days. It is quite overwhelming and humbling.

The Temple of Vesta. Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, chosen at a young age to guard and maintain the "fire of Rome" and to carry out sacred rites.They were sworn to celibacy for 30 years. In return, they lived lavishly, were free to own property and to vote.

The Temple of Vesta. Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, chosen at a young age to guard and maintain the “fire of Rome” and to carry out sacred rites.They were sworn to celibacy for 30 years. In return, they lived lavishly, were free to own property and to vote.

The Coliseum, home to many fighters, exotic animals and public executions. Standing on center stage is overwhelming.

The Coliseum: home to many fighters, exotic animals, public executions and at one time a lake for water battles.

Stage fright! My private tour allowed us access to parts of the Coliseum unavailable to most.

Stage fright! My private tour allowed me access to parts of the Coliseum unavailable to most.

Where the wild things go. Dark and mossy. The animals were kept below and emerged into the middle of the arena via large underground lifts. The spectators oftentimes did not know which animal was to be featured so they loved this element of surprise.

Where the wild things go. Dark and mossy. The animals were kept below and emerged into the middle of the arena via large underground lifts. The spectators oftentimes did not know which animal was featured so they loved this element of surprise.

I loved this dimensional sculpture - very classy.

The Capitoline Museum sits on one of Rome’s Seven Hills and houses Rome’s oldest works of art. I could have spent two days there alone. I loved this dimensional sculpture, the tiny angel, the gladiator-decorated vessel, the sun-like god. Such beautiful detail.

The sublime and sensuous Goddess Venus in her splendor sculpted in the 4th century B.C.

The sublime and sensuous Goddess Venus in her splendor sculpted in the 4th century B.C.

The Golden Boy Hercules in guilded bronze circa second century B.C. The stone background seems to emphasize his masculinity and strength.

The Golden Boy Hercules in gilded bronze circa second century B.C. The stone background seems to emphasize his masculinity and strength.

The emblem of Rome. Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-Wolf of Rome.

The emblem of Rome. Romulus and Remus nursed by the She-Wolf of Rome.

One of the few painted sculptures that remained from long ago. I learned from Andrea that very early Roman works up to about 200 A.D. were elaborately painted. Weather removed most of the color from these sculptures. When the Renaissance artists came on the scene, they only saw the white stone so continued to create works of art unpainted.

She was so different. A stark seriousness casts her face, almost in contrast to her beautiful, elegantly draped dress.

The Red Faun, a satyr and follower of Dionysus, the god of wine made of striking red marble.

The Red Faun, a satyr and follower of Dionysus, the god of wine made of striking red marble.

This olive oil urn to measured out the oil which was then decanted into a Roman's vase. Another large stone container measured wine.

This olive oil urn measured out the oil for decanting into a Roman’s personal vase. Another large stone container measured wine.

Wine allocator.

The oil container seems much meeker and milder than this roaring lion urn. Is this what happens to you when you imbibe too much?

Lion Attacking a Horse, one of the earliest recorded works of art on the Capitoline Hill, created around 4th century B.C. This was a thrill for me as I visited this same sculpture at the Getty Villa last year.

Lion Attacking a Horse, one of the earliest recorded works of art on the Capitoline Hill, created around 4th century B.C. This was a thrill for me as I visited this same sculpture at the Getty Villa last year.

One of my favorite photographs. Such strong and beautiful feet adorned with seemingly gentle lions.

To walk in his footsteps. One of my favorite photographs. Such strong feet adorned with beautiful sandals. Does anyone know what the figures at his ankles represent?

The magic and mystery and ancientness seeped inside of me and hooked me for good. Being a history lover doesn’t hurt. I think you could live a lifetime here and still not see all the secrets this city harbors. Just for one day, I would love to travel back in time to walk in a Roman’s footsteps, maybe in the second century A.D. and experience Rome in its heyday, a brief time of peace and stability. To be surrounded by the sound of the chisel, the cithara’s sweet and lyrical music, philosophers debating the latest news, and yes, even the strategy of a gladiator show, would feed my soul for a very long time.

As Marcus Aurelius so appropriately stated, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.”

If you are planning a trip to Rome and would like to experience the immersion in culture and history I did, contact expert guide Andrea Valentini at andrea_valentini@hotmail.com

Ciao and love for now,

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Maria




Love is in the Air

Love is in the air – literally!

Love has many different meanings and interpretations. We all agree that love is warm, happy, giving and, in an ideal world, unconditional. Love is found everywhere, from the kiss of a dog, to a Coeur a la crème.

I found love in the trees in Vienna. It was cold, bundled up cold, and my two compadres and I decided to set off and discover this city of music and culture. Just meandering, we stumbled upon a park with tall trees whose barren branches reached across the dark skies and opened up, welcoming us in.

Music is found everywhere in Vienna

At first I had to refocus my eyes. Hanging from the branches were blue, red and yellow violins! It was as if the trees said, “Surprise!”  This stunning visual presentation of boldness and artistic endeavor touched me at my core. I closed my eyes and could hear the strings being coaxed and caressed by their musicians playing Strauss and Mozart, the legends of classical music.

“Love, love, love. That is the soul of genius.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Despite the fierce chill, warmth came to my heart. This display of art, hanging in the trees, brought my world together: nature + art + historical culture. I could not stop oohing and ahhing. My eyes finally disengaged from this one tree and moved to a tree in the distance. What were the red objects in this tree? As I moved closer, the big, red hearts noticed me, dangling love.

Sharing the love

All these decorations are studded with lights for, I’m sure, an amazing night-time viewing.

Giant acorns waiting for giant chipmunks to find them?

The tree next door was adorned with giant acorns and at its base sat a chipmunk hut.

Home to the chipmunks. Alvin, Theodore?!

The name of this part is Rathauspark, in case you are wondering. I highly recommend a visit if you are in town.

The park filled with art.

So taken with this display of art, I choose to always look deeper for the art in my life. I think of the artist who crafted these pieces and climbed the trees to place them in nature just to make us happy. And happy I was all day long just at this discovery. Extraordinary. This is why I will forever travel!

Discover love in your art!

Ciao for now,

Mary




Artful Traveling

Beautiful and tempting macaroons lure me into this shop for a taste

As the years retreat, like soldiers who have lost or won a battle, I march forward down life’s path with a renewed sense of passion. My passion almost always lies in the discoveries that travel brings. This past year brought forth many new heart-opening journeys that are influencing me in new ways.

I love Europe for its art around every corner, so freely displayed. During my last adventure abroad, I felt the presence of art all around me, so strongly in fact that it stirred an emotion deep inside of me. I was struck with an awareness of how every person on this planet leaves his or her artistic mark in some way. It might be grandiose like the intricate baroque cathedrals; indulgent and visually stunning like the cakes and pastries presented in the windows that look too beautiful to eat; the street musicians who entertain with such a flair or the paintings on the village walls, simplistic and with a message. I was viewing the world through the eyes of the artists who created these personal works. This new awareness flooded my senses and inspired me to document and explore my experiences in all things artistic. My focus for the year is love created by art or is it art created by love? I dedicate 2014 to this theme.

Love this! Sorelle = Sister

A peek into a private garden revealed the owner’s passion for sculpture art

Nicola found this old piece of pottery under a tree along the pathway in Lucca. As the rain erodes the ground cover, these treasures are revealed

Italian bici. Very clever!

These dazzling creations catch your eye with intricacy

Nestled into a doorway in Florence, an accordion player sings for his supper

A friend that kept me company at La Mimosa

A chocolate lover’s paradise. I love the photo of the man. Who is he?

Brilliant reds lining the streets of Pietrasanta

Artisan bread – so white and organically displayed in Lari

Signage rustica and handmade. Your eyes want to read the entire menu

Wine dispensary housed in a small vegetable market in Lucca. The painting says “Try it. You’ll like it!”

A farmer at the local frantoio, or olive mill, waits for his olives to be pressed into oil

Layers of art. I wonder if one person created all this or if it was a collaboration?

Thanks for letting me share my view of art with you. Keep your eyes open. Art is everywhere!

Grazie and with love!!

Maria

 




Artisans and Angels

Pietrasanta, a charming artist colony, is a stone’s throw from Lucca. La Mimosa’s Angela, who is an artist, thought it might be an illuminating place to spend a leisurely day. She was right.

The first of many sculptures I was about to experience. How lovely to be enveloped in children and birds!

Pietrasanta is small and silent but powerful. Her heavy hand of all thing artistic propelled me into a past time of creative exploration.

We stumbled upon this sculptor’s paradise while walking down a lonely street. Curiously, there were no humans present. Only guardians of stone whose stories would remain a secret.

She captured my soul. Her gaze. Her beautiful, confident wings. The clock she embraced. It was as if she was there just for me. I named her Giuliana.

Flying into the skies leg first.

The main piazza is a sculpture garden in itself filled with marble creations. The entire color scheme took my breath away.

The Italians just know how to display vegetables.

Another favorite -chestnuts- are omnipresent. I’ve grown fond of them.
This archway sits in the middle of the street. It is adorned with pomegranates, an ancient and treasured food.
Pomegranates are a favorite of mine so when I noticed the arch lined with them, I just had to share the details.
This ristorante looked alluring. We took a chance and were rewarded. Ristorante Quarantuno. Excellent.
Amber digs into squid ink pasta with local Pietra fish. Absolutely delectable.
Up close version.
Pasta with a light pumpkin sauce. Equally delicious. I do love pasta!

One of the most creative and taste bud tingling desserts I have ever enjoyed. Wine poached pear, cross split and filled with a chestnut purée. Magnificent. Exquisite. I searched high and low for the purée but it alluded me. Perhaps it was homemade.

Domes and olives. My passions are fulfilled.

Colorful Italy. What’s not to love?
More marble art keeping company with the tall brick tower with interior staircases crafted by The Michelangelo.
Pietrasanta oozing with artistic flair.

We were there on Halloween, a day that is just emerging in Italia. I loved this restauranteur’s sense of humor.

So, go explore the hidden and find treasures beyond expectations. This tiny villa was exactly that.

Ciao for now!

Maria