Thursday, 28 August 2014

Postcards from Italy

Shine On......


Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.

Caro amico ti scrivo.....


Just a line or two from Italy.  We are staying more or less where we used to live, on the lip of a volcanic caldera, some fifty kilometres north of Rome.  The light is diamond cool, and only the chattering of magpies and baying of hounds disturbs the morning.



Occhiali da sole - reflecting the day


Later we may need sunglasses, though the weather is variable.  We may swim with the swans in Lake Bracciano......





Or drive over to the sea at Santa Severa, where plastic dolphins frolic close by the castle.....






We check out the latest in fringed bikinis....






We've been here a few days, mixing sun with wine, pasta with perch, peaches with figs..... One day we made a trip to some of the Etruscan sites near here (there are plenty of them!) At Tarquinia Hannah posed as the missing head on a sarcophagus (so immature!)






And we visited painted tombs.  This one portrays entertainment (juggling, music) for the deceased (who is seated) while over his head a lion and a panther face each other.  This chamber was discovered in 1961, and these pictures had not seen the light of day for almost 2,500 years - in fact, they have never seen the light of day, as they were painted by lamplight and are now illuminated on demand behind a thick glass door.  The red here is exaggerated to clarify the images - in reality it is a much subtler hue.



Tarquinia, Tomba dei Giocolieri (550 - 500 BC)

Then we went to Cerveteri, where the tombs are open, but generally empty (though in this one I found Sarah posing as an enchanted priestess, framed by the tufo door).....





In this area it is hard to avoid the Etruscans.  At Veio (only twenty kilometres from Rome, once the greatest of Etruscan cities) one of the tombs is now a hang out for the local youth......





Invited for a drink with friends, we are shown a piece of bucchero, pottery from five, six or even seven centuries BC, made when earthenware was fired in a closed kiln (which apparently caused carbon monoxide to blacken the red iron oxides in the clay). Artefacts like these were so common when the Prince of Canino, Lucien Bonaparte, who owned the land around Vulci, started excavating tombs in 1828, that when George Dennis was there some twenty years later, the labourers were under orders to destroy such pieces to maintain the value of finer ware.  Nowadays they are priceless, rather than worthless, and it is extraordinary to handle something thrown and fired by human hands so many centuries ago.....





When it is hot, it really is hot here, and you need to rest in the shade, like these two decorators in Tarquinia.....





But, as I said, the weather has been changeable, and on some days the clouds build up.....




And it goes dark, and the water seems to be beaten pewter as rain drops the size of broad beans pelt down.....



Monte Venere and Lago di Vico



Then it cools, and we visit Bracciano to shop, and to admire the castle as it towers above the houses of the humble clustering round its skirts.  This fifteenth century fortress was once the home of the Orsini family (and featured in Webster's play The White Devil) though now it belongs to the Odescalchi family (and featured in tragedies such as Tom Cruise's marriage to Katie Holmes).





And then it warms again, and we drive on round the lake to the village of Anguillara Sabazia, where the evening sun warms the roof tiles and exaggerates the auburn (and violet) tints of the beauty on the beach....







We meet up with old friends, novelist Simon Mawer and his wife Connie, and dine at Harvey's, a Pizzeria below the old town.  Amanda chooses pizza with apple and gorgonzola; mine is more robust with chunks of sausage and strands of cicoria (bitter wild greens).  Simon has the proofs of his new novel, Tightrope, sequel to The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, to deal with and is enthusiastic about next year's production of his Booker shortlisted The Glass Room (in Czech) in Brno, but he is also anxious about an operation he is about to undergo. So fingers are crossed, and glasses are raised.....





On another evening we meet up with an even older friend....  Truman Peebles, 102 today, joins us for a pre-prandial shot of Jack Daniel's at Ermete's Bar before we eat at La Grotta Azzurra, one of the oldest (and the best) restaurants in Trevignano Romano.  Truman has known Nazzareno, the proprietor (who grew up on the premises when he could fish from his bedroom window), for many years, and we are treated regally. At his age a lot of people are recumbent in their tombs, but Truman is no Etruscan, and he converses with diamond precision (though I wonder if Red Bull is sponsoring him for infinity?)


May I take your picture?
You can if you give me five bucks!



Evenings are wind-down time. The sun draws energy from the earth and quiet descends.





But then, sparkling with prosecco.....




The girls dance with their mother in an impromptu disco, with Cameron and me as sparring smart-phone DJs.....





Vedi caro amico cosa ti scrivo e ti dico,

And the time comes to take our leave (again).  There is too little time; the holiday begins to end.....  We slip into the village to salute our friends, though mancano alcuni (Loreta, Mimmo, Pietro, Vi saluto....)

Here is Alberto, my annual hairdresser.....




And here are Amanda and the girls with Sandro, whose ice creams contributed so much to what they are today (?)




e come sono contento

di essere qui in questo momento,
vedi, vedi, vedi, vedi,
vedi caro amico cosa si deve inventare
per poterci ridere sopra,
per continuare a sperare


And we drive to Fiumicino, my Ford C Max almost parched after 713 kilometres on one tank (thank you Avis, your deal of €89 if I brought the car back empty tempted me to risk it!) and wait for the flight, silhouetted against the window.....





And soon we are on our way home, gazing through the thick glass at a dreamworks fragment of our lives....


Pianosa - fictional base for Catch-22, and until 1998 maximum security prison for mafiosi




Shine on you crazy diamond.


L'anno che sta arrivando tra un anno passerà
io mi sto preparando è questa la novità


2 comments:

  1. This seems full of wist - leavened with your usual (casual) intelligence and knowledge? You should be the Etruscan correspondent and unthreatened by shadows at night nor exposed in the light nor the ravages of histories.
    Love it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely photography and amusing comments, thank you, Liz (J)

    ReplyDelete