The Dutch Golden Age in Art; PIETER CLAESZ

The Dutch Golden Age in Holland (the Netherlands and Belgium).

Pieter Claesz, aka Pieter Claesz van Haarlem, (born 1597, Burgsteinfurt, bishopric of Münster (now Steinfurt, Germany)—died January 1, 1661, Haarlem, Netherlands), was one of the most prolific Dutch painters in hyper-realistic 17th century still-life and vanitas paintings during the economic boom and creative genius of the Dutch Golden Age of Art. His work was fastidious and precise but possessed an almost spiritual light in the subtle chiaroscuro of shadow and candle flame or golden rays from an open window caressing silver platters and bowls of fruit, nuts, seafood, cheese, game, and wines of lavish table settings. The first art I really truly fell in love with was Flemish still life when I attended the exhibition in Boston in 1993: The Age of Rubens.

 Pieter Claesz, Still Life with a Nautilus Cup, 17th century,  Dutch Golden Age

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with a Nautilus Cup, 17th century, Dutch Golden Age

 Pieter Claesz (1597-1660) “Still Life. Food, Glasses and a Jug on a Table” (1640)  Dutch Golden Age

Pieter Claesz (1597-1660) “Still Life. Food, Glasses and a Jug on a Table” (1640) Dutch Golden Age

 Still-life by  Pieter Claesz

Still-life by Pieter Claesz

 Still Life with Salt Shaker  Pieter Claesz , 1640

Still Life with Salt Shaker Pieter Claesz, 1640

 Still life by  Pieter Claesz , 1629

Still life by Pieter Claesz, 1629

 Still life by  Pieter Claesz , 1629

Still life by Pieter Claesz, 1629

  PIETER CLAESZ  1598-1661

PIETER CLAESZ 1598-1661

Learn more about the Dutch Golden Age in Art before you tour your next museum… their treasures are scattered all over the earth, especially in Europe and in the United States.

The Dutch are famous for still-life paintings. These began with sober arrangements of objects chosen to remind viewers of the brevity of life, as can be seen in the early works of the pioneer Pieter Claesz. Later artists went on to paint sumptuous compositions of expensive objects that reflect the confidence and pride of the Golden Age.

Painters in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century pushed the possibilities of art far beyond previous limits. They observed the visible world closely and mastered techniques for representing it. They found new meanings in old stories—mythical, historical, and biblical—and staged and restaged scenes from the everyday human comedy. In fall 2015 and spring 2016, John Walsh and other scholars present a series of lectures that offer views on Dutch art of the Golden Age.

   READ THE FREE ART PAPER:    Stilled lives: self-portraiture and self-reflection in seventeenth-century Netherlandish still-life painting by Celeste Brusati

READ THE FREE ART PAPER: Stilled lives: self-portraiture and self-reflection in seventeenth-century Netherlandish still-life painting by Celeste Brusati

THE CAFÉ EXPERIENCE IN NAPLES

Espresso served hot, rich, never bitter and with a creamy head, like a caffeinated, non-alcoholic Guinness. In Napoli they have their own sweet and savory versions of coffee drinks, their quality roasts are never acidic or dull, they would never dream of serving up a cappuccino (sometimes) Roma-style – lukewarm with 20 minute old foam – but are hot, foamy, and always fresh. And they have this divine beverage: nocciola, espresso with ground roasted hazelnuts and a little sugar made into a hazelnut cream.

I have to restrain myself in Naples cafés otherwise I would stalk the café barkeeps and photograph and video their coffee making and ask them a hundred questions on their process in really bad Italian. A wonderful thing about Naples cafés are their wonderfully low key, around the corner neighborhood places to imbibe espresso and the most luxurious, art nouveau paradise, extra fancy grand caffes to choose from. Sit down after a long day of walking or sightseeing, or stand up at the bar as locals do, and pay half price!

As far as worrying about visiting this old Grande Dame of a city; as long as you keep your valuables in your hotel or rental safe and don't wear flashy watches or jewelry (pickpockets) you'll be fine. Granted the city has it’s grotty moments like any ancient city or city with an employment and crime issue but if you have your wits about you, stick in touristy areas at night, stay out of ghettos, see the old Greek neighborhood Spaccanapoli, hang at Piazza Plebiscito day or night, hit Caffe Gambrinus, get chocolates at Gay Odin on (noisy, dusty, busy but family filled Via Toledo) and see art and sculptures at Archeologico and Capidimonte, admire the architecture, and then you'll have a great time. The best part is taking day trips island to island on Capri, Ischia, Proccida, or around the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii is a hop, skip, and a jump away. There are so many funny, hilarious, crazy, cool moments in Naples, just go already. And drink the coffee and eat the delicious fresh local food!

The Cloister Garden of the Santa Chiara Monastery in Napoli!

The beautiful Cloister Garden of the Santa Chiara Monastery is in the heart of the Spaccanapoli neighborhood of Naples. After a coffee at one of the many nearby local cafes and a short stroll through the historical section of the city center you can wander through a small, airy, outdoor oasis away from the crowds and the traffic. The Cloister, decorated by the landscape architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro in 1739 (commissioned by the abbess Ippolita Carmignani) ... the inner courtyard are lined with exquisite hand-painted Majorca tiles that gleam beautifully against the quiet and contemplative environs of a church and garden and wall pathways. As you walk through the cloisters you feel miles away from the nearby crush of the city. The green and scented lemon trees and shrubberies and flowers and muralled walls and stainglassed windows are lovely. See the cloister garden of the Santa Chiara Monastery for yourself when in Naples, at Via Santa Chiara 49C, they're open every day from 9am to 1pm and from 2.30pm to 5.30pm (www.santachiara.info). 

THE VILLA FARNESINA IN TRASTEVERE, ROME

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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. The seafood, pasta, pizza, and deliciously baked rustic breads has a more quiet vibe than the historic center of the Eternal City. 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.

 

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OPENING HOURS

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

The website is villafarnesina.it

All photographs are romepix.com, shot on analog film in spring 2008.

The Villa Farnesina in Rome, built in the early six¬teenth century for the rich sienese banker Agostino Chigi and now owned by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, is one of the noblest and most harmonious creations of the Italian Renaissance. It is a masterpiece in which architectural design and pictorial decoration fuse in¬to a single marvellous synthesis. The sober volumet¬ric and spatial layout of the Villa, devised by the architect Baldassarre Peruzzi, is indeed the per¬fect setting for its rich interior decoration, boasting frescos by great masters such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi known as Sodoma, and Peruzzi himself.
http://www.villafarnesina.it/
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Where to see ARTEMISIA Gentileschi's paintings in ROME, NAPLES, FLORENCE, and SORRENTO (and in London and NYC)

One of my favorite artists is the Late Italian Renaissance, Early Baroque Caravaggista painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Over the years her work has been difficult to view – some times because her work was mislabeled or away for restoration or on loan to another museum. Some of her work is in private collections and is spread throughout Italy, France, England, and the US. She has a handful of important works in Florence, Naples, Sorrento, and Rome. There have been major exhibitions of her work in New York, LA, Paris, and Milan in the last few years and several documentaries on her canon. Her father was also an exceptinal maestro, Orazio Gentileschi, and often one can see a brushtroke by his daughter's hand as she worked in his studio under his tutelage for some time in her youth. They both have a connected but beautifully unique style from each other in the emotion on the canvas. Orazio's work is all over the world, including some major pieces in NYC, London, Italy, and in Boston (Cambridge). He was a friend and colleague of the great Carravaggio and like his daughter, is one of the Caravaggisiti, followers of Caravaggio. One can see it in their interpretations of his chiaroscuro. I’ve been obsessed with seeing all this maestra's intact works in person before I die, along side the two maestros, and hope to achieve it.

The American Vatican journalist in Roma, Mozarella Mamma, was inspired by my fixation on Artemisia a few years ago to pen a series of great articles on Artemisia entitled: “An Italian Heroine.”

 The NAPOLI COPY of JUDITH SLAYING HOLOFORNES by Artemisia Gentileschi. 

The NAPOLI COPY of JUDITH SLAYING HOLOFORNES by Artemisia Gentileschi. 

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official title: Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), Judith Beheading Holofernes , oil on canvas, 158,8 x 125,5 cm, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

En Italiano: Giuditta e Oloferne di Artemisia Gentileschi è un quadro (olio su tela, cm 159 x 126) che si trova a Napoli nel Museo di Capodimonte (inv. Q 378), nella Galleria Napoletana.

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 The Samson and Delilah painting by Artemsia Gentileschi in Naples is sometimes hung in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte or in the BANCO di Napoli art gallery upstairs (on Via Toledo). Museo di Capodimonte is an art museum in the lovely Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy.   Address: Via Miano, 2, 80131 Napoli NA, Italy

The Samson and Delilah painting by Artemsia Gentileschi in Naples is sometimes hung in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte or in the BANCO di Napoli art gallery upstairs (on Via Toledo). Museo di Capodimonte is an art museum in the lovely Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy. 

Address: Via Miano, 2, 80131 Napoli NA, Italy

 My film shot of Artemisia Gentileschi's sole painting in Sorrento, Italy at the Museo Correale di Terranova... the Maddalena Penitente, Opera di Gentileschi.   Via Correale 50, 80067, Sorrento, Italy.    http://www.museocorreale.it      

My film shot of Artemisia Gentileschi's sole painting in Sorrento, Italy at the Museo Correale di Terranova... the Maddalena Penitente, Opera di Gentileschi. 

Via Correale 50, 80067, Sorrento, Italy.

http://www.museocorreale.it

 

Judith Slaying Holofornes by Artemisia Gentileschi in the Capidimonte Museum in Naples, Italy. There are a few more of her paintings in the next room. (old iphone image)

 Artemisia Gentileschi's only painting in ROMA is in the:   SPADA GALLERY in ROME Galleria Spada  Piazza Capodiferro, 13  Wednesday – Monday 8.30am – 7.30pm  Entry fee: €5    galleriaspada.beniculturali.it

Artemisia Gentileschi's only painting in ROMA is in the: 

SPADA GALLERY in ROME Galleria Spada

Piazza Capodiferro, 13

Wednesday – Monday 8.30am – 7.30pm

Entry fee: €5

galleriaspada.beniculturali.it

 The two paintings of Artemisia in Roma.  FLORENCE: Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti both possess major paintings of Artemisia.

The two paintings of Artemisia in Roma.

FLORENCE: Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti both possess major paintings of Artemisia.

 Judith Beheading Holofernes Artemisia Gentileschi (Roma 1593 - Napoli 1652/53) 1620 c. The Uffizi - (permanent collection) Room 90, Oil on canvas

Judith Beheading Holofernes
Artemisia Gentileschi (Roma 1593 - Napoli 1652/53)
1620 c. The Uffizi - (permanent collection)
Room 90, Oil on canvas

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 The Palazzo Pitti, the Pitti Palace, is a vast, mainly Renaissance, palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. (Wikipedia) Address: Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy - Construction started: 1446  - FOUR paintings of Artemsia are hanging in the Pitti in Firenze.     LONDON: Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace Rd, London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom. The Queen's Collection of a self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, in permanent collection, sometimes on show.   

The Palazzo Pitti, the Pitti Palace, is a vast, mainly Renaissance, palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. (Wikipedia)
Address: Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy - Construction started: 1446  - FOUR paintings of Artemsia are hanging in the Pitti in Firenze.

 

LONDON: Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace Rd, London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom. The Queen's Collection of a self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, in permanent collection, sometimes on show.

 

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 New York City:

New York City:

 Esther before Ahasuerus   https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436453    Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, born Rome 1593 – died Naples 1654 or later) Medium: Oil on canvas

Esther before Ahasuerus https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436453

Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, born Rome 1593 – died Naples 1654 or later)
Medium: Oil on canvas

READ MORE ON ARTEMESIA: Becoming Artemisia: Afterthoughts on the Gentileschi Exhibition* BY KEITH CHRISTIANSEN (Jayne Wrightsman Curator of Italian Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Read the PDF article: http://www.metmuseum.org/pubs/journals/1/pdf/40034603.pdf.bannered.pdf

WATCH: Who was Artemisia Gentileschi? | National Gallery LONDON: https://youtu.be/5eM3KLNOV-Q

The Villa San Michele museum and garden with incredible sea views on Anacapri

At the edge of the garden at the Villa San Michele on Anacapri beautiful architectural details and Greco Roman fragments reflect sunlight on the marble, stone, ancient looking trees, and dark, waxy leaves and soft wildflowers.

“My house must be open to the sun, to the wind, and the voice of the sea, just like a Greek temple, and light, light, light everywhere!” – Axel Munthe

I find the ramble through the gardens of Anacapri (especially at the Villa San Michele) to be a bit fairytale-like, a bit dreamy. The dark, lush, green paths over stone and fragments of ancient Roman columns and statues; the intoxicating scent of flowers and herbs; the layered calls of forty different species of birds – all hold one’s attention. When the garden is not crowded one can find themselves utterly alone, with the run of the place. There’s a sense of timelessness walking the stone paths and climbing stairs boasting unreal views of rugged coastline with layers of rocky, verdant cliffs.

The Villa San Michele is placed in a nonchalant rustic garden with the aesthetics of a museum,there lies an olive jar, with shadows dancing across its faded red clay and tiny cracks of time and age, the sunlight dappled amid a verdant spread of green. The stairs at the end of the winding pathway both beckon and frighten a little when walking alone on the labyrinthine pathways.

A gorgeous cloak of wisteria entwine ivory columns and elegant topiaries. Mighty cypresses soar high as needly skyscrapers. The hint of other villas and other stories are tucked neatly into the old mountain.

Bright yellow flowers grow in impossible places, their faces outstretched toward the sun.

The heady flowering of spring, clean white blossoms breaking up the velvet thick gloss of leaves and tangled old branches, is in every turn.

“The sacred mountain above San Michele is full of birds on their way home to mate and rear their young. What a joy to me that they can rest there in peace! Yesterday I picked up a poor little skylark, so exhausted from his long journey across the sea that he didn’t even at- tempt to fly away, he sat quite still in the palm of my hand as if he understood it was the hand of a friend, perhaps a compatriot I asked him if he wouldn’t sing me a song before he went off again, there was no bird-song I liked better than his; but he said he had no time to spare, he had to hurry home to Sweden to sing the summer in. For more than a week the flute-like notes of a golden oriole have been sounding in my garden. The other day I caught sight of his bride hiding in a laurel bush. To-day I have seen their nest, a marvel of bird-architecture. There is also much fluttering of wings and a soft murmur of bird-voices in the thicket of rosemary by the chapel.” The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe.

On the old stairs a soft moss blooms from stones, suggesting an endless cycle of spring and life growing in the garden.

Far below a tiny shock of blue sits in between the fields and the bay of Naples; while all those lives play out from an Emperor’s ancienne vantage point.

“The whole bay of Naples lies shining like a mirror below my feet, the columns on the pergola, the loggias and the chapel are all ablaze with light…”
The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe.

The best view is from a quiet spot; a corner to stop in your tracks and allow the view to overtake your senses. A sip of the island’s limoncello, tasting the scent of lemon flowers and the sea, listening to the pretty birdsong, closing your eyes to feel more intimately a lingering stir of the south wind on your neck, running your fingertips along the cold stone remnants of wall – all senses are occupied with Capri from way up here.

On certain days when the weather is perfect it feels as if one could see the whole world from here.

Some of the paths are winding, some are hidden until you come upon then suddenly, and some form entirely straight lines with edges and niches laid out for yards.

“The pergola was already covered with young vines; roses, honeysuckle and Epomea were clustering round the long row of white columns. Among the cypresses in the little cloister court stood the Dancing Faun on his column of cipollino, in the centre of the big loggia sat the bronze Hermes from Herculaneum.”
The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe

IMAGES OF CAPRI IN STOLEN MOMENTS LOST TO THE SOUTH WIND:

A Greco Roman bust sits outside a small white chapel within the classic Italiani Giardini. Bleached tile stairs lead up to a former bird conservatory. A winged Egyptian bust overlooks the Marina Grande with Ischia faintly shimmering in the background through the low clouds. A sphinx watches over the emerald Tyrrhenian Sea; an ancient siren calling wanderlust to travelers. Standing in the garden of the enchantng Villa San Michele on Anacapri one has the the bird’s eye view of the Tyrrhenian Sea and of neighboring islands near the beautiful sweeping coastline of Capri.

There is a tiny chapel in the garden. Cypress trees and gorgeous pillars line the terrace overlooking the ocean. There are a series of stairs leading to sumptuous turns of the garden and pathways further up the hill. Although the villa is high up on Anacapri, there are soaring rocky cliffs surrounding the grounds. One rock was the the fort overtaken by the pirate Redbeard, which was later owned by Axel Munthe and donated back to the island (but owned by) his Swedish foundation. The veranda, home to a sphinx, invites visitors to wander the beauty of the land on shining hand painted white tile and stone, dotted occasionally by benches to rest on and try to flimpse the views from every angle.

Charming path way walks are lined with greenery, flowers and fountains. Every turn on the grounds is more and more magical. I cannot recommend enough an hour’s visit to the Villa for it’s peacefulness and beauty. On hot days it’s a cool and shady refuge. There are olive jars, more cypresses and Roman Umbrella pines and a fascinating side view of the Egyptian winged pegasus-like female sphinx. The exterior of Axel Munthe’s chapel is wlecoming for a quick peek within its walls among the potted urns along the walk and a lush herbal garden.

Hedges and shrubbery grown over decades now form natural fences. The clouds and mist find each other as a tiny boat leaves the shore for a morning of fishing. Because of Axel Munthe’s tireless advocation for the exotic array of birds who migrate to the island each year, Capri is now one seasonal giant bird sanctuary when birds from all over the world stop there for sojourn on their way further south. Bird hunting is outlawed.

The beautiful song of many different birds can be heard from morning to night, when the nightingales come out.

It is then when I can feel Keats poem, Ode To A Nightingale, alive in the air.

Follow the ivy climbing over the columns and stone walls as you explore this garden for every corner is a delight.

At the top of the steps are uniformed pots of green plants and spring buds, standing at attention for your wander about.

On one path a sign leads to the café, a welcome distraction after all that beauty. Doesn’t everyone at a museum always love a café? This one is a rooftop one in the garden.

Gnarled vines from long dead plants wind themselves around majestic trees along a columned loggia.

The exotic and native flowers in every hue are marked and greet thousands of visitors each year.

A stone water fountain which looks completely natural bubbles forth in between ivy, basil and shiny leaves. There’s mint and rosemary and too many herbs to count.

A few Egyptian looking palm trees and several umbrella pines recall Capri’s ancient Roman days when the island played host to emperors and sirens.

This is one of my favorite spots…I feel a sense of happiness and pleasure whenever I pass under the leafy canopy and approach the café. This is my dream garden.

Whenever I see a Bird of Paradise I think warmly of my mother and her love for them. This was the most perfect one I’ve ever noticed.

The Loggia has many windows to the sea and other curves of the garden. They are filled with manicured folder pots and Greco Roman statues. Roses climb the walls in every soft color.

Some of the architecture reminds me of a Spanish style church, some is a bit Occidental, some a little Roman and the rest an eclectic mix of early 20th century and Capri-style.

Each path ends with a different corner of the grounds, each turn is so inviting it’s difficult to choose one lane over another for the promise of their beauty.

Where ever you end up in the next step, it’s easy (and enjoyable) to get lost. You always wind up at the heart of the garden and of Capri herself. If you remain quiet and strain your ear just a little bit and listen past the songs of birds, you may still hear the faint call of the sirens on the rocks below you.

“Like children in the trackless forest we grope our way through our lives in blissful ignorance of what is going to happen to us from one day to another, what hardships we may have to face, what more or less thrilling adventures we may encounter before the great adventure, the most thrilling of all, the Adventure of Death. Now and then in our perplexity we venture to put a timid question to our destiny, but we get no answer for the stars are too far away. The sooner we realize that our fate lies in ourselves and not in the stars, so much the better for us. Happiness we can only find in ourselves, it is a waste of time to seek for it from others, few have any to spare.”
- The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe

RECOMMENDATIONS ON CAPRI AND ANACAPRI:

BOOKS: Interesting perusal in relation to Anacapri and Capri: 

The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe (Full text)

SOUTH WIND by Norman Douglas

For CAPRI VISITOR INFORMATION visit: villasanmichele.eu . If you find yourself on Capri, even for a day trip, you must take a convertible taxi or the bus up from the Marina Grande or Marina Piccolo or from Capri Town to Anacapri (because it’s less crowded, lovely and full of hand painted tile, jewelry and sandal artisans) and it is the home of the Villa San Michele! You won’t regret it! The views, the peace, and the little cafe with sandwiches and antipasti, desserts, coffee, and a local wine list and champagne all have lovely spots to stand and sit and enjoy a respite from the fast pace of travel. And you will fall in love with the place as I have. 

Exploring Villa Lysis, an Aesthete’s Retreat in Capri from VOGUE.COM Greek Revival architecture in a villa museum with incredible views of the Marina Piccolo and the other side of the island from the Villa San Michele.

Casa Rossa - Anacapri - Art museum with statues from Classical Antiquity brought over from Tiberius, Caligula, and Augustus, and Neapolitan and local Capri paintings and photographs from the last 200 years.

Delicious gelato nearby in a beautiful retro 1950s setting: 

Capri Crema Cafe
Via Giuseppe Orlandi

123, 80071 Anacapri NA, Italy

The gallery of photographs of the Villa San Michele series were shot on portra 35mm film, velvia film slides, and on vintage kodak.

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

JOHN KEATS, ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE

 

Capri dreams

Capri is an island known for glamour, and while there is plenty of that in the air and along the charming pedestrian lanes of Capri Town and upper Anacapri in the haute couture shops, Grande Dame hotels, and restaurants… the true Capri is found off the beaten path wandering silent side streets and hiking in wildflower, woodsy meadows until you reach stunning 360 degree views of the cliffs below and the sea. This view above is of the famed Faraglioni Rocks; coastal and oceanic rock formation eroded for many many years by waves. Faraglioni is possibly from the Greek pharos or Latin pharus (“lighthouse”) and is correlated to the Spanish farallón. Some locals have told me it means the wild strawberry, for its similar shape to the tiny, bittersweet berry.

 

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There is a sublime pleasure in wandering around the island on your own and discovering ancient overgrown paths hinting of ancient Roman history of the Neapolitan isle. You can hike the “back way, the 19th century way” from the Villa Lysis to Tiberius’ most visited ruins, the Villa Tiberius. It is a little treacherous at times but completely satisfying to climb where many have tried before you. The clean scent of the sea is carried on the wind as is the perfume of lemon trees and bergamot and roses and freesia warming in the sun all day. 

 

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There are so many different breath taking views on Capri that I recommend staying for a few days if you can. A day trip can be a lovely experience if you retreat from the crowds and do something spontaneous and pleasurable at a slow travel pace, but nothing beats waking up hours before the day-trippers descend and exploring the magical side of this Campania treasure. Each turn is unexpected but you never feel truly lost. Unexpected joys are found in a simple moment of beauty – it transfixes and transforms your heart and even how you decipher beauty, see the world, view love, and even how you look at yourself. Have a glass of wine or tea and look at all the beauty of nature around you, and feel the timelessness of Italia, and the bittersweetness of the shortness but intensity of our own lives. Take a bite of something, share a smile with a stranger, warm your face and body under the gentle sun, and breathe it all in slowly. The days last forever here. 

There is a wealth of natural beauty on Capri which mingles perfectly with the scattered ruins of Roman Emperor villas and important Greco Roman fragments in museum villas with enviable views in outdoor cafes and winding gardens. Have a lingering lunch of local food on Anacapri (La Rondinella has great vegetable antipasto, salads, seafood, pizzas, pasta, and wine, and is reasonably priced). Stopping at the Villa San Michele museum is wonderful and something I highly recommend. It is one of the places I am happiest in. The Villa was owned by Swedish writer and doctor Axel Munthe and you can see my tour of his gorgeous gardens and Roman marble portico. See the galleries here and here. Don’t leave the garden without looking out to the sea for one of the most beautiful views of the ocean and neighboring islands in muted greens and blues.  Not too far away is the Casa Rossa, with a 1st Century Hera statue and four ancient nymph statues from Tiberius‘ swimming cave, the Blue Grotto, where Caligula and Augustus were also purported to have swam.

LA RONDINELLA RESTAURANT

VIA GIUSEPPE ORLANDI 295, 80071 ANACAPRI, ISLAND OF CAPRI, ITALY +39 081 837 1223

VILLA SAN MICHELE MUSEUM

Viale Axel Munthe, 34, 80071 Anacapri NA, Italy

LA CASA ROSSA MUSEUM

– Via Giuseppe Orlandi, 78, 80071 Anacapri NA, Italy

 

Images shot on Portra 400 analog film and Velvia film slides.

rebecca-starr butler    alovelettertorome.com / romepix.com