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I’ve been in Campania and Rome, and Italy is glorious…by Rebecca Price Butler

Rome: throw out your guidebooks by Rebecca Price Butler

Article originally published by Rebecca Price Butler on November 11, 2014 :

Throw your checklists and your guidebooks to the side for an afternoon after you’ve hurried through your itinerary. In Rome, if get a little lost, you’ll find a more brilliantly colored, darker life rushing at you than the one offered in print. Side step vespas and taxis and pilgrims and Romans and get lost for a while. Do as the Romans do.

Bow in and out of the slants of sunlight, use the sounds of water fountains and laughter as your navigation. An off the beaten path is not merely a passage but a rite and a full circle. Rambling in Rome for just one afternoon you become witness to passions thrown about in a cacophony that makes sense to you like a memory slowly re-emerging. It changes you.

A secret side of Rome, outside the guidebooks, forces you to taste the rich moments, and affixes in you a sense of the ancient. This feeling returns home with you if you’ve entered the eternal city with an open heart and mind.

What could I suggest to you but to drink in the sublime? See the city for the thousands of layers rather than one wild ramble. Actually, see it as both. The more embellishments the better.

Beauty is on display, yes, but so is depth and reflection of both the human and the divine. The celebration of the individual is found in the smallest detail. Art is a living thing. The story of mankind is a treasured relic, and a sip of espresso and a kiss. It is another language. It is the pull of the heartbeat we should all try to feel in our pulses before the veil falls over us. Rome is a reminder of death that is very much a reminder of life.



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Photo: Naples, Italy by Rebecca Price Butler

Rome: Eternal City by Rebecca Price Butler

Photo by Rebecca Price Butler
Photo from Rome: Eternal City by Rebecca Price Butler

Spend some time in the eternal city and you will feel death like a whisper on the back of your neck.

Go there young, when you still feel invincible, and watch the tombs and monuments to a crumbled past deathmask-smile at you.

Return after you’ve loved and lost a little, when you’ve begun to collect possessions interchangeably with memories, hold hands past paupers and ruffians and the modern courtesan; the tourist liaisons hovering by menus, beckoning, offering, waving.

Return again after you’ve lost more than you’ve loved but you still have a bit of youth on your side, and you can take in the big picture.

Return next when you’ve hit your peak and now the edges are fraying a little. When fountains and paintings once trumpeting romance and pleasure are grimier and more worn than you remember. When the seducers and the money takers suggest more pallid languor than sex, where every turned corner is a missed opportunity or a new experience, depending on how beaten down or defiant you’ve become since that earlier youth on your first visit. You have a decision to make… Strength for strength or a quick decline.

Return a final time, as cherubs and seraphim throw off shrugs and hands in the air when the whisper of death becomes an aria crowding out the ears. Stare at the details or miss them, memorizing the picture of life doesn’t matter so much in the short term. The marks on your soul have already been decided for you. This is the golden amnesia hour, where every thing thought and felt is only for the rushing moment, water slipping through fingers, spilling out of the mouth, tasted, cooled but most of it landing on your face, your shirt, your shoes, the uneven cobblestones. Keep drinking it in.

Photo of San Michele garden in Anacapri by Rebecca Price Butler

Re-blog: musings on #rome written to a new friend by Rebecca Price Butler

Photo by Rebecca Price Butler at
Photo by Rebecca Price Butler at

Re-published article originally published by Rebecca Price Butler:

I feel, in Rome, as if I am fully entered into the ancient-ness of the place.

I feel the history in my blood.
I feel almost Italian (with a mix of invading barbarian).

But I tread lightly in Italy.

I try to penetrate the history, the stories, but I tread lightly.
I don’t leave any trace.

I only steal moments.
I steal away people’s feelings in a one second snapshot.

I take more lingering pictures with my eyes.

I really don’t want to be the center of attention, I would rather fade into the background, and let people live around me.

I am greedy for their life spilling out.
Still as much a thief as I was as a child, after all.

This is why I love Naples.

I dread it a little, too.
I want to slap it around occasionally.
I want to remind it of its grit (as if it needs my reminder).

I want to shake it awake to its beauty and history and art.
I want it to not lose its charm, ever.

I don’t even care about the trash that much.
I love the darkest alleys.
I love that life is lived on the streets.

I love that the windows are always open.

I love listening to the strains of a language I cannot decipher because it always sounds like music to me that way.

That’s how I linger in churches so long…
I can’t understand the sermons so I can spend time looking at the art and thinking about pagans all day as if in a dream.

In Italy I am living in the dream and I don’t wake up again until I’m back home in the cold north.

I return to Italy like a lover who cannot stand the separation a moment longer. I want to feel the curves of familiar streets. I want to taste the crushed fruit of summer wine and feel that sun so different from mine. I want to see the stars again against the faint glow of the ruins.

Rebecca Price Butler

#Italian travel: A monastery in the clouds by Rebecca Price Butler

A monastery in the clouds

a love letter to rome (& italy)

Posted on November 15, 2013


One fall afternoon in Naples the clouds snuck out from behind the Pantheon-like San Francesco di Paola Church as I stood in the main square in the sunshine.


Approaching the large, Bourbon Piazza del Plebiscito from the Santa Lucia waterfront district is one of the most dramatic views I’ve ever seen in a city. There is an old monastery on an ancient hill and from this vantage point it looks like the Certosa di San Martino is floating on clouds.


A closer look as you come upon the piazza.


Caffe Gambrinus (Oscar Wilde’s old haunt and one of my favorite cafe-bar-tearooms) and the gleaming dome of the Galleria Umberto I, a strikingly beautiful marble-covered shopping atrium.


All photographs shot in Naples, Italy October 2013 and were shot on velvia 35mm film slides by Rebecca Price Butler

Photos of #Naples Italy: Dante, Virgil and Augustus and the clouds of Naples by Rebecca Price Butler

Re-blog article:

Dante, Virgil and Augustus and the clouds of Naples

a love letter to rome (& italy)

Posted on November 13, 2013


Augustus, in Naples, looks out at Vesuvius, the volcano that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum in lava and ash thousands of years ago. Clouds puff out around Vesuvio like plumes of smoke. Virgil, a great Roman poet of the Augustan era, is entombed not far away. His Aeneid, inspired by Homer‘s Odyssey and Iliad. Tuscan poet Dante Alighieri, in 14th century Italy, wrote Virgil into his Divine Comedy as a sage pagan guide through hell and purgatory.


Dante Alighieri commands the clouds, overlooking the passersby in the Piazza Dante off Via Toledo. The day before it had stormed on nearby Capri and the clouds were thick and dramatic against the bright blue sky of central Napoli.


I wept not, so to stone within I grew. – Dante


Dante is host to one of Naple’s most popular “outdoor living rooms” where Neapolitans meet in the evenings for conversation, snacks, flirting and delicious coffee.

“With the color that paints the morning and evening clouds that face the sun I saw then the whole heaven suffused.” – Dante

All photographs shot on velvia film slides by Rebecca Price Butler,

Henry James in Rome by Rebecca Price Butler

Article Henry James in Rome posted on this link:

a love letter to rome (& italy)

Posted on July 28, 2013

The Protestant Cemetery from THE ITALIAN HOURS by HENRY JAMES

“I recently spent an afternoon hour at the little Protestant cemetery close to St. Paul’s Gate, where the ancient and the modern world are insidiously contrasted. They make between them one of the solemn places of Rome – although indeed when funereal things are so interfused it seems ungrateful to call them sad. Here is a mixture of tears and smiles, of stones and flowers, of mourning cypresses and radiant sky, which gives us the impression of our looking back at death from the brighter side of the grave.”


“The cemetery nestles in an angle of the city wall, and the older graves are sheltered by a mass of ancient brickwork, through whose narrow loopholes you peep at the wide purple of the Campagna. Shelley’s grave is here, buried in roses – a happy grave every way for the very type and figure of the Poet. Nothing could be more impenetrably tranquil than this little corner in the bend of the protecting rampart, where a cluster of modern ashes is held tenderly in the rugged hand of the Past. The past is tremendously embodied in the hoary pyramid of Caius Cestius, which rises hard by, half within the wall and half without, cutting solidly into the solid blue of the sky and casting its pagan shadow upon the grass of English graves – that of Keats, among them – with an effect of poetic justice.”



“It is a wonderful confusion of mortality and a grim enough admonition of our helpless promiscuity in the crucible of time. But the most touching element of all is the appeal of the pious English inscriptions among all these Roman memories; touching because of their universal expression of that trouble within trouble, misfortune in a foreign land. Something special stirs the heart through the fine Scriptural language in which everything is recorded. The echoes of massive Latinity with which the atmosphere is charged suggest nothing more majestic and monumental. I may seem unduly to refine, but the injunction to the reader in the monument to Miss Bathurst, drowned in the Tiber in1824, “If thou art young and lovely, build not thereon, for she who lies beneath thy feet in death was the loveliest flower ever cropt in its bloom”, affects us irresistibly as a case for tears on the spot. The whole elaborate inscription indeed says something over and beyond all it does say.”


“The English have the reputation of being the most reticent people in the world, and as there is no smoke without fire I suppose they have done something to deserve it; yet who can say that one doesn’t constantly meet the most startling examples of the insular faculty to “gush”? In this instance the mother of the deceased takes the public into her confidence with surprising frankness and omits no detail, seizing the opportunity to mention by the way that she had already lost her husband by a most mysterious visitation. The appeal to one’s attention and the confidence in it are withal most moving.”

The whole record has an old-fashioned gentility that makes its frankness tragic. You seem to hear the garrulity of passionate grief.”




Save the antico caffé della pace in #rome! by Rebecca Price Butler

Photo of Antico Caffe delle pace in Rome by Rebecca Price Butler
Photo of Antico Caffe delle pace in Rome by Rebecca Price Butler

The Antico Caffè Delle Pace / Bar Delle Pace in Rome, Italy. I took this shot in March 2012.

Article originally posted on "A love letter to Rome" blog on July 5th:

I am posting a photograph of one of my most favorite 19th century cafe-bars in the world because it is in danger of being lost along with many other beautiful old cafes and shops in the historical center of Rome! Romans are protesting these closures.

I have palpable memories of sitting outside people watching with a prosecco or an espresso, soaking up the beautiful patio, cafe tables, the renaissance church and museum to one side, the hanging greenery.

One evening we were caught in the rain and had the sumptuous, historical, cozy, beautiful cafe interior to ourselves as I sipped pinot nero and nero d’avola and he had endless pots of smoky tea. I remember the 19th century cash register and the bust of Augustus and the antique mirrors and the waitresses and waiters who looked like fashion models.

It’s the kind of place that’s built for the “beautiful people” and can be a magnet for the rich and famous (and more interesting the Roman Who’s Who of writers, artists, intellectuals) but I never felt like an outsider there.

It is a low key, lovely cafe. I enjoy the walk to it on sunny afternoons or on cloudless, starry nights anytime I am in Rome. It is one of the highlights of my trips.

And if we lose another historical, old world cafe or shop – Rome will love it’s very heart of the centro storico.
the impossibly cool caffe & bar della pace, rome, italy, 2012.

I’m not sure what I can do to help but I would like to do something. Any Italians or people living in Rome have a site or petition or anything? I would love to spread the word. alovelettertorome

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