This blue marble

– and yet it spins


Sunset over the Tiber

rome-2The sun set over the Tiber and the Vatican, like it has done for thousands of years. For us this meant good wine with spaghetti cacio e pepe, a traditional simple wonderful Roman dish with cracked black peppercorns and cheese.

Did the “ancient Romans” from the times of the empire have black peppercorns? Probably not. Just like they did not have tomatoes, corn for polenta, nor eggplants – all staples today in Italian cooking. Instead of salt the Romans used a (probably terrible-smelling) fermented fish sauce, similar to today’s Thai fish sauce.

But there was honey, all sorts of nuts, bread, cheese, olive oil, and of course lots of wine. And in the best cases, some intellectual discussion in place of the never-ending war talk.rome-1(Rome, Italy; September 2018)

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The Pantheon

rome-6“Pantheon” means “of all gods”. Was this really a temple of all gods? Or many gods? One would like to think it was once a site of inclusion of faiths, not exclusion. But perhaps the Romans just had so many gods they built one to serve the most important ones?

This is how Rome could have looked like still today if people had continuously found use for the buildings once erected. Even 1900 years later the Pantheon is still fully functional – and admired by throngs of visitors every single day.
rome-5(Rome, Italy; September 2018)

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Career choices

rome-7“Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got”, the (surprisingly effective) saying goes. If your career dreams include becoming a bishop, a cardinal, or even the Pope, this shop will help you fake it ’til you make it. If you can take the long stares from people you meet in the street, that is. And why not stare? This gear is absolutely fabulous.

(Rome, Italy; September 2018)


Rome after the rain

rome-10There was rain throughout our meeting. And right before our walking guide gave up the sky cleared up just a little, enough for a stroll around.rome-9At the age of eighteen I spent one day in Rome. During these two days I saw less of Rome than back then. And what I saw now was mostly the same sights as twenty years ago. rome-4But twenty years is nothing for the Eternal City. Two hundred years may cause a few major collapses, such as the one of the Colosseum. Two thousand years is possibly half of the age of Rome, if one adds the Roman population we know from history books to the Etruscans and other tribes who originally inhabited the seven hills of Rome. rome-3Today many of the ruins are under scaffolds. Either Italy has cash enough or it just seems so as in the city of endless ruins there is endless restoration work to be done. And sometimes new buildings are erected, too, such as the monument for the first king of the unified Italy: the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument from 1935 (also more fondly known as “the typewriter”). Today this humongous monument looks nearly modern. Perhaps two thousand years in the future it will be a heap of pillars and ruins, and a virtual reality as good as new.rome-8(Rome, Italy; September 2018)

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Look down

milan-3How often do you look down when you walk? Probably every day. And how often do you actually see what is right down there in front of your nose? If you are in Italy, it is highly likely you are missing out on something much more beautiful than just asphalt and pavement. Italian floors are exquisite. The one above is in the Duomo but I walked over so many beauties outdoors in Genoa.

Floors are made to last, and it is good they have no feelings: people trample over them without noticing what they walk on. Without noticing how smooth and troublefree the surface is to cross, even in high heels. Without noticing how their steps get a determined snap and echo that emphasizes the importance of their stride. Without noticing the painstakingly intricate stonework that made someone to crouch down for days or weeks while working to complete the surface.

If you think it is too much trouble to look up, look down – and if you pay attention you might be delighted. At least in Italy.milan-2(Milan, Italy; July 2018)

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A day without rain in Milan

milan-4In the midst of showers there was a day without rain in Milan. A late afternoon where the tables were waiting for dinner decking and where the shoppers had already gone home for a quick siesta before aperitifs.

Some cities resonate with us as individuals, while others do not. Some places make us feel like good friends while others make us feel like visitors, guests at best. It is as if the life and energy of a city made of concrete and asphalt must match our inner workings made of nerves and gray matter. It matters not even the city itself is considered beautiful or interesting. Some  Some love Milan and I do not. Even if Brera is quaint with its impossibly wobbly cobblestones, boutiques, and wine bars, it is only a tiny area and the rest of Milan is noisy, busy, dusty, and filled with shops to consume and keep me thinking I need something more in my life (like the latest fashion).

Although perhaps I only need to look down and discover the beautiful mosaique floors of the galleries, instead of the shop windows. And perhaps I should be grateful I get to visit Milan. After all, it is a luxury to widen one’s views so much once can distinguish between places and cultures that resonate and those that do not.

milan-1(Milan, Italy; July 2018)

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Lazy days in Bordighera

bordighera-2Plastered, ochre and sand-colored houses with moss green window shutters. Stone slab pavement. A few potted plants. Sparrows chirping in the alleys. A group of locals having pasta with wine for lunch underneath a parasol. Bordighera must have been the same already centuries ago. bordighera-1A century ago one could reach Bordighera from Paris in “just” 24 hours, and London was not much further away. Claude Monet found much to paint in the stillness of hot, languid Bordighera summer days. George MacDonald came over to warm his Scottish bones and to write of fantastical, sometimes dark places while sitting in the shade from the scorching sun.

Bordighera is also one of the two locations André Aciman thought of when writing Call Me By Your Name. Because there are only a few places where days pass in such a lazy pace that there is time to discuss the origins and meaning of the word “apricot”.bordighera-3(Bordighera, Italy; July 2018)

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By the Riviera Ligure

alassio-7The Azure Coast is azure on the Italian side of the border, too. The towns are very Italian, though: attention to small esthetic detail, quite more chaotic roads, and more attention to  beautifully paved boardwalks dotted by gelaterias. Dinner is not available anywhere before 7.30 pm, and only tourists choose to sit down before 9 pm. But the food is equally incredible, thanks to the abundant local produce. And in Italy, it is possible to dine on the beach. Naturalmente.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Muro dei cani

alassio-6It is not easy to paint the personality of a human from his or her face. It must be even more difficult to paint the personality of a dog, underneath the fur and fluff. And yet this unknown lovely artist did manage to trace the outline of over 300 unique furry persons, all lined up on a concrete wall by a park in Alassio.

The one in the middle looks like it is up to mischief only – and quite unlike any dog I have seen.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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On the wall in Alassio

alassio-5Jean Cocteau sure did love the Riviera. His self-portrait is on the Muretto wall by in Alassio, and he self-handedly painted an entire fishers’ chapel interior in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Cocteau’s portrait ended up on the brick wall in Alassio nearly 10 years after Hemingway’s autograph, though. The story goes that the local café keeper wanted to show off his famous visitors, and asked a few of them to sign a couple of colorful tiles. In the dark of the night they went up on the wall. When nobody complained, he kept adding more. Today the wall stretches across the entire train station square, with over 500 named tiles of visitors to the city; like a guest log  for “those that matter”. Who decides who matters is something I would like to know, as the famous jetsetters’ hangout Caffé Roma is long gone.
alassio-4(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)