Churches of Italy

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Italy.  But it was so fast and furious, and Ann and I experienced so much, that I’m still processing it.  And when it comes to pictures, I mean I’m literally still processing.  When we got back I couldn’t wait to work up my pictures and post them, to the point that I burned out.  Now with some perspecitive, and outdoors here being in the grip of an ugly winter, I find myself taking refuge in the warmth and beauty of these reminders of our trip.  And nowhere is that warmth and beauty more present than in the churches we encountered.   There is so much history there, but also amazing architecture, craftsmanship, and art – in the paintings, in the stained glass windows, in the woodwork, in the tile floors – majestic beauty everywhere you look.  I realize I’ve posted some of these here before, but not together as a theme, and many of these are here for the first time, or at least here in color for the first time.

Churches of Italy


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The Amalfi Coast and the Law of Attraction

This is why I wanted to go on this tour – the Amalfi Coast.  More than a decade ago a happened on an old book at Glover’s Bookery  in Lexington.   I was told that it was about 100 years old and that books like this had been popular at the time as tourist items among those on their grand tour of Europe.  I fell in love with the black and white pictures sandwiched between browning, crinkled leafs of glassine.  I hoped that I would one day make it there.

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Ann, too, fell in love with pictures from the region, and has a painting of Amalfi hanging in her office.

And then, for a few short – too short -days in early October, we were actually there.  And as amazing as pictures of the area are, they pale in comparison to actually being there.

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First glimpse of the coast from the bus
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A fishing village
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A few shots from Sorrento.


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And a few from Amalfi.

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Amalfi Cathdral. The remains of St. Andrew supposedly lie here.
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Amalfi Cathedral
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Citrus is big here.
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Ann in a store specializing in limoncello.

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We had wanted to go to Capri and see the Blue Grotto.  But the weather was bad the day we were supposed to go to Capri, so we went to the Emerald Grotto instead.  Yeah, I know it’s blue, but I guess that name was already taken.  Basically the water glows because of an opening in the cave that is just below the surface allows in some sunlight.

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This is the boat that Ann and I had to use to row into the grotto. Not really – it was there for show. We walked into the grotto and a guy rowed a boat  loaded with tourists around the small cave. The most impressive part was probably that he gave his narrative in three or four languages during the short trip.

Okay, it doesn’t get more beautiful than this – Positano!

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A move star, I think. Sandra Bullock?

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Ann shooting a panorama with her phone.
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My panorama of Positano

Remember at the beginning – the title referencing the law of attraction and Ann’s painting in her office?  Our tour guide, Stephanie Chance, graciously took a picture of Ann and me in the same spot as the painting in Ann’s office. It’s kind of like “Where’s Waldo” – can you spot us waving in this photo?


So, think positive thoughts!  You might end up someplace nice.

Smokin’ Women. Gelato Eatin’ Men. And More Street Shots from Sicily/Italy

Street photography is very popular these days, although I haven’t done much of it because it is just plain hard, though being in places crowded with interesting people helps.  I haven’t seen my Canon EOS M camera recommended for such photography by anyone due to relatively slow auto-focus.  But that is what I used for most of these.  The rest were taken on an aging (but beloved) Ricoh GRD III.  And, as has always been the custom, I’ve added some grain and contrast and converted to black and white for a gritty look.  I really enjoyed taking these and need to do this type of photography more often.

We’ll start with the smokin’ women.  Cigarette smokin’ women I mean.

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Taormina waitress
Toe tapper. Taormina.

Now for some gelato eatin’ men.


And now, other pictures taken on the streets.

Cool cat in Taormina.
Fiat driver, Taormina.
Checking out the merchandise. Taormina.
Strolling. Alberobello.
Waiting for someone to drop something on the floor. Matera.
Runch. Amalfi.
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Fresh produce was everywhere. Amalfi.
Weddings were everywhere. Amalfi.
Shoppers were everywhere. Amalfi.
Hangin’ with the guys and lookin’ good!

Some Time in Jerusalem. Wait, I Mean “Matera”

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At first, Matera was like other places we visited on our tour of Sicily and Italy.  Castle remains on the hill? Check.  Fashionable guide with matching shirt and glasses?  Check.

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Ann and Peggy with our Matera guide.

Colorful newstand?  Check.

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But after a fair amount of climbing uphill, we came to an overlook of the older part of town.

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This substituted for Jerusalem in the movie “The Passion of the Christ.”  And filming of a remake of “Ben Hur” recently wrapped up here.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when I saw this before me.

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This area has been inhabited continuously for 11,00 years, starting in caves like the ones below.

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Early buildings were built to incorporate the caves inside of them.  There is a “new” church, Matera Cathedral, built in the 13th century in the lower left of the picture below.  The older church, built into the rock, is just above and just left of the middle of the picture.

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Matera Cathedral
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The church in the rock.
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Inside Matera Cathedral
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Stained glass windows in Matera Cathedral
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An oasis of color

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Ann and Peggy
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Larry and Vicki
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Larry and Larry

We go to tour one of the old homes and get a glimpse of the way life used to be.

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People do actually still live in this neighborhood.

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Our guide in front of his bed and breakfast

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Modern art beside a Matera mansion

More Taormina, Please

It was a dark and rainy morning…

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Our group assembled for a tour of the Greek theater ruins.
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Our guide for the ruins, Maria.
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A church door.

Oh, you wanted to see some color. Okay.

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The Greek ruins (with an overlay of Roman bricks)

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The tour guide, Maria, again.
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Ann borrows a Vespa.
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The view from our balcony included the mid-town medieval clock tower.
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There were cats…
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…and dogs.
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Talk about a couple of d**kheads!
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Gracie sold paintings by a “very talented artist.” After Ann bought one she confided that the artist was her husband.
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This text is so much more interesting than your serenade.

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Let the Eye Candy Begin

Taormina is another small town perched on the side of a mountain in Sicily.  But it is a lot more fashionable and touristy that the quieter, more spiritual Erice.  It is home to a film festival and has long been a resort for the rich and famous.  It served as “home base” on our tour for several days so these pictures will be spread out over several posts.

The view from our balcony
The other view from our balcony
A rainy morning on the roof
The shopping district

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The church next to the hotel (not to be confused with the many other churches in town)
Rosalie in the door of a different church


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Taormina panorama (with the town of Naxos in the distance)


Palermo is over 2700 years old and is the capital of Sicily.  Our first stop was the the Capuchin Catacombs, which contains about 2000 mummies and skeletal remains, all dressed in clothing that often has survived the centuries better than bodies.  I saw a couple of skeletons dressed in their military uniforms, complete with Napoleonic hats.  I surely would have loved this if I were still twelve years old.  But the jaw dropping amazement soon vanished when we came to the bodies of children who never agreed to be displayed for centuries.  No pictures, but if you want to see and read more, here is the website.

We also visited the Cathedral of Monreale, a fine example of Norman architecture on which construction began in 1174.  It’s exterior is stunning.

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The interior is quite impressive as well.

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The trip to Palermo also included a marionette show.  These are no toys but are made entirely by hand from wood with hand-made clothing, armor, swords, etc.  Each one weighs about 40 lbs and the puppeteer works up quite a sweat during a show.  I know all of this firsthand.  There is a great deal of craft and art involved in a Sicilian “L’Opera deî Pupi.”


And, of course, Ann makes friends everywhere she goes, including Palermo.


A Couple of Days in Erice

Ann and I just got back from 2 weeks in Italy on a tour organized and led by Stephanie Chance.  It has been our dream to visit Italy for years, including the Amalfi coast.  This was a tour of southern Italy and the island of Sicily, so there was much left for the next time we go (including Venice and Tuscany).  It began with 34 hours of flying and layovers, followed immediately by a bus ride and a huge meal with wine at an old convent converted to a modest hotel on the outskirts of Erice.  The village itself is a walled medieval town perched on a mountaintop 2400 feet above the Mediterranean in Northwest Sicily.


The courtyard
Tony explains
Tony explains

The following day we explored the town of Erice itself, still largely enclosed within its old stone walls, so high up that it sometimes sits atop the clouds.

There are many steps in Erice.
There are many steps in Erice.
Ann was popular in Italy


Pat, Peggy, Gail, and Rosalie.
A craftsman paints his pottery by hand.
Outside one of the churches in Erice
The town has many small alleys and doorways, most with more steps to climb.


Maria Grammatico makes her world-renowned marzipan in this shop
Maria Grammatico makes her world-renowned marzipan in this shop

Maria Grammatico’s mother could not afford to feed her children and sent her daughter to the local convent, where she learned the art of making marzipan from the nuns, who eventually told her she was too old to stay and put her out on the street.  She began to make her own marzipan in town and the nuns grew hostile.  Today Maria is famous and the convent is no longer a convent.  Got to love a happy ending!  You can read more here.  And even more in the book, Bitter Almonds.

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One of many beautiful churches in the town


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Gail and Peggy
Stephanie, Ann, Rosalie, Peggy, Sarah, and Chuck
The Temple of the Goddess of Love (or Fertility) – a restored ancient temple high on the mountain
Ann and I had lunch on a restaurant balcony and this was the view from our table.

Summertime Update

I haven’t taken a lot of pictures lately, but here are some from the past six weeks or so, with at least one from each of my four digital cameras.  Yeah, I know, but I love all four of them for different reasons.

Ann in the Pool. (Taken with the Olympus E-1 and 14-54mm Zuiko lens)
Bird Feeding in Coal Run. (Canon EOS M with 18-55mm lens)
Sunflower in the Front Yard. (Canon EOS M with 18-55mm lens)
Early Morning from the Living Room. (Ricoh GRD III)
Hills and Fog from the Deck. (Fujifilm x-10)
Rainy Morning near Hazard. (Canon EOS M with 18-55mm lens)