Beautiful but exhausted – the little lodge on the lake in Bacoli, by Naples, Italy

We visited this little lodge last August, towards the end of our two years near Naples, Italy. It was evening when we arrived. The heat had gone, the light bounced off the lake, and wedding parties posed on the bridge.

The Phraser

La Casina Vanvitelliana in Lago Fusaro, Campania, Italy La Casina Vanvitelliana in Lago Fusaro, Campania, Italy

If I had the money to save a building of all those that I have seen this is the one that I would save.

We saw it for the first time this summer – small, elegant, corroded and propped up; its perfect proportions reflected in the blue green lake as the sun went down.

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The horse that followed me to Benevento

A look back (first published in April 2015): since this visit to Benevento I’ve discovered another horse of Mimmo Paladino’s in Naples. This horse, possibly even more striking than the others, stands on the roof of the MADRE (Museum of contemporary Art DonnaREgina) in the city.

The Phraser

Reflection of the horse that followed me to Benevento Reflection of the horse that followed me to Benevento

I didn’t expect to see the horse.  The guidebooks never mentioned that one would be there, nor that others would be hidden in the same space.

My first sight of the horse was in Naples.  He’s tucked around the back of the Royal Palace where he struggles to climb out of a mound of salt.  You don’t forget horses like that.

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The Royal Palace at Caserta, near Naples, Italy: it’s big

A look back (first published 2 December 2015): a few months ago I visited the palace gardens and fell in love with the straight layers of water and fountains that run their length. Their miles of liquid gloss are a luxury above all others in the hot summers of Campania.

The Phraser

The Royal Palace at Caserta The Royal Palace at Caserta

Big is a little word that can’t quite fit all of this palace in.  Size is everywhere but still the giant proved hard to find by car.

We knew we’d reached Caserta but even though we were within metres of the palace we couldn’t see it.  The area was a strange, any-man’s-land of straight roads and plain buildings.

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Ancient Stabiae and its villas, once so luxurious, and then ….

A look back (first published 8 September 2015): there was a sense of being slightly apart from the ‘real world’ at these two villas, of being caught between the ‘was’ and the ‘is’. They felt tranquil., dormant.

The Phraser

Looking over the top of the Villa Arianna in Stabiae towards Vesuvius Looking over the top of the Villa Arianna in Stabiae towards Vesuvius

We stand in a mid-day drowse, like the citizens of ancient Rome must have stood – the sun is warm; the sea glistens; and there is the distant rise and fall of bells.  Behind us roll green hills and to our front, the double-backed outline of Vesuvius steals the horizon.

So peaceful … yet it never has been, and still is not.  There remains a threat below the surface.

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A ‘sagra’ on an old Roman road north of Naples, Italy

A look back (first published 19 June 2015): many of the villages in the countryside around Naples, and up into the mountains behind, have ‘sagre’ in the summer – food festivals where fresh food is served close to the land it came from.

The Phraser

Bees swarming at the 'Sagra delle antiche taverne' Bees swarming at the ‘Sagra delle antiche taverne’

Sagre‘, and this was our first, are the right-in-the-thick-of-it festival celebrations that usually revolve around food.

Originally the meaning was linked to churches and the Latin word sacrum – holy.  Now they are still about expectation and celebration, but often with a local speciality centre stage rather than the church.

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Lago di Patria: a walk for the dog?

A look back (first published 24 May 2015): a year on there was little sign of change at the lake: the road around its far end was worse; the abandoned hotel still gaped; and the rowers powered on. Only the water buffalo had gone … and our innocence.

The Phraser

The faded happiness of Lago di Patria The faded happiness of Lago di Patria

The pink hotel stood block-upright and silent.  Bleak windows stared from behind the flaking wall – all happiness abandoned.

Nervously we peered upwards through the car’s windscreen, enticed by the almost empty roadside parking.  Behind us, in the back, the dog bounced with impatience.

We were unsure … the dog wasn’t … so what was wrong?

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Cuma: the Greeks, the Romans, the Sibyl and the view

A look back (first published 14 May 2015): I am happy to report that this summer (2016) the Sibyl’s Cave was open and, as far as I know, it still is.

The Phraser

The blue of the view from Cuma The blue of the view from Cuma

There is an overgrown, everyday hill north of Naples known today as Cuma. It’s legendary in every sense.

We went in search of it on an early morning in late February my mind as empty as a brand new bucket.

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