martedì 18 maggio 2021

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Wow, it seems like we've been a long time cooped up in our homes with so many restrictions vis a vis getting out and about. No just jumping in the car and escaping the city. 

But now that museums and such like are once again open, I booked for the two of us to go to the Giardino di Ninfa, not far from Cisterna di Latina. I have driven to Cisterna many a time in the past, but not for a while. So knowing I was bound to get lost thought I would leave it to Google Maps to get us there, but it got us lost too. But we eventually found the right route and arrived around 11am. 

At the moment with Covid one essential is booking on line. You cannot just turn up nowadays. So try to get a slot for the morning. We passed by again after lunch and the car park was packed, and if you want to get photos trying to keep other visitors out of your view finder will be impossible when it gets busy.

You are not allowed to roam willy nilly, an easily followed route meanders around the garden and every twenty metres or so a well informed guide will explain and describe the plants around you.   



The Garden of Ninfa is a landscaped garden in the English style set among the ruins of the medieval town of Ninfa, near Cisterna in Latina, 60 miles south of Rome. 



In 1297 the Caetani family acquired the town which in 1381 was sacked and destroyed following the schism between the Antipope Clement VII of Avignon (whom the Caetani's supported) and Pope Urban VI in Rome. Even so, over the following centuries local inhabitants continued to use the churches of the town, the ruins of six of which are still visible. The garden itself was created in 1921 by Ada Bootle Wilbraham, English wife of Onorato Caetani, with the help of two of her sons, Gelasio and Roffredo Caetani. 

The garden covers eight hectares and is irrigated by the river Ninfa plus several irrigation streams and is planted with trees, shrubs and plants from all over the world. Near the church of San Giovanni there is an American walnut tree, ornamental apple trees, a red beech, and a Japanese pink-leaved maple tree. Behind the church of Santa Maria Maggiore there is a yellow bignonia and several rose bushes. The cypress avenue is planted with erythrina crista-galli, also known as the cockspur coral tree. In the vicinity of the Roman bridge there are jasmines, wisterias and a plantation of Chinese bamboo. Elsewhere in the garden there are banana trees, papyruses, a cedar and an Australian casuarina tenuissima, a eucalyptus, a star magnolia, climbing hydrangeas, and a liriodendron tulipifera, otherwise known as a tulip tree due to its tulip like flowers.

 The flower of the tulip tree.



It is classified as a Regional Natural Monument and has been described by the New York Times as the most beautiful in the world. The Director of the British Royal National Rose Society said of it, "The site is one of sublime romantic beauty, where time seems to stand still".


Bottlebrush flowers(Callistemon)

 For booking, and how to get there, go to the website:

domenica 30 novembre 2014

Buddhist Temple in Rome

There’s no doubting that Rome with the Vatican is the centre of the Catholic world, pretty much therefore the Christian world. But that doesn’t mean that there is no room for other religions. Rome is the site of Europe’s largest mosque, and is also home to the  oldest Jewish population in Europe. In the last fifteen or so years Italy has seen an increase in immigration, just as many other countries in Europe. A significant immigrant community are from China, Taiwan and South-East Asia. So other places of worship are springing up in Rome.  In fact Buddhism has also gained many Italian followers, and in fact is the third religion in Italy after Christianity and Islam. So it is appropriate that Rome can now boast the largest Buddhist Temple in Europe too.The Hua Yi Si Temple is rather incongruously situated in an industrial zone just off the Via Prenestina and surrounded by warehouses and distribution centres supplying the Chinese restaurants and stores in Rome. Most of the signs outside these great sheds are in Chinese. The temple, whose mother Temple is the Chunk Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan, is run by four very devote, discrete and simpatiche Buddhist nuns. Built in a very traditional oriental style as a one storey pagoda, behind the solid metal gates all is tranquillity. Two marble lions stand guard at the entrance from which a smiling Buddha beams benevolently at the visitor.
The founder of the order is The Grand Master Wei Chueh, whose large photograph is hung on one of the walls. Those attending the temple will be taught the four cardinal precepts:- “Treat the aged with respect; the young with gentleness; others with harmony and conduct your affairs with honesty.”
The temple opens its doors to the faithful and the curious on Sundays at 11am.

Contacts:- Associazione Buddhista Hua Yi Si
Via dell’Omo, 142
00155 Roma
Tel. 06.22428876
Link:- Paesasera Tempio Buddhisto a Roma

martedì 25 ottobre 2011


The sun sets behind Mount Vesuvius after a wet autumn day.

venerdì 21 ottobre 2011

Via della Pace, Via di Tor Mellina, Vicolo delle Vacche.

The streets behind Piazza Navona are crowded with restaurants, pizza joints and bars, and hence lots of tourists, and if you are looking to photograph a bit of local atmosphere tourists somehow just don’t fit the bill.

How happy I was then to be able to photograph this group of real genuine Romans who run a restaurant in Via della Pace.

They were waiting to open up the restaurant, and so were just hanging about outside until opening time. We were chatting about the films that have been shot there, it being a location much favoured by film makers, and they have witnessed them all, including, most recently, Woody Allen’s upcoming (for 2012) film “The Bop Decameron” which he was in Rome shooting this August. Watch out for them in the film as I think they will make an appearance. Before him the stomach churning Eat Pray Love with Julie Roberts played out several scenes there, and among Italian films an unforgetable Alberto Sordi in Il Marchese Del Grillo and the 1961 film, “I Fantasmi di Roma.” (Ghosts of Rome) with Eduardo De Filippo, Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, three of the greatest Italian actors of the time (let’s face it, probably still).

Asking strangers if you can take their photo is problematic for a lot of people, and sometimes the moment would be gone if you did, like the picture of the little girl drinking at the fountain while she is photographed, probably by her grandmother, while her mum looks on.

I go by the maxim that if it’s an irrepeatable moment I’ll shoot first, ask questions later, but if I want to get closer to the person and present their personality then it’s simply imperative to ask their permission. That way the whole nature of the photo changes and in a few short seconds you try to create a very quick rapport with the person. If you have the right subject and you are convinced that something special can come out of it then hang in and get as much as you can. Don’t forget though this is not a studio situation. The best shots come after the subject has loosened up and got used to you, but remember that if you take too long over it he or she is going to get fed up. And always approach and shoot with a confident but friendly air, get your camera settings ready beforehand, rather than fiddle about with them later while the person you’re photographing starts to loose interest, or gets fidgetty. Lastly, don’t get nervous. You’ll pass this on to your subject immediately. So be relaxed and enjoy yourself.

lunedì 17 maggio 2010

Santa Rosa 2009 and the Fiori del Cielo

Full moon rising behind the Fiore del Cielo.
The macchina at the first resting point.

I try to get to follow, and of course photograph, the transportation of the “Macchina di Santa Rosa,” on the 3rd September in Viterbo every year. The year 2009 was a special one as a new machine was about to make its debut.
The previous machine, “The Wings of Light” (Ali di luce) had been transported for the last time in 2008, after six years of transportations. For some reason one year more than the usual machine’s life span of five years. And will be retired to a permanent display.
Like most people the Viterbese get attached to the things they are used to, and so the arrival of the new machine is not viewed without some critisism.

Will it be as beautiful as the much loved Ali di Luci? Will all the lights and whirling things work properly? Will it be stable or will the facchini (the hundred men who have to carry the 5 tonne, 30 meter tall tower on their shoulders or backs over a 1,200 metre route) find it top heavy or wobbly?

The facchini march through the town stopping off at seven churches.
This is already enough to finish anyone off, and they haven't even started!

The new machine is called Fiore del Cielo (Flowers of Heaven). It’s much more ethereal, organic looking compared to the The Wings of Light which was a more solid affair, and has softer shapes built over a skeletal structure. According to the reports, and to the consternation of some of the other photographers I talk to, the new machine will be lit almost entirely from the inside. We’re wondering how it’ll turn out, as the transportation is done in darkness, and if the Fiore del Cielo isn’t lit, but just emanates light, will it end up looking like a tall blob of light when it’s photographed?


Making a new machine is no simple operation and a competition is held to award the contract to the design which best captures the spirit of the long tradition, the city of Viterbo and its much venerated Saint Rose.

The winning Fiore del Cielo has been designed by an international architectural firm “Architecture and Vision” led by architects Andreas Vogler of Switzerland and native Viterbese Arturo Vittori.

The base of the macchina reflects architectural features of Viterbo, such as the typical mediaeval fountains (Viterbo has 99 fountains, or so it’s said) and the twin symbols of Viterbo, the lion and the palm. It rises to almost 30 metres in three encircling strands holding nine triumphal angels, and is illuminated by hundreds of candles and thousands of LEDs in gold, red, green and ochre. The whole is decorated by thousands of red roses, and is topped off by a statue of Saint Rose enveloped in a cloud of light. It is not only more organic in shape but more technological too, the phasing of the light show controlled by computer, and high up inside the machine 60,000 paper red rose petals will shower down over the people of Viterbo at some point during the evening.

60,000 rose petals.

The last stretch, uphill to the church of Saint Rose.
Extra facchini join in to pull on ropes.

So how was it?

The only time the facchini had practised with the new machine was carrying just the framework, weighted with bags of sand, over a hundred metres on a flat asphalted parking lot. Not quite the same as carrying it over the undulating narrow cobblestoned streets of Viterbo in total darkness.

Running to take up positions under the machine

So nerves were more fraught than usual waiting for that amazingly special moment when the facchini first take the strain, lift the machine off of its trestles, and take off jitterishly on the first downhill leg over one or two hundred metres.

The strain is begining to tell. The last leg.
Just before I took these shots of the final stretch I got thrown against the wall by the
policeman on the left, who thought I wasn't going to get out of the way.
Did he think I was going to wait around to be trampled and crushed by
100 men carrying a 5 tonne tower?

But, one and a half hours and 1,200 metres later, there is not one Viterbese who isn’t hugely inamorato with the new, and already veteran, Fiori del Cielo.

Final resting place, it's time to celebrate.

Viterbo TV web: video of la macchina
Society of the Facchini