a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Torvaianica beach on a beautiful late March day

Posted on the March 28th, 2015

Torvaianica beach 03282015


As soon as the weather becomes a bit warmer, finding a square inch of free space on the broad beaches of Torvaianica will be a challenge. Within a driving distance of less than an hour from Rome, the small coastal town is a favorite and easy to reach sunbathing destination for many Eternal City residents.

Though probably not on most tourist maps of must places to see, Torvaianica is a lively and fun place for simple pleasures. Taking a walk on the beach and stopping by a beachside restaurant for take-away fish cartoccio is one of my favorite things to do there.

A bit of history, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The name derives from a coastal watch tower, Torre del Vajanico, built in 1580 to defend against Barbary pirates attacks. The tower was damaged during World War II and demolished during the 1960s building speculations. The town was founded in the 1940s, after the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes …; population at the time was mostly composed of fishermen.

Photo by Pamela Sciotti.


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Rome yesterday (Trajan’s Forum)

Posted on the September 29th, 2014
Rome yesterday

Trajan’s Forum, Rome


Sunday afternoon (Sept 28, 2014) near Trajan’s Forum in Rome. Best time of year to visit Rome? Now.

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Fallen leaf on cobblestones

Posted on the September 18th, 2013

Rome, September 2013, photo by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato


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If you’ve never been to Ninfa

Posted on the May 26th, 2013

If you’ve never been to the Garden of Ninfa, now in the month of May is one of the best times of the year to visit. About an hour south of Rome, the English style garden is set in the ruins of a medieval town.

From the Garden of Ninfa official website:

Though in ruins, Ninfa is a rare example of a complete medieval town. Abandoned for five centuries, it was described by the historian Gregorovius in the 1880s as the ‘Pompeii of the Middle Ages’. What we see today are the significant remains of a fortified town, encircled by a double girdle of walls, which reached its peak of prosperity between the 13th and 14th centuries. The urban layout is still clearly distinguishable, giving the garden a setting that appeals to the imagination. The main buildings, not all of them in good condition, are easily identified as the castle, the town hall (converted to a Caetani family house), and the churches of S. Giovanni, S. Biagio, S. Salvatore, and S. Paolo all situated along the outer walls.

Ninfa Garden, 2

The three photos posted here are from my visit to Ninfa last year at this time.

And go here for a quick video peek of Ninfa, provided from the BBC’s Italian Gardens series, hosted by Monty Don.

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Have orchids, will travel: International Orchid Exhibition

Posted on the April 24th, 2013

Orchid on display, International Orchid Exhibition, Monte Porzio Catone, Italy, photo by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato, April 21, 2003

Though these are the days of clouds and rain in Italy, on Sunday the organizers of the International Orchid Exhibition in the village of Monte Porzio Catone, near Rome, were granted lots of sunshine and fair temperatures for their annual celebration of the exotic blooms.

We dropped by for a few hours to admire the brilliantly vivid displays of exhibitors. I posted my photos of the event at Demotix.com — you can see them here.


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Commentary by Emily Dickinson

Posted on the March 26th, 2013


I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

Emily Dickinson

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Two men fishing in rough sea at Ostia Lido, Rome yesterday

Posted on the March 25th, 2013

Turbulent waves and high spray yesterday at Ostia Lido, the city of Rome’s Mediterranean seafront, didn’t deter two fishermen from tending to rod and reel. (Photo by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato)

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Here, there and everywhere

Posted on the November 15th, 2012

I saw a thing of beauty this morning. And it was neither one of Italy’s gazillion art treasures or antiquities, nor something exclusive to this country. It can easily be found in many other places.

A piece of a branch from one of the sycamore trees that line the street near where we live had been snapped off and blown to the ground by last night’s winds. The small segment had come to rest near the curb between two parked cars.

It was the harmony achieved by its contrasting shapes that was most striking – the linear variety of the branch itself, the entangled geometry of the curled and dying leaves, and the delicacy of the seed balls hanging by their stalks. Enhancing all was a single hue of golden brown, saved from monotony by the range of textures composing each part of the branch.

Although torn away from the whole creation of the tree, the fallen piece remained complete in its altered form.

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower…*


 * William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


UPDATE: Today, while browsing my photo archives in search of another photo, I came across a long forgotten series of shots I made of the fallen branch (back in 2007). I’m posting one of these photos at the top of the blog, and moving yesterday’s shot of a sycamore tree in Rome to the bottom.

UPDATE 2: U-turn. Decided to take down the close-up photo of the branch and leave the imagination unfettered by the concrete.



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Walking Rome’s old Appian Way on a rainy day

Posted on the November 11th, 2012

We’re having a gray and rainy day here. Reminds me of a beautiful walk we took last year in similar weather along a section of Rome’s old Appian Way. I posted an audio slide show of the walk back then, narrating what we saw as we passed along. Here’s a re-post. (For best viewing, best to watch in full screen mode.)



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One of Rome’s best kept secrets: Ostia Lido off-season

Posted on the October 21st, 2012

Fall days don’t come much more beautiful than the one we had in Rome yesterday. A gently warm temperature and perfect sunshine created irresistible weather for spending time outdoors.

We headed off for a waterfront lunch and a leisurely meander along the wide boardwalk at one of the Eternal City’s best kept secrets at this time of year, its beachfront Ostia Lido.

It reminded me of a similar beautiful day we spent there in January of last year. Here’s a re-post of a slide show I put together of some photos I shot then.

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Springtime flowering along via Appia Antica (Rome)

Posted on the April 5th, 2012

Two images from a walk we took Sunday along a short stretch of the old Roman road, via Appia Antica.


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Rare snowfall in Rome: Feb 4, 2012

Posted on the February 4th, 2012

Man walking his dog in the snow

We don’t often get snow in our neck of the woods here near Rome, and when we do it’s usually no more than a three-minute wonder. But recent weather forecasts predicting arrival of the beautiful white stuff were raising my hopes.

So yesterday, I loitered near our front windows watching the steady fall of the rain, hoping for the magical transformation into winter wonderland. Finally ’round midnight, my vigil was rewarded. I would say at least five inches fell — and it’s still here!


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Stopping by Rome’s MAXXI on a September afternoon

Posted on the September 4th, 2011

Popped into Rome this afternoon to have our first look at the MAXXI museum which opened only last year. Full name: MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts.

As the name reveals, the MAXXI’s official mission is to celebrate modern art and architecture (see website here). The museum was designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid.

I liked the reflection of the blue sky, white clouds and nearby buildings in the museum’s big window high above, so I snapped a few photos, as you see.

The Guardian has a slide show here, if you want to see more.

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Romulus and Remus and the She Wolf: La sala della Lupa (Palazzo Montecitorio)

Posted on the July 1st, 2011

Life-sized bronze statue of She-Wolf nursing Romulus and Remus in the namesake hall, La sala della Lupa, of the seat of the Italian parliament in Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome. Photo by Tarcisio Arzuffi (June 2011).

Describing the photo in an email to me, Tarcisio wrote:

This year Italy celebrates its 150th year of national unity. Last week I had the opportunity to be in Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, and there I took this picture. It represents the symbol of Rome — the two children Romulus and Remus raised by a She Wolf. This bronze statue sculpted in natural dimensions gives its name to the most known hall of representatives in Montecitorio: La sala della Lupa.  The colors you see next to the Lupa in the photo are the Italian flag.

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Antonio Pappano talks about Rome and Respighi

Posted on the March 14th, 2011

In yesterday’s missed links post, I included a link to a Guardian interview with Antonio Pappano, music director of Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.  Googling around later, I found this 2009 short EMI Classics video of Pappano discussing Rome and the music of the Italian composer Respighi.

The video’s too good to be tucked away into obscurity, I think.




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Fountain of the Naiads, Rome

Posted on the January 17th, 2011

Piazza della Repubblica, Rome (Jan 16, 2011).

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Painting the Tiber with a Blackberry

Posted on the December 6th, 2010

Yesterday when we were in Rome I snapped some shots of the Tiber river, swollen and muddy brown from the heavy rainfall here for the past few weeks. Having forgotten my camera, I used our Blackberry, hoping its two megapixels might serve well enough.

I was struck by how much the photos have the appearance of oil paintings. Perhaps a combination of the late afternoon, overcast weather and a nature palate of browns and unilluminated greens.

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Singing merrily in Rome: Russell Crowe

Posted on the May 16th, 2010

For celebrity watchers, this is fun. Russell Crowe was in Rome yesterday promoting his new film, Robin Hood. And singing. See local news report here.

Crowe also appeared as a guest on popular Italian talk show Che Tempo Che Fa and he and his fellow co-stars sang again.

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In Italy the wisteria is blooming

Posted on the April 18th, 2010

If it’s April, in Italy the glicine (wisteria) is blooming.  Here the flowering vine cascades down the facade of a hotel in Rome.

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A hint of spring on an early March day in Italy

Posted on the March 2nd, 2010

Today. Rome.

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