Beautiful balconies and windowsills – 6

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Rome, Italy

When your balcony is so overgrown that you can’t even open the shutters to step out into the sunlight

To see the other posts of this series, click here 🙂

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Impressions of Orvieto

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In the first days of the new year, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Rome and we decided to look for an excursion a little further afield that was easily accessible by public transport.  We chose Orvieto, a fortified town on the top of a massive rock.

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Stepping off the train it was grey and misty, but as we rode up the hill in the cable car we pierced the clouds and at the top, from the walls of the fortress, we found ourselves overlooking the most beautiful sea of clouds over the valley.

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There is an amazing cathedral with incredible patterns and dizzy-making columns on the facade.  Once inside, we pretended to be part of an organised group and tagged along to listen to the explanations of their very knowledgeable guide who was pointing out the stories and details of the frescoes that made them come alive. Some of the paintings seem like they came straight out of a science-fiction scene including lasers and 3D effects.

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Orvieto is a small town and I was glad to be visiting it off-season (despite the biting cold) as I can imagine it can get swamped with hordes of tourists in the summer.  I particularly enjoyed exploring the winding streets a little outside the touristy center, looking at the details of the old stone houses overlooking the valley and imagining what must have been like to live there in the past.

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*****

How to get there by public transport: take the train from Rome to Orvieto station (approx. 1 hour), then simply cross the street where you can buy a ticket to get on the cable car that will take you right up the hill (it leaves every 10 minutes).

Hiking up Monte Autore

Today in Amsterdam, the weather is a drab grey with a bitter wind that turns cycling into a real battle if you are unfortunate enough to need to pedal against it. So I’ve decided to reminisce about that day during our stay in Rome when decided to get out of the city and go on a day-trip to Subiaco to climb the Monte Autore.

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It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove up the mountain, thoughwe weren’t at all prepared for snow as we’d only come with regular hiking shoes! Luckily many people had preceded us on the path and the snow was compact enough to walk on most of the way, if we just followed in people’s footsteps.

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Most of the way the path isn’t steep and we could just saunter along. As we got higher the views over the surrounding mountains became increasingly breathtaking. From the top, at 1854m, the landscape was amazing, with the clouds, mountains, trees and snow interweaving as far as the eye could see.

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On the way down, I suddenly found myself entirely alone as the others were further ahead. I took a short break, knee-deep in snow, surrounded by utter silence, just to soak up the utter joy of the moment.  I etched this moment into my mind, with all its sensations, to tap into when I need a boost (on a grey Sunday afternoon for instance). Then I proceeded to stumble/run giddily down the snow-covered slope to catch up with the others.

 

Catching up

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #63

I’m very happy that Paolo is back from his month away in Italy!  For a while he didn’t have a return ticket and I wasn’t sure he’d even come back;)  Though I must say I wouldn’t have blamed him for staying, considering how warm and sunny the weather was over there! It’s a pleasure to catch up with each other whilst eating amazing Italian delicacies and to hear all about his time soaking up the culture in Rome and Sicily with friends and family.

In particular, Paolo’s latest stories about hiking on Mount Etna with his dad, have me aching to pull on my hiking boots and go straight there to feel those sensations again! This is a picture from our trip in August 2013.  It’s so impressive to see where the lava rolled down the side of the hill, destroying everything in its path and leaving only a few tree-skeletons standing.  Up high on the mountain the air felt surprisingly crisp and cool, and I loved the unique crunch of dried lava beneath my feet, as we walked through the majestic and desolate landscape… I have the feeling we will go there again soon:)

Spotting details in the streets of Rome

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Whilst wandering the streets of Rome and other cities in Italy, I love to look at the details of the shopfronts which look so different to the ones in Amsterdam. Some of them have clearly remained unchanged for decades, with their amazing old-school fonts, diluted colours and paint slowly chipping off.

To me it actually gives these shops a certain charm and I wonder whether inside they are still working according to the more humane rhythm of those long-gone eras… Here are a few of my favorites from my last trip.

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More impressions of Capraia

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Here are a few more memories of our lovely time in Capraia… The ‘mulatiera’, a beautiful rock path that the mules use to follow to carry goods up and over the hills to remote parts of the island.

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The splendid colours of the vegetation, lush and green in some parts and a drier orangy-red in other spots.

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I’m captivated by the warm colours of salt-damaged surfaces that are so gorgeous in their imperfection…

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Spending time looking through my holiday pictures takes me back to those moments and I’m reminded of the sun shining on my skin, and the tug of leg muscles slightly tired from hiking uphill, and the joy of spending all day outdoors… Can’t wait for the next holiday!

 

Enjoying dawn and dusk

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Those moments around dawn and dusk, when the light is soft and a magic glow shines on everything, are my favorite times of the day.

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While we were in Capraia Paolo and I made a point to be outside and enjoy them often (even if it meant getting up at 5am to see the sunrise).

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We have our own favorite ways of being in the moment: I like to take pictures and capture the gorgeous light, while for Paolo it is the best time for fishing. Over the years, I’ve taken tons of pictures of Paolo on different coasts, patiently casting his line against stunning backdrops of changing skies.

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Dawn is particularly magical because it is so quiet, and as the fiery sun makes its majestic appearance, it feels like nature is putting on this show just for you.

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Lovely streets of Capraia

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The village of Capraia has many wonderful little streets to explore and I spent several late afternoons strolling around to try to capture their beauty on camera.

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My strategy was to walk around and enter the tiniest side streets and alleyways, following them to see where they would lead me… And I was not disappointed.

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The Bougainvillea was flowering pink and purple everywhere giving a festive atmosphere.

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People tend really well to their gardens and trees, and every corner I turned led me to another gorgeous place.

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I also loved the warm coulours of the houses, different shades of yellow and pink, and how the flowers often matched perfectly with the walls.

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Summer plants

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During the holidays, I spent lovely afternoons walks exploring the tiny alleys of the village of Capraia, looking at the carefully tended plants in people’s gardens or in front of their houses and I’ll share more about that soon.

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But I especially fell for the wild plants growing in the hills or on the edges of the cliffs on our way down to the sea.  Those plants really represent the island for me.

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I love how their branches and spikes lightly scratched my legs as I walked by, reminding me of their presence, as if urging me to look down and observe them.

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What the photos unfortunately can’t show is how the strong smell of the aromatic plants (like wild rosemary, erba gatta and elicriso) rose up in the air under the hot sun, titillating the senses as we walked by.

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Depending on the hour of the day, the light would show up the colours against the backdrop of the sky in different ways, what a lovely sight.

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The prickly pear cactus is one of the plants that is synonymous to me of hot summer days in Italy. When I see one I am immediately mentally transported to wonderful moments spent by the sea, feeling warm rays of sunshine drying the salt water on my skin and the joyful sensation of being on holidays and free:)

A dash of orange

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These stunning bright orange lichens grow all over the rocks throughout Capraia. I tried to photograph them repeatedly but the pictures don’t really do justice to how marvelous they are.

As we were exploring the island, our guide Mariella explained that Capraia counts in total around 400 types of lichen, which I’d say is not bad for an island measuring just 20 square kilometers. I’m grateful to Pacha Mama for having created such diversity even in the tiny details, with insanely fascinating shapes and gorgeous colours.

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