Last week we took a family holiday to Italy. We stayed in a villa which was built around 400 years ago and was the home to various Cardinals and Papal Nobility over the centuries. Man, those religious types lived well and in opulence exceeding the wildest dreams of their ‘flock’, who you might think would see through all the pious pretence. Incidentally, in England an 18th century Rector of the Church of England was earning the equivalent of around £600k per year. Each to their own I suppose. The villa was situated just outside the beautiful town of Frascati in the Alban Hills, with grounds that look over Rome which is some 20km away. Fresco ceilings, spiral staircases, works of art adorning the walls. A truly magnificent setting.
Talking of money, you might be misled in the belief that I’m earning an 18th Century Rectors salary, I can tell you that I’m definitely not. My wife looks for bargains. This holiday, staying in the aforementioned Villa, with two bedrooms, breakfast included and the flights for all of us came to a grand total of £850. Thank you British Airways, I can’t help thinking that they’d made a mistake with the advertised price. We ate a couple of times in the restaurant which was outside overlooking the glorious view of Rome. Fantastic food, sublime surroundings and again very reasonably priced. The light of an evening was incredible. Here’s a shot of the porter, who I think may have been there for at least 300 years because he creaked more than the old door hinges, making his way up some stairs. In my mind I’d named him Igor. It’s basically the RAW image, no adjustments, just to show you that early evening light:
We’d hired a car to travel from Fiumicino Airport to the Villa and so we were able to drive into nearby Frascati most mornings and evenings. There’s a railway station providing regular services in and out of Rome. Frascati has to rank as one of my all time favourite places. I am a huge fan of Italy in any case and visited many times before, I like their style and way of life. In the evening the town becomes packed with locals parading around in their finest. The restaurants and streets are extremely busy. We tended to go into the town at around 6:30pm because we’re English and that’s the time to eat, especially with children in tow. Of course things come alive much later than that, as is the way in most mediterranean countries. Frascati has its own Basilica/Cathedral and outside the Piazza was the place to hang out. Here’s a few images, including one where Amélie stood over a vent and unknowingly did an impression of Marilyn Monroe…she’d never heard of Miss Monroe until we told her afterwards.
You can see by the above photos that my photography wasn’t at it’s best. I need longer to settle in to a place, even though in many ways Rome and Frascati are very similar to the Roman City I usually make my photos in, namely Bath. The thing with a family holiday for me is that I can never decide whether I’m documenting our holiday or shooting Street Photography. In the end I try to combine the two and end up doing neither very well. I took a lot of shots and took the decision just to post some here that capture in some way the holiday. If I’m being absolutely honest I was a little disappointed with my efforts, but as I’ve said many times before Photography really is a lone wolf occupation. Here’s some grabbed Street shots in Frascati:
You may have noticed that in the photos I’ve chosen to show that it looks warm, the children’s faces are glowing. Not from sunburn I might add, Sam is constantly smearing suncream all over them, no, because it was boiling hot, 37C-39C every day. Now, take that temperature, board a train from Frascati and head into Rome.
We did the trip twice, it’s about 25 minutes from Frascati to Roma Termini. Once at Rome’s central railway station you’re about 30 minutes walk to the sights. On our first outing we arrived at 11:00am, by which time both the the temperature and crowds were going off the scale. Our mission the Colosseum and Forum, then head back to the Villa for the children to spend the afternoon in the pool. I’ve been before and knew what might be coming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very impressive and the first time I visited some years ago a chill went down my spine as I stood on the road that Roman Senators, Generals, Centurions, Gladiators and of course slaves had used. A real sense of history courses through your veins. The blood in my veins on this occasion had reached boiling point, the children weren’t happy in the heat and the queue to get in was around an hour or so. I told them that that the inside of the Colosseum was just a reverse of the outside, which in part is true. The Forum was of more interest to me, but it’s no longer Free to enter, you have to buy a ticket for the Colosseum and Forum combined. We found a restaurant with air conditioning and proceeded to throw Euros around like confetti for return of which they reluctantly served us ice cream and a couple of coffees. Just to prove we were there on that day here’s an awful shot taken by a photographer who’s had enough and subject matter who feel exactly the same way:
I can’t begin to tell you how hot and crowded it was. We headed back to Roma Termini, where we missed the train by seconds. We waited twenty minutes for the next train that took us to Ciampino (another airport) where we had to change and waited half an hour for the one going back to the tranquillity of Frascati. More importantly to the coolness of the pool:
Our next visit into Rome was much better. We chose the Sunday, arriving in Roma Termini at 9:00am.
Our objective was Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi and the Spanish Steps. Now, I’d expect you’d like to see some photos of these places? You’ve come to the wrong place unfortunately, my attention is usually elsewhere than the obvious. When I was a boy the Roman Empire fascinated me, all those legions carrying flags and banners upon which were the letters S.P.Q.R. I love the fact that when you’re in Rome they still stamp the drain covers in the same way:
Apologies for the inclusion of the foot from an Ancient Briton! Another quickly grabbed Street shot:
We began to walk from Roma Termini to Piazza Navona, fortunately for everyone concerned I was relieved from my charge as Tour Leader, Sam (my wife) took over. The new Caesar promptly halted the 40 minute hike and a chariot, er, an UBER was summoned. Okay, it was still quite busy and hot, but I think a much more successful trip than the one purely headed by yours truly. The Senate roared its approval, ‘All Hail Sam Caesar’! Here’s a few shots, not of the usual sights:
We didn’t miss the return train on this occasion and to the delight of all we were soon back in Frascati ready for lunch and a coffee in our favourite cafe. By the way, if you enter a chain of coffee shops in the UK, order a Latte for your newly crowned glorious leader and a cappuccino for yourself then expect to pay around 8 Euros. In return for which you will receive a barely drinkable coffee from often surly staff and invited to sit down at a filthy table littered with the debris from that days former customers. The chain calling itself ‘Costa Coffee’ springs to mind, ‘Cafe Nero’ is another, I detest those businesses. In Frascati you’ll get a smile, a grazie, a prego, one of the best coffees you’ll ever drink, a clean table and a bill for under 3 Euros.
So it was we continued the holiday. A beautiful time, especially as I look back at it. That’s often the case, you never really appreciate things or people at the time. As an example I sat watching as Louis made friends with a little French boy one evening, his name was also Louis. They communicated in the universal language of children, namely Play. Now I look at one of the quick photos I snapped of them playing Hide and Seek I realise what a truly wonderful holiday we all had.
I always take a few photos at the airports, it’s an opportunity to practice some Street in my eyes. So, before we finish, here’s my offering from this trip:
I’m sure I’ll look through at some stage and find plenty of snaps not included in this post. Absolutely finally, my favourite photo of the holiday taken in Frascati at sunset. Sam and the children silhouetted :
As always my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read this blog.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with Summicron 35mm Lens fitted.
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