The ghosts of Pompeii

In Rome, I discovered this painting by Vouet.  It was painted in 1624 for the wealthy patron, Marcello Sachetti.  It’s title is Allegory.  In it you see a woman named Intellect with fire coming out of her head, the bare-chested and winged Will in the middle and cloaked in red, two-faced Memory.  It grabbed me as a launching point for a play or in the very least, a playwriting exercise.


Pompeii was another sight that made the writer in me come alive.  I found it haunting, provocative and theatrical.

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You have to go to Matera.

We heeded our host’s advice and drove an hour and a half east of Potenza.  Matera was where Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ.  The city was…….IMG_9739




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The Colucci’s Avigliano

It took us about 30 minutes to drive over a mountain to get to Avigliano from Potenza.  Avigliano was where ALL the Colucci’s came from–starting with Christopher’s grandfather Vito who was born here in 1912.  As far as we know, Christopher’s grandfather, great grandfather and grandmother, great great grandfather and grandmother all emigrated to Stamford Connecticut within the span of the 1890’s to the 1930’s.

440e3556-bddd-4d36-98f8-1f9aec4a0e93 Vito (Christopher’s Grandfather) at 22.

55676a3a-936d-4791-a9bd-525d51b4df14Christopher’s Great Grandfather Salvatore and Great Uncle Vito at Salvatore’s 80th birthday in Stamford in 1960.

As far as we know, Christopher is the first Colucci to go back to Avigliano since they emigrated.


We spent the day walking its narrow streets.  The town closed up between 12:30 and 3pm.  We heard families eating their lunches behind lace curtains as we passed.


We discovered the town crest…..


…and we saw surnames we recognized on a memorial that honored those who served in various wars–Colucci’s, Labella’s, Claps.


We ducked into churches and wondered where the Colucci’s were married? baptized? confirmed?


We sipped cappuccino and imagined….

IMG_9510And then, the thing every aspiring genealogist wants to happen, happened.  A workman in one building led us to a man in a suit on the street who led us to a man in another building who happened to be Vincenzo of the records.  For the next hour or so, Vincenzo pulled out books dating back to the early 1800’s to help us uncover missing dates of relatives. All of this happened without us speaking Italian and most of the folks we encountered having little to no English, including Vincenzo.



Deciphering Italian records is challenging even for Italians.  They are written in an archaic script.  We left Vincenzo with our email address and a bottle of wine.  Hopefully, his hunt for the Coluccis will continue.

A final stop at the cemetery outside of town showed us the unique way folks were buried.


It was a remarkable day–full of smells of pasta being cooked and sounds of church bells tolled.  The day was emotional and revealing.  Hopefully, it’s the beginning of our understanding of the Colucci ancestors.


The Vatican: the highs and the lows

Highlights of St. Peter’s Basilica.


1) The tilt of Mary’s head in Michelangelo’s Pieta, spoke volumes to me.  It told me the story of a young woman shell-shocked at this thing she is holding in her arms, this thing, this broken body, so stunned she can’t look it in the face, she can’t comprehend, just in shock.   Despite the crowds taking photos, despite her being behind an acrylic plexiglass, I found her hauntingly human.

2) The vastness of the space, vertically as well as horizontally, is other.


I ran into this all over Rome.  HUGE sculptures.  HUGE spaces inside of dark churches.  It’s important to be dwarfed by space…it helps me imagine in new ways.IMG_9441

The Vatican City contain the largest collection of ancient art in the world.


It is a treasure trove of historical artifacts, books, manuscripts, religious icons,  art and bones.  We saw the resting place of the unconfirmed bones of St. Peter in the crypt along with 91 popes’ remains.

3) Then we climbed up up up to the top of the dome (which Michelangelo designed, starting at a spry 71 years of age.) Our first view was looking down at the altar below.   IMG_9358

The inside of the dome was much closer to us up there.  IMG_9359Then, after more climbing, we were at the very top of the dome looking out over Rome.


After awhile, we came down from the dome to wander around on the roof in the rain.  It was thrilling to be up with the sculptures of Jesus, the Apostles and the Saints that look down on St. Peter’s Square.


We got to see the Vatican from many perspectives.  Going up to the top of St. Peter’s was something I never thought I could do.  There weren’t that many of us who braved the claustrophobic climb.  I will treasure it.


Colors, layers and textures.

The colors and textures of this city seduce me.


I want them all around me all the time.  In the city center, I turn a corner and an exposed building from oh, 100 A.D. props up a floor of modern apartments and rush hour traffic whirs by an ancient forum populated by cats.



The mash-up here has its own palette and it’s a feast for my eyes.

As I write this at 10:00 pm at night, the windows of our spacious apartment in Trastevere are wide open.  Cafes on the street below bustle.  We hear the clink of dishes, honking horns, the conversing voices.   I feel I am part of them–the throngs of saints and sinners in Rome filling the cafes tonight, crossing the river Tiber on their way to work or making their pilgrimages to the Vatican tomorrow morning.

We are at the end of our stay in Rome.  Tomorrow we head south to Potenza.  The past three days we have walked.  We’ve calculated 250 miles the first day, 175 yesterday and only 140 miles today.  We have no pedometers to verify those numbers so we’ve gone by how our legs feel when we climb into bed at night.  I’ll share highlights of where our achey feet took us below:

1) Santa Maria in Trastevere.  One of the oldest churches in Rome dating back to 220 A.D.  In the 13th century, magnificent mosaics were added by Pietro Cavallini.

Santa Maria in Trastevere 2

2) An early morning walk over the Palentine Hill, the centermost hill of the seven hills of Rome and one of the most ancient.


3) Around the Forum ….


4) and into the Colosseum.


5) We wound our way through Rome’s center up to a church where we celebrated Sunday mass and then saw a few Caravaggio paintings in one of their alcoves.  On we went back across the Tiber to the Vatican.

IMG_9433 The Vatican is a world unto itself. I’ll save that for the next post.

When in Rome….

Today was a travel day for Christopher coming from the States and for me, flying down from Berlin.

 Berlin train station

Safely and happily reconnected at the airport, we train and then cab to our apartment in Rome. 

View from our apartment’s windows in Rome.


Church a view blocks down in Trastevere.


The twists and turns of Trasevere.


Dusk at the Vatican.


A shuttered window on the building we are staying at while in Rome.


Good night all.