One thing that’s been great about visiting Italy has been following in the footsteps of my Dad, who came here as a teenager. It’s been fun seeing things I recognize from his stories, and how things have changed since then. One of my favorite stories he tells me from his trip was visiting the Appian Way, probably the most famous of the ancient roads the Romans built. The Romans built their roads to last, and they built them in straight lines. There’s a joke in England for example, that if a road runs straight for more than 100 yards, it was built by the Romans. The Appian Way (or Appia Antica as it’s called in Italian) was the main thoroughfare north and south in Italy at the time, and its stones still remain, cutting a straight path through the Italian woodland to this day.
It’s also included in a piece of music, the Pines and Fountains of Rome by Respighi. Respighi, a native of Rome, wrote eight short pieces each inspired by a location in Rome. Four fountains, and four stands of pine trees. (There’s a third section, Festivals of Rome, which Respighi included, but which isn’t as good or as evocative imho) One of the locations for Pines of Rome is the Appian Way. The music evokes the sound of the ghosts of Roman soldiers as they marched north to Gaul or other parts of the empire.
So during my two weeks in Rome, I set out to visit and photograph each location described in Respighi’s work.
Some places were easy to find, some I couldn’t find any reference to (The Valle Giulia fountain for example – no map or online search or query of locals could determine where it was. My best guess was near Villa Borghese somewhere.)
Anyway, here are a collection of photographs, some of which are the very locations about which Resphigi wrote, and many of which I visited in the footsteps of my Dad. If you’ve got a copy of Pines and Fountains, feel free to play it in accompaniment of these photos.
Fountains of Rome – Part 1 – The Valle Giulia Fountain at Daybreak
I wasn’t able to figure out where Valle Giulia is, as I said. The two fountains below are my best guesses as to the fountain he was referring to.
Fountains of Rome – Part 2 – The Triton Fountain in the Morning
I quite liked the Triton fountain. This guy’s really got some lung power, or stomach power, or whatever he’s using to spray an endless stream of water up over his head.
Here I am, obviously inspired by Triton, but alas, unable to produce an endless flow of water. Someday maybe.
Fountains of Rome – Part 3 – The Trevi Fountain at Midday
Ahh, the Trevi fountain. The most beautiful fountain in Rome, in my opinion. Also I believe the only one of the fountains I managed to visit at the correct time as per the piece. I love the sculptors’ gradual shift from the architecture of the wall into more natural rocks. Also the figures are amazing!
Fountains of Rome – Part 4 – The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset
I couldn’t figure out if there was a way to get inside the Villa Medici, and if so if that was where the fountain was. However my best guess is that he’s referring to the fountain in front of the Villa Medici, at the base of the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are another famous landmark that I learned of from Dad’s stories. I must say they looked much different than I’d imagined. I approached, pretty much by accident, from the most dramatic way, viewing them first from way up the street, and going “What the heck is that? WOW!”
Here’s the fountain – it’s beautiful and I suspect the one Respighi was writing about.
And the view from the top of the steps:
Pines of Rome – Part 1 – Pines of the Villa Borghese
Pines of Rome – Part 2 – Pines Near a Catacomb
(See, in this one you can even see the sign for the catacomb. I’m pretty sure these are the pines he was referring to, at any rate I quite liked walking through them. Visiting the Catacombs was also very interesting, although I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, and would’ve liked to explore them more – they won’t let you go in without a guide)
Here are the pines from a different angle. The entrance to the catacombs is off to the left in this picture:
Pines of Rome – Part 3 – Pines of the Janiculum
This is another one I had trouble pinpointing exactly. These pines were photographed near to where I could figure the Janiculum was on the map.
Pines of Rome – Part 4 – The Appian Way
Ah, those pines and cacti and… wait a minute 🙂 Yeah, this one shot seems out of place.
Dad, it was really great being able to visit this place you’ve talked about so much, and see it through layers of history – imagine the ancient soldiers marching, imagine Respighi visiting and writing the music, and imagine you visiting and reflecting on these things too. So many layers of time.
Finally, here are some other pines and fountains I photographed in other parts of Rome. Quite breathtaking although not accompanied in classical music:
This one was inside of an opened, but decidedly private-looking gate. I love the moss growing all over it.
This fountain is one of four that stand at an intersection in the same area of Rome as the Trevi and Tritons. Though smaller, I love the design, and the stalactites formed by the spray of water over hundreds of years.
This is the Fonte Acqua Paola. Not included in the piece but one very stunning fountain. I arrived here just as it started to think about raining, it was very very beautiful and filled me with peace.
And of course the Fountain of the Naiads.