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In my early twenties, a chance public library encounter led me to Invisible Cities the poetic and imaginative travelogue written by Italian writer Italo Calvino, of the travels of Marco Polo as related to Kublai Khan. This remains my absolute favorite book – so much so, that I brought my worn copy with me to re-read here in Italy. Through this book’s lens, and my camera’s, I share some of my travels – several hard to find on a map.

Offida

(Located in the Marché region of Italy, between the Mare Adriatico and Monte Sibillini, where its history of medieval splendor remains acutely apparent, and where I spent about 2 1/2 weeks)

Drinking water is commonly available from beautiful public fountains

Drinking water is commonly available from beautiful public fountains

The thirsty traveler who drinks from the lion’s mouth off of Via de Cippola is ever enchanted. Here, right angles never bind the path of the winding streets joined in patterns complex as the merletto al tombollo every girl learns from her mother. The gelato in flavors such as pera and baccio is a habit impossible to lose. But it is the round moon arcing the silent Santa Maria della Rocca that the traveler will look back on to remind them of other moons they had thought were as silver.

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The Commune, ancient building housing a theater and government offices.

The Commune, ancient landmark in the Piazza del Popolo housing a theater and government offices.

Statue celebrating the tradition of merletto al tombolo, still passed from mother to daughter.

Statue celebrating the tradition of merletto al tombolo, still passed from mother to daughter.

Merletto (lace) makers. Tombolo refers to the pillow the lace is made over.

Merletto (lace) makers. Tombolo refers to the pillow the lace is made over. The hands move incredibly fast with the wooden spindles of thread.

Merletto made by Daniela di Filippo

Merletto made by Daniela di Filippo

The hillsides are covered with either wine grapes or...

The hillsides are covered with either wine grapes or…

olive trees

olive trees

View from Maria della Rocca

View from Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Roca - over 800 years old.

Santa Maria della Roca – over 800 years old.

(FOF is the festival to which I was invited to perform and present puppetry workshops. I had befriended the festival directors when they were in New Orleans performing.)

RepubFestival logo on ancient tower wall at entrance to Offidalica of FOF

Figura Offida Festival appeared from nowhere fofor the fofirst time, with magic, music, dance and mime, creative clownery, puppetry, unicycle strip tease, fofood, and fofestivities fofeatured in a classic theater, wide piazzas, and secret corners that have waited fofor just this event fofor 800 years. Performers foflew from countless corners of the world to fofascinate townspeople and tourists alike. Created and brought to life by Remo di FoFilippo and Rhoda Lopez, with various community support, including Proloco.

 

Calliope Puppets set up in the exquisite theater

Calliope Puppets set up in the exquisite theater

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View from stage

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Ceiling

Hand carved puppet display by artist Brina Babini, Italy

Hand carved puppet display by artist Brina Babini, from Italy

Trukitrek, Italy, Spain, Brazil

Trukitrek, from Italy, Spain, Brazil

Marina Suleymanova & Lucia Olalla Gil, Russia & Spain

Marina Suleymanova & Lucia Olalla Gil, from Russia & Spain

Remo introducing Zero En Conducta

Remo introducing Zero En Conducta

Parking area transformed into food plaza.

Parking area transformed into food plaza.

Ete Clown, Argentina

Ete Clown, Argentina

Euphonia Brass Quartet, Italy

Euphonia Brass Quartet, Italy

Craft market

Craft market

Rospo Rosso, Italy

Rospo Rosso, Italy

Delicacies, including delicious "funghi" - anise flavored mushroom shaped sweets

Delicacies, including delicious “funghi” – anise flavored mushroom shaped sweets

Louisiana jambalaya dinner enjoyed by the performers. They liked the bread pudding with whiskey sauce even better :)

Louisiana jambalaya dinner enjoyed by the FOFamily performers. They liked the bread pudding with whiskey sauce even better 🙂

Company members of Di Filippo Marionettes (Italy & Australia), Zero en Conducta (Mexico & Spain), Pau Segales (Spain), Cia. Colegone (Spain)

Company members of Girovago & Rondella (Italy), Di Filippo Marionettes (Italy & Australia), Zero en Conducta (Mexico & Spain), Pau Segales (Spain), Cia. Colegone (Spain), Trukitrek (Italy, Spain, Brazil)

Daniela and Filippo

The traveler is drawn to the c1ity of Daniela by a perfume in the wind. Surprised by its tiny size, the traveler is staggered by it’s magnetic impact and vast terrain. Olive all’ascolana, parmigiana di melanzane, pasta and frutta nurture travelers from near and far, around the kitchen table, in the sumptuous dining room, and in the cool cavern deep under ground. The traveler will ever after connect the word profumo to Daniela. And from the magical underground chamber of the connected city of Filippo flutter delicate birds of metal held gently in hands of wood. The lucky traveler may be accompanied by one of these birds to the other side of the world. 23459101112141520

Regional favorite, olive dell'ascolana - addictive stuffed olives.

Regional favorite, olive dell’ascolana – addictive stuffed olives.

Metal bird, made for me by Filippo, as a parting gift.

Metal bird, made for me by Filippo, as a parting gift.

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Now perched on my studio gate, back in New Orleans.

Daniela and Filippo, wonderful parents of Remo (in center)

Daniela and Filippo, wonderful parents of Remo (in center)

Gradara

The impenetrable walls of the castle of Gradara – once crucial against attacks of armor-clad usurpers – deceive the wary traveler. The menacing portcullis, ax-grooved chopping block, and sinister morning star are now but gruesome enticements. For a pittance, the traveler may enter, greeted by an effeminate dragon with red painted toenails, to a storybook land of b1eckoning tenants. But once passing through the single arched gate, the difficulty is to escape unencumbered by wooden swords, plastic trolls, and postcards of the ever glamorous Gradara.

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Shape of the wall ornaments indicated papal territory

Shape of the wall ornaments indicated papal territory

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Portcullis

Portcullis

Chopping block

Chopping block in the dungeon.

Morning Star, etc.

Morning Star, etc.

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Roma

To the traveler casually passing through, Roma of the present seems to live in the shadow of Roma of the past. The population has not grown significantly in 2,000 years and the early, exquisite art and buildings cast shade over the knick-knack vendor, the elegant woman eating a gelato, and the motorcycle ragazzi. Even the subway lines make but one simple X because the multitude of ancient underground walls impede plans for modern transportation. So the traveler wonders – do these descendants avoid the rearview mirror? Or do they bask in pride knowing they have been touched by tangible greatness? Or perhaps they understand that the fearsome power that supported the building of such monuments is no longer worth the sacrifice.

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Coleseum

Coleseum

Coleseum

Coleseum

Coleseum

Coleseum

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Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Photo op gladiators

Photo op gladiators

Marble hunk

Marble hunk

15 - doorway 16 - pope sculpture

In Vatican Museum

In Vatican Museum

Vatican wall

Vatican wall

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Tiber River

Tiber River

The Pantheon - most spectacular building I have ever seen

The Pantheon – most spectacular building I have ever seen

23 - Pantheon2 24 - Pantheon

Pantheon dome - largest unsupported concrete dome in the world - and 2,000 years old. the hole, or oculus, in the center allows give for the great stress on the dome. When it rains, water drains through very small holes in floor below.

Pantheon dome – largest unsupported concrete dome in the world – and 2,000 years old. The hole, or oculus, in the center allows give for the great stress on the dome. – and exquisite view of passing clouds.  When it rains, water drains through very small holes in floor below.

Pantheon

Pantheon

27 - Vatican 28 - Vatican 29 - Vatican

So many incredible marble sculptures.

So many incredible marble sculptures. How did they do that???

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The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel. I am inspired to re-read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstacy.

43 = sistine chapel

From a current street art show.

From a current street art show near my B&B.

street art show

street art show

street art show

street art show

Venezia

Upon seeing the mythical city of Venezia for the first time, the wanderer is rendered speechless. That the tales passed from other travelers, were true – that water is truly the force connecting the delicate piazzas through the hundreds of stepped bridges and asymmetrical gondolas. That marble statues watch from every rooftop, that decorative design is carried to glorious excess, that even life long residents get lost in the serpentine alleys – is this a plan, a trick, to confound the ever vigilant sea? Were even the heavy iron covers over each piazza’s stone well, long ago opened but twice a day by the priest who held the key to the precious fresh rain, an attempt to mastery over the element of water? But the tides rise daily and the canal water is salty as tears.

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Nothing to do with Venice except I saw them in a window there - awesome!

Nothing to do with Venice except I saw them in a window there – awesome!

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Adonis, epitome of male beauty. Guy on the left, obviously.

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Look at the hair. How was that done in stone???

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Wondering why this was The Devil’s Bridge

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Iron covered well

Iron covered well

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Boca de leon, or mouth of the lion. These faces, some as lions, were positioned around the city so that people could write grievances anonymously and insert in the mouth for later collection and attention by courts of law.

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Lots of winged lions – symbol of the city

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Private well in the Doge’s Palace.

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Coda

Coda is an ephemeral city, appearing and disappearing, growing and shrinking. The traveler will surely find themselves there at some time and must always make a decision. They may choose to silently observe the old man leaning from the balcony, the brown dog, slowly leading the woman in a green dress, the black eyed baby fidgeting in the stroller. Or, if they choose to acknowledge that they share a common language with their neighbor in Coda, they may be forced to tell their own tale over and over. Sometimes their tale may wind and thrive with that if their neighbor, but there is also the chance that the tales will be but empty caverns with no connecting point.

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Patience standing in lines is often required – or not. After one hour in line to enter Vatican Museum (totally worth it), my brain was full enough to save St. Peter’s Basilica for a future trip – and avoid this line around the entire huge piazza.

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Remorhoda

The fortun1-ate traveler who comes upon the thriving city of Remorhoda is drawn in to the hustle of the bustling streets going in many directions. Some streets lead to faraway realms, but others spiral ever deeper into the familiar, to lead visiting travelers to the richness of their own land. For this is a city built on trust in the goodness of life and of people. It is built on the sure knowledge that magic simply must be experienced to be accepted. As these building blocks are more solid than marble, memories of the generosity of this city will always remain with the traveler.

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The magical garden of Loredana

The magical garden of Loredana

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Nerona and feathered friends

The laboritorio

Laboritorio

Passing child testing out a shadow puppet screen.

Passing child testing out a shadow puppet screen.

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Rhoda as human sun dial

9- 10- 11- 12- 13- 14- 15- 16 17- 28-www.difilippomarionette.com

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