- ▼ 2007 (9)
Saturday, 31 March 2007
Friday, 30 March 2007
I had a few cereal bars in my bag and a bottle of tap water. I would not spend my time waiting in a restaurant. There were some benches at the top of the Scala Fenicia and I thought that I would not find another terrace like this one, with a beautiful view on Marina Grande and the sea. The last clouds were struggling on the rocky slopes of the island's mountains. Sometimes I could see the city of Capri near the cliff of Capodimonte, but a cloud would come down with a dark shade and hide the houses and the roofs again.
When I had finished my simple meal, I stepped down the stairs of Scala Fenicia in order to take the picture of the Chapel of San Michele and the auburn sphinx that seemed to be looking at me. I found the right angle towards the rocks that would show similar to the picture in the photobook.
And while I was climbing up again, I dreamed again of this lovely chinese girl in her wedding gown. But I knew that I would not meet her here to-day. Dreams, only dreams, because she was living in my thoughts more genuinely that she had ever lived here.
I was again standing in front of the main door of Villa San Michele. I bought a ticket and was left alone by the warden who would stay in his office. I found myself immediately on well-known ground because there are so many pictures of the small museum on the Web that you cannot but recognize the vessels and statutes that are shown on each and every holliday report of tourists in Campania: the barking dog from Pompei with the words Cave Canem (Beware of the dog) is included in most latin text-books in the world and the green statute of Hercules at the entrance of the garden belongs to the most well-known images of the demigod. But it is indeed a pleasure to see all these items packed in a very small house where the windows glow in each room as if they were the eyes of the sun.
The garden is not very large either, but it uses cleverly the principle of multi-roofed planting. Flowers grow in the shadow of bushes, that receive the protection of fruit trees, themselves overshadowed by high palm trees. Invisible brooks run under the meadows and their murmur unites with the singing exercises of the birds.
The Chapel and its sphinx is at the opposite corner of the garden, far from the house, above the end point of the colonnade. It seems to be some hiding place for the celebrated bachelor while the maids were preparing the meals. The sphinx is at the edge of a gallery outside the chapel and he has a breathtaking view on the sea shore and on Marina Grande. When the clouds are showing some good will, the peninsula of Sorrento appears with majesty like a queen in the dance hall.
In one sense, I was sad because I had not found the right white colonnade that shows up behind our beloved Vivian in her first photobook. But I was priviledged to see one of the most beatiful properties on the island of Capri, one with no large blue swimming pool but one with a soul, with the remembrance of happy days and a useful life. And this thought brought me back to my Angel, Vivian Hsu, whose life is not only oriented towards success and money, but is also devoted to her family and to her friends and fans. She is no medical doctor, of course, but she brings happiness and good will wherever she goes. With her angelic smile, she will be associated in my memory with Villa San Michele by stronger ties than if she had posed in each and every room of this estate.
If you would like to see the most recent pictures of Anacapri and San Michele, please feel free to click here.
Thursday, 29 March 2007
If you spend a day in Anacapri, you cannot escape or you'll have visited Axel Munthe's Villa San Michele. Whereas this estate does not really belong to the history of the island, it became really a part of it given the character of the man who had it built on the edge of the hill. For several years Doctor Munthe was the only medical doctor on the island and when the Queen Victoria of Sweden fell in love for this lonely rock in the midst of the Bay of Naples, he became the physician watching over her royal health. When he became famous for his autobiography - or the autobiography of his Villa - he spent his money in the foundation of a shelter for birds on Mount Barbarossa. His eagle's nest became the cradle of harmony where the light of the brightest sun encounters the moving shadow of the palm trees in the garden and the song of birds and secret wells.
Villa San Michele is surely not one of these private houses of the rich men, although it is like a palace decorated with beautiful old furniture. It is not really a museum of the community, although the roman and egyptian remains exposed and inserted in its walls are truly graphic records of past history. It is no more a lonely italian Chapel although the sphinx watches the sea as if to protect some shrine or some holy place.
It was shortly after twelve o'clock when I left Piazza Diaz. I walked quickly in the direction of Piazza Vittoria and there I found near the bus stop a painted tile showing the way to Villa San Michele. Outside the door of a shop, big lemon fruits were displayed in a basket, together with grapes. The narrow lane was climbing slowly on the lower slopes of Mount Barbarossa and walls of well-shut estates were guiding my feet in the warmth of high noon. I passed the door of some Axel Munthe Foundation and along some property of the Counsulate of Sweden. I crossed several chinese students, probably a tourist group visiting the island. None of them seemed to know that he was following the steps of Xu Ruo Xuan, an Angel called vivian Hsu.
I had arrived at the main entrance of Villa San Michele. I immediately recognized the doorframe and the old greek capitals on both sides of the door.
There was already a group of people sitting in front of the entrance: they were discussing about the price of the visit. I didn't care and I started to make plans for my own inspection of the premises.
I was looking precisely for several locations where pictures had been shot with Vivian Hsu. I was to go round the estate, searching for a wall topped by a colonnade that I had found on an italian web-site. Obviously there was some colonnade just ahead, but the wall was not white-washed as on the web-picture or in the photobook. And no white arcade could be seen at this place. And the path was leading to Scala Fenicia and down to the whirling road, but there was no way to walk around the property. The sphinx was laughing at me, on the window ledge, up in the air, behind the chapel with the wrong arcade... I tried to walk round the building by the other side, but it was not much easier. I landed on a stairway climbing up Mount Barbarossa towards the Bird shelter. And a fierce fence reminded me that I aught to behave like a guest, not like an explorer.
And I found myself at the main entrance again. I had been unsuccessful. And actually when I had a close look at the picture of Vivian Hsu in front of Villa San Michele, I realised that the door was closed behind her. Did she ever get into Villa San Michele? She could give the answer, if it is not too far away in her memory. But as far as I know, there is no clue that she ever entered Villa San Michele. She had been invited into Casa Rossa, and some "Angel" shooting had occured in a lonesome yard where nobody never ventured. But here at Villa San Michele, her fame may have preceded her and she was perhaps not welcome. I asked the warden, an Italian man some forty years old, if he knew where I could find the white wall with the colonnade. He seemed upset - with no reason - and told me that it might be just anywhere on the island in a private estate. I was discouraged and hungry. I decided that I would have lunch before visiting the Villa San Michele... because I had a secret hope that once inside the house, I would recognize the location despite the warden's testimony.
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
I had carefully planed my trip to Capri, as you would plan an important tour or a pilgrimage. Weeks ago, I had scanned the pictures of the photobook and I had made large prints. I had protected them from rain and mist in a transparent folder and now I was in front of the first bench, with the print in my hand... and yes, it was the right bench, the "panchina" with the woman going to the well, as could be guessed on the blurred photograph.
And then it happened, the bench was no more sad and empty. It seemed to be rising to some form of life again. The clouds had disappeared in a flash and the sunshines began to hightlight the colorful sketches on the tiles. It was like the advent of a wedding day. And the bride was here, magnificent and intimidated. Her white gown of lace was drawing shadows of intimacy on her neckline. She was so sweet, "kawaii" as the Japanese would say... This is the brandname of Vivian Hsu, isn't it?
Actually the lonely "panchina" was announcing Piazza Diaz, a small square in front of the church of Santa Sofia. The surrounding streets were empty in the morning, but the Piazza was crowded. The mass was still going on inside the church, but a fair number of children and their parents were waiting outside on the benches. Benches again, on two sides of the square, benches with terracotta bowls full of flowers.
Again I was haunted by a set of lovely pictures of Vivian Hsu on this Piazza. I had discovered the secret of the location by comparing a photograph published by the Asian PH magazine in 1995 with snapshots made by tourists that had visited Anacapri. First I had recognised the wrought iron fence and the window frames painted in green. I had also found the website of the company that had built the "panchine". Then I had focused on the woman on the tile and the bowls of flowers. I knew therefore that Vivian Hsu had visited Piazza Diaz. But now, I was standing myself in the crowd on Piazza Diaz and the "panchina" was in front of me. But it was not Vivian sitting there: it was an Italian man who was smoking cigarettes while he was watching over his kids.
I began to take pictures of the church, of the square and of the benches. I would have expected that the man sitting on the bench would feel uneasy and go away as I kept hanging around him. But he was quietly smoking while the bells of the campanile were ringing the end of the mass. Finally I decided to walk straight at him and with my poor Italian words I asked him to leave the place. "Prego, vorrei fotografare la panchina, per favore". He must have misunderstood, he thought that I wanted him to take a picture of me on the bench. But anyway he rose up to his feet and abandoned the bench to me. I sat down in awe at the very place where Vivian has been sitting, with the feeling that I was committing sacrilege. That's why I won't post his snapshot on this blog. And for a few minutes, I was free to take pictures of the "panchina" without being disturbed again.
In the afternoon, I came back to Piazza Diaz. The crowd had disappeared, the sun was shining brightly on the benches and I took again a fair amount of photographs. Surrounded by the wonderful sceneries of the tiles, I prayed in my heart for a lovely chinese girl who once came all the way from Asia to Anacapri, wearing a wedding gown as if she were marrying the whole world. She has attracted so much love from strangers that she will never meet. I do hope that she will find someone worthy and trustworthy.
- I could be one of the last mutineers of the Bounty, with my eyes enlighted by the wealth of nature and the grace of God the Creator, amidst a large family where hope plays the part of affluence. ***** Un des derniers révoltés du Bounty, les yeux illuminés par la richesse de la nature et la grâce de Dieu, au milieu d'une famille nombreuse où l'espoir joue le rôle de l'opulence.