Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Synchronicity in Enchanting Bussana Vecchia

Light to Shadow

Steeple in Afternoon Light

Ancient Halls

Time's Orphan

The Mystery Pervades



From the Castle to the Sea

Time's Fortress

In my last post I told you that Bussana Vecchia is a Medieval town in northern Italy that was toppled by an earthquake in the 1880s and then abandoned. For years, feral cats were the only inhabitants. Now it's an international artist's colony, and I dream of one day going there again, to photograph and paint both the town and its surroundings.

I told you that I'd make my next post about what I think is a powerful coincidence relating to my visit there. But first, let me tell you about the visit.

I never intended at that point in my life, to go to Italy. But my sister begged me to go. From year to year, she expressed disappointment when I told her that we couldn't afford a trip to Europe with her and my brother-in-law.

In the spring of 2003, she wrote the first chapter of a novel, in which I landed on a plane in Milan and began a great Italian adventure, with a too-large helping of Gelato at the international airport! She read part of it to me on the phone.

It was obvious that she really wanted me to go. I had tired of hearing myself say "no." When she told me that all we would have to pay for was the airplane tickets, since they were going anyway, I could no longer say that we couldn't afford a trip to Europe.

Around the middle of our eight-day stay, my brother-in-law offered to take us to an international artist's colony. I envisioned a commercial, crowded setting that catered to throngs of tourists. But that preconceived notion of Bussana Vecchia, was not to be.

The next morning, after an hour's ride from the hotel where we were staying in the seacoast town of Allasio, we approached the ancient citadel. We approached a steep hill from its base, just outside a town whose name I can't remember. It might have been St. Remo. From the moment I saw the sign for "Bussana Vecchia," I know this was no ordinary place. A narrow road hugged the earth that spiraled upward. We circled round and round on tight curves that made us clench our teeth and ignore the view of tiled roofs dotting the hilly landscape, and the view of the Mediterranean to the south of us.

We got out of the car in front of a tiny café with a narrow strip for parking in front of it. Across the street, the land plunged into a sun-drenched valley. It's terraced landscape and tiled roofs glistened in the sun.

We walked the last bit of road in the early afternoon heat. Bussana Vecchia beckoned like a fairy tale. Immediately I felt the excitement of ancient secrets lurking on the walkways, the stone arches and corridors of this medieval village.

As I made my way through the cobblestone streets and alleyways, I stopped to talk to no one. My family walked ahead for the most part, because I couldn't stop looking at BV through the lens of my camera. This was the only way I could take this experience home with me. Or so I thought…

The summer heat was upon us, but my spirits were high. I could feel my heart beating in my chest, as I contemplated what I saw. The feeling of history and mystery were palpable. I had been whisked out of the present day to a quaint, medieval village with a tragic history and a more recent rebirth.

My husband, my sister, and her family were already getting hungry. Although I could have stayed there for weeks and not exhausted my passion for photographing the ancient architecture, they wanted to leave. Only an hour and a half after getting there! I was hungry too, but I didn't care.

I was zooming in on some bougainvillea cascading down the side of a stone wall, the outside wall of what was apparently a dwelling, when someone flung open the huge wood shutters, from inside. A smiling stranger addressed me. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about the charm of Bussana Vecchia. Noticing the woman's accent, I asked her where she was originally from. "Czechoslovakia," was her answer.

We chatted for a few minutes when she invited me in to see her studio. I had not told her I was an artist, nor that I was taking photos that might end up on one of my websites. Being however, an artist, of course I wanted to go in! I wanted to see the inside of the gorgeous stone dwelling and see what kind of art she did.

I yelled to my family, who were already halfway down the street, past the arch that you see in the top photo. "She invited us to come in and see her studio!"

"No, we're hot and we're hungry!" was the answer, almost in unison.

I looked up at the woman in the window and said, "You see, they will not wait for me to come in. But thank you for asking."

Whereupon the woman in the window waved me off and said, "Oh, you Americans, you're all alike. Always in a rush!" (She's pretty much right about that, but she didn't know that my brother-in-law and his family, who were with us, are Italian.)

As we headed down the hill from BV, I was aware of the remarkable pull that this experience had on me. Of all the towns we'd visited in the Ligurian region of northern Italy, Bussana Vecchia symbolized mystery, enchanting beauty, artistic freedom, and adventure.

Our stay in Italy was eight days, and our time in BV came to under two hours. We were back home in the U.S. for about a week when I was uploading some of my new Italy photos to my site at Lynda Lehmann Painting and Photography . For me, the BV pictures were the most exciting, and I allowed myself the fantasy of a prolonged visit there, in the future.

When I logged onto my email there was a message that a new entry was waiting for me in my Guest Book at my site. I was astounded to see that the message was from Wolfgang, who was from Bussana Vecchia. He was telling me that he liked my photos and that we should link our pages! (You can see the original message near the bottom of my Guest Book page at

Of course I emailed Wolf and agreed to link! When I asked him how he had come upon my site in the vast ether of cyberspace, he said he had been searching for photos of BV on the net, using a site meter that told him my site was busy. So he signed my Guest Book and that part is history. Imagine the unlikelihood of someone from BV contacting me when I'd just come home from there, with visions of his town still dancing in my head!

I checked out Wolf's site, of course, and I saw that his wife's name was Januschka. I emailed him again and asked him if his wife Januschka, might be the woman from Czechoslovakia who had invited me in. You already know what his answer was….

I asked him to ask Jana if she remembered the America tourist who was shooting photos at the side of their building. He asked her later that day, and you can guess the answer to that, too! She even remembered what she had said to me!

It's a small world!

(As a courtesy and out of respect for their privacy, I emailed Wolfe and Januschka today to ask if they would mind if I tell that story on my blog, using their real names. Wolf told me they didn't mind at all.)

My next post will include a video of some of Wolf and Jana's art in their studio at BV, and some Bussana Vecchia links.

All images and text c Lynda Lehmann. If you want to, you can see more of my BV pix on my website at Lynda Lehmann Painting and Photography . They're pretty far back at this point, probably around page 24.

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  1. Lynda:
    Very interesting tale and wonderful photos.. this looks like a place to spend some serious time!
    Amazing isn't it how much work you can do in a short time if you are truly inspired.. just a few hours and you have a serious collection of images. You've probably noticed how much working a location like this artistically can enhance your memory of it... I can look at images I made from years ago and remember vividly where I was standing, how I got there, why I was there and what I was thinking at the time. Communicating that story through your art to someone who wasn't actually there is the challenge.. I think you've done that very well here.
    The textures and colors of traditional Italy are unsurpassed.. fantastico!

  2. MARK - I agree that shooting a place etches it into our consciousnesss. That's one of the reasons I love photography: it allows me to savor life and all its visual splendor. In this case, sadly, all I had was my tiny point-and-shoot digital.

    And you're right, I do remember a lot of what I was thinking and feeling, through the experience of a very focused mind. And believe me, it isn't focused unless it's doing art!

    Your comment makes me very happy. Thanks for relating!

  3. Lovely photos. They remind me of our visit to Lake Como and the Cinque Terre. The steps, the bougainvillea, the cats.
    My photos bring back the memories, but yours take the breath away.
    (As did the pumpkin gnocci at the place we stayed on Lake Como.) My husband and I count our memories on the great meals we enjoy.

  4. These are extraordinary. I am so glad your sister made you take the trip for those of us who will never see such beauty with our own eyes. Absolutely beautiful!

  5. Lynda:

    Wow! What a fabulous trip and a fabulous story. Took some great pictures, met some interesting people and some valuable contacts. I don't know about the remark about Americans always being in such a rush. Obviously, she hasn't seen me walking around. It's interesting how they think about us. Evidently, they're just as ignorant about us as we are about them.

    Wolfgang! Congrats.

    Happy trails.

  6. KATHY - We haven't been to Lake Como--were going to go but got tired of rushing around, I guess. But I LOVE the Cinque Terre! Maybe I'll do a post with photos from there, later on. The landscape was fabulous.

    Ummm, pumpkin gnocci! Sounds fantastic.

    I'm glad you have some wonderful memories.

    Thanks for the visit, Kathy.

  7. tangled stitch - I'm glad she "made us" go, too! I've been thinking about that trip, ever since. It was life-changing, in a way.

    Usually all I manage to see is the inside of the grocery store! Although the States DO have a lot of beautiful places, and I've seen a few of them.

    Hope you get to go to Europe or somewhere else beautiful and exotic, one day!

  8. SWUBIRD - I guess all humans are guilty of making assumptions and rash assessments, especially when under stress or disappointment.

    Yes, it was an interesting experience, to have this kind of coincidence. Felt very powerful to me, at the time.

    Thanks for coming by and reading my post! I'll be over... :)

  9. Gorgeous pics, Lynda--my favorites are the first and then the black and white. The color is so gorgeous in Light to Shadow and the b&W--eerie.

    And it's wonderful how the internet has made us all neighbors!

  10. CONDA - Thank you! It's true that the internet can bring us together, and it's a great alternative to the local coffee shop. I sometimes think we can get to know each other better here, than in the more superficial real-time settings! :)

  11. Lynda,
    You are a woman after my own heart! Great narrative with the photos...I could feel the passion in your words. I know that passion because I had the same years ago while in Europe. It is truly life changing if one travels with the right attitude. Just a great story. Of your photos, Passages" is my favorite because I know how difficult it is to get the full range of black to grays to whites in a photograph and you captured it perfectly. You are truly a great artist with light.


  12. That gave me goosebumps Lynda - what an extraordinary tale.
    The photos are stunning - I can see why you were so attracted to this lovely place.

  13. JANICE - I thought it was such a weird coincidence, but things like that happen to all of us, at times. Still, one has to wonder about the nature of coinicidence...

  14. Looks beautiful.

    As to coincidences, I feel that the ultimate question was posed in that Seinfeld episode:

    Are there "big coincidences" or just "coincidences...?"

  15. Lynda my dear, this is such a amazing story, I was getting goose bumps all the way. This place is real fairy tale, amazing photos. Lynda you made me laugh, I do that all the time, I am like camel, and always hold my husband back, thank God he has patience, lol. Excellent post, really enjoy reading it! Anna :)

  16. Superb photographs and a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing them.

  17. It is a small world! I can only imagine how it must have felt to hear from them... The pictures are a feast for the eyes!
    I had the opportunity to visit Rome some years back and it's memories are still etched on my mind.
    Take care and have a nice weekend Lynda.

  18. Really interesting story. I enjoyed a lot reading it! By the way very nice pictures you got.


  19. Hello Lynda! The series of photos are just inspiring! Makes me wanna go there and experience the place with my own eyes. *sigh*

  20. PAUL - The book SYNCHRONICITY addresses that. It's a very interesting read. It's listed in my bookshelf on PV, if you want to look for it and read reviews about it.

    I'm still not sure whether this was a coincidence or a "big" coincidence. :)

  21. ANNA - If you and I were to go out picture-taking together, we'd probably only go a quarter of a mile in a whole day! And who would carry our paraphernalia? :)

    My husband has some patience, but not a lot. When we're on a nature trail and he gets bored, he'll just zone out and then fall asleep on a boulder somewhere nearby! LOL...

    Once he woke up from one of those "nature naps" with a huge spider bite that he suffered with for weeks!

  22. @DAVE - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

    @SADIA - Lucky you, to have seen Rome. I have not seen Rome or Florence or many other historic and scenic places in Italy. But I'm happy to have gotten to the northern seacoast towns and to Venice, on my first trip. I hope we will both be able to go back, one day!

  23. @DARIO - Thank you, and thanks for your visit!

  24. @ CHARLES - I hope you do get to go there, someday. Trips like that are a lifetime memory, and so uplifting to the spirit! Better than your average trip to the grocery

  25. Lynda, I forgot to tell you, it didn't happened overnight, lol, I had him trained, and I got him better zoom camera, so now at times I have to wait for him. The problem with his photography is that he likes to play with the camera more than taking photo, it may take him 10x longer, but sometimes you know its good for me, because he does all the hard work and in few minutes tells me to try this and tha, lol....spider bite aha must have been scary thing? Anna :)

  26. Ah, ANNA, I will have to send my husband over so you can train him, too! lol....

    He is much more interested in cars, boats, and planes than he is in cameras! To each his own...

    Yes, the spider bite was scary. At least it wasn't the kind that does permanent damage, like the Brown Recluse!

    Enjoy your weekend, my dear! Give a kiss to baby Matthew.

  27. It sounds like a dream, and to think your path would cross again with Jana. Incredible! And a small world indeed.

    Just shows that some things are meant to be no matter what.


  28. Wow, what a coincidence Lynda, awesome, great images, I especially love the Times Orphan, how original and so mysterious.

  29. Nice work interesting and inspirational collection, well done.

  30. Beautiful photography, I really enjoyed it. "Passages" I found particularly striking... timeless.

  31. KATHY - I felt as if I were in a dream when I was there! Most of what we saw in Italy made me feel that way. A photographer's paradise!

  32. BOB - Thanks. I feel badly for that skinny little kitty in the photo. She looks weak and timid. I guess being feral has its cost.

  33. WAYNE D and RACHEL - Thanks for your comments. Glad to meet you. :)

  34. Don't you love when those kinds of things happen? How very cool! Now you just have to get BACK there again & see that studio!

  35. wow, I mean wow for the experience and wow at the photos, just beautiful and I enjoyed reading about your visit.

  36. Lynda,

    I live near this part of Italy and i love all the villages.
    Your ancient halls photo reminds some strong moments of my life in Finale borgo.

    Thank's for sharing Lynda.

  37. LANA - YES! I love when those kinds of things happen and I can get excited at the idea that there may be more order to the universe than we humans are aware of.

    I would like to go see that studio, and have my own there, as well! Of course that's a fantasy that's unlikely to come to pass, but one never knows, lol...

  38. @ JafaBrit - Thank you! Great to see you. Hope all is well and to visit you soon. :)

    @ PATRICK - Lucky you! I think I would LOVE to live there. I'll have to check out Finale borgo!

  39. Lovely place I've never heard of though I'm from north Italy...

  40. Hey Lynda!

    You see, I didn't have to remind you to tell us about this story :D!

    What a magnificent tale of synchronicity! It is amazing that you came to meet Wolf and his wife (whom you had met in person) after leaving Italia...this makes me wonder the purpose of this...perhaps you will meet them again, and something good will come out of it :D!

    I loved this post, and thank you for having shared it with us, darling :D!



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