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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