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PASSION AND LOVE AFFAIRS

Through books your passions can be realized and explored, a love affair can be born and continued with delicious exhilarating and everlasting effect. The expectations are tantalizing. Books that lead the simple hearted reader to obscure corners to enjoy unnoticed landscapes and the secret vibrations of their beauty.

'A Good Book is the best of Friends, the same today and forever'

'A Good Book is the purest essence of a human soul'

'I love to lose myself in other men's minds, when I am not walking or traveling, I am reading. I cannot sit and think, Books think for me' Charles Lamb

'When you learn to read you will be born again. As soon as you learn to read you will not see anything quite as it is. It will all the time be altered by what you have read, and you will never be quite alone Rumer Godden'

'Of all the pleasures of life, Reading is the only one that at every age has never failed me. It can affect your thinking, looking and listening'

'Oh the sheer joy of re-reading.' Iris Origo

In 1966 I fell passionately in love, it was instantaneous and today my 'Love affair' is as real and strong as ever. The experience that evoked this passion was an audience with Pope Paul VI. I recall the tapered blaze of St. Peter's, the pope floating above a long train of ecclesiastics, it was all seen through an incense haze, so golden that it seemed to pour from a blinding luminary behind the high altar. The Nuns in the audience forgot their vows and emotion was permitted to show its face, mumblings of thanks were accompanied with tears and ringing of hands. Stepping out into Piazza San Pietro, in the warm October sun enhanced the aura and released a charged exhaustion. The beauty of the old buildings, the light of historical and technical precision cleared and extended my horizon. I was sensitive to the magic of scenes and places.

From an ancient portal stepped a signora, chic and classy in her '60's mini skirted suit, her Italian shoes and handbag still form a picture to my mind.

This wild early pilgrimage gave me an incurable passion for Italy, travel and knowledge. I became aware of the little unnoted exquisiteness that waylaid one at every turn of the paths that followed. Many years passed before I could actually visit Italy but through my books I have traveled, and explored. The texts and words of Ruskin have fed me vistas of Italy for which I have never ceased to pine.

'I can never understand how one can get accustomed to Italy, for me it is always a fresh surprise, which catches at my heart' Iris Origo

'Venice- an architectural dream of beauty' Charles Dickens

'The charm of Italy is akin to being in love' Stendhal

'Venice a fairy tale city, beautiful and seedy, site of love and death, a place of the mind, a place of wavering magical light, azure fathomless depths of crystal mystery on which the poised gondola floats breaking the radiant water into dusts of gold' Byron

'From Tuscan Bellosguardo, Where Galileo stood at night to take the vision of the stars, we have found it hard gazing upon the earth and heavens, to make a choice of beauty' Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Travel writers of ;H.V.Morton, Edward Hutton, Harold Acton, Eric Newby, Francis King, E.V.Lucas, Martin Garrett and many more have reiterated my love of the land, where church steeples turn to campanile, Squares become Piazzas, and domes and spires of painted walls and sculptured altars beckon. Through my books I have realized that I am not alone, personal experience it seems was never entirely real until it was converted into literature. The literary past of Italy is constantly interpenetrating it's literary present. The past can still inspire.

Friends I have gathered along the way;

'I have a deep and abiding attachment to Italy from the first impression, a coloured mosaic, each individual fragment in the tableau of art, religion, customs and politics'
'Italian gardens illuminated by the country's magic light is a garden of ideas those paths lead far beyond the garden walls into the realms of philosophy, myth and poetry.' Edith Wharton

The list of associated minds is endless:
Byron travels from Venice to Ravenna in pursuit of love, Shelley travels same road to see him, Dickens is interested in tales of Byron, Keats goes to Rome to die by the Spanish steps, Shelley is drowned with a copy of Keat's poetry in his pocket.

And H.V. Morton informs us that William Shakespeare loved, in imagination, to dwell in Venetia, more than in any other part of Italy. Seven of his plays, if not more are situated or related to this region.

So I shall allow my love affair to continue with Italy, a country of limitless 

opportunities, stage settings for all kinds of adventure, licit or illicit loves, the study of art, the experiences of pathos, the weaving of intrigues. It can be joyful, tragic, mad, pastoral, archaic, holy, modern or simply 'dolce'.

In the words of Bernard Berenson, who I knew at once the association began his Gods were my Gods;'In reality nothing would induce me to quit my books. Oh the wild joys of getting back to them, the leaping from shelf unto shelf, the strong rending of favourite pages, the cool silver shock of half forgotten marvels.'

The realization that my love affair has such companions is inspirational and over the last ten years I have been fortunate enough to travel over Italy extensively. To follow the footsteps of DANTE, PETRACH, BROWNINGS, SHELLEY , BYRON, see the art and architecture of MICHELANGELO, BRUNELLESCHI, PALLADIO,GIOTTO and so, so many more. I have toured the VILLA MEDICI where Iris Origo spent her childhood and stood in the library of Bernard Berenson in the VILLA I TATTI. I have had tea in the English Tea rooms on the banks of the Arno frequented by the Brownings, D.H.Lawrence, Henry James, George Elliot and Ruskin. I have visited the Villa I Cappuccini where Shelley and Byron shared writing experiences in the summer house.

Contributed by Vicki Lowen

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