I arrived in Itri, Italy on a typically hot and bright, sunny day on an invitation from the city to paint a public mural. My connection in Itri, Veronica, brought me to the local paint store where I purchased the primer for the 6.5′ high by 131′ long wall (44 yards). With the help of friends, we cleaned the debris from the wall and began buffing it.
My days consisted of waking up, having a quick shot of cafe (espresso) and walking through the narrow passage ways of this ancient town to the wall which runs along side a two way residential street. A few hours of painting and I would get picked up by my hosts around 1:30 p.m. to break for pranzo (lunch) and drive up to the villa (in campagna) in the country. Usually it is customary to take a nap after this huge meal due to being “stuffed” along with the hot day, but not I, soon after eating, i was driven back to the wall to paint until late night.
My theme was ‘The History of Itri’. Itri can trace its roots back to Roman times. The most important paved road of accient Rome, the Via Appia runs right through it. Itri is a beautiful, small, southern Italian town in the region of Lazio and is nestled inside of a picturesque valley surrounded by arid, rocky hills and mountains. A medieval castle built in 880 AD dominates the natural skyline. I was told that a crocodile was once a means of execution in the round tower. Seven out of eight days were 12-13 hours of spraying the wall with the ‘ism of life’, creating Itri’s proud and historical past.
Nearby, literally around the mountain is the cliffside village of Sperlonga. There you will see miles of the beautiful sandy beach where the 2nd emperor, Tiberius, built his vacation get away from the congestion and city life of ancient Rome. Also, In the next town over in Formia is Cicero’s tomb.
Being an admirer of history and being surrounded by so much of it, this mural’s compositional design incorporated both of my passions, art and history, which is synonymous because without art we would not know as much as we do about human kind’s prehistorical and ancient past. I started with ancient Rome; Temple; Via Appia; The She-Wolf with Romulus & Remus; Roman women and brought that into the middle ages with the castle and crocodile. La Madonna della Civita is the patron saint of the city. Fra’ Diavolo was a brigand (bandit) who was against the French occupation when Napoleon invaded at the beginning of the 19th century. The Madonna and Christ child wearing crowns and I painted the religious imagery as the Table Series figures…faceless, along with centurion; soldiers and Romulus & Remus. The serpent and the dog, Lo Stemma, is a symbol or crest of Itri, the coat of arms. Legend is that the town was infested with Idra (water snakes) and the city was saved by many dogs who drove the snakes away. The Roman soldiers are carrying paint brushes instead of spears and the centurion has a spray can in his sword holster. The god of the olive tree is lounging on top of fallen spray can pillars and an olive branch with olives next to the olive oil bottle. Itri produces a very special extra virgin olive oil so I wanted to represent that aspect of their agriculture as well. There are also cypress trees, Roman women holding a spray can and brushes, and triumphal arch.
I received a lot of love during this project. People brought me pasta, pizza, water, espressos, beer, wine, figs, apples, pears, bananas and bruschetta. All fresh, naturally and organically grown or made on their property. Andrea who lives across the street from the wall made me sliced pomodoro con olio d’oliva, and it was molto buono. Everyone was very kind to me and loved what I did. I was told that it was very important for the city.
On Thursday I went to the commune of Itri (the town hall) and met with Umberto Papa, the president Consiglio Comunale and Raffaele Mancini, the Assessore to the administration of Itri. On behalf of Umberto Papa and the city of Itri presented me with a gift, framed artwork of the Castello Medievale with an engraving for my accomplishment. This was a great honor to be recognized by a town in appreciation for the mural. This was a new milestone in my life and something I am very proud of. Painting in Italy is like receiving a lifetime achievement award because it is monumental in my career as an artist and a life time dream come true.
Thank you to Raffaele Mancini, Nicola Lalongo, Veronica Romanelli and Umberto Papa for this commission to paint for the beautiful people and city of Itri. GRAZIE! In the words of Julius Ceasar, ” Veni, Vidi, Vici”, and…I will be back.