Story and photographs by Douglas Ruby
While there are many beautiful places in the world to photograph, among my top choices will always be Italy. If you ask me to be more specific – Where in Italy? – my answer would probably be “Anywhere and everywhere.”
You can focus on the gorgeous rolling hills of Tuscany, the food – either as it grows or as it is prepared, certainly the people, the buildings and structures that make all of our architecture look as though it was created yesterday, the variety of city and country life, and the spectacular coastlines. Then you could attempt to capture what many amateur photographers often miss (including me) – the spirit of a country and a culture that has its own identity, one that has been shaped over more than 3,000 years.
This summer my wife Jackie and I went back to Italy for 18 days. We spent a few days in Rome, a week at a wedding in Tuscany, four days in Lucca and the final five days on the Amalfi Coast in Positano. We enjoyed day trips to the old Tuscan towns/cities of Volterra, San Gimignano, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Cinque Terre, Castelnuovo and Ravello, among others.
What you cannot see from this list (which is not complete) is that each of the old towns in Tuscany has its own personality, its own special products and its own relationship with the people who come to visit them. Some produce wine, some chocolate and marzipan, some cheeses, some linen and lace and some of them focus on cultural activities. All of them take great pride in their food and all of them cater to tourists in a variety of ways.
Anyone who “loves” his camera knows the joy – and the frustration – of trying to capture all that he sees in any of these places. For sheer beauty it is tough to match the Amalfi Coast, with a special note not to miss Positano and Ravello. Roads in this area are very narrow, winding and mountainous – all of which provide some spectacular views and yet make for driving conditions that are not for everyone.
The road up to Ravello, starting in Amalfi, offers views of the mountains and the ocean at the same time. Once you get to Ravello, you’ll find plenty of shops, possibly a music festival (depending on when you go), and a beautiful walk to the historic Villa Cimbrone, with spectacular views of towns below along the coastline. Hotels in Ravello are magnificent and have been home to some of the most famous writers and artists of the last three centuries.
Positano is a larger town, with great food (as you would expect throughout Italy) and extensive shopping. Views are expansive and very colorful. The beach is beautiful and well- attended in the summer and has a great walk that winds up the mountainside of the town.
The bottom line is if you have not already, you must visit Italy and if you have already been there, consider another trip back. I hope that the photographs in this article provide the inspiration that you need to plan this trip. If not, I have plenty more to show you.