Posted on 11/29/2017 at 9:46am

Trevi is a hilltop village in Italy with a history waiting to be discovered. Whispered Roman-era stories from the past share that a navigable waterway in the valley linked this and other villages in this Umbrian region to the metropolis of the city of Rome by boat. That storied river is now only a narrow, gentle stream running lazily through the verdant valley and no longer can carry even a small canoe. Trevi still has very interesting architecture. As I look at the gigantic carved “rock” entryways to buildings that appeared perfectly designed with fine sculpted detail, I wondered, “How did our primitive ancestors in history create them and place them perfectly on this high mountain?” With my backpack heavy with painting supplies, I came upon one of these massive entryways on a bright and sunny day.  A  placard printed on the wall next to it assured me that the structure was erected in the 16th century. Perhaps the building itself was added on to, but the entry-way looked so much older. Perhaps the building was destroyed earlier and the entry re-used, or perhaps the whole structure had been renovated at some point, leaving the entryway as it had been, just as we re-use materials from old buildings today.

On either side of the stone entry were carved two heads, a woman’s head on the left and a man’s head on the right. The man had distinctive olive branches in his hair, a sign of the Romans, 27 BC to 476 AD. Remember, this was labeled as a ’16th century Palace’ so I continued through the small door that was encased in a much larger door and opening. I walked silently into a well-worn entryway, the darkened corridor beckoned me toward a daylight-illumined area ahead, and there I found a small enclosed interior room that was open to the sky above. Not a typical courtyard, but the building totally surrounded it with the 4 open floors visable from inside high above that allowed this amazing interior room to enjoy the light of the sky. It was in a very sad state of decay and neglect with building materials, broken bricks, and dusty objects strewn everywhere. The walls were stained, cracked, and peeling from countless years, but you still could see the “bones” of the structure. Arches were everywhere, and shining through from beneath the mold, mildew and crumbling surfaces, were the remains of a beautiful robins-egg blue painted surface that lifted the distinctive, architectural arches throughout the ancient space and gave it an albeit, worn dignity of prior honor.

I decided that this would be a perfect place to paint, away from the bright Umbrian sunshine with nothing to distract me. As I painted in silence in this interior space with natural light coming in, I asked myself, “What were these 3 large square marble vats lined up against one wall together, used for?” I thought of horses, and wondered if they could have made there way in for water and food. But then suddenly, a flash of questioning, “Could this possibly be originally the Palace laundromat?” Located close to the cistern were pipes running everywhere into the centrally-located marble-bordered vat from the roof, and another trio of tubs with one probably for washing, then two for rinsing. A long piece of slanted marble located all along the far end of the tubs was for scrubbing and wringing.
All the mysteries came alive as I listened intently and “heard” in my mind voices, laughter, and singing. What a delightful place to be! I believe that the people who did this work would have enjoyed to come here to do it. Sound echoed and reverberated throughout the space in my mind as I painted…Oh to step into a moment when history is felt once again! I painted the remnants carefully as my mind carried me through a forgotten time of history and I reveled in the enlightenment I received.

“Palace Laundry” Plein Air 16”x20”

Copyright 2017 Sharon Rusch Shaver

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