Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Old postcard of Casperia
If you don't know, my job description is a bit unusual. I work as a house historian. I research the social history of houses, who built them, who lived in them, what events happened in them, who got married or died in them, what scandals or otherwise interesting stories are attached to them. Over the course of the past 12 years I have researched the histories of close to 900 houses. Most of these are in Vancouver. About 40 are in New Westminster, and a few are in North Vancouver. It takes about a couple of weeks to finish a job, depending on how many houses are included in a project. In the end, my clients end up with a booket that showcases everything that is researchable about their house. You will find many of the interesting stories I have come across through this research in my house history blog, When An Old House Whispers. It is fascinating work, but often not that constant. 

Every Saturday during the summer I also offer walking tours, or History Walks as I like to call them, in three of Vancouver's historic neighbourhoods: Strathcona, Vancouver's old East End; the West End; and Mount Pleasant. 

Years ago, when I lived and worked in the West End, I loved walking to work and looking at the old houses that still remain in the shadows of the highrise apartments and condos. I loved reading about Vancouver's history, and looking at the old photos of the neighbourhood as it was during its Victorian and Edwardian era heyday. 

Burnaby Street looking east from mid-1200 block, Philip Timms - VPL #5266
The picture above shows the 1200 block of Burnaby Street in the West End where I lived from about 1988 to 1995. None of these houses stand today. The 10 storey apartment building where I lived stands on the site of the large house seen at the right of the photo. It was the mansion of CPR secretary treasurer William Ferriman Salsbury. 

The other thing I loved finding in the Vancouver history books were old colourized post cards of the City. Here is one of my favourites.

English Bay Beach, 1916 - City of Vancouver Archives Image Be P93
The only buildings still standing is the Victorian Bandstand in Alexandra Park and the Sylvia Hotel, then the Sylvia Apartments. The small trees you see in the park space around the bandstand are all huge shade trees now. 

After my first visit to the Sabina in 2009, I started to do as much online research as I could into the history of the region, particularly Casperia. As my relationship with the Sabina deepened through Facebook connections, a number of Facebook friends shared old postcard pictures of the Sabina or directed me to sites where I found quite a few myself. Of course, I tried to find as many as possible for Casperia, as that was the part of Sabina I first visited and know best.

Old Aspra - Casperia before 1947
Casperia in the 1970s as seen from the road from Roccantica
A view of the Porta Romana from Piazza Umberto I, where Friends Cafe is today
View of the convent on Monte Fiolo in Casperia
Post card sent to Casperia from Ethiopia
This beautiful colour panorama card below was sent to me by my friend Clelia. Casperia was her home when she was a little girl and though she lives now in Tuscania, Casperia remains her passion.

Courtesy of Clelia Angelelli
When we visited Casperia in 2009 and again in 2012 we were struck by the fact that though we were visiting what has to be one of the most strikingly beautiful places in the world, none of the post cards we could find for sale really did the region any justice. This, in spite of the fact that there are so many talented photographers who have taken literally thousands of breathtaking shots of the Sabina and shared them on Facebook and the Internet...

But, it seems that this was not always the case... These old postcards are evidence. 

Altino, RI
Perhaps with the changes in communication technology, the ease of sending e-cards, sharing photos and messaging online the custom of sending postcards has fallen out of favour... Obviously most of these towns no longer look exactly like they did 50, 60, 70, or a 100 years ago, but it seems to me that even a reprint of these beautiful, old, mostly black and white postcards might result in better sales and more people sending cards than the ones that are currently available.

Cittaducale, RI
The towers at Collalto Sabino, RI
Collegiove, RI
Cottanello, RI as seen from Monte San Cataldo
Fara in Sabina in 1932
Another card from Fara in Sabina
The Franciscan Santuary at Fonte Colombo just outside of Rieti
Frescoes in apse of San Paolo Church in Poggio Mirteto, RI
Greccio in 1964
Labro, RI

 Here follow six different postcards from the comune of Leonessa. We have not visited Leonessa yet, but looking at these post cards certainly makes me want to.

Leonessa, RI

Leonessa, RI in 1978
Leonessa, RI in 1978
Leonessa, RI in 1978
Leonessa, RI in 1978
Leonessa, RI
Leonessa, RI
  I have not been to Magliano Sabino either, or at least I have not been up to the old town, but I want to. Besides looking like a very interesting place to explore, there is an amazing museum, and it is from here that Monte Soratte is supposed to look like the profile of Mussolini.

Magliano Sabino, RI

Oliveto Sabino, RI

Poggio Mirteto is the largest town in Sabina Teverina. Poggio Mirteto Scalo is where we get off the train from Rome to take the bus to Casperia, my favourite bus ride in the world, and Poggio Mirteto Scalo is also the home to my favourite place to buy organic meat and produce from the Sabina, Ecofattorie Sabine. Here are two great postcards of Poggio Mirteto Scalo Station from its pre-WWII glory days.

Stazione di Poggio Mirteto by Gianluigi Giannini
Poggio Mirteto Stazione in 1920
 The town of Poggio Mirteto is fascinating in its own right. It has an amazing piazza with some great restaurants, cafes, and a fabulous gelateria, and it also has a beautiful old town. Richard and I have visited a number of times to see our friend Alessandra there.

Here's a great black and white shot of the Piazza Martiri della Liberta, followed by a colourized version.

Poggio Mirteto's Piazza Martiri della Liberta' courtesy of Gianluigi Giannini
Poggio Mirteto's Piazza Martiri della Liberta' courtesy of Gianluigi Giannini
Poggio Mirteto's Piazza Martiri della Liberta' courtesy of Gianluigi Giannini
Here are two shots from Poggio Bustone. I will be writing about my visit there in a subsequent post. I loved visiting the Franciscan Sanctuary there.

Convento di San Giacomo at Poggio Bustone
Franciscan Santuary at Poggio Bustone - This is where Saint Francis received his vision of forgiveness
View of Catino courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

Castle of Poggio Poponesco near Fiamignano, RI
Pozzalia Sabina in 1958
The Duomo of Rieti
Rivodutri, RI
In 2012 Richard and I were lucky enough to visit this stunning castle town southeast of Rieti. There is a great restaurant there called La Fontana.

Rocca Sinibalda, 1963
Rocca Sinibalda
Rocca Sinibalda, RI
In 2012 during our visit to Roccantica, Richard and I had a wonderful time celebrating with the locals at the 40th annual Sagra del Fritello or Cauliflower Fritter Festival. Fried cauliflower never tasted so delicious, and it was amazing to watch dozens of cooks deep frying enough frittelli for more than 1000 people in roiling hot oil over roaring wood fires.
Roccantica in 1913
Roccantica, RI
Roccantica, RI
Roccantica's Villa Seminario Maggiore in 1955
The next two postcards are from Toffia and show the church of Santa Maria Nuova. I love how one postcard shows the hill devoid of trees and the other has the hill overgrown. I wonder which photograph is older. 

I have yet been to Toffia but the next time I am in the Sabina I absolutely have to go. These old images are stunning. 

Toffia, RI
Toffia RI
So there you have the some of the old post cards. I am sure that I have more in myt files that I will introduce at a later date, but how about these new post cards? These postcard prototypes are collages created by Alessandra Finiti using a mix of her images and those of Giorgio Clementi. I love them. I think it is time we had some new post cards for the Sabina...