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Composer Leonard Bernstein spent the summer of 1967 in Ansedonia, a sun-washed Roman town on the Italian coast.

There, he would bathe on hot stones by the lapping sea before returning to his family’s rented villa in the evenings. The Bernsteins regularly declined invitations to attend dinner parties in favor of rest and leisure—of reading or playing a hand of cards together in the shade of the orchard or plunging into the pool. The days passed slowly and began to revolve around the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The summer had followed an exhaustive period of work, and Bernstein found the body of water restorative. “And there was the sea, which he loves. To submerge himself in water, to be weightless and at one with its forces, produces feelings of supreme contentment within him. When he emerges from the sea he seems resuscitated both physically and spiritually, ” wrote author John Gruen, who along with photographer Ken Heyman, accompanied the Bernsteins on that summer vacation, documenting its

  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns
  • Photography:
    Ken Heyman

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  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns
  • Photography:
    Ken Heyman
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