Visiting Santa Barbara

Each volume is the work of extensive research, travel, and present day discoveries of ancient long lost settlements of Alta California by Spanish friars and soldiers 200 years past. Releasing five books had been sparked by an accidental discovery not unlike the subjects path to discovery in the books. In a serendipitous find unearthing over 150 lost glass negatives from the 1920s and 1930s initiated a 2 year project releasing the rediscovered photos of the first Spanish missions built in California. Found at an estate sale in Grass Valley, CA, they uncover the saga beginning in Mexico City in 1769, and long term ambition of Fr. Junipero Serrra and the Baja governor, Gasper de Portola to bring armies of soldiers, ships with supplies, and European agricultural practices to the rich territories of Alta California. A progression of settlements established inside the new territory formed a chain of Spanish Missions, each as unique from the others in architectural design and farm products. The missionaries unified effort centered around the single purpose of converting neophyte California Indian Natives to Christianity. Nearly 50 years of elaborate planning allowed the spreading out along a 600-mile pathway called El Camino Real, monumental mission stops along the way, and today survives as a main artery of travel from San Diego and north to Sonoma, near San Francisco Bay. Eventual deterioration left 20 or so mission buildings standing in ruins through centuries, yet today each site has been meticulously resurrected through private and public funding as museum quality present day renovations. The tale of California's missionary settlements served a formidable force colonizing California's first 50 years and settlement. After the U.S. Army's pursuit of, and capture, of the Mexican General Mariano Vallejo in Sonoma, then implementing the Treaty of Hildago ceding Alta California to the United States in 1848, the ensuing 1849 Gold Rush brought 100,000s of settlers worldwide into California's goldfields in the Sierra foothills as one of the most successful states in the Union.

Author, Robert A. Bellezza presents an incisive history of California's 200-year old Spanish missions. The 5 volume series released in 2012-13 includes vintage photography and history on the Pioneers and Founders of California. With nearly 1000 total images, each book premiers newly discovered glass-plate images from the 1920s-30s, selected rare prints, vintage postcards, and the author's own contemporary photos, as part of "Images of America" published by Arcadia Publishing. The ground-breaking never-before-seen rediscovered black and white images and author's desciptions depict California's earliest monumental missions and culture, landmark adobes and presidios.

A 25-year media career with California Tour & Travel Magazine, Bellezza spent decades designing and editing national coffee table magazines specifically for tourism visitor centers, AAAs, Barnes & Noble, and targeting national advertisers. His original video production highlighting the world's best selling wine label, The "Woodbridge Winery Harvest Tour", was produced in association with Robert Mondavi for domestic and international marketing campaigns. In November 2017, authoring San Diego UnTapped! on the award-winning breweries pf San Diego, provides up-close personal interviews and insights touring 50 neighborhood breweries. Within 200 pages the book has a tap & tasting touring map, 3-pages for tasting notes, details on each craft brewery, brewer competitions & awards, and tasting room addresses, phone numbers and websites.

Find Robert A. Bellezza's work on Amazon Books at:

Alta California -  Spanish Missionary Pioneer History

by Robert A. Bellezza 

A 5-volume series for "Images of America" 

Available from Arcadia Publishing


The first volume, The Missions of San Diego, tells of the storm-tossed caravel ship San Salvador propelling Portuguese shipwright and sailor Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo into history with the discovery of Alta California for the Spanish crown. An enduring legacy followed by Fr. Junipero Serra’s landing in San Diego founding his first mission in 1769. Into Alta California entered explorers, soldiers, and Franciscan missionaries bringing culture, faith, and their intent to colonize the New World. Father Serra’s 1770 journey carefully planned in Mexico City, involved the arrival of a few hundred intrepid travelers over land and sea to secure Alta California’s new capital of Monterey. A small group consecrated Mission San Carlos de Borromeo in the pine-forested flat of New Spain’s first Alta presidio. The momentum of the missions over the next 80 years resulted in resistance to Mexican ownership and the raising of the American flag in Monterey in 1850, and California's statehood ultimately ratified.

Touring the Mother Road

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