A Symphony of Italian Hand Gestures

Italian Hand Gestures, Jed Smith Photography

Words Fail. © 2018 Jed Smith

A beauty to behold.

Yes, Italian hand gestures contain a fluidity and artistry that continues to amaze me. Italians must have something built into their genes that makes them so adept at this kind of visual poetry. While I speak with my hands, much like my artistic mother, I was taught, growing up, restraint in this regard. I was adominished to keep my hands to myself and to be mindful of encroaching upon another person’s space. Today, if I tried to emulate this innate talent for non-verbal communications that Italians use so effortlessly, I’m afraid I would be the laughing stock of all around me.

So, for this week’s post, I’ve decided to share with you a few of my favorite images showing the art of Italian hand gestures in action. I will keep my commentary to a minimum and let the images speak mostly for themselves. 

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In Love with Venice at Night

Venice at Night

The Red Dress © 2018 Jed Smith

My love affair with Venice deepens.

Especially Venice at night, and when it approaches the bewitching hour. The lion’s share of tourists in the main thoroughfares have dissipated. And when you wander off the beaten path, you can be a spectator of the comings and goings of the locals. This is when things get really interesting. The image above was taken just outside the entrance of Istutito San Giuseppe, a convent in the heart of Venice that offers affordable nightly accommodations (as long as you can abide by the 11 p.m. curfew). We were saying goodnight to dear friends when I spied the red dress, the star of this image, making its way across a nearby bridge.

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The Transformative Power of Stillness

Stillness, Jed Smith Photography

At Rest © 2018 Jed Smith

My mother always joked that I was the vagabond of the family. She learned not to be surprised when I pulled up stakes and headed off on a new adventure (I’ve lived in eleven U.S. states). I believed that life would be boring, static if I slowed down and wasn’t in a mode of constantly tackling new experiences. But recently have I begun to understand the benefits and the necessity of stopping and making space to get quiet in a substantive way. I’ve started realizing that stillness and quietude (internally and externally) can be where the real juicy stuff of life gets going.

My ideal of life in Italy has transformed significantly.

First, I’m dispensing with the word “ideal” since I’m convinced, more and more, that when we live for ideals we’re setting ourselves up for a world of hurt. In my experience, my ideals have always remained out of reach. They’ve been fantasies based on conditioned, flawed beliefs of what constitutes happiness.

I came to Italy with my picture of idyllic life nicely painted. I did the New Age thing of creating a vision board. I was certain it would be magical and that everything would just fall into place and the happily-ever-after credits would start rolling.

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Italian Bike Life – Dress As You Please

Bike Life, Jed Smith Photography

Center of Attention © 2018 Jed Smith

I’ve been meaning to tackle this subject for quite a while, and even today’s post is only a beginning to a fuller visual essay on bike life in Italy.

Bicycles own a big place in Italian culture.

Of course, the Giro d’Italia contributes heavily and people are solidly fanatical about following it. But this week I’d like to focus on the everyday-getting-from-here-to-there bike culture. It’s huge.

This past weekend, we made a day trip to Ferrara, about two hours by train and just north of Bologna. Ferrara is in Emilia-Romagna, which is the region known for producing arguably the best pasta in all of Italy (stay tuned for next week’s post about one of these best meals I’ve ever had). Unfortunately, Ferrara is often bypassed by people making a beeline for nearby Bologna. I’d been urged to visit Ferrara, particularly to see the stunning Cathedral of St. George. Just when I thought I’d seen all the most breathtaking churches of Italy…

Anyway, getting back on track, we entered the city center amidst a swarm of people on their bikes. This wasn’t a new phenomenon for me, since Treviso, our city, is also home to a robust population of bikes. But on this day, I had my camera in hand and I decided to embark on a quick photo essay of these colorful people and outfits passing us left and right.

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It’s a Matter of Perspective, Isn’t It?

Jed Smith Photography, Italywise

A Matter of Perspective © 2018 Jed Smith

Recently I was reminded of the benefits of entertaining different perspectives.

As I’ve indicated in previous posts, my art and photography often teach me lessons that apply to life in general. Two weeks ago, a trip to Venice with my sister and brother-in-law taught me, yet again, that life is a matter of perspective.

I’d been anxious to take my new Canon 300mm f2.8 lens out for a spin, so I lugged it along (it’s cumbersome). This would be the first time I would be experiencing Venice through such a different lens. In the late afternoon, we made our way to the roof-top terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is a super-upscale department store just steps away from the Rialto Bridge. The terrace has become a hot spot (reservations are best made via the website above) since it offers perhaps the most breathtaking, panoramic views of Venice. Having entertained visitors on multiple occasions, this wasn’t my first trip to the terrace. How might it be different this time vs. something rote?

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Speaking of Tongues…

Italian relics, St. Anthony

A shrine to St. Anthony’s tongue, jawbone, vocal cords, and more.

Fair warning: if you’re a fan and believer in religious relics, you might want to skip this week’s blog post. I’m dedicated to sharing the full gamut of my Italian life and I’d be remiss if I didn’t address this topic since it’s impossible to avoid it while marveling at the majesty and ingenuity of Italian churches. For me, this practice of putting saints’ body parts on display is a bit unsettling.

A visit to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padova and a viewing of “pieces” of the saint.

Yes, pieces of the saint. The main attraction? St. Anthony’s tongue.

During a recent visit to Padova with my sister and brother-in-law, I was introduced to the relics of St. Anthony.

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A Frico Feast with New Friends

Frico, Italywise

Probably the biggest and best plate of Frico I’ve ever eaten.

I’m still salivating. That’s what frico can do to you.

Unfortunately, many people who come to Italy, to live or to visit, don’t set foot in Friuli, the northeast region of Italy, where culinary treasures like frico were born. I hope this post has the ability to reach people who ordinarily would not take a trip to this area, which is often considered an inconvenient detour based on its non-central location. But, trust me, if you want to have the full Italian diversity experience, you will be thanking yourself for including Friuli (and frico) on your “to do” list.

Let me back up for a second and talk about our new friends who took our frico appreciation to a new level.

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“Ciao” and The Long Goodbye

Ciao, Italywise

Don’t be surprised if you hear ciao more than a few times when a person is saying goodbye on the phone.

“Ciao” can flow like water at the end of a phone call.

Years ago, I was on a northbound train in Italy, sitting close to a man talking on his cell phone. I swear I heard him utter “Ciao” at least two dozen times over the span of two-to-three minutes before he actually ended the call. I thought to myself “Is this for real?” At the time, I was mostly irritated that the man with speaking so loudly. I just wanted him to end the call and shut up so I could have some peace. But, this was the beginning of my understanding and appreciation of why and how Italians differ from Americans when ending a phone call. I now lovingly call it “The Long Goodbye.”

An underlying logic exists in this prolific use of “Ciao.”

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I Found Mental Repose in These Italian Abstracts

Italian Abstracts, Italywise

© 2018 Jed Smith

When the mind gets overly fixated on being literal, it can use a break.

Mine does, for sure. And, thanks to the vibrantly rendered island village of Burano, just outside of Venice, I’ve stumbled upon Italian abstracts that do the trick.

As I approached ferreting out a topic for this week’s blog post, my mind told me it needed a short vacation from writing about the logistics and adjustments of living in Italy. I thought, “Well, I’ll just skip a week.” But, then I realized I could speak with photos and not get too mired in words, other than a brief commentary as to why the images in this post give my soul peace and balance. Maybe you’ll relate…

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The Italian Post. Know Its Limits.

The Italian Post, Italywise

A rare sighting. The classic sign for L’Ufficio Postale is being phased out.

The Italian Post is a mixed bag.

If you live in Italy, on some days you might find yourself exclaiming “I can’t live with it!” But, in the next breath you’ll be reminding yourself that you can’t live without it. This post isn’t meant to be harsh or critical about this essential Italian public service. It’s simply meant to be pragmatic and to advise you, based on my personal experiences, how to work with The Italian Post to your best advantage. I also have recommendations for alternate “mail” services to give you greater peace of mind.

L’Ufficio Postale, or The Italian Post Office, is an essential part of life in Italy. However, its workings are a bit behind the times.

In the past several years The Italian Post has been trying to spruce up its image and bring its services into the 21st Century. A modern logo, a proliferation of Posta Italiana bancomats, and updated computer systems have helped. But, sadly many of its services still don’t meet my threshold of expectations––which aren’t incredibly high.

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