“Sister Has Wheels” – Recent Painting by Jed.

I’m happy to share with you a recent Jed Smith watercolor, “Sister Has Wheels”, insipired by a nun cruising by the cafe where I was having a coffee (after a visit to the commune office to inquire about the procedure for obtaining my residency and identity card in order to obtain my own “wheels”, a.k.a. my own car). See this and other watercolors in my online gallery.

Watercolor of Sister Has Wheels

Sister Has Wheels

“The Card Game” – Photography by Jed

The Card Game

Just head to almost any piazza across Italy mid-day to late afternoon, and you’re likely to find a group of “the boys” immersed in a serious card game.

I want to share with you one of my favorite photos that I captured in the beautiful Umbrian hill village of Montone. I love seeing the engagement and intensity in these gatherings of locals. I will never be at a lack for such compelling vignettes of daily life here in Italy. Check out this and other black and white photos in my online gallery.

This Chandelier’s Journey to a New Home

The Chandelier's New Home

Who would’ve thought an invitation to a friend’s villa for Sunday lunch would result in a beautiful new chandelier hanging in our Umbrian home?

Just last week we drove up in Umbria (from Rome) to warm up our little home, to check mail, and to see our newly installed chandelier. We couldn’t be happier…or more grateful for how we received such a magnificent addition to our home. At the heart of this chandelier’s journey to a new home is a story of Italian generosity and hospitality.

We met Marcello and Romana almost two years ago at the home of one of our neighbors in Umbria. Their warmth and easy laughter helped us feel welcomed into our quaint locale. We saw each other many other times at meals with friends, and at local events, each time vowing to make lunch plans at their home soon. Conflicting schedules (mainly due to our busy travel schedule) made it seem like it would never happen. But, in late October we called, and Marcello and Romana invited us to a Sunday lunch at the family villa about twenty minutes away.

A sunny November Sunday afternoon, and a verdant drive leading to a magnificent estate.

A sunny November Sunday afternoon, and a verdant drive leading to a magnificent estate.

It was Sunday,”Il giorni dei morti” – the day of the dead, which is the day after “Tutti i santi” – All Saints. Halloween had been Friday yet the most evidence I’d seen of Halloween in Italy were a few pumpkins sitting about (no carved Jack ‘O Lanterns), and a couple of decorative witches. No trick or treating here. If you dressed up in a costume and headed around the neighborhood to knock on doors and get candy, you’d probably give someone a major freakout and you’d end up getting shot instead (October IS, after all, the beginning of hunting season here in Umbria).

Our Sunday lunch with Marcello and Romana (and with our good friends and neighboors who had introduced us) was a 4 1/2 hours affair. We had been gifted with a day of brilliant colors, light that presented everything in amazing clarity, and unusually warm temps. Their home is a magnificent 9,000 square foot abode, with origins in the late 1200’s. It is lovingly and painstakingly restored. Frankly, I don’t know how Marcello and Romana keep the house so immaculate, and how they also work the land – which is also substantial.

When first we entered the house into the great room, where we were to have our long, leisurely lunch, I knew we were in for a special experience. A robust fire drew us into the the room, and I soon noticed a spit of sausages cooking in front of the fire. Romana emerged from the kitchen, where she had been hard at work, and we exchanged greetings and kisses. Then, Marcello took us for a tour of the property and the house. The house kept unfolding and unfolding, like Russian nesting dolls. Every room was unique, and the artistry of lamps, doors, tables, etc. was inspiring. I would need a map, or GPS to find my way through this house again without getting lost. There were seventeen bedrooms alone, and at least ten bathrooms. Geez.

Bottle "art" in the cellar of our friends 600-year old villa.

Bottle “art” in the cellar of our friends’ 700-year old villa.

The hearth in the great room, greeted us on our arrival for a long, leisurely Sunday lunch.

The hearth in the great room, greeted us on our arrival for a long, leisurely Sunday lunch.

We returned to the great room for lunch, and after the hour-long tour, I was famished. One of the many things I have come to love about life here in Italy is the communion that is inherent in having meals together. This is certainly not a news flash to anyone who has experienced life in Italy, or a Thanksgiving or Christmas “Italian style” in the U.S. But, I feel compelled to extol the benefits of such a way of life and a way of slowing down (no checking emails or texting at the table) to be present. I, in particular, have not always exhibited such appreciation and respect for being present. This was a good lesson for me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t not have been truly present for great generosity and warmth.

Our meal, which was served alongside loads of hearty conversation and laughter was:

Verdure fritte (sage, onions, cauliflowers)
Pepperoni ripieni (green peppers stuffed with meat)
Zuppa di zucca (pumpkin soup)
Salsiccia arrosto e tacchino fritto (roasted sausages and fried turkey breast)
Frutta (fruit)
Torta di noci e ananas (nut and pineapple cake).
Cafe
Castagne arrosto e novello falo vino (roasted chestnuts and new wine from Lungarotti – an essential pairing).

Le castagne

“Le castagne”, or chestnuts roasted (truly) by an open fire, capped off our amazing Sunday lunch.

Il Vino Nuovo

“Il vino nuovo”, new wine, from Lungarotti is a crucial pairing with freshly roasted chestnuts.

 

You’re probably wondering, by now, where the hell is the chandelier in this story. Well, at this point it makes its entrance…

We were wrapping up our amazing lunch, and I was leaning back in my chair while letting my gaze move around and take in everything in the great room. I saw a fairly sizable chandelier, and remarked at how beautiful it was. Marcello smiled and asked me if I wanted it. I was embarrassed, and my partner quickly tried to back pedal on my behalf. But, Marcello, wanted us to have the chandelier. He insisted. And, I said “Grazie, sei troppo gentile!” – Thank you, you are too kind!

So ended our afternoon together, and our conversation in the car on the way home centered around when the chandelier would show up at our house. “Probably sometime much later.” we concluded.

Yet, a week later, we received a call from our neighbor Anna, telling us Marcello was arriving shortly with the chandelier in tow. He arrived, smiling profusely, and he and Anna’s husband carried the fixture into its new home. Soon our modern Ikea light would come down and be replaced with a light with great character and history. For our eclectic mix of old and new, this would be perfect. And, now that we have seen it installed, it is indeed perfect for us.

Just think…this chandelier’s journey to a new home began during a warm, wonderful gathering of friends in the Umbrian countryside. I continue to be blessed in new and unimagined ways.

“Milking Time” – Photo by Jed

Percore Milking Time

Tre fratelli sardi al lavoro, which means “three Sardinian brothers at work”. I enjoyed capturing this photo because daily pecore (sheeps) milking time is such an art. And these brothers, who relocated from Sardinia many years ago, have built a thriving business in the Maremma. Their percorino has celebrity status among locals. The day we were there, they were making their ricotta. Word was already out on the street, and we could hear and see many cars hastening along the dirt roads leading to the main facility, where the drivers would wait patiently for the readiness of this culinary treat. Milking time was a priceless photo opp. I love this rural “production line” of milking the sheep, and I love that the focus of this particular composition is about the sheep. So much personality…and the animals seem to be well treated, which I always like to see.

Be sure to check out other of my black and white photos in the online gallery.

Tips for Getting Your Italian Visa

Italian Visa

With my Italian Visa successfully in hand, I had the official “green light” to begin my journey as an expat.

This is the crucial step in either moving to Italy for good, or for going for an extended stay. But, you won’t be going anywhere in Italy for such an extended stay if you don’t procure your Italian Visa.

I obsessed about this, and I spent countless hours online combing though information trying to find out EXACTLY what I would need to guarantee success. Some information was pretty black and white, and other information about requirements and the approval process was discouragingly “grey”.

Firstly, you need to determine which type of visa for which you want to apply. Student visas are fairly easy, as long as you have plenty of documentation regarding your place and course of study, your length of stay, and documentation of your place to live. Work visas are pretty hard to get, unless you are being sponsored by an Italian company or a U.S. company doing business in Italy. Again, lots of documentation. Remember, the economy in Italy has been pretty dicey for the past several years, and jobs aren’t in abundant supply. As you might imagine, the Italian government wants to do its best to prevent foreign interlopers from snatching jobs away from Italian citizens. Understandable.

Then there is the elective residency visa, which basically states you are coming to Italy NOT to work, and that you have sufficient financial resources to live without becoming a burden on the country. This is the grayest of all requirements, because there is no published criteria for the threshold of required financial assets, and those requirements seem to be much higher when applying for your Italian residency visa, than applying for your permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) that takes over from the visa once you have settled in Italy.

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The Magnificence of the Colosseum – Photo by Jed

Always awe-inspiriting, the Roman Colosseum has a history rooted in spectacle and great cruelty.

Always awe-inspiriting, the Roman Colosseum has a history rooted in spectacle and great cruelty.

Rome’s Colosseum (Wikipedia link) never ceases to inspire me, while also causing me to reflect on the infamous spectacles that were housed in such a marvel of architectural accomplishment. Over time, I plan to do a series of the Colosseum with my photography – with different angles, different lightling. For me it will be a challenge of altering my perspective and seeing what presents itself. Check out this an other photography and paintings in my online gallery.

 

“Resolute” – New Painting by Jed

Resolute - Watercolor

Resolute – Watercolor

I’m happy to share my recently completed watercolor. I’ve entitled it “Resolute” because this portrays the fortitude of my dear neighbor in our little hamlet in Umbria. She is the matriarch of the neighborhood, and she works harder than almost anyone I know. She’s pushing 80, but everyday she is up early to tend to her chickens, do laundry, work in the garden, clear debris, and cook for her son and other family. She is incredibly kind and always welcomes us into her home. Visit my online gallery for more watercolors and other artwork and photography.

The Art of Italian Greetings & Goodbyes

If you spend any time in Italy, and you want to begin to endear yourself to the people here, you’d better familiarize yourself with the art of Italian greetings and goodbyes.

Don’t abuse “Ciao”.

This is one the biggest missteps Americans make when they come to Italy, blithely tossing out “Ciao” everywhere when greeting an Italian or saying goodbye. Most people will acknowledge you, but you might as well have “unenlightened foreigner” stamped on your forehead. My partner, who is Italian (born and bred here in Italy,) has helped me embrace a few important guidelines for when saying hello and goodbye.

Italian Hello and Goodbye“Ciao” is a greeting or a goodbye used for people with whom you have a familiar relationship. Don’t use it with strangers. “Salve” is the polite way to address people you are meeting for the first time. I don’t usually make the switch to “Ciao” unless the other person does so first. It’s kind of like them saying “It’s okay to be a bit more casual.”

As for saying goodbye to someone you don’t know, always use “arrivederci”. I know, it’s a mouthful, and you may stumble over rolling your r’s, but practice, practice, practice.

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A Cat’s Journey to Italy

Francesca, a California girl, made the long trip to Italy with flying colors.

Francesca, a California girl, made the long trip to Italy with flying colors, in spite of my anticipating otherwise.

One of the many considerations and practicalities you will need to tackle when planning the logistics of your to Italy is the relocation of your pets. If you’re really going to pull the trigger on either a long term stay in Italy, or a permanent relocation, you’ll have to do your due diligence in getting this figured out. Our cat’s journey to Italy was an adventure that began with extreme paranoia on my part….

Francesca is a feline beauty. Rescued from an animal shelter when she was 2 1/2 years old, Francesca came home to my apartment with “issues” – meaning she was 90% sweet, adorable, and loving. The other 10% was pure, wildcard craziness and unpredictability. I enjoyed my many nights of her cuddling up next to me. Such periods of togetherness kept luring me into a false security of a devoted “daughter” who would never hurt me. And, then she would “turn” at a moment’s notice, leaving me with deep bite marks or scratches…and usually a parting hiss, as if to underscore her sudden bad mood, and to remind me that I could never, ever, really let down my guard.

I share this so you can understand why I began losing sleep as the day approached that I would have to put her on a plane with me. Sure, there the were necessary examinations, approvals, and paperwork, but what I feared most was how I would get her through almost 24 hours of travel, from door-to-door, without needing plastic surgery to repair my shredded flesh. And, then there were the fears regarding my fellow passengers. My nerves are usually shot fairly quickly in the vicinity of a screaming baby on board. I could only imagine the impact on fellow travelers of a yowling cat.

Can you tell I was building a huge horror film in my head?

Let’s set all of that aside, for now, and talk about the logistics of taking a pet to Italy…

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Christmas Lunch at Marco G in Trastevere

My first Christmas in Rome was celebrated with a wonderful Christmas lunch at Marco G in Trastevere. Simone’s parents have been here visiting and we had been searching these last few weeks for a welcoming place whose menu would include some tasty traditional dishes. After reading many reviews on Trip Advisor, we took it for a test drive a few days before. We left this first “test” evening with a hearty thumbs up and a reservation secured for Christmas Day.

A delicious Gewurstraminer from the Alto Adige, by Roca Savina, is just one of an impressive list of 168 wines.

A delicious Gewurstraminer from the Alto Adige, by Roca Savina, is just one of an impressive list of 168 wines.

Located at Via Garibaldi, 56 in the immensely popular Trastevere area, the restaurant has a quaint exterior (with tables outside for warmer weather) and is adjacent to a couple of eclectic looking restaurants. We were welcomed with big smiles and we were quickly seated. We began with a Gewurstraminer from the Alto Adige, by Roca Savina – a delicious wine, full of character, yet very reasonably priced. This was just one of an impressive list of 168 wines that Marco has been steadily building based on research and feedback from customers.

While enjoying our wine, we perused the menu. We chose from the antipasti, which included a couple of seafood choices, a trio of bufala, cured meats, etc. I had the “carpaccio di salome con riduzione d’arancia”, thinly sliced salmone in a reduction of orange, and served atop a bed of shredded radicchio and lettuce.

Carpaccio di salome con riduzione d'arancia - my antipasto.

“Carpaccio di salome con riduzione d’arancia”- served atop a bed of shredded radicchio and lettucse was my antipasto.

As for their pasta dishes, Rome should be proud, with an amatriciana that you’re sure to remember for a long time. Simone wisely chose that, and I was fortunate to snatch a small spoonful of the sauce.

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