Pietrantonj is Abruzzo’s Oldest Winery

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Pietrantonj

Cerano Montepulciano d”Aruzzo Riserva from Pietrantonj

One thing leads to another.

This is becoming my motto in life, with one additional clarifier. One thing leads to another when you give yourself over to the flow of life and say “Let’s play!” Well, my introduction to Pietrantonj, Abruzzo’s oldest winery, is a prime example of things organically falling into place. First, came my visit to Sulmona and a fulfilled wish to witness my dear friend Novelia crafting her handmade pasta. I was over the moon that Novelia invited me into the kitchen with my camera to capture her artistry. As Novelia and I were plotting our cooking session, the topic of pairing wines worthy of her creations arose. Immediately, Novelia exclaimed, “Pietrantonj, of course!” Then, Novelia made a call to the Pietrantonj family and I was in like flint in short order to have a personal tour and tasting with Alice Pietrantonj, one of the three daughters.

The experience evolved.

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Fall in Love with Novelia and Fettuccine “a mano”

Fettuccine, Italywise

Fettuccine al mano – © 2018 Jed Smith

Am I a lucky man or not?

After you view the video contained in this post, I believe you’ll quickly respond in the affirmative. Just two weeks ago, I had the supreme good fortune to spend time in Sulmona, Abruzzo with my dear friend Novelia—this time to receive a personal demonstration of how to create pasta entirely by hand. Yep, not a single bit of assistance with modern appliances. We started with fettuccine, made with giant duck eggs, no less. That was followed by spaghetti made with a 200-year-old chitarra, but that is worthy of its own post (stay tuned).

I’ve never experienced a woman with so much reverence and love for her culinary creations.

Novelia’s fettuccine “a mano” is tangible proof. This is not someone just going through the steps dutifully. She is an artisan in the highest sense. Her hands at work easily could be those of a master sculptor.

She talks to her ingredients.

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Learning Italian? Lighten Up with Music.

Learn Italian, Italywise

Music can be a worthy teacher when you want to learn Italian.

I’ve taken to utilizing Italian music to round out my knowledge of Italian.

If you’re on the journey to achieve some kind of competency when you learn Italian, then I highly encourage you to lighten things up and let Italian pop music be one of your teachers. Currently, I’m in a bit of  “pause” with intensive grammar studies (i.e. the more complicated verb tenses). When I did my month-long Italian language intensive at Torre di Babele in Rome (read my post about it), my head was so full that I felt as though surely it was too much and was seeping out of my ears. In the ensuing weeks and months, I became convinced that I had lost the lion’s share of what I had learned. But, thanks to stepping up my dedication to listening to Italian music, a lot is coming back to me now. And, in the context of music, it’s actually making sense.

To learn Italian through music can be a ton of fun.

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The Rich Fishing History of Abruzzo’s Trabocchi

Trabocchi, Trabocco

One of the many trabocchi dotting the coast of Abruzzo. Image by Lorenabacchilega of Creative Commons

Trabocchi are “fishing machines” dating back to the 18th century.

At least that’s the earliest documentation attesting to their existence. Some sources claim these fascinating structures as being first put in use by the Phoenicians. Trabocchi (read more on Wikipedia) are all along the coast of Abruzzo. During my recent train ride up Italy’s eastern coast on Trenitalia’s Frecciabianca (The White Arrow) from Pescara to Bologna, I saw several trabocchi. My dear friend Novelia from Sulmona has been urging me to experience one of these historical structures firsthand. So, I’ve added it to my bucket list and hopefully, I will experience one within the next year.

An old, black and white film added to my resolve to visit one of the trabocchi.

It was when I viewed the following film on YouTube that I said, “No ands, ifs or buts…I’m doing this!”

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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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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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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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“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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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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Ready To Take the Plunge and Hit Reset?

Jed Smith Photography

Puglia Plunge © 2017 Jed Smith

If you’re moving to Italy you’d best be prepared to hit reset.

Why do I say this? Because, in my experience, many people can be so swept along by the romantic notions of living in Italy that they end up being blindsided by an avalanche of change. Other people are purposely steering into major change and are itching to hit reset. Either way, life is going to change significantly.

I recently returned from a trip to the States. It has been almost five years since I jumped off the cliff and left my American life in the rearview mirror. I don’t know if the amount of personal transformation I’ve been through just now is hitting the tipping point, but on this particular trip I was homesick for Italy and I didn’t have the least bit of nostalgia for my former surroundings (exempting, of course, my close friends). I felt like a tourist in my country of birth. And, when I returned to Italy and stepped off the plane, I breathed a sigh of relaxation. I was home, truly home.

This is my wish for all of you who embark upon the journey of moving to Italy, to embrace Italy fully and eventually feel in your bones that she is home.

But…

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