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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Dying in Italy – Know the Landscape

Jed Smith Photography

Cypress Silhouette © 2018 Jed Smith

Recently, I wrote philosophically about Learning to Dance with Both Life and Death. I shift now to navigating the practicalities of dying in Italy.

Dreams of living in Italy often include a vision of riding out one’s years here and drawing one’s last breaths in the country they’ve come to call home. If that is your dream, and a possible reality, then I recommend knowing the lay of the land. Dying in Italy can come with complications if you’re not prepared.

Know the legalities.

You don’t want to be caught unawares if you or your significant other dies while living in Italy. I suspect many people will read this post and exclaim “What a downer!” But I’ve promised to be faithful to addressing the full gamut of what life in Italy entails, and that includes the potential hurdles that can come with dying in Italy.

Having a relationship with a local attorney can be advantageous. He or she can help you navigate the laws and bureaucracy if you or the person who ends up being responsible for funeral and burial arrangements hit a snag. In my opinion, there’s no better person than one who knows how to navigate the often sticky Italian red tape rather than trying to figure it out on your own.

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Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

Train Travel, Italywise

Split Screen – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love trains and train travel.

Ever since I received my first Lionel train set for Christmas at age four, I’ve been hooked. But, the view I had of trains was pretty much all about hauling freight––not people. Fast-forward sixteen years to when I studied art in Italy for the summer, and I looked at trains with fresh eyes. I fell in love all over again. This is so cool, I thought. A country and a continent whose transportation arteries of the railroad network rivaled, and often surpassed, that of the highway system. People have real travel options.

When I returned home after my Italian summer,

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Buone Feste! Let There Be Magic!

Buone Feste, Italywise

Buone Feste! May you have the happiest of holidays! © 2017 Jed Smith

I am indeed fortunate to be living in Italy and experiencing yet another magical holiday! I confess, a long career in advertising and marketing had almost depleted my stores of holiday cheer. Yes, a bit of “too much Christmas” for commercial reasons. Yours truly had become a bit of a Scrooge. Until my move…

Thank You, Italy, for bringing back a hearty Buone Feste into my life!

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of holiday lights with ancient architecture and streets steeped in history. Maybe it is a matter of letting go of the former life and being able to see with fresh eyes. Maybe it’s the unfettered enthusiasm with which Italians celebrate the holidays. Whatever the answer, I just know I’m grateful to feel like a kid again.

Wherever you are, may this holiday season be full of magic and warmth.

Jed

 

Italian Holiday Greetings – Prep Yourself and Know the Protocol

Italian Holiday Greetings

The holiday trim and lights already are being prepped and strung across the ancient city streets of Italy. Mountains of panettone (Italian holiday sweet bread) dominate the supermarkets. Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching, and the exchange of Italian holiday greetings is ramping up.

Let’s talk about the most often-used Italian holiday greetings…

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