The Running Madonna – “La Madonna che scappa”

Running Madonna, Italywise

The big moment

The Running Madonna, The Madonna Who Runs, and The Runaway Madonna – this Easter event goes by several names.

This is a spectacular event, and one of the biggest events in Italy. It’s been acted out for centuries in Sulmona, a medieval city in Abruzzo. If you get the chance, I strongly urge you to experience The Running of the Madonna in person. You’ll find yourself swept along in the weekend’s highly charged emotional events, which all lead up to a singular, breathtaking moment in Piazza Garibaldi.

Book your travel and accommodations early for the Running of the Madonna!

My precious friends Novelia and Peppe (also residents and superb ambassadors of Sulmona) started enticing me to block out time on my calendar, and book accommodations, well over a year ago. Even securing a room at a B&B almost eight months prior to the event before was a challenge. I almost didn’t get a place.

So what exactly is The Running of the Madonna all about?

Much attention is given to the pivotal moment on Easter Sunday when the Madonna races across Piazza Girabaldi,

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The Allure of Venice at Night

Venice at Night, ItalyWise

A Warm Light Beckons – Jed Smith © 2017

Those of you who’ve been following my blog understand I have a love affair with Venice. And, it continues to deepen, particularly in regards to Venice at night.

On this particular March evening, we had just attended a book signing event at the Mont Blanc store near Piazza San Marco. I had brought my camera to capture the event. But, I hadn’t planned on doing any photography once the event concluded.

Then, a twenty-minute walk, to meet up with one of our dearest friends, yielded photos of Venice being claimed by nightfall.

I like challenging myself by adding improvisational assignments to my photo explorations. This stroll became a prime opportunity to

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What Happens When We Wear a Mask?

Carnevale, ItalyWise

Would you laugh with this jester?

My mind and my imagination are still reeling from the bountiful display of pageantry and costumes that I saw during the official kick-off of Carnevale in Venice, just over a week ago. I marveled at the sea of exquisitely designed masks. More than once I had a sense that some of the masks were revealing sides of people normally hidden in the shadows. As I continue to edit the ocean of images, I find myself dancing between artistic admiration and asking “Just what happens when we wear masks?”

Do events like Carnevale and Halloween coax hidden parts of ourselves to the surface?

When I moved to Italy and discovered that Halloween “dress-up” practically was non-existent, I was a sad little puppy. Back in the States I loved Halloween, and those of you who know me, know I adore dipping into my creative reserves to design and embody vastly different characters at Halloween. Usually my characters have a bizarre twist. I love playing freely behind the costumes and masks I create. I often wonder what a psychologist would say about the collective assembly of characters and masks I’ve worn. Hmmm…

I guess you could say I’d been going through costume and mask withdrawal, until I hit the jackpot of all costume jackpots

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A Colorful Dove, with Great Fanfare, Launches Carnevale in Venice

 

carnevale, Italywise

Il lancio della colombina – the launch of the dove kicks off Carnevale 2017

Man, was I lucky this year (2017) to have a front row seat for the official kick-off of Carnevale in Venice. Life keeps offering up these incredible opportunities. This time it came in the form of a pass into the “inner circle” at the heart of the official Carnevale launch, Sunday, February 19. But, let’s first back up to the adventure of arriving in Venice and making our way to Piazza San Marco.

If you’re brave (or crazy) enough to put yourself in the midst of the spectacle of Carnevale’s first official day, be prepared to go early and patiently navigate the crowds.

This is no small matter. If you don’t like crowds or cramped spaces, I’d advise you to stay home and watch the events on TV. I’m not a fan of crowds, but being six-two, at least my head is above most of the crowd. As long as I can breathe I can vanquish my anxieties of tight spaces.

Carnevale, Italywise

Patiently waiting a security check on the way to Piazza San Marco

The big event, Il lancio della colombina (also called The Flight of the Angel), was scheduled for noon. We arrived at the Santa Lucia train station at nine-thirty, and promptly made our way to the vaporetto stop, where we queued for at least half an hour. Four vaporetti later, and we were on board. The journey to the San Marco stop took at least forty-five minutes. Our progress was impeded when the boat was halted to make way for a regatta with a police escort.

I was ready to hop off and make a beeline to the center of the piazza. But, oh no, we came to a virtual standstill at a small bridge heading over

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Buone Feste from ItalyWise!

Venice Santa, ItalyWise

Wishing you the best of holidays my dear friends and followers!

May the season be full of joyful surprises, like the one above that I experienced just yesterday while strolling through Venice. Everything “arrives” differently in Venice, so I guess it should be no surprise that Santa travels by boat here and not by sleigh!

Who knows what Santa will bring me in the way of adventures in the coming year. Stay tuned!!!

Valdobbiadene Will Deepen Your Love Affair with Prosecco

Prosecco, Valdobbiadene, ItalyWise

Prosecco wines of Valdobbiadene

It seems only fitting, with the holiday season, to devote a post to the standard-bearer of celebratory wines here in Italy – Prosecco. Until recently, I had been sloppy about my Prosecco knowledge. That is, until my partner and I took the forty-five minute drive from Treviso to Valdobbiadene. This town and area, my friends, is THE bullseye when it come to the gold standard for prosecco.

Prosecco continues to become all the rage outside of Italy.  But beware of what you’re buying!

I’ve been one of those people – you know, who gets excited just hearing the word prosecco, without really understanding the vast differences between what is being marketed as prosecco. I’ve learned there are plenty of differences, and a lot of the prosecco being exported is appealing to the general idea of prosecco, and not to the elegant subtleties. The good news is that most people really enjoy the prosecco they are buying at the local grocery or wine shop. But, come to Italy and spend a day in Valdobiaddene, and you might realize you’ve been short-changing yourself.

A day of tastings in Valdobiaddene will help you zero in on the style you like best.

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Introducing The Net – A New Painting by Jed Smith

Jed Smith, Italywise

The Net, oil on canvas, by Jed Smith ©2016

I’m excited to unveil my recent labor of love, with the current working title of The Net. This is my second oil painting to-date, previously having focused most of my painting career on watercolors. I love both mediums, but working in oil is expanding my horizons, and my ability to work on a much larger scale. This painting is approximately 40″ x 60″, and took at least a year and four months to complete. Mind you, if I had been working on this non-stop I would have completed it much sooner. I decided to live and paint by the Italian credo of “piano, piano” – which means “slowly, slowly”. In other words, be patient!

This new Jed Smith work of art was inspired by a scene of everyday life in the rich and colorful fishing village of Burano, Italy. If you’re not familiar with Burano, it’s a 30 minute vaporetto ride from the Fondamenta Nuove stop in Venice. It’s well worth your attentions if you find yourself in Venice.

I’ve made a promise to myself to not explain or intellectualize why I choose a particular subject matter. I believe that would only get in the way of the viewer experiencing the work without being unduly influenced. With that said, I’ll leave you to contemplate this latest work. Meanwhile, I am moving a new, large, blank canvas to my easel. A new subject has been chosen – one that will provide a dramatically different perspective. Stay tuned….

To see this and other paintings, be sure to visit my online gallery.

I’d love for you to become a direct subscriber to Italywise.com. It’s easy. Just enter your email in the upper right column (or bottom of the page on a tablet). You’ll receive a confirmation email, and then future blog posts will land directly in your in-box!

 

In the Face of a Sheep

Abruzzo, Italywise

 

My recent sojourn with shepherds, goats and sheep in the stunning Apennines mountains of the Parco Nazionale della Majella of Abruzzo left me musing about what I had learned about myself while communing with the flock.

On the day of the journey, we had arrived early morning at Nunzio Marcelli’s La Porta dei Parchi agriturismo, a good forty-five minutes before the trek up the mountains was to commence. I wandered around the property, first stopping to observe the goats being milked (an upcoming post). The shepherd dogs were lounging about, getting their last respite before a full day’s work, while staying faithfully close to their charges, who were safely contained in pens. It was then that I captured the photo featured in this post, and this singular, arresting face of a sheep. Only later, when I was doing my editing, did I realize the reason the image resonated with me so much…

I saw myself in the face of that sheep.

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Three Magical Days in Budapest

Danube, Budapest

Cruising along the Danube in Budapest, Hungary.

Getting to Budapest from Italy is a piece of cake.

Our recent trip to Budapest is just one example of just how easy, and inexpensive it is to hop around Europe. Even better, since we live just north of Venice, we’re that much closer. The Venice airport continues to expand, and it offers multiple options for getting to destinations such as Budapest. We took easyJet for 60 euro a piece. That’s roundtrip, including one checked bag for the two of us (you don’t need much for three days). The flight there, from Venice, is a mere fifty minutes from takeoff to landing. Not bad, wouldn’t you say?

Get thee to Budapest before the old world charm is overrun with tourism.

I strongly urge you to make a beeline for Budapest. We all know what happens when a destination is “discovered”, don’t we?

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Finding Respite in a Shepherd’s Journey in Abruzzo

abruzzo, Italywise

A Shepherd’s Journey

As most of you know, I recently had the good fortune to go on a “walkabout” with shepherds in the majestic Apennines in Abruzzo. This is the fourth in a series of photos that chronicle my experience. As I perused the multitude of images to choose one for this post, this one leapt out at me.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time contemplating this special experience in Abruzzo, the area just above the heel of the boot of Italy. It was a dream opportunity for a photographer. And, it was a golden opportunity to escape the madding crowd of relentless digital and media onslaught to which we fall prey on a daily basis. I confess I’ve willingly allowed myself, all too often, to be sucked into this vortex of distraction, and angst. Yes, angst. I believe it would take a supremely enlightened being to deflect the anxiety-inducing effects of the

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