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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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.

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The Dark Side of Venice – Photography by Giacomo Fornari

 

Venice, Italywise

Venice Night by Giacomo Fornari

I am fascinated with the dark side of Venice. Perhaps, this is the primary reason it remains my favorite city in all of Italy. Long ago I learned to leave the heavily touristed thoroughfares behind to wander and explore the endless maze of narrow streets and alleys. A person doesn’t have to go far to begin experiencing the spooky and mysterious aspects of this one-of-a-kind city. It’s no wonder that Italy has inspired so many dark (and often disturbing) books and movies. For classic film buffs there is the cinematic masterpiece Don’t Look Now. Who can forget the knife wielding drawf? When I’m wandering the seemingly deserted areas of Venice at night, I half expect such a figure to emerge from the darkness. Lucifer’s Shadow, a book by David Hewson, is a well crafted tale of murder and intrigue in Venice. And I’m itching to read more of his books.

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The Contours of Man and Mountain – Photo by Jed

Dolomites, Italywise

I don’t consider myself an accomplished landscape photographer. My fascination with people and stories of everyday life have been my focus. However, on our one day excursion up to the Dolomites, which was just one and a half hours’ drive from Treviso, I gave myself to focus on landscapes, for a change, and see what presented itself. Being a novice in this regard, I had absolutely nothing to lose.

So, I took some of the advice I’ve given in earlier emails about finding your voice, and..

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Venice – White Coats in Readiness – Photo by Jed

Venice, Italywise

White Coats in Readiness

Often I visit the archives of photography I’ve done many years ago to see how my style has evolved, and to see if there are some gems that still stand out to me. Here is one that I took at least sixteen years ago using conventional 35mm film (Fuji Velvia 100) when I didn’t have the luxury of confirming I had the shot, as I envisioned it, on the spot. Oh how photography has changed with the advancements in digital technology.

Normally I stay far away from Piazza San Marco in Venice, feeling a bit claustrophobic, and so outnumbered by the throngs of tour groups – now made even more challenging with the proliferation of cruise ships docked close by. Consequently I seek out more opportunities in the in-between hours of activity – either crack-of-dawn, when it’s virtually deserted, or late afternoon when many people are sleeping off the excesses from earlier in the day.

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10 Reasons You’ll Fall in Love with Treviso

Treviso, Italywise

Maybe I’m biased, since we now live in Treviso most of the time, but I believe Treviso is one of these best cities in Italy. You won’t find it listed on the hot lists of most tourist itineraries. However, if you carve out time in your schedule to come to Treviso, or to make it your base of operations while in Veneto, you won’t be disappointed. I quickly became enamored with Venice’s northern cousin. This post is to tempt you to do the same!

prosecco, Treviso, ItalywiseProsecco. You’re in the bullseye of its production (and mastery).

You’ve hit the jackpot if you are a fan of this sparkling Italian wine. Yes, in Treviso, you’ll find yourself smack dab in the thick of Prosecco production. I’m blown away by the prolific displays of this wine at the local markets, and finding a tasty prosecco for under 5 euro a bottle is pretty easy. And, this wine is abundantly available on-tap in most restaurants. People in the Veneto are known for their love of drink (and ability to hold it) and drinking prosecco, whether alone, or as part of a spritz, seems encoded in the genes of the locals.

My adoration of prosecco is reason alone to be in love with Treviso. Pair it up with cicchetti and the love affair deepens.

Cicchetti

Cicchetti, Italywise

Cicchetti with bacalà

Many people refer to cicchetti as the Italian version of tapas, or small bites, which are served in  “bàcari”, cicchetti bars. These places abound, making it easy to have a quick lunch or dinner. Mainly this tradition is fueled by a love of communing and socializing, and starting mid-day it isn’t unusual to see people with drinks and small plates in hand, spilling outside these establishments into the alleyways.

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Tranquility Often is Just Around the Corner

Venice, tranquility, Italywise

A Venice canal in the Cannaregio at dusk.

Venice is my favorite city in Italy. I love how it is full of mystery, history and paradox. I love its organic, challenging terrain. I love allowing myself to get lost, and the adventure of finding my way and navigating this giant maze. Yet, what I love most is how tranquility always awaits, if you’re willing to venture off the main thoroughfares. And, this leads me to the featured photo for this post.

Just a few weeks ago, I made the short trek from Treviso to Venice by train. I gave myself permission, for the afternoon, to wander, without a fixed time schedule or agenda. Let the journey unfold. This seems to be a major lesson and opportunity for me, especially since moving to Italy. Set preconceived ideas aside, and trust that the universe will lead me. Trying to control my experience, and life’s outcomes has been a yoke that I took on years and years ago. But, that is changing. Scary to “let go”? Yes. But, it can be an incredible relief to step aside from trying to be chief commander and choreographer of one’s experience.

The first time I visited Venice, I was pretty much put off by the throngs of tourists owning the streets. The noise level, and the threshold of activity was just too much for me. Had I attached myself to this first experience, I would have deprived myself of the full dimensions and offerings of this spectacular city. Subsequent trips, purposefully planned to take me off the beaten-track and thoroughfares, yielded a bounty of experience that led me to fall deeply, irrevocably in love with Venice. I found beauty, quiet, and tranquility hidden away.

So, on this recent excursion, I first threw myself into the current of tourists until I found my exit to head to the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop, and a trip to Burano. Within just minutes, and in a matter of just a few steps, the noise abated, and space opened up. I meandered my way to the boat stop, relishing the beauty of lonely canals and quiet comings and goings.

Upon my return from Burano, at dusk, I slowed my pace, hoping to prolong a meditative stroll, before abruptly finding myself amongst a sea of activity and noise. I stopped on a bridge, savoring the warm, evolving colors of dusk, and snapped this photo. Nothing can repeat the moment of being there, but this image does serve as a reminder and a beacon that tranquility is often close at hand.

The main streets of Venice, clogged with eager tourists, serve as a metaphor for my mind, and the often incessant stream of thoughts. When I am caught up in the grips of thinking, I really can’t see or experience anything, and I suffer a major case of misidentification. Life feels “flat” and I feel anything but present. When I am under the sway of incessant thinking I often completely forget that tranquility and quietude awaits. And, like this canal at dusk, with its still waters, and warm colors, peace can find me, or present itself, when I take the metaphorical journey away from engaging with or believing the stream of thoughts that stubbornly insist on my attention.

Often we distinguish between talking and thinking. Yet, I offer that thinking simply is talking to ourselves. Thinking can be a marvelous servant, but I believe it has taken over our lives, and obscured our true natures. Kahlil Gibran, often called a Christian mystic, beautifully expresses this in an excerpt from The Prophet:

 

There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.
And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.
And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.
In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

 

 

 

Coming to Treviso? Head to Hostaria dai Naneti for a Quick Bite with the Locals

Trevsio, Naneti, Italywise

Our “snack” was a board of sliced prosciutto crudo, a basket of bread and two glasses of wine – only 10 euro!

Treviso is chock-full of reasons (too numerous to list here, but coming in a subsequent post) to make it a stop on your tour of Veneto. It’s easy to leave the hordes of tourists in Venice and head to this incredibly civilized and elegant town, just 20 minutes north. With its river and canals running in and around the city center, Treviso, like Venice, is an ancient city. And, it’s the home of Prosecco. I joke that the waterway encircling the city surely must be made entirely of prosecco.

Recently we’ve latched onto one of Treviso’s prized gems – Hostaria dai Naneti. Dedicated locals flock here daily to queue up, and grab quick bites (cicchetti) and glasses of wine from a generous listing on the main board. On TripAdvisor, Hostaria dai Naneti currently is rated #2 out of 333 Treviso restaurants. I’d say that’s a pretty hearty endorsement. We found this place on our own one day, when strolling the city center. We spotted it, tucked in a small alley adjacent to the large Benetton store (headquartered in Treviso). People were spilling out of the Hostaria, drinks and cicchetti in hand, into the alleyway, where they were communing happily.

Treviso, Naneti, Italywise

Locals queue up for panini, boards of sliced meats, and glasses of wine (or a Spritz!)

Hostaria dai Naneti, dates back to the 900s and is reportedly the second oldest institution in Treviso. The name itself reflects the local dialect. Hostaria is a local variation on “osteria” which traditionally refers to a place of simple wine and local food. Some people might call it an Italian “pub” or “public house” (I call it a really cool, down to earth wine bar). “Naneti” is a local variation on “nanetti” which means dwarves. I’ll have to dig further to understand how dwarves inspired this Treviso institution.

Tons of locals choose Hostaria dai Naneti for a quick lunch, and often they return for “happy hour” later in the day, when they can wind down and linger. If you arrive during peak business, be patient, and be prepared to queue up – though understanding who is next in line can be a bit confusing. Fortunately this is mitigated by the incredible kindness and civility of the Treviso people. In other words, it may feel like you’re stepping into a bit of madness, but it’s a happy madness. The people running the hostaria are agile food and beverage artisans. A large wine “board” lists an ample selection of yummy wine, and a case of cicchetti (prepared small bites) and cured meats and cheeses make ordering easy.

Treviso, Naneti, Italywise

The Wine Board at Hostaria dai Naneti

Simone kindly volunteered to order for us. Two glasses of wine, a board of sliced prosciutto crudo, and a basket of bread, only set us back 10 euro. Hard to beat, right? A similar offering in California would have been at least $30. While this didn’t become our lunch for the day, it nicely sated our appetites, and quenched our thirsts after a morning strolling and shopping trip in Treviso’s city center. Life IS good!

 

Hostaria dai Naneti

Via Broli, 2, Treviso, Italia

Tel: 3403783158

The Devil Is in the Detail, or Is the Detail in the Devil?

Handsome devil, Italywise

Tintoretto chose to portray a “handsome devil” in The Temptation of Christ (detail)

How many times have we heard someone described as a “handsome devil”? I never gave it much thought, until I stumbled across a handsome devil, literally, while reading the captivating novel, Lucifer’s Shadow, by David Hewson, which is set in Venice. A central character, Signor Sacchi is showing young Englishman Daniel Forster Tintoretto’s The Temptation of Christ, at the Scuola Grande’s Sala Superior, and pointing out how Tintoretto broke with the majority of the portrayals of a horrific Lucifer, and painted him as a devilishly beguiling young man. I guess it makes the temptation even more tempting. What starving person could say no to such a beautiful face?

Tintoretto, Italywise

The Temptation of Christ – Tintoretto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was so intrigued by this snippet in the plot that I rushed to my computer, and my buddy Google, and saw for myself. Now, I’m determined to make the hike down to Venice and experience this in person. My love of art history once again has been ignited, and with a concentration on the jackpot of artistic treasures in Venice, I’m going to be busy for a long time. Since my recollections of Tintoretto are too vague to be of use, I want to focus and learn everything I can about this acclaimed artist.

This painting certainly has piqued my curiosity, especially in regards to man’s endless quest to make sense of good and evil, or light and dark. This is evidenced in the stories and myths man has created and expressed in art and literature, with Satan often being a headliner.

I’m a big fan, and follower of the work of Carl Jung. In fact, I’m due for a re-reading of his book, Man and His Symbols. I believe Jung “nailed” the prevailing cause of man’s neurosis and lack of mental and emotional wholeness: Man’s attempt to split off and purge his own darkness. The devil became a representation of this attempt to jettison the unsavory parts of one’s nature which lurk in shadow side of the psyche. Jung believed a wholesale rejection of man’s shadow side leads to an individual’s unending battle with himself.

Having grown up with many heavy-handed and fearful teachings of a Southern Baptist culture, I know I’ve spent years in a war with myself. Consequently, I’ve been a prisoner of perfectionism. However, try as I may to exorcise the devil, and run from my shadow, I’ve come to realize the wisdom of bringing light, and acceptance, to all parts of my being.

I realize I’m probably getting WAY too philosophical, and usually I endeavor to avoid discussing religion or sounding “preachy” in any regard, since I believe the path to wholeness and truth isn’t a one-size-fits all. That said, I do love the following quote from Carl Jung about working with the shadow. I call it making peace with the devil – whether
“he” is handsome or horrific.

May we all find peace and integration, and may we continue to enjoy and utilize the vast myths and stories that represent our search for meaning.

Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. – Carl Jung, “The Philosophical Tree” (1945)

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