The Extraordinary Street Perfomers of Venice

Venetian Street Performers

Glass Symphony – © Jed Smith 2018

Street performers in Venice have a never-ending audience of tourists flooding the city. If you’re an artist and you’re good at your craft––or if you’re particularly adept at being novel, you might be able to make a decent wage.

It’s pretty easy to find a musical maestro

Consider the photo above. I know people have heard plenty of glass music, but this fella is something to behold. How a person can coax music with such dimension out of the glasses is beyond my comprehension.

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Venice Postscript: The Working Man and Acqua Alta

Acqua Alta, Italywise

Sloggin’ Through Acqua Alta © 2017 Jed Smith

Yep, it’s that time of the year when Venetians start dealing with the acqua alta more frequently.

The high waters associated with fickle tides keep the people of Venice on their toes. Just a couple of weeks ago I published a photo essay and tribute to the working man of Venice. I forget to point out an added complexity of their lives. That’s the acqua alta. Locals stay abreast of the “odds” given by the local weather reports. Everyone waits and dreads the siren that goes off city-wide to warn people to “get ready”.  Usually, when you hear the sirens, the high waters will be making their appearance within a couple of hours.

Venice is constantly in readiness to respond to the acqua alta.

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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

 

A Tribute to the Working Man in Venice

working man, Italywise

Intensity – © 2107 Jed Smith

I love so many things about Venice. The city is a constantly unfolding visual feast. It’s a city that never stops giving even though she will never reveal all of her mysteries. Most visitors are dazzled by the sites in this magnificent city. I’m enthralled with the grout of Venice, the working man. Put another way, the working man is the connective tissue that keeps this city afloat and functioning.

The working woman, too, is part of the grout of Venice.  To give her equal tribute, I am working on a separate photo essay (stay tuned).

The working man in Venice is always battling the elements.

Venice is forever shifting and settling. Perfect right angles and straight lines are an impossibility. Imagine keeping a city going that exchanges boats far cars and trucks. Imagine dealing with the corrosive and rotting effects of so much moisture. Imagine coping with the acqua alta, the high waters. And then there is doing one’s job while dodging throngs of tourists. The working man in Venice must cope with it all.

These seven images capture only a snippet of the life of the working man.

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The Vigili del Fuoco of Venice and “Firetrucks” on Water

vigili di fuoco

The Vigili del Fuoco out and about in Venice © 2017 Jed Smith

 

I’ve made it a mission to create a photo essay of the life of Venetian workmen hard at work in the canals and passages of Venice. I’ve yet to find women working on outdoor crews, including the one female gondolier (I’m hoping that will change and I hope I’m able to capture the evolution as it happens).

Observing everyday life and functions on the water in Venice is endlessly fascinating

How do everyday functions such as trash collection, deliveries (can’t wait to delve into how Amazon.com reaches a person’s doorstep), medical emergency services (i.e. ambulances on water), etc.?

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For Love of Frittelle

Frittelle, Italywise

Frittelle easily brings out the animal appetites.

What’s the big deal with frittelle?

After all, it’s JUST fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, right? That was my superior attitude until I remembered I had been a devotee of Krispy Kreme growing up. And vacations in New Orleans taught me to swoon at the first bite of a beignet. So who was I to pass judgment on yet another incarnation of fried dough? Italians adore this treat, and visitors easily become converts.

Also called fritole, these pastries originated as Venetian doughnuts. Traditionally they were served during Carnevale, but now you can find them all over Italy year-round, especially at local festivals, in all shapes and sizes––particularly the large “disk” incarnation pictured above. We even found a frittelle truck in the parking lot of Obi (an Italian equivalent of Home Depot). The basic preparation is fried, yeast-risen dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. But, more elaborate additions are found, such as raisins and pine nuts, and pastry cream fillings.

How can Italians eat so many sweets like frittelle?

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Exploring the Rich Potential of Spaciousness

Spaciousness, Folegandros

A Sea of Possibilities © 2017 Jed Smith

I was ready for some spaciousness…or so I thought.

Our long-awaited trip to the tranquil island of Folegandros, Greece, finally had arrived. This would be easy. A quick (and inexpensive) Volotea flight from Venice to Santorini, and then an hour by fast boat to Folegandros. We’d arrive, unplug, and fall into complete bliss while staring out into the vast expanse of the Aegean.

Yep, I had it all planned out. And then, like a drug addict who couldn’t really own up to his addictions, I was hit with the pain of withdrawal from constant doing and thinking. Talk about feeling slapped sideways.

A valuable wake-up call.

Consequently, during our first full day in this glorious island paradise, I was about to jump out of my skin. My personal throttle was stuck in high gear. And my mind was tackling a mess of thoughts at a velocity and ferocity that would leave Pac Man in the dust.

And then it hit me…I’d been filling up my life and distracting myself with constant busyness. When it came time to sit still, I didn’t know how. Well, not at the level being offered to me on this breathtaking island.

“Wherever You Go, There You Are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Crap, I was busted. What was I to do? Jump into planning or doing something to distract myself? Run from being still and avoid inviting the uncertainty of spaciousness into my life?

Then I remembered something

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The Life of a Gondolier

Gondolier, Italysie

Fueling Up © 2017 Jed Smith

When many people come to Venice and negotiate their first gondola ride, they think they’re shelling out a small fortune while the gondolier is making easy money.

Think again.

Becoming a gondolier is no easy feat.

I used to think the whole thing about a taxi driver in NYC having to pay a hefty sum to buy a yellow cab medallion was ridiculous. I believe a wannabe gondolier has more of an uphill climb.

Used to be that a gondolier license had to pass from father to son.

Or to another male family member IF there was no son. Yep, all-in-the-family was the name of the game.

Now the process is even harder.

These days you have to belong to a 1000-year-old Gondolier’s Guild. And that comes only after 400 hours of training under the sponsorship and tutelage

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Bolzano – A Dramatic Change in Scenery and Culture

Bolzano

Bolzano is a city rich in pastels

We decided on a day trip to Bolzano to cool off if the protective embrace of the Dolomites

The three-plus hour journey from Treviso was well worth it. But let me assure you, on this particular August day the heat almost did us in. When we arrived in Bolzano it was around 100 degrees. The heat wave in Europe has been such a scorcher it appropriately has been called ‘Lucifer’. Upon returning home, it took me a full day to recover and bring my body back to a normal temperature.

We enjoyed a lovely day there however, thanks to a strategy of drinking lots of water, chasing shaded areas, and ducking into to shops with robust air conditioning.

Okay, with the heat factor out of the way, let me share what I’ve learned and experienced (thus far) about Bolzano.

A fusion of Italian and Austrian cultures

Bolzano is part of the autonomous Trentino province of Italy. It’s in the area called the Alto Adige, meaning “above the Adige river”.

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Walk On By

Jed Smith

Walk on By © 2017 Jed Smith

This week I share an image I recently captured in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As I was finally going through the batch of images taken on a hot July afternoon, this leapt out at me and its power took me by surprise.

In Venice a common theme is beggars in supplication to people passing by.

I call this “passive begging” and the streets of Venice are populated with people such as the man above. I’ve also seen numerous women prostrating themselves on their knees and elbows. Their heads are bowed and a small cup is in their hands. They don’t move. Rarely do I take photos of these people. I feel more comfortable taking photos of the street performers. After all, they’re actually doing something to earn money, right? That’s what I tell myself. But looking at this particular image I say, “Jed Smith you don’t know this man’s story, do you?”

Hmmm, that gives me pause.

People are adept at looking away, and avoiding what makes them uncomfortable.

And this is what stands out to me as the central theme of this photo. This man is patiently and humbly looking with expectation

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