La Transumanza – Take the Shepherd’s Journey

La Transumanza, Italywise
The Journey Up – © Jed Smith

It’s an Abruzzo practice that is thousands of years old.

La Transumanza, which literally means “crossing the land” is a twice-yearly practice of Abruzzo shepherds herding their flocks across the mountains and down to the plains and greener pastures of Puglia and sometimes, Lazio. You can easily understand the pragmatic nature of this. In winter months when the mountains can become inhospitable and lacking in a bountiful food supply.

Now, La Porta dei Parchi offers La Transumanza that you can join.

Yes, you can take the journey up into the breathtaking Apennines with the shepherds for four nights and three days with Nunzio’s shepherds. You have the opportunity to live like the shepherds, eating what they eat, and sleeping as they sleep. For those who either can’t rough it or prefer a nice comfy bed, other sleeping options are offered.

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Meet Our Italian Cat Family

Italian cat

An Italian cat family of three. Center photo courtesy of © David Spagnolo

Consider this a birth announcement of sorts.

Yes, our Italian cat family has grown from two to three with the addition of little Olivia! And all three are rescue cats. Francesca (on the right above) was given her name when she lived in California because she would one day be an Italian cat. We scooped up Oscar from a group of feral kittens in Umbria over six years ago. Go figure, we gave an America cat an Italian name and an Italian cat an American name.

Olivia arrived with this year’s olive harvest.

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Now You Can Adopt a Sheep

Adopt a sheep

A Single Face – © Jed Smith

Yes, you can adopt a sheep in Italy, even if you’re halfway across the world.

And by doing so, you help support an organic sheep and goat farm deep in the mountains of Abruzzo, Italy. You get to name him or her, get an identity card and certificate, and you will have artisanal cheeses and wool products shipped to you as part of your sponsorship.

Master Shepherd Nunzio Marcelli birthed the Adopt a Sheep program twenty years ago.

As part of my in-depth visit to Nunzio’s organic farm, La Porta dei Parchi, I had the good fortune to sit down with him and hear firsthand about the program.

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Reflecting on Life as Night Falls in Venice

Venice at Night

Giudecca Dog Walk © Jed Smith

Life and beauty aren’t always found in brilliant light.

Maybe this is a brief, passing phase, but I’m finding myself increasingly fascinated with the “darker side” of existence. Night falls, literally and metaphorically, in life and we have the choice to resist the dark or explore, with curiosity, its gifts.

My photography, my camera is my journal.

Recently, a dear friend and accomplished photographer came to visit. The photo above was taken just after we had toured an inspiring photo exhibition of Willy Ronis at Tre Oci on the Giudecca in Venice. Many of the photos were masterful renderings of how night falls in various settings. I was inspired, and I promised myself I would double my resolve to learn the ropes of capturing nighttime photography. I also realized that this fascination with the darker side of life mirrors my willingness to face my shadow side.

What particularly drew me to the above scene was the man leisurely walking his dog and pausing under a street lamp while the stacks of platforms that become the emergency sidewalks when Venice has high water ominously wait to be put to use.

Night falls on our ideas about how life should be, how it should progress.

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La Porta dei Parchi – An Organic Farm Ahead of Its Time

La Porta dei Parchi

The Gathering – © 2018 Jed Smith

Organic farming was a unique concept forty years ago.

Looking back to the late seventies and early eighties, I remember how organic products were a rare find. Only a few health food stores carried them. An organic way of life was considered more of a hippy, counter-culture type of thing.

So, imagine my surprise to learn that master shepherd Nunzio Marcelli resolved to build an organic sheep and goat farm, La Porta dei Parchi, forty years ago in the majestic mountains of Abruzzo.

The realization of La Porta dei Parchi is an inspiring story.

As you will find out in the following video, which is Part One of a four-part series, Nunzio was unlike many of his contemporaries who left their small villages in search of a more cosmopolitan life.

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Join Me for a Tour of an Inspiring Organic Farm in Abruzzo

Organic farm, Italywise

My visit to the organic farm, La Porta dei Parchi, in Abruzzo.

Go deep.

This is becoming my mantra here in Italy. The potential for rich experiences is plentiful. But it’s easy to zoom by, to just take it in all in too superficially because there IS so much and you can find yourself trying to accumulate and check off as many experiences as possible. It’s easy to feel anxious that you simply won’t be able to cover it all.

La Porta dei Parchi, a spectacular organic farm situated in the towering Apennine mountains in Abruzzo, has been an experience that keeps unfolding the more I’ve been willing to look deeper and not simply do a quick “drive by.”

Take an introductory video tour with me.

I love reaching out and bringing people closer to what I consider as worthy experiences in Italy.

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Castrovalva – A Fairytale Town Clings to a Precipice

Castrovalva, Italywise

Looking up to the hill town of Castrovalva

Impossibly situated…

That’s what I thought when I first saw the tiny village of Castrovalva, perched high on a sliver of rock in The Apennines of Abruzzo. This was just last weekend and my journey there (accompanied by my dear friends Novelia and Peppe) had been planned at the last minute. My main mission was to visit La Porta di Parchi, an organic sheep and goat farm, also an agriturismo. It was late on a Friday afternoon and we were scoping out the farm and preparing for my interviews with Nunzio, the master shepherd, for the following morning. And, as good fortune would have it, we took a 45-minute side trip to Castrovalva. After all, you can see the village from La Porta di Parchi.

One access road and a population of fifteen people.

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Italian Faces Etched with Emotion

Italian faces

Intense Contemplation – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love faces.

And Italian faces are endlessly fascinating to me. Being married to an Italian has taught me firsthand that the passion that is so integral to the culture rarely hides behind a poker face. Hands fly and faces have countless ways of expressing mood and sentiment.

In the States, I grew up in the South. Be polite. Don’t make other people uncomfortable. Keep your feelings (other than joy, happiness, and peace) at bay. That was the pervasive conditioning. Talk about growing up with a leash on one’s emotions!

As a photographer and artist, I’m drawn to portraiture that captures the telltale signs of emotion. Placid, expressionless faces hold no appeal to me from an artistic point of view. There’s no “juice” to inspire capturing an image, whether in a photo or with my paintbrush.

My press pass at La Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona gave me plenty of new inspiration.

Boy, did I hit paydirt.

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La Giostra di Cavalleresca di Sulmona – Don’t Miss It!

La Giostra di Cavalleresca di Sulmona

The Most Important Moment – © 2018 Jed Smith

Guess who scored a press pass to La Giostra di Cavalleresca di Sulmona?

That would be lucky, lucky yours truly, thanks to Saint Novelia, my dear friend and “partner in crime” (when we get together we cook up all sorts of good trouble!). Yes, I had a front row seat to this incredible event! And, I was ready with my best equipment.

This event is held the last weekend in July every year.

La Giostra di Cavalleresca became an annual event in Sulmona starting in 1994. It pays tribute to jousting events from centuries ago and Abruzzo’s rich noble heritage.

On Saturday and Sunday, around four in the afternoon, a long, seemingly endless procession of people dressed in exquisite Medieval garb makes its way up the Corso to Piazza Garibaldi, Sulmona’s main square.

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Nuns Out and About

Nuns, Jed Smith Photography

In Passing – Jed Smith © 2018

Just call me a paparazzo of the nuns.

If you’ve followed previous photo posts, here and on my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of capturing nuns when they’re out and about in everyday life. Most paparazzi perk up when they see famous personalities. I perk up and swing into action when nuns show up.

Waiting for just the right moment…

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