Fall in Love with Novelia and Fettuccine “a mano”

Fettuccine, Italywise

Fettuccine al mano – © 2018 Jed Smith

Am I a lucky man or not?

After you view the video contained in this post, I believe you’ll quickly respond in the affirmative. Just two weeks ago, I had the supreme good fortune to spend time in Sulmona, Abruzzo with my dear friend Novelia—this time to receive a personal demonstration of how to create pasta entirely by hand. Yep, not a single bit of assistance with modern appliances. We started with fettuccine, made with giant duck eggs, no less. That was followed by spaghetti made with a 200-year-old chitarra, but that is worthy of its own post (stay tuned).

I’ve never experienced a woman with so much reverence and love for her culinary creations.

Novelia’s fettuccine “a mano” is tangible proof. This is not someone just going through the steps dutifully. She is an artisan in the highest sense. Her hands at work easily could be those of a master sculptor.

She talks to her ingredients.

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Pull the plug on the narrator in your head.

narrator in your head, Italywise

The narrator in your head doesn’t like to shut up.

It thrives on constantly voicing its opinions and judgments about whatever is happening. For me, it has taken becoming still to become aware of its incessant activity.

Maybe you’re different and you’ve found equanimity and balance through a growing awareness of yourself and the internal dialog and have been able to staunch the narrator’s constant stream of blah blah blah. If so, I’m envious. If not, then know you’re in good company with the vast majority of the human race.

Moving to Italy invites the narrator in your head to have a field day.

As does any significant life change, no matter how desired or loathed.

When I moved to Italy over five years ago, I had the storyline all locked and loaded. It was just a matter of it all happening according to my tidy little plans, right? I’d seen plenty of inspiring movies, read tons of colorful books. The scripts were plentiful.

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Learning Italian? Lighten Up with Music.

Learn Italian, Italywise

Music can be a worthy teacher when you want to learn Italian.

I’ve taken to utilizing Italian music to round out my knowledge of Italian.

If you’re on the journey to achieve some kind of competency when you learn Italian, then I highly encourage you to lighten things up and let Italian pop music be one of your teachers. Currently, I’m in a bit of  “pause” with intensive grammar studies (i.e. the more complicated verb tenses). When I did my month-long Italian language intensive at Torre di Babele in Rome (read my post about it), my head was so full that I felt as though surely it was too much and was seeping out of my ears. In the ensuing weeks and months, I became convinced that I had lost the lion’s share of what I had learned. But, thanks to stepping up my dedication to listening to Italian music, a lot is coming back to me now. And, in the context of music, it’s actually making sense.

To learn Italian through music can be a ton of fun.

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Yes, She Exists! A Woman Gondolier.

Woman gondolier, ItalyWise

The Changing Face of Gondoliers? © 2018 Jed Smith

Finally, real proof that Venice has a woman gondolier!

Talk about stumbling across a good story. Just two days ago, Simone and I had opted for an impromptu trip to Venice and a stroll around the city. I almost didn’t bring my camera. We’d disembarked from our train and decided on a loop that begin in the Jewish Ghetto. We’d crossed Campo di Ghetto Nuovo and were turning left to cross the bridge over Fondamenta dei Ormesini, and there she was, a woman gondolier!

If you’ve read my previous blog post about The Life of the Gondolier you’ll know that I’ve been on a mission to find Venice’s only woman gondolier––or gondoliera.

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The Rich Fishing History of Abruzzo’s Trabocchi

Trabocchi, Trabocco

One of the many trabocchi dotting the coast of Abruzzo. Image by Lorenabacchilega of Creative Commons

Trabocchi are “fishing machines” dating back to the 18th century.

At least that’s the earliest documentation attesting to their existence. Some sources claim these fascinating structures as being first put in use by the Phoenicians. Trabocchi (read more on Wikipedia) are all along the coast of Abruzzo. During my recent train ride up Italy’s eastern coast on Trenitalia’s Frecciabianca (The White Arrow) from Pescara to Bologna, I saw several trabocchi. My dear friend Novelia from Sulmona has been urging me to experience one of these historical structures firsthand. So, I’ve added it to my bucket list and hopefully, I will experience one within the next year.

An old, black and white film added to my resolve to visit one of the trabocchi.

It was when I viewed the following film on YouTube that I said, “No ands, ifs or buts…I’m doing this!”

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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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In Love with Venice at Night

Venice at Night

The Red Dress © 2018 Jed Smith

My love affair with Venice deepens.

Especially Venice at night, and when it approaches the bewitching hour. The lion’s share of tourists in the main thoroughfares have dissipated. And when you wander off the beaten path, you can be a spectator of the comings and goings of the locals. This is when things get really interesting. The image above was taken just outside the entrance of Istutito San Giuseppe, a convent in the heart of Venice that offers affordable nightly accommodations (as long as you can abide by the 11 p.m. curfew). We were saying goodnight to dear friends when I spied the red dress, the star of this image, making its way across a nearby bridge.

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The Transformative Power of Stillness

Stillness, Jed Smith Photography

At Rest © 2018 Jed Smith

My mother always joked that I was the vagabond of the family. She learned not to be surprised when I pulled up stakes and headed off on a new adventure (I’ve lived in eleven U.S. states). I believed that life would be boring, static if I slowed down and wasn’t in a mode of constantly tackling new experiences. But recently have I begun to understand the benefits and the necessity of stopping and making space to get quiet in a substantive way. I’ve started realizing that stillness and quietude (internally and externally) can be where the real juicy stuff of life gets going.

My ideal of life in Italy has transformed significantly.

First, I’m dispensing with the word “ideal” since I’m convinced, more and more, that when we live for ideals we’re setting ourselves up for a world of hurt. In my experience, my ideals have always remained out of reach. They’ve been fantasies based on conditioned, flawed beliefs of what constitutes happiness.

I came to Italy with my picture of idyllic life nicely painted. I did the New Age thing of creating a vision board. I was certain it would be magical and that everything would just fall into place and the happily-ever-after credits would start rolling.

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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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It’s a Matter of Perspective, Isn’t It?

Jed Smith Photography, Italywise

A Matter of Perspective © 2018 Jed Smith

Recently I was reminded of the benefits of entertaining different perspectives.

As I’ve indicated in previous posts, my art and photography often teach me lessons that apply to life in general. Two weeks ago, a trip to Venice with my sister and brother-in-law taught me, yet again, that life is a matter of perspective.

I’d been anxious to take my new Canon 300mm f2.8 lens out for a spin, so I lugged it along (it’s cumbersome). This would be the first time I would be experiencing Venice through such a different lens. In the late afternoon, we made our way to the roof-top terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is a super-upscale department store just steps away from the Rialto Bridge. The terrace has become a hot spot (reservations are best made via the website above) since it offers perhaps the most breathtaking, panoramic views of Venice. Having entertained visitors on multiple occasions, this wasn’t my first trip to the terrace. How might it be different this time vs. something rote?

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