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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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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Speaking of Tongues…

Italian relics, St. Anthony

A shrine to St. Anthony’s tongue, jawbone, vocal cords, and more.

Fair warning: if you’re a fan and believer in religious relics, you might want to skip this week’s blog post. I’m dedicated to sharing the full gamut of my Italian life and I’d be remiss if I didn’t address this topic since it’s impossible to avoid it while marveling at the majesty and ingenuity of Italian churches. For me, this practice of putting saints’ body parts on display is a bit unsettling.

A visit to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padova and a viewing of “pieces” of the saint.

Yes, pieces of the saint. The main attraction? St. Anthony’s tongue.

During a recent visit to Padova with my sister and brother-in-law, I was introduced to the relics of St. Anthony.

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Italian Holiday Greetings – Prep Yourself and Know the Protocol

Italian Holiday Greetings

The holiday trim and lights already are being prepped and strung across the ancient city streets of Italy. Mountains of panettone (Italian holiday sweet bread) dominate the supermarkets. Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching, and the exchange of Italian holiday greetings is ramping up.

Let’s talk about the most often-used Italian holiday greetings…

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Arm-in-Arm is part of the Italian Culture

arm-in-arm, Italywise

Walking arm-in-arm is part of the Italian culture ©2017 Jed Smith

Italians are passionate and affectionate

I think I can safely draw this conclusion after living in Italy for several years and observing the interactions amongst Italians. The photo above prompts me to pause and pay tribute to the visible bonds communicated by walking arm-in-arm. I’d also be remiss in not speaking to the greeting (and parting) of the kiss on both cheeks.

This photo makes me smile. There’s no question of the sisterhood of this fine ladies. And if you think this is only a sweet custom between women, and older people, think again. You’ll see people of all genders and ages walking arm-in-arm – families and friends alike.

Americans sometimes are a little put off by this.

Clarification of the above statement – not put off by observing this custom, but finding themselves in situations with new Italian friends and not knowing exactly what to do.

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Meet Le Vecchie Guardie – The Old Guard

The Old Guard

Camaraderie. © 2017 Jed Smith

I love these faces. I love surreptitiously watching their interactions, and their steadfast camaraderie. The Old Guard, fondly referred to as “Le vecchie guardie” in Italy, is an integral thread, found woven everywhere in the fabric of Italian culture.

Watching The Old Guard can’t help but make you smile

At least that’s my reaction. If only I could eavesdrop on their conversations to round out the picture. Or, maybe it’s just as well (and more fun) to use my imagination, and focus on capturing the moments

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The Visual Poetry of Italian Body Language

Italian body language, Italywise

Italian body language is endlessly fascinating.

As an artist and photographer, I find people watching here in Italy to be a source of great inspiration, and education. This recent photo, captured on the streets of Cefalù, Sicily, shows one of countless snippets of the dance of Italian body language.

For most of my life I’ve thought I reveal much about myself through speaking with my hands and my body language. Now, in contrast to the effusive and rich vocabulary of Italian body language, I realize just how restrained I am. I ask myself, just how much energy is locked up in my more Americanized style of expression, and ponder whether the incredibly natural flow of energy in Italian expression (verbal and body language) is more freeing, and thereby healthier.

As I watched this particular Italian gentlemen go about his morning, I watched him have a lively encounter with a friend and shop owner. The moment captured in this photo is just seconds after his friendly exchange, and demonstrates how the dance of expression continues and flows.

Perhaps, one day, I will attempt a photographic journal, or concise visual dictionary, of Italian body language. I would only do this through the guidance and tutelage of my Italian partner who, constantly and justifiably, warns me of the dangers of foreigners thinking such forms Italian “speech” are easy to understand and emulate. Italian expression contains many important subtleties which, if missed or not understood, can be dangerous in inexperienced hands.

In closing, I have included a YouTube video, posted by nadasitlay.com, which demonstrates some of the most often used Italian hand gestures. I can’t help but smile when I watch these native Italians sharing their rich skills in speaking with their hands.

To see other photos, be sure to check out my online gallery.

 

Don’t Wish Me Luck – Talk about Wolves, Whales and Poop!

Speaking Italian, Italywise

Photo by NatureGuy, Adobe Stock Images

You’re probably asking (if you’re not offended) “What do wolves, whales, and poop have in common?” They all share a common function of wishing someone well here in Italy, while avoiding saying “good luck”.

I am fascinated by idiomatic expressions, and they are plentiful here in Italy. As you begin learning them, you might be overwhelmed. I’d recommend concentrating on matters that come up more frequently, so you can fit in. So, don’t be surprised when an Italian instructs you, “Don’t wish me luck!” Other colorful ways are at your disposal for wishing someone well. Let’s start with probably the most common…

“In bocca al lupo” means “In the mouth of the wolf.”

This phrase, is similar to the English “Break a leg,” and has origins in opera and theater. Over time, its use has expanded to encompass wishing someone well in other endeavors, such as taking an exam. I heard this several times before I took my Italian driver’s license exam. How do you respond when someone says this to you? “Crepi il lupo” which means “May the wolf die” is the proper response. Often it is shortened to “Crepi!” A prevailing theory insinuates that you hope the wolf dies, choking while he has you in his mouth.

An alternative theory of the origin of “In bocca al lupo” is that it isn’t phrase that is meant to have menacing overtones, but instead refers to how a mother wolf might protectively hold a cub in her mouth. I prefer that interpretation, and I’d rather not wish that a wolf dies. But, I don’t need to split hairs. I just want to go with tradition, and follow the formula.

If you want to equip yourself with one phrase for wishing someone well here in Italy, this would be the one, in my opinion. Other options exist, but they’re pretty colorful, and you might not feel comfortable using them. They also include references to “poop” (my attempt to be a bit more polite).

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Perils and Pitfalls of Speaking Italian

The Perils and Pitfalls of Speaking Italian

Know the challenges of speaking Italian, apply yourself, and you’ll be speaking proficiently in no time.

I’ve been living in Italy for over two years now. One of the things I’ve been hearing from more than one source here is that it takes a least that amount of time for things to start “clicking” in the brain – provided a person is immersing himself or herself in the language. This means some sort of study program and it means surrounding yourself, more and more, with native speakers, and resisting the urge to spend most of your time in the safety of other English-speaking expats.

Speaking Italian is not easy in my experience. Let me clarify, speaking Italian WELL is not an easy in experience. If you’re reading this post and if you’re only interested in visiting Italy for a short time, you certainly can set your sights on a lower learning curve. But, if you’re planning on a longer stay, or if you’re planning on living here permanently I encourage you to embrace your fears and tackle the language in a way that will give you a proficiency to help you not only in the dealing practicalities of life, but to help you build friendships and garner respect from the Italians.

If you’re serious about making Italy your home, learning the language is paramount. Otherwise you risk being perceived as an entitled foreigner who expects the burden of communication to fall on the locals. I’ve heard many English speakers (mainly tourists in Rome, Venice, Florence, etc.) becoming indignant that more Italians  don’t speak English.

My education in comprehending and speaking Italian continues. I’m impatient with myself for not being further along, but I have made considerable progress. In the process, I’ve identified several perils and pitfalls of speaking Italian. The following are 10 pieces of advice that I’d like to share:

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