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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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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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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Early Morning Life Along the Grand Canal

Grand Canal, Venice

Morning Preparations- © 2017 Jed Smith

Be an early riser to witness a workman’s life along Venice’s Grand Canal

A self-imposed photo assignment, earlier this year, took me to Venice, and required I be up at the crack of dawn. Timing was essential to capture the energy of Venice’s main artery coming to life while not being obscured by massive swarms of tourists. Believe me, as much as I wanted to sleep yet another hour, capturing the morning light, and the workmen starting their day, was well worth it. Imagine the main thoroughfare in your city

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Venice’s Anice Stellato Delivers an Amazing Culinary Experience

Anice Stellato

Prepare yourself for a special dining experience

Finding a worthy culinary experience in Venice isn’t so easy.

Why? Unfortunately, the bulk of restaurants in Venice are heavily focused on two things – tourists, and turning a profit. In my opinion and experience, dining well can be more of a challenge in Venice than in other Italian cities, for this very reason. And, this is why I consider having discovered Anice Stellato, many years ago, a gift from heaven.

Unfortunately, most visitors to Venice aren’t willing to venture too far off the well-worn thoroughfares, where experiences like Anice Stellato await. Instead, people find themselves

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The Allure of Venice at Night

Venice at Night, ItalyWise

A Warm Light Beckons – Jed Smith © 2017

Those of you who’ve been following my blog understand I have a love affair with Venice. And, it continues to deepen, particularly in regards to Venice at night.

On this particular March evening, we had just attended a book signing event at the Mont Blanc store near Piazza San Marco. I had brought my camera to capture the event. But, I hadn’t planned on doing any photography once the event concluded.

Then, a twenty-minute walk, to meet up with one of our dearest friends, yielded photos of Venice being claimed by nightfall.

I like challenging myself by adding improvisational assignments to my photo explorations. This stroll became a prime opportunity to

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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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A Colorful Dove, with Great Fanfare, Launches Carnevale in Venice

 

carnevale, Italywise

Il lancio della colombina – the launch of the dove kicks off Carnevale 2017

Man, was I lucky this year (2017) to have a front row seat for the official kick-off of Carnevale in Venice. Life keeps offering up these incredible opportunities. This time it came in the form of a pass into the “inner circle” at the heart of the official Carnevale launch, Sunday, February 19. But, let’s first back up to the adventure of arriving in Venice and making our way to Piazza San Marco.

If you’re brave (or crazy) enough to put yourself in the midst of the spectacle of Carnevale’s first official day, be prepared to go early and patiently navigate the crowds.

This is no small matter. If you don’t like crowds or cramped spaces, I’d advise you to stay home and watch the events on TV. I’m not a fan of crowds, but being six-two, at least my head is above most of the crowd. As long as I can breathe I can vanquish my anxieties of tight spaces.

Carnevale, Italywise

Patiently waiting a security check on the way to Piazza San Marco

The big event, Il lancio della colombina (also called The Flight of the Angel), was scheduled for noon. We arrived at the Santa Lucia train station at nine-thirty, and promptly made our way to the vaporetto stop, where we queued for at least half an hour. Four vaporetti later, and we were on board. The journey to the San Marco stop took at least forty-five minutes. Our progress was impeded when the boat was halted to make way for a regatta with a police escort.

I was ready to hop off and make a beeline to the center of the piazza. But, oh no, we came to a virtual standstill at a small bridge heading over

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Buone Feste from ItalyWise!

Venice Santa, ItalyWise

Wishing you the best of holidays my dear friends and followers!

May the season be full of joyful surprises, like the one above that I experienced just yesterday while strolling through Venice. Everything “arrives” differently in Venice, so I guess it should be no surprise that Santa travels by boat here and not by sleigh!

Who knows what Santa will bring me in the way of adventures in the coming year. Stay tuned!!!