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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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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Back in the Kitchen with Novelia for Spaghetti alla Chitarra!

Spaghetti alla chitarra

A 200-Year-Old Chitarra – © 2018 Jed Smith

A chitarra that makes pasta, not music?

I argue that it makes both, especially after another guided journey in “la cucina” with my dear friend Novelia. Could spaghetti alla chitarra be that much better than spaghetti made with an expensive KitchenAid? Plenty.

Can the hands infuse some magical quality to pasta?

After this experience, I’d say “Yes!” Maybe grounding oneself in the simplicity of days gone by has benefits. Maybe making pasta without the help (and ease) of modern technology can bring us back to an essential reverence for creating that which sustains us.

Novelia, with her spaghetti alla chitarra has made me a convert.

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ItalyWise Coming Attractions!

ItalyWise is hard at work.

Just wanted you all to know that ItalyWise is anything but asleep or on vacation this week. Since I’ve thrown myself headlong into the world of video production, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in shooting and editing video footage—all with the intent of making ItalyWise an even more dimensional experience. I want to make videos a regular part of my posts and I have ambitious goals for building out a robust YouTube channel.

So, I’m utilizing this weeks post as a marquee to whet your appetites for what is in store in the coming weeks.

ItalyWise, La Giostra, Abruzzo

Intensity – © 2018 Jed Smith

La Giostra Cavalleresca in Sulmona.

ItalyWise takes you, once again, to one of my favorite places in Italy: Sulmona, Abruzzo. Held the last weekend in July for the last twenty-four years, this is a Medieval festival and jousting event not to be missed. I’ll take you from the processions of rich costumes and pageantry to the highly-competitive jousting event held in Piazza Garibaldi.

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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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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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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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