I could write non-stop about all the things to do in Italy. Now that I’ve can safely say that I’m “settling in” living in Italy, I’ll be putting on my more adventure-worthy shoes and heading out to provide views and insights that hopefully are well off the beaten path.

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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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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Dealing with the Angst of Elusive Answers

Elusive answers, Italywise

Always reaching and begging for the answers?

When did we become convinced that answers should be ready on command?

In my case, I suspect it happened when I began to think abstractly (early teens?) and was taught about the prowess of the mind, relegating other avenues of discovery and knowledge (e.g., intuition) to second or third-tier status. In short, I was taught, quite successfully, that I could think my way through or around any obstacle. I could force answers.

I’ve spent too many mornings of my life waking up to a mind furiously churning to identify any outstanding elusive answers to burning questions or situations.

Why this topic of elusive answers and what does this have to do with moving to Italy?

Unless you’ve had the road to a life in Italy or any similar momentous life change roll out the red carpet of a smooth transition, then you’ll relate. 

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Pope Celestine V and the Courage to Resign

Celestine V

Pope Celestine V – © 2018 Jed Smith

The verb “resign” can be a loaded word.

The word can connote giving up or giving in. When a person is said to have resigned themselves to a situation, it often implies waving a white flag to something beyond their control or their liking.

Then, there is choosing to resign when a person realizes something isn’t working for them, or when they’ve explored a path and gracefully backed out and said, “No, thank you.”

Enter Pope Celestine V

I knew nothing about the man who was chosen as Pope during the 13th century and during the last non-conclave choosing of the Holy Father—that is until I visited L’Aquila with my dear friends Novelia and Peppe. I had, just the day before, visited Celestine’s remote hermitage in the Morrone mountains and seen the small, cramped cell where he had slept. In L’Aquila, I saw Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the inspiring basilica born of his dream. There, I learned the fuller story of the first Pope to resign.

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Pietrantonj is Abruzzo’s Oldest Winery

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Pietrantonj

Cerano Montepulciano d”Aruzzo Riserva from Pietrantonj

One thing leads to another.

This is becoming my motto in life, with one additional clarifier. One thing leads to another when you give yourself over to the flow of life and say “Let’s play!” Well, my introduction to Pietrantonj, Abruzzo’s oldest winery, is a prime example of things organically falling into place. First, came my visit to Sulmona and a fulfilled wish to witness my dear friend Novelia crafting her handmade pasta. I was over the moon that Novelia invited me into the kitchen with my camera to capture her artistry. As Novelia and I were plotting our cooking session, the topic of pairing wines worthy of her creations arose. Immediately, Novelia exclaimed, “Pietrantonj, of course!” Then, Novelia made a call to the Pietrantonj family and I was in like flint in short order to have a personal tour and tasting with Alice Pietrantonj, one of the three daughters.

The experience evolved.

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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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A Frico Feast with New Friends

Frico, Italywise

Probably the biggest and best plate of Frico I’ve ever eaten.

I’m still salivating. That’s what frico can do to you.

Unfortunately, many people who come to Italy, to live or to visit, don’t set foot in Friuli, the northeast region of Italy, where culinary treasures like frico were born. I hope this post has the ability to reach people who ordinarily would not take a trip to this area, which is often considered an inconvenient detour based on its non-central location. But, trust me, if you want to have the full Italian diversity experience, you will be thanking yourself for including Friuli (and frico) on your “to do” list.

Let me back up for a second and talk about our new friends who took our frico appreciation to a new level.

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Building a New Life, Stone by Stone

Building a New Life, Jed Smith photography

Stone by Stone © 2018 Jed Smith

Building a new life means recognizing you may have to lay new stones and tear out old ones.

This realization has been smacking me in the face again and again lately. Just when I think I’ve shaken off the slumber of a lifetime of conditioning, I find myself all too often in the jaws of a repetitious past. Trying to reorchestrate my life with my move to Italy has shaken things up and challenged the status quo that remained hidden from my conscious awareness. I wanted change, and I got it in spades.

Bypassing the work and discomfort of changing one’s life just isn’t an option.

As I write this, I’m realizing that I should metaphorically duck the certain onslaught of rotten fruit and vegetables surely being hurled in my direction. Who am I to take the shine off of the nicely packaged ideas of moving to Italy or any similar major life change?

I’m one who continues to navigate the journey while discovering and stepping into the potholes of my conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade this for anything, but I wasn’t fully prepared for being pushed, actually shoved forcibly at times, out of my comfort zone.

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