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*** Note: This post has nothing to do with Italy, other than I’m writing it from Orvieto.

 

My personal list of the eleven things we should stop doing on social media right now:

1.  #instagramming “foot shots” by the pool or at the beach.

Feet are ugly.

2.  Posting photos of your medical procedures.

Self-explanatory.

3.  Sharing bogus news stories and urban myths.

Two words: Snopes.com people.

4.  Arguing with trolls.

You’re feeding the beast.

5.  Food styling your dinner rather than eating it.

Chefs and food writers excepted.

6.  Sending chain letters.

Your friends don’t want them. Trust me.

7.  Giving daily updates of your new love affair.

It’s nice that you’re blissfully happy, but when and if the romance ends your heartbreak will be in Facebook’s memory forever.

8.  Posting seductive selfies.

Smile normally and drop the fish face.

9.  Asking advice about sensitive things on behalf of other people.

“Does anyone know a good gynecologist for my 11-year old daughter? She just got her period.” Um, Noooooooooo!

10.  Using Facebook Live.

Unless you’re the host on of a History or Travel Channel show, don’t narrate yourself doing stuff.  

11.  Writing “what not to do” pieces on your blog.

 

The rolling green hills of Umbria speed past the train window as I feel my body and mind start to relax.

Sometimes we need to get off the merry-go-round of our daily routines and say to ourselves, “Selves, it’s time for a little trip somewhere we’ve never been before.”

 

Faraglioni

 

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A granita (crushed ice and fruit juice) and a little serenade.

 

This is how the “other half” lives.

 

The natives must have the strongest hearts and calves in Italy.

 

Church bells and evening cocktails on the Piazzetta.

 

I think he’s giving me the side-eye!

 

Morning dip in the Mediterranean, anyone? Marina Piccola.

 

A light lunch at Pescheria Le Botteghe.

 

Window shopping for the colors of Capri at OROGAMI.

 

Ahhhhh.

 

Sometimes it’s better to admit defeat—especially when it appears your opponents have the upper hand (and the youth and energy to outlast you.)

I could “go full postal” on these boys, but what would that accomplish, really? If my goal is to live harmoniously with others who share this little alley with me, then it’s time I wave the white flag of surrender and call a truce.

As I sit here on my stoop waiting for the owner of this lovely dirt bike to arrive, I wonder if he’ll be open to easing our hostility and strained relations too. I’m calling for an armistice: The end of our Vicolo Wars.

This is the final chapter in the continuing saga taking place in my little alley. (Read Vicolo Wars, Vicolo Wars: The Sequel and Vicolo World War III.)

Libreria Antiquaria Baduel

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

We have a total of four bookstores within the walls of Orvieto’s historical center. A disproportionate number for a town of its size—they’re eclipsed only by the number of bars, restaurants, barbershops and underwear stores.

Unfortunately, over the last several decades the world has witnessed the long, slow death of the independent bookshop. Most blame the decline on the advent of superstores and later by the domination of online companies such as Amazon. In today’s digital-based world is there still a place for brick-and-mortar bookstores?

One former Dublin bookseller and regular visitor to Italy thinks there is. “I believe that bookstores will survive in some manner, shape or form; they are already evolving by offering customers comfortable cafes, other gift items and electronics, including access to digital books via their own websites, while remaining cultural hubs. Today I am a frequent traveller in search of independent bookstores wherever I go!”

A book enthusiast

Bookworms who visit Orvieto will be happy to know that there are two such ‘repositories of knowledge’ located not far off the main high street, but far from the maddening crowds.

Libreria Arcimboldo

GianLuca Fioravanti of Libreria Arcimboldo

Libreria Arcimboldo is a second-hand bookshop located on Via Filippeschi (between Piazza della Repubblica and the medieval quarter.) The little shop sells a fascinating mishmosh of art books, first editions, out of print titles, literature, poetry, old bibles, and even vinyl records.

Proprietor GianLuca Fioravanti wasn’t always passionate about books and reading. In high school he’d studied economics, but found the subject so tedious and boring that he almost gave up reading all together. “Then I ran across Kafka and Flaubert—two leading novelist of the last two centuries—I have not stopped reading since.” Changing to the study of philosophy opened him up to the worlds of art, history and poetry, as well.

Finding work in the literary field wasn’t easy so GianLuca took a series of jobs that helped him develop his people and trading skills. During that period he lived in Rome’s Trastevere district where he spent a great deal of time browsing neighborhood bookshops. He literally woke up one day and thought, “EUREKA! I will open a bookstore!” He chose Orvieto because it’s where his ancestors originated and because, “I think the city is gorgeous with many hidden treasures.”

One of those treasures is Libreria Arcimboldo.

Libreria Arcimboldo, Via Filippeschi, 16; Tel: (+39) 380.4757293; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LibreriaArcimboldo/; Email: libreriaarcimboldo@gmail.com. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am to 1:30pm & 4:00pm to 8:30pm. Closed Mondays.

Libreria Antiquaria Baduel

Owner of Libreria Antiquaria Baduel, Mario Tedeschini

Mario Tedeschini’s love of reading began at age thirteen. Spending afternoons with his nose in a book from his parents’ library, he began cataloging each finished volume by subject and time of printing. In essence he’d drafted his first inventory—unaware that years later it would become his profession.

Mario started his career in 1997 with a bibliographic study in which he published a catalog of ancient books. In 2000, he opened Libreria Antiquaria Baduel on Via Vitozzi and, at about the same time, was certified as an expert authorized to issue opinions about the originality and market value of books, prints and manuscripts.

The oldest book in his possession at the moment was printed in 1561, but Mario points out that books aren’t necessarily deemed rare or valuable because of their age; rather they’re appraised for their historical significance or important subject matter.

Formation of Eve, relief basement of the façade of the Orvieto Cathedral. Engraving made in 1791

“The engine that drives me to continue a job that is “out of step” with a digital world is dictated by the passion to discover rare editions or books virtually unknown,” Mario explains. “I am compelled by an irresistible impulse to study, observe and touch a book—where all the senses are involved. This passion is driven by cultural enjoyment and the desire to preserve history—not as a mere economic interest, since that would end all the magic that surrounds the world of books.”

Libreria Antiquaria Baduel, Via A. Vitozzi, 7/7A; Tel & Fax: (+39) 0763.342046; Email: baduel@baduel.it; Website: https://baduel.it; Winter hours: 9:30am to 1:00pm & 4:30 to 7:00pm. Closed Mondays. Summer Hours: 9:30 to 1:00pm & 5:00pm to 7:30pm. Closed Saturdays.

Photograph by Wendy Dreary

I could start a series about the hundreds of things I’ve walked past, wondered about, and then just kept going.

One of those things is the enormous golden statue of Christ perched above Roma Termini. For years I’ve exited the station on the Via Marsala side, looked up in awe at that glistening Jesus in the sky but, I’m sorry to say, never bothered to take a closer look. That is, until today.

The golden boy…

  • The statue is entitled “Christ The Redeemer.”

  • It’s made of gilded bronze and was sculpted in Milan by artist Enrico Canaanite.

  • In 1931, the effigy was transported to Rome where it was added to the Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio’s bell tower.

About the basilica itself…

Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio (considered a minor basilica) is quite modern as Roman churches go. Designed in the neo-Renaissance style, it was conceived at the urging of priest-turned-saint Giovanni Bosco. A rockstar clergy of his time, “Don Bosco” applied a little pressure on his friends at the Vatican and hooked up the architect Conte Francesco Vespignani to oversee the church’s construction. The basilica was finally completed in 1887—a year before Don Bosco’s death. A relic of the popular saint (a cotton swab soaked in the blood) is exhibited in a glass display case inside.

Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio, Via Marsala 42, Rome.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Wendy Dreary and Toni DeBella

 

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Photograph by Toni DeBella

One of the advantages of living in Europe is its proximity to exotic places like…Marrakesh, Morocco. Marrakesh is one of the hippest, cultured, atmospheric, friendly, delicious, and surprising places I’ve ever been.

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Watercolor by Kelly Medford

In preparation for my first journey to Morocco (and the continent of Africa, for that matter), I made a conscious decision not to “Google” the hell out my upcoming trip, but experience it with fresh, unfiltered eyes. I didn’t have low expectations. I had no expectations. Surprise, Marrakesh!

Astonishing Thing #1: Sparkling Streets

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

I had no idea that the city of Marrakesh would be so clean! From the modern and architecturally stunning airport, to the palm tree-lined (and pothole-free) roads, to the un-graffitied walls, to the dusty ancient streets of the Medina…all are absolutely pristine.

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Photograph by Toni DeBella

 Astonishing Thing #2: It’s Organized

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

The people of Marrakesh have rules and they actually follow them (hint, hint Italy)! In the Medina, motorcycles, bikes, and donkey carts travel on the left—pedestrians walk on the right. I didn’t see one collision (or even a close call) while I was visiting. Moroccans do traffic flow really well. I would call it organized chaos.

Astonishing Thing #3: It’s Safe

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

You’ve probably heard stories about how unsafe it is to walk around The Medina without a local guide at your side. Bunk. Yes, a lot of people stop to ask if you need help finding something or they may offer to take you to their uncle’s/cousin’s/father’s spice shop; a simple “No Merci” easily discourages them. I walked all over the city unescorted and, truth be told, I worry more about having my pockets picked in Rome.

Astonishing Thing #4: Everything is Negotiable

 

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Photograph by Christine Cantow Smith

It’s not normal for Americans to haggle over every single purchase we make, but in Morocco negotiating price is a huge part of the culture (and one I didn’t particularly enjoy). If you want to buy stuff in the Souks (outdoor markets), you’re going to have to play the game. After my third transaction, I hung up my shopping boots and went for a coffee (which is great, by the way). I just didn’t have any more fight left in me. 

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Photograph by Christine Cantow Smith

Astonishing Thing #5: A Built-in Wake Up Call

Five times-a-day mosques deliver “a call to prayer” by loudspeaker; the first goes off at dawn. If you’re an early riser, no need to set your alarm clock. If you’re someone who likes to sleep in, I don’t know what to tell you. Nazir, a communications director for three museums who moonlights at Riad Dombaraka, explains that the call isn’t necessarily an obligation to pray, but rather a reminder for those who want to pray. (Watch the Video above).

Our bellhop

Our bellhop

From the first moment I arrived, I fell in love with Marrakesh and its super-cool vibe. I can’t wait to come back and see what other surprises this wonderful city has in store for me. ‘Arak qariba!

A big shout-out and bigger “shukraan” (thank you in Arabic) to my pal and artist Kelly Medford for inviting me to join her group during her watercolor workshop. For more information about upcoming painting workshops with Kelly click here.

 

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Watercolor by Birgit Dreesen

 

Watercolor by Lisa Fedich

Watercolor by Lisa Fedich

 

Joe Painting

Joe Altwer

Photo credits: Toni DeBella, Kelly Medford & Christine Cantow Smith

hrc-tru

This post isn’t about the results of today’s US election. It’s not about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s not about conservatism vs. liberalism, right vs. left, republican vs. democrat.

It’s about how I’ve come to the shocking realization that I’ve just spent the last year of my life lulled in a Facebook cradle. I let a social media vacuum swaddle me in a gigantic ‘preaching to the choir’ sense of security. I believed everyone was exactly like me, when actually I’d just surrounded myself with like-minded people. You can “unfriend” someone, but that doesn’t make them disappear.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to the other side of the aisle. I didn’t engage in any meaningful discussions with people who saw things differently than I did. That’s how I got blindsided.

I was living in a blue bubble.

The wake up call is quite jarring, but I accept the results of the election and I continue to believe in our system of democracy. I don’t particularly like it right now, but I still believe in it.

Some soul searching is now in order.

 

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