My last trip to Italy was exactly 10 years ago now, a trip I took with my family including my grandfather who has since passed away. We’ve always travelled to Italy in August or September: August is when most Italians have their holidays and by September most of the tourists have returned home as well, leaving the beaches wide open. Hot days and cool nights, and the work of the fall harvest are all part of this time of year and I tried to capture this in memories and photos during our last trip. The photo above, of blazing red hot peppers set out to dry, was the very first photo I took on our trip. My grandfather, reminiscing with folks along our travels, can be seen in the photos as well.
If, like me, you sometimes find yourself dreaming of a trip to Italy – the small town quaintness, the abundance in the local markets, the tiny quiet streets and the history of the ageing buildings filling your mind – then you’ll enjoy these scenes from a small southern Italian town taken as part of my early photography work. They remind me that it’s time to stop my daydreaming about a trip and start my planning.
I seem to find pieces of Italy no matter where I go. This antique postcard from 1905 called to me at vintage paper show at first because I thought it was an image of some sort of cave for hanging prosciutto (see those sacks hanging from the ceiling?). But the description on the bottom and a little more digging found that it’s a photo of something much more special.
The text below the photo reads: Monte Pellegrino, L’Interno della grotto di S. Rosalia
Santa (Saint) Rosalia was a nun in the 12th century that opted for the life of a hermit, living in a cave on Monte Pellegrino in Palermo, Sicily for years before her death around the age of 30. She lived her whole life praying and devoting herself to God. Admirable as that is, she came to fame centuries later. The story goes that people of Palermo used to have four saints they prayed to, all which failed them miserably during a bout of the plague in the 1600s. Rosalia, who soon became a saint, cured it when she appeared to a citizen of Palermo and requested her bones be found and given a proper Christian burial. Her bones were located high on the mountain in her cave, a formal procession was held and the plague finally lifted. Her grotto (cave) became a place of saintly worship.
Pilgrims now climb Monte Pellegrino to pray and ask for the curing of ailments. The entrance is a Baroque facade, but beyond the doors, you step right into Santa Rosalia’s grotto. Those crazy planks running across the ceiling are a guttering system, capturing the water that drips constantly into the cave and channeling it off and away from pilgrims. Visitors leave gifts of jewellery and precious things, even silver charms that are likenesses of body parts for which they need help.
Pictures of the grotto today are not much different that this postcard from 1905. Whether in a mountainside or here in Canada, the hidden gems of Italy always amaze!
Some things change and some things always stay the same. Right around when the holidays approach I think of how much has changed in my family over the years and yet how many things, like Italian traditions, stay the same no matter how we progress. From the Christmas Eve seafood feast to planning visits to relatives, the holidays are now in full swing. I’ve already started my Christmas baking with my favourite recipes from when I was young and this year, I have to try out a few of my mom’s tried and true (and difficult) Italian treats.
With food, as with heritage, I’m a fan of pieces of Italy found right here in Canada. Today, it’s this beautiful vintage Italian postcard from 1906, found at a paper show just north of Toronto, that I’m loving and sharing with you. A reproduction of a painting, the postcard depicts Rio Van Axel in Venice as seen in the late 1800s. Those greenish-blue colours are my favourite tones and I love the serenity of the image. How much as Venice changed since 1906? As much as the Italian focus on family, food and tradition has: very little.
Well, you judge for yourself. Here’s a photo of modern-day Rio Van Axel…
(look carefully though…might it be that the water is higher? Venice, get those floodgates working!)
It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately and I’ll tell you why – I’ve been travelling through Norway, Finland, Russia and a few other countries, getting some new experiences and trying out some new foods (like reindeer and bear!). I have to tell you though that there’s two things I really missed: working on this blog and a good bowl of pasta. Pasta was the first thing that was served up for dinner when we returned and now I’m back to work on the blog!
Now you all know how much I like to take pictures of my food, especially pasta. (If you didn’t see my previous post on lasagna, check it out). Well now’s your chance to show your photography abilities with your own bowls of pasta and celebrate pasta through World Pasta Day!
I’m a juror for a great contest being run by Aurora Importing & Distributing. It’s super simple and the prize is a great pack of pasta products from Aurora (looks like a whole shopping cart full!). You just upload a photo of a pasta dish you have prepared on Facebook by October 22, get your friends to help vote your photo into the top 5 and us jurors pick the top 3 pics.
If I wasn’t a juror, I would be submitting a photo lickety-split! It doesn’t have to be fancy, just look really tasty – just remember to use your camera or phone to take a pic before you dig in (this is an error I make frequently. I usually remember to take a photo when my dish is almost empty – ooops!). Check out these cellphone pics below from my Instagram account as inspiration and let’s see your photos!
Hurry – contest entries need to be in by October 22 on Facebook!
No heavy reading in this blog post today – it’s all about pretty pictures and modern Italian art as we head into the weekend.
Short of having a picture of the Madonna and a large wooden spoon and fork in my kitchen, I’ve been considering ways to include more artwork and imagery of Italy and “Italianness” into my life and new home. Recently, I stumbled upon a new website that allows me to do just that – access new artwork and turn it into canvases, prints, pillows, iPhone cases, etc. all while giving the rights and proceeds to the artist. I fell in love with a few pieces, including the “Italian Grandmother” canvas above.
Society6, created by a network of artists, gives you access to current and upcoming artists from around the world. I’ve pulled some of my favourite Italian artwork from the site – either the subject matter is Italian or the artist is (or both). Click on the artwork to link to the artist’s page and info for purchasing (should you be so inclined!). You’ll support an upcoming Italian or Canadian artist in the process.