Featured

Florence: Street Art

Street Art in Florence

April 2021 | Lee Laurino

A compact city known for renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo, Florence offers many famous paintings, frescos and sculptures in its countless churches, museums and palaces. However, less notable art also exists throughout the city. When exploring the cobbled streets of Florence, remember to look up to find some “quiet” art.

While budding artists may be creating chalk replicas of famous works of art for tourists on Via Calimala that will be washed away by the nightly street cleaner, the unannounced installation by Clet Abraham is longer lasting and provokes thought and often a smile. 

Unless you visit the city often or are fortunate enough to live in Firenze, you may miss new installations even as others are removed. No corner metal sign or directional is safe from the embellishment of a Clet Abraham removable sticker. The subject may be a political comment, resistance to a city rule or simply an opportunity to create discussion through street sign art.

After years of spotting the signature red or blue disks, a local told me about the artist. Online, Clet Abraham is described as “best known for his work on street signs which feature creative and unique twists on otherwise plain signs.” Originally from France, Clet has been living in Italy for the past 20 years. 

Clet’s street art popularity has increased since locations for his pieces are listed on one of the city websites. Clet followers can experience a virtual treasure hunt searching for Clet’s installations. Clet Abraham’s Facebook page also boasts an extensive library of his art. 

Visit the studio in San Niccolo, Via Dell’Olmo 8r Firenze, to enjoy additional original art and novelties inspired by street sign art.

Several of the above examples are from the Clet website where you can find many other examples and place orders https://www.clet.com/

Featured

Just released, an Italian vegetarian cookbook by Ylenia Sambatii

Italian cuisine may be one of the most popular in the USA and if you are part of an Italian family you have enjoyed traditional dishes as well as special treats on holidays. 

Although fresh vegetables are a mainstay in Italian cooking, a vegetarian diet is now achievable with the new book by Ylenia Sambatti:    Italian, Simple Vegetarian

A lifelong vegetarian, Yle says she learned to cook from Nonna Antonietta, her grandmother.  “I loved watching her being fully immersed in making pasta, she had this amazing art for making pasta.  

For years Yle has organized travel adventures in Puglia that included food experiences.    The increased interest in the regional cooking of southern Italy, led to creating Cook in Puglia cooking school.    With a platform to demonstrate farm to table specialties and the increased interest in vegetarian dishes or a healthier diet, she decided to share recipes she has cooked for her family and at her school. 

For years Yle has organized travel adventures in Puglia that included food experiences.    The increased interest in the regional cooking of southern Italy, led to creating Cook in Puglia cooking school.    With a platform to demonstrate farm to table specialties and the increased interest in vegetarian dishes or a healthier diet, she decided to share recipes she has cooked for her family and at her school. 

Thirty easy to follow recipes feature soups, main dishes and even deserts.  The ingredients are often already found in your kitchen and the step-by-step instructions are simple and clearly listed.     

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After months of cooking at home, now may be a perfect time to follow Yle’s suggestion about cooking: “rethink some ways of living and go in a healthier direction when possible, not a drastic change but gradual”.   

Available on kindle at Amazon   

author contact:  info@cookinpuglia.com

A Dog’s life: Italy

In 2010 Fiona Cole and Carlo Cesario rescued Dino Fortunato in Calabria, Southern Italy and brought him home to California.   Following their story online at the time reminded me of the ‘local dogs’ I met during my 3 months in Sorrento, Italy

In large Italian cities you may notice dogs with owners in tow, often breeds that may be considered ‘designer’ and you rarely see stray dogs roaming alone or in a group.

The experience of rescuing Dino prompted Fiona and Carlo to question how other countries manage animal rescue and shelters compared to the USA.    Their research went beyond the process of adoption and transportation for just Dino but into the way “animals are thought of and how they fit into our lives and we in theirs”.  

Italy banned euthanasia in 2009 and shelters are paid per day per dog to house dogs.   This has added to the large number of dogs that are not family pets.    Perhaps this humanitarian policy without full consideration for the impact on the number of pets abandoned or surrendered has resulted in the need for policy change.

Dogs fall into groups:  strays, previously owned (abandoned or surrendered to a shelter) and free ranging dogs.   Each group lives differently and have specific needs.

Free dogs, considered packs and possibly dangerous in the USA, live in a group and are self-sufficient.   Free dogs do not thrive in a shelter where they are confined.   They do not mix well with other groups in a shelter.


An open area NOT a cage

 

Carlo and Fiona’s mission to bring this story to life, brought them back to Italy for interviews with four dedicated dog  advocates: author and dog trainer Luca Spennacchio,  veterinarian Dhorotea Fritz’s animal welfare organization Lega Pro Animale,  Michele Minunno, author, educating shelter workers to improving the dogs experiences  and the managers of the, Ritugio Fata  rescue in Calabria.

The interviews are more than a deeper dive into how Italy manages the endless dog population, but the insightful ideas the speakers shared on the psychology of how humans think of dogs and what the dogs experience.   All this was a surprise and prompted me to listen to the video multiple times.  

Fiona, Carlos, Dino

Locals believe they are ‘saving free dogs’ by taking them to kennels, when they often are committing them to a life in a cage.”   “New ways to see the homeless dog population and how to approach and change the system”, “understanding what a dog needs to thrive” and “increasing neutering and spaying” to manage future populations are shared by the experts interviewed. 

What I may have personally found most striking was “accepting all dogs are not the same………they require different ‘services’ if confined in a shelter”.     The job moving forward may seem daunting, but Carlo and Fiona spoke to just four of the many locals willing to stand up and take the on the job. “

In an interview Diana Latizia for Kodami,  “An immersion in the history from the social and cultural point of view of our country with respect to the relationship with dogs”  Fiona and Carlo explain why they wanted to create this project and what they have learned from some of the experts.     

The entire interview is available online:  Dalla storia di Dino Fortunato a Mondo Stray: così due americani raccontano i randagi italiani (kodami.it) and points out many facts and ideas included in this post and may initiate discussions and thoughts on how to change and create new options for the population of dogs that may be sentenced to a life in a cage.      

“Locals believe they are ‘saving free dogs’ by taking them to kennels, when they often are committing them to a life in a cage.”   “New ways to see the homeless dog population and how to approach and change the system”, “understanding what a dog needs to thrive” and “increasing neutering and spaying” to manage future populations.

What I may have personally found most striking was “accepting all dogs are not the same………they require different ‘services’ if confined in a shelter”.     The job moving forward may seem daunting, but Carlo and Fiona talk to just four of the many locals willing to stand up and take the on the job.

While in Roccaraso in Abruzzo, a colleague and I met Alba who the entire village took care of.  She was not abandoned but when her family had to move to a new location that would not allow dogs, the village adopted her.   The family returns to visit with her.  Alba strolls the streets or takes a nap in the sun without the threat of being taken to a shelter.

Episodes can be viewed on the Filo Films YouTube channel, Filo Films Tv://www.youtube.com/c/FiloTV.  https://www.youtube.com/c/FiloFilmsTV, on Facebook Filo Films  https://www.facebook.com/filofilms and Instagram @filofilms https://www.instagram.com/filofilms/ 

The documentary, Mondo Stray, was written, edited, filmed and produced by Fiona* and Carlo.

Episodes can be viewed on the Filo Films YouTube channel, Filo Films Tv://www.youtube.com/c/FiloTV.  https://www.youtube.com/c/FiloFilmsTV, on Facebook Filo Films  https://www.facebook.com/filofilms and Instagram @filofilms https://www.instagram.com/filofilms/ 

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The documentary, Mondo Stray, was written, edited, filmed and produced by Fiona* and Carlo.

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Luca Spennacchio

Writer and photographer.  “Dog instructor, teacher for training courses for educators, kennel operators, pet-therapy conductors, consultant in applied zoo anthropology. Speaker in conferences and seminars.”

Dr. Dhorotea Fritz

German immigrant veterinarian Dorothea Fritz, founded the Castel Volturno-based Lega Pro Animale Sterilization Centre for Dogs & Cats in 1986, “Every dog and cat to be registered with a caring owner, no more stray pets living in the streets or in overcrowded kennels” (from her online page.

Michaele Minunno

The author of From Predatory Behaviour to Relationships: looking at dogs from different perspetives that dig deep into dog behavior. Available on Amazon.

Minunno works with shelters in Puglia training workers to identify fee dogs from those surrendered by owners and works with shelter manager to create healthy living conditions for the mental health of the dogs.

Fausto Vighi

VP with Dog Evolution and instructor at Think Dog.    

From the FB page:  ThinkDog is a vision and a set of methods aimed at realizing the full potential of the relationship with the dog. www.thinkdog.it

*Fiona Cole / Documentary filmmaker and freelance content creator. British born, LA based.   Producer of MONDO STRAY, a four-part documentary about stray dogs in Italy.

Videographer for PAWSITIVE CHANGE

Venice: the vera da pozzo: Water Wells

Venice may be one of the most photographed cities in Italy and well deserved. The canals, the colorful gondolas and the many bridges are only a few of the unique sites to photograph.

It is easy to miss items that have a great story to tell. Sometimes only a local can share insight and stories about their home, that you will never find in a tour book.

On one of my visits Home to Italy I met Marisa Convento who is an accomplished Impiraressa, and the creator of Venetian Dreams. The pozzi in Venice were a perfect photo story but to know more about them I turned to Marisa for details. She sent me a photo from her colletion that easily explains the daily activity at each well.


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Away from the tourist sites in Venice, you find the neighborhoods where locals work, shop and raise their families.   Roam the calle that will take you to a campi or corti where children play and seniors sit and chat with their neighbors.   Often the route is punctuated by the  remaining pozzi that were engineered to supply clean water to the residents of Venice. 

Varying in size and design, the well covering was often the striking design but more often the cover is simple while artistic carvings adorn the sides of the wellhead.       As the center point for the families that lived here, it was also public art and a great photo opp for a visitor.     

Turning a corner or finding yourself at a dead end you may be rewarded with a unique design on the local well or one repurposed by the locals as a mini garden.  An area near the base of the wellhead often included a stone basin designed so that animals might drink here and not contaminate the well water. 

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The gastaldo (block leader) and the local priest had the keys to the well cover and would lock and unlock the well  twice a day, morning and evening with the ringing of the bells.   

One of the many jobs for the women in the household was to carry buckets of water home for cooking, drinking and washing.    

At times when there was insufficient water in the wells, water was brought in by boat from the mainland.   Bigolanti were assigned to take water around to the neighborhoods, another job performed by women. 

According to Veninezia Authentica, originally there were public, private wells and those sponsored by the church.      “An 1858 report by the Comune di Venezia numbered 180 working public wells and 6,046 private wells.   ” Wealthy families who donated a well to the city might have an inscription added to the carvings on the well head.” 

Several famous pozzi are listed with ‘TurismoVenezia’: the red marble well in the courtyard at Ca’ d’Oro by Bartolomeo Born in 1427,  A picture containing building, outdoor, stone, arch

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photo credit ‘Bing photos’  

     photo credit ‘Bing photos’ 

The only bronze wellheads are at the Ducal Palace, VeniceA picture containing ground, water basin, fountain, old

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Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Granda, photo credit 

Eventually the system of wells was replaced with an aqueduct and later a direct connection with the mainland.  A small number of the original wells, now sealed, can still be viewed on a walk through the many neighborhoods of the city.   

Venice is surrounded by water and therefore the wells required unique engineering to collect rain water and keep sea water out.

The traditional method of digging a well is not an option when your live on and surrounded by salt water. Images of Venice clearly describes the unique construction of wells in Venice to supply the residents with fresh water.

Since a large surface area was required around each well to collect sufficient rain water, many were located in squares, courtyards, palaces and religious buildings. According to Images of Venice ‘gutters were created around the well and they drained the rainwater into the filtering system”.

On your next trip to Venice, be sure to watch for something tourists never find.

Made in Italy, a guide to artisans throughout Italy

Made in Italy, by Laura Morelli

 

 
We all may be arm-chair travelers this year, but we can still travel throughout Italy in the pages of Made in Italy. 
 
Part Italian history lesson, part insider travel guide this compact volume takes your inside the towns and villages of Italy where traditional handmade traditions flourish.
An award-winning author of Art-historical fiction and writer of a guidebook series, Authentic Arts guidebooks,  Morelli has updated her popular series for the third time and gives the reader up-to-date suggestions on how to experience Italy via the people who make the Italian items recognized all over the world.
 
Covering 5 regions  in Italy from the North to the tip of the boot, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, this is a wonderful exploration of towns and cities a traveler will be enticed to add to their next itinerary. 
                                                        Sample of the map for the NE region
Helpful maps of each region assist planning the cities to explore while traveling between regions.  Each chapter includes the history of an area highlighting the particular handcrafted and artistic items each region is known for, often detailing how a product is made.   In addition, Morelli includes detailed information on specialty food items, vinegars and wines you can discover on your travels. 
Not only shopperswill enjoy this easy read, but travelers may find new ways to ‘experience’ Italy by interacting with locals, visiting a studio and leaning about skills perfected over decades to create items that are truly ‘Italian’.
“One of the many things that make Italy great, is their traditional handmade items that join the past with today.” a quote from her book

Finely crafted violins from Cremona

                            


You know about the lace makers in Burano, but have you seen the pupie marionettes in Sicily or the paper makers in Amalfi.
Sicily:   pupie
Amalfi hand made Carta (paper)
                  
You can watch women in Sardinia hand weave certini or admire the carved stone in the shops in Lecce, Puglia.   Some of the many skilled passed from one generation to the next
                                                                          
  
In a world filled with mass produced products it is refreshing to find craftspeople creating stunning jewelry, fine leather goods, pottery, carved wood, nativity pieces for the Presepe, perfumes from ancient recipes and so much more. 
On your next trip to Italy support a local artist.   All the new places you can experience on a trip Home to Italy!
 
Wood carving in  Legno
The author has compiled a list of recommended artisans and shops, Artisans of Italy, available to readers of Made in Italy, available on Amazon
 
Morelli has a PhD. from Yale, has written for National Geographic Traveler, USA Today and Italy Magazines and has published award winning novels including The Gondola Maker and the Painter’s Apprentice.  Her new work, The Giant, is available now.    www.lauramorrelli.com  all photos are the property of Laura Morelli    

Pietre Dure: the art of hard stones

Florence offers a  view into the ancient art of
Pietre Dure
 
 
 
 
Not a painting.    Stone Art
 
 

   Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Via degli Alfani 78 – 50121 Firenze

Perhaps more familiar are the artistic techniques of mosaic, using small pieces of cut stone or marquetry, applying pieces of wood veneer to form patterns and pictures, but Pietre Dure is celebrated in Florence.

The museum is housed in a renovated, historic building that wraps around a central garden.   The traditional floor plan was altered exposing a 2 story gallery from the entrance of the museum.

 

 
 
Without the large crowds in other museums, you can enjoy your visit at your own pace.  There was no tour offered and the signage is mostly in Italian.  However,  in every room there were laminated information sheets for visitors to use as they examine the pieces in each room.   
 

 

 

 

 

 
 
But you may be too busy marveling at the colors and intricate designs on the tables, bowls and vases to read the descriptions supplied.     The walls are covered with stone ‘paintings’.  From a distance they appear to be painted figures, animals and lush forest scenes.  But everything is created with very thin pieces of stone that fit together like a puzzle.
 
 
 
 
Some of the typical motifs used
 

 

The second floor houses the ancient machinery and tools that are used to create Pietre dure art. A  film explained the process simply and described how designs are created, patterns made and stone cut to fit exactly into each pattern.  The museums’ You Tube posts gives you close up, color views 

 

For details on this detailed process another  You Tube  video covers  the process from selection of each stone, cutting and fitting into the intricate pattern to the final touches.

You get see the tools employed in the cases as well as stone samples.

This wooden vice holds a very thin slice of marble.   A wire saw will cut out the next design
piece that will be added to the outline

 

 

 

Most walls are covered with works that appear to be paintings but are ALL completed with different colored stone to create each piece.  The work is seamless with no indication that it is not one single piece of stone.




 

 

 
 
 

Check with the museum for open days and times.  http://opificiodellepietredure.it/

 Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure  Via degli Alfani 78 – 50121FFirenze   

 

 
 

Museum of the Liberation of Rome

A quiet apartment building that housed interrogators during WWII Photo from Museums web site

 

 

Museo storico della Liberazione, Rome  another unique experience to discover- beyond the tourist sites.

The museum recording the liberation of Rome from the Nazi occupation is housed in a non descript apartment building not far from the Basilica of St John Laterna.

Here you will find records of the Italian Resistance in 1944 during the WWII German occupation of Rome 9/11/1943 to 6/4/1944.  

 
 

At this location the SS detained and tortured captured members of the Italian Resistance.  Since 1955 the former cells and offices preserve original leaflets, posters and documents that create the record of events during the occupation.    Photographs, recordings and some films from this time are on display throughout the museum.

 

Historical Museum of the Liberation Struggle of Rome Prisons

 

The staff member on duty the day I visited.  What stories he may have to share

The museum layout uses the original apartment floor plans    Your audio guide takes you through the rooms on each of the 3 floors.  Tour at your own pace there is much to read and learn in the 19 rooms.   

                      What goes through your mind if you have been captured by the Nazi’s
                                                 and brought to this stark building?

 

 

 
 

The rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors during the time the SS occupied the building,  ‘housed over 2,000 citizens, soldiers, partisans, who were detained, interrogated and tortured’. 1    In several cells you can see the prisoners faint messages scratched on the walls.

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Many of the rooms have documents, photos, posters and art work from the occupation.   Most of the descriptions and details are in Italian but often there are short notations in English.
 
 

 


 

Photos and details of detained prisoners are carefully displayed.   
Their ultimate fate is listed for many of the detainees.  These are all sad rooms.   
 

 

 
 

 

 
 Several examples of prisoners’ clothing and 
  personal property are on display
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

                                     

 

                                                         Bread, Peace, Freedom

 

 

 
 

 

 

      Black and white photo from public events and a few of mass gathering 
                                                  for Hitler or Mussolini were fascinating

 

 

                                 

 
 

 

 

Not far from the Termini train station, close to the basilica of St. John Lateran

The museum offered free admission and welcomes donations.  
Several books and publications are available for purchase.
Check with the museum on access to the research room and materials.

Consult the museum’s web site to confirm days and times open.

museum web site http://www.museoliberazione.it/
 Phone: +39 06 700 3866
Address:  Via Tasso 145, Rome

Sources for statistics and dates:   www.itww.museoliberazion;  Wikipedia; the Museum Narrates by Antonio Parisella
1.  http://www.museoliberazione.it/en/information.html

Photos from Florence, Italy during the shutdown
















What is happening in Italy today? 

Italians have been under stay at home orders for weeks leaving the streets empty, stores closed and tourists returning home to wait out the pandemic.

As a few of the strict rules are being changed or lifted, Italian cities are seeing a few signs of life.  
                       

The Italian flag is found on many balconies and hung from windows
When have you seen the piazza in front of Santa Croce empty?

The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross)
Locals leave food for anyone in need to help themselves

The street along the Arno river towards the Ponte Vecchio
This street is usually packed with tourists   

                    Photos by Sheila Ford, Real Estate Agent and passionate photographer.

Italy: closed for months but locals became very innovative!

        

Italians Became Creative during the shut down

Italians have stoically followed the directives of their regional governments to stay at home since early March and finally have started to return to what will become the new normal.  

Some worker were able to tele-commute from home while 
non-essential businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, museums, historic sites and even the Vatican closed. 
  

Not a tourist in site, Florence Photo credit:  Sheila Ford

Photo by Sheila Ford
Photo by Sheila Ford








Businesses depending on tourism and critically hurt when the world stopped traveling, hotels closed, restaurants and cafes only offered take away.    


A substantial part of the Italian economy is dependent on visitors and even international students. Without the constant flow of travelers to fill hotels, enjoy the restaurants and cafes or book tours, it became financially difficult for businesses to remain open.

Italians have become very resourceful during the stay at home order, creating new ways to market their products, connect with clients and promote future projects.    Some of these new business ideas may become a permanent part of future marketing.

Zoom has quickly become the go-to method to remain relevant to clients and reach new prospects in the virtual classroom or showroom.    

Instead of a palazzo outside of Lecce, Cook in Puglia offers live interactive cooking lessons via zoom.  Students obtain all ingredients prior to the meeting and prepare dishes along with the instructor Yle Sambati from their home kitchens.  



Wine appreciation classes with Michele Passero offers 10 live zoom sessions   You can learn about wines and how to enjoy then, from the comfort of your home.  Register with Cook in Puglia.  

You can also register for Italian conversation classed the will cover travel, food, cinema, music and shopping.  The 60 minute classes are kept small, 10 per class and offered in morning or afternoons.  Private groups can also be arranged.  Contact Yle for all details.

The Beehive   in Rome has been welcoming visitors to the ancient city since 1992.  Expats Steve and Linda offer boutique hostel accommodations near the central train station.   This not the typical hostel and appeals to all ages.  

The in house cafe is often the site for cooking events and family style dinners during the week.  Pizza and Pasta making classes have been offered as well.  

Linda offers insider tours to share her in depth knowledge of Rome.    Ask a local if you want to know about a city, you can learn much more than a tour book ever offers. 

Due to the worldwide pandemic the Beehive temporarily closed, and offered Gift Cards for future stays.   unique program that some other hotels adopted. Guest would prepay for a future stay, helping the beehive with cash flow while the city was closed.  When travelers can return to Italy again guests will enjoy a stay during a future stay.

During the closure of the Beehive you could follow cooking lessons by Steve on You Tube.    

The cafe at the Beehive serves meals and often does cooking classes.

MailboxEtc #212 is accustom to tourists dropping in to ship their treasures home as well as the countless students who study in Florence each year.    With the closure of most if not all international study programs in March quickly followed by the suspension of most travel to Italy, the partners found new ways to
 keep shipping packages.

Collaborating with other stores in Florence, Mailbox Etc will pick up the items you select from the online offerings of olive oil, cookies, candies, pasta and other treats package your items and ship them direct to your or as a gift.

If you cannot visit Italy now, you can easily have your favorite treats shipped direct.  Contact via email:  mbe212@mbe.it  


Do you miss any of your favorite Italian products?

Italian Storiesarranges visits with artisans throughout Italy for visitors to experience how Italian fine products are created.  Experiencing Italy through her crafts and art takes you beyond a tourist.

While Italy was closed, Italian Stories brought craftsmen and artisans to world wide audiences through a series of online 

video visits shared by Eleanor Odorzzi .  

You can tour many studios and learn about the people who create fine Italian products on the Face Book feature:
Il Caffe in Laboratorio

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Large numbers of travelers may not return to Italy until later this year.   Until we can return to Italy, we can find innovative ways to assist their recovery.    This may be the perfect time to shop online for an authentic Italian product, take an online virtual tour or book a future stay with a local business.