We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wet, wet days in Venice

If you have been following Venice news this past week, you already know we've had our share of Acqua Alta (high water).  We had our first high water of the season, followed by the second, third, fourth, fifth, all in rapid succession. None of these were exceptionally high days, but high enough to throw a monkey wrench into your life for an hour or so each day.  And high enough for you to keep your boots handy by the door.

Because I've been talking so much about boots lately, and wearing mine so much, I thought a photo of them would be appropriate today.

If you need boots while in Venice, you should find Nadia's, at 2762B Dorsoduro, located just under the archway that leads from Campo San Barnaba to the Accademia Bridge. She sells an unbelievable assortment of boots (at very reasonable prices) as well as beautiful shoes, gloves, hats and bags. Mine came from Nadia's too.

What's app? What's that?

In the last 16 hours or so, I've become quite familiar with the image you see below.  It's the icon on my phone for the What's App app. Is it something you use also?

I am a brand new What's app user, I will confess.  About six months ago, a friend in England suggested I download it so we could stay in touch more often and not pay for phone calls. I didn't do it.  About two months ago, one of the Pink Lionesses asked me if I was on What's App.  No. I'm not. I didn't give it another thought.  Truth be told, I communicate with most people regularly via Facebook.  

A few weeks ago after finally upgrading to a new phone, I was loading apps onto it when I decided, what the heck, and onto my phone went What's App.  It sat there, I didn't use it. Until last night. 

Just before dinner time I noticed my phone was vibrating, a notification of some sort.  I checked emails, checked regular text messages, checked Facebook. And then I saw it- What's App had a new message!  Little did I know that message would significantly impact my life over the next few hours. 

The message was from one of the Pink Lionesses announcing she'd created a What's App group for us, and was in the process of adding members.  One after the other in rapid-fire succession came greeting messages from Lioness after Lioness after Lioness.  Who knows the numbers of other Lionesses that should be added?  How is everyone doing?  What a great idea this is to keep in touch? Is everyone ready for tomorrow's festa?  Don't forget to bring your cake! What boat are you getting on?  

For the next few hours there was a joyous interaction of Lionesses there in my own living room!  I could not resist reading each new one as it displayed. Some took me longer than others just to interpret them- I recognized they were writing in Venetian dialect, which is worlds apart from the Italian I am learning.  Not only that, several of the more technology savvy Lionesses were writing in Venetian text-ese, making  them even more complicated.  I need a translator.  Does "x" mean "per" or "che"?  

The night ended with a flurry of buona notte's and See you tomorrow's.  Finally all the vibrating of my phone came to a halt as bedtime approached.  I settled in for the night with a silly grin on my face, realizing the joy these unexpected little messages brought into my life.

This morning, around 8am just after the high water sirens went off ( yes, again), my phone began to vibrate.  I knew right away to check What's App.  And there they were- good morning messages, lots of happiness being spread around as we Lionesses prepare to head over to the Festa di Murano for a  day of celebration. 

My days may never be the same now that I belong to a What's App group.  

If you are on What's App, let me know so I can send you a Buona Notte or two! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Venice Marathon 2014- from the finish line

We're in the midst of another morning of Acqua Alta here in Venice. It's been a tough few days, with lots of rain and high water. I've been soggy, cold and damp, and my boots have been getting a work out. Fortunately for Venice, the forecast of 135cm of water this morning was downgraded at the last minute to 115-120 cm.  We're all breathing a sigh of relief. But it's still damp.

To lift my spirits a little this morning, I thought I'd post a happier moment. On the morning of October 26, the sun was shining brightly as 7,000  runners from around the globe crossed the finish line of the 2014 Venice Marathon. In my earlier post about the marathon, I shared a photo of the ramps over bridges constructed specifically for the race.  Here is a great view of racers coming down the home stretch, running across a ramp.  In this photo they are just one bridge away from the finish, after running 42.19 km.


The first runner to the finish line was Mamo Behailu of Ethiopia, in just 2 hours and 16 minutes. Unbelievable! The man runs like a gazelle.  Incredibly, just 2 minutes behind him came Giovanni Gualdi at 2:18 from Italy!

Mamo Bahailu

 Giovanni Gualdi

First woman across the finish line - Biruk Tilahun of Ethiopia. 2 hrs 40 min           
Runners were jubilant as they neared the last few paces.  The children of the runners would dash out onto the course to hold onto their mothers or fathers and run the last remaining steps along with them.  Some pulled out flags to wave over their heads, others ran with balloons flying from their backs. I even saw two dogs running with their people. This man in yellow below even stopped running right in front of me to lean down and give his dog a kiss.  Those of us lining the route were cheering, yelling, encouraging all we could.  A few poor runners had to be assisted across the finish they were hurting so badly.


It was indeed a joyous day of accomplishment for all of the 7,000 runners.   I didn't even notice I had snapped the photo below until I got home and looked at it carefully.  I had to enlarge it to actually see the guy holding his hand up in victory, he was so far down the street from me when I snapped it. And, after looking at it very  very closely, I noticed I actually KNOW that ecstatic man.

I had watched and waited for a glimpse of my hairdresser, Simone, but didn't see him.  Finally, someone I thought might have been him went by, but I wasn't 100% positive. This was at about 4 hours 15 or 20 minutes into the race, and a fair number of runners were all at about the same pace-  so lots of runners coming by at the same time.  When I didn't spot Simone, I figured he had encountered problems with his ankle somewhere during the course. When I saw this photo, I'm not sure who was more overjoyed at his making it all the way to the end.   This photo sums up the jubilant spirits felt at the finish line that morning.


 Registrations for the 2015 Venice Marathon  on October 25, 2015 are already open.   Perhaps  next year I'll be snapping a photo of you!

The Gondola Maker - a book review

Today's post is something a little out of the ordinary for me, but nonetheless, a wonderful new experience for me.

Recently I received an email from Laura Fabiani of Italy Book Tours inviting me to read and review The Gondola Maker, by Laura Morelli.  This book was already on my current list of books to read; naturally I was happy to accept the offer.


The book cover tempted me, like offering sweets to a child. 

The book synopsis sent along with the book offered more sumptuous enticements.  I've included it below for you to be tempted yourself:

From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice. 

When Luca Vianello, the heir to a renowned gondola-making enterprise, experiences an unexpected tragedy in the boatyard, he believes that his destiny lies elsewhere. Soon he finds himself drawn to restore an antique gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride. Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship, along with an intimate first-person narrative set against the richly textured backdrop of 16th-century Venice.

IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book 
Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award 
Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 
Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize 

From the moment I flipped open the front cover to the very last page, I was enthralled. I will be the first to admit I had my doubts initially. I'm a tough customer to please. Here was a historical fiction about Venice, and not only that, specifically about gondola and forcole (the oarlock)  making. As someone who knows and loves this city, and knows several  artisanal craftsmen personally,  I was curious to see how Morelli could possibly capture all that Venice is- her grandness, the magic, the mystery,the  romance, the very essence of her. Surprise, surprise. Laura Morelli not only does it, she does it masterfully. 

The plot is intriguing, the characters so perfectly written you feel as though you know them as you are reading, the setting true to this marvelous city.  You cannot help but read on. And when you get to the last lines, you find yourself wanting still more. For me, this is the test a book must pass. The Gondola Maker passes with flying colors.  

Happily, I was able to interview Laura Morelli briefly.I hope my questions, and Laura's responses, let you get to know the author a little better.

1.It's obvious you did your homework about Venice, and it's history. Did you spend time in Venice while you were writing ?  If so, how long?

I lived in northern Italy for four years and spent a lot of time in Venice. The inspiration for THE GONDOLA MAKER came as I was researching another book called MADE IN ITALY back in 2001-2002. I traveled all over Italy, from the Alps to the islands, talking with contemporary artisans who still practice centuries-old traditions like Murano glass, Florentine leather, Sicilian ceramics, Roman goldsmithing, and of course, Venetian gondolas. Over and over, the extraordinary people I interviewed told me how important it was to pass the torch of tradition on to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen--especially centuries ago--if the successor were not able... or willing. The character of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape in my head. As I began to work on THE GONDOLA MAKER in earnest, it was an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the primary historical sources about the history of the gondola, the world of the guilds or arti, and the role and reputation of boatmen in Renaissance Venice.

2.  You mentioned the idea for the book was based on wondering what might have happened if someone chose not to carry on the family traditional work.  How did you decide to use the gondola makers, as opposed to say, cheese makers?

I grew up around boats and the ocean, so the idea of boatbuilding has always been very alive for me. And of course, the gondola is such a specific artisanal tradition and so closely linked with Venice as to be synonymous with the city itself. A family boatyard (or squero) seemed the natural setting for this story. Cheese makers would make another great tale, though!

3. Your other books are non-fiction. Had you been dreaming of writing fiction at some point? 

Yes, I have wanted to write a novel for as long as I have known how to write at all. I wanted to pursue my passion and my career in art history, but I always felt certain that writing fiction would work its way into my life at some point.

4. Do you have any authors that have influenced your work as a writer?

I enjoy reading other historical fiction authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, Abraham Verghese, Ken Follett, and Umberto Eco. I appreciate authors who are masters of sensory writing--the art of conveying sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and physical sensations through words. One of the best examples of sensory writing is Perfume by Patrick Suskind. It's one of my all-time favorite stories.

5. What book is on your nightstand currently?

Right now I'm reading Laurence Bergreen's account of Marco Polo's journey to the court of Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century (Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu). I've especially enjoyed reading about the unexpected predicaments in which the travelers found themselves. Surely major mishaps must have been guaranteed for anyone embarking on a long international journey during the Middle Ages.

6. Are you working on another writing project? 

Yes. Currently I'm working on a series of city and regional guides that lead travelers to the most authentic arts in each destination. The name of the series is LAURA MORELLI'S AUTHENTIC ARTS. Each destination includes a core handbook available in paperback and ebook formats, as well as an ebook-only companion that is a continually updated list of resources and authentic artisans. The first set of books is about Venice, and they will be out in early 2015. You can find out more about the series here: http://lauramorelli.com/laura-morellis-authentic-arts-series-coming-in-2015/. Once these guides are out, I'm returning to historical fiction. 

Grazie, Laura!

About the Author

Laura Morelli earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She has taught college art history in the U.S. and at Trinity College in Rome. She is the creator of the authentic guidebook series that includes Made in ItalyMade in France, and Made in the Southwest, published by Rizzoli. Laura is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler and other national magazines and newspapers. A native of coastal Georgia, she is married and is busy raising four children. The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction.
Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  about.me

Where to buy the book:

Here is the list of other blogs included on the Blog Tour for The Gondola Maker, in case you wish to read other reviews of the book.

Nov 3 - Studentessa Matta - review / giveaway
Nov 3 - Il Mio Tesoro - review / giveaway
Nov 4 - Packabook - review
Nov 4 - Venice from Beyond the Bridge - review
Nov 5 - Monica Cesarato - review / giveaway
Nov 5 - Seductive Venice - review
Nov 6 - Food Lover's Odyssey - review / giveaway
Nov 7 - The Venice Experience - review / interview
Nov 8 - Hello World - review
Nov 9 - Orvieto or Bust - review
Nov 9 - Capturing Venice - review

The Gondola Maker deserves to be on your must read list. It's that good.