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

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Murder Mystery set in Venice for your reading list!

Ciao tutti!

Often I am asked to either give an assist to authors in their research of Venice for their novel or to review a new book that has something to do with Venice.   What luck!  Just when I was in need of a little dose of Venice, the perfect "fix" arrived- a copy of Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City by Christine Evelyn Volker to read and review.

I'm going to cut right to the chase. This is a 2 thumbs up from Karen. Venetian Blood ticked all my boxes.  It's a fast moving murder mystery that will have you up late unable to stop reading, for several reasons. First, the plot is full of intrigue and twists. You won't be able to figure it out it's that good.  The characters will compel you to follow their story and get into what makes them tick, in particular, the protagonist Anna Lucia Lottol.   She's a successful 40-ish Italian-American who has been accused of a murdering a Venetian count with whom she has had a brief affair. As the local polizia are all pointing fingers directly at her, Anna is tenacious in attempting to prove her innocence. You'll be rooting for her vindication.

And if a good murder mystery isn't enough, Volker has tossed in a bit of romance (who could resist a good love story set in Venice? ), a bit of betrayal (yes, just to make it a bit juicier!), and a family secret or two to unravel. Yes, this ticked all my boxes.

Being set in Venice is just icing on the cake, and it's some very beautiful icing. The author doesn't just write, which she does well, by the way; she paints Venice just as you would want it.  She uses the sights and sounds of this seductive city complete with accurate details for those of us who know the city well and might be looking for a slip here or there. Voker did her homework on Venice, and I appreciated it. Volker doesn't disappoint. She enthralls.

So,  for all you Venetophiles like myself, I encourage you to grab a copy of Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City.  Brew a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, snuggle into your favorite reading spot and prepare for a love fest with your favorite city.

If you've read it, or after you have finished it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book.  Happy Reading.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Celebrating in Procida

Ciao tutti!

I've been wondering what would push me to write again. Not that I haven't been thinking about it. I have. Just had so many pressing things to handle during and after the move. The move itself was disastrous (that's another story) and the settling in took much longer than we anticipated (that's a few other stories).  Yesterday was a day for the record books- we received our new residence certificates and Carta d'Identita from the Comune.  Only took about a month longer than we had hoped to get those things accomplished (yes, yet another story there). I really thought that would be the push that got me to the keyboard yesterday.  That's a big milestone. We were officially new Procida residents, and we were ready to celebrate.

 However, at 5:29 pm yesterday, my life changed. Completely out of the blue, unexpectedly, but forever changed. 

And that's what has me writing today. Trust me, this is some big stuff.  I have always written most of my blog posts about my Venetian/Italian experiences so that I'd have a written record of them years later.  What occurred yesterday has got to be one of the most significant- and weirdest- events ever. I must write it so I don't ever forget. And I can't wait to share it with you. 

I, like many other Italian-Americans, always dreamed of researching the Italian family tree, maybe even tracking down some of the family who are still living.  When my mother came to America after the war, she came as a war bride.  I never had any Italian family living in America. Nor did I know any family back in Italy because my mother had been adopted when she was a very young child.  I knew of the adopting family, but I didn't know anything about her biological family. It's always been a curiosity, and a bit of a mystery. 

My mother has always been angry that she was put up for adoption, while an older brother was kept by her family.  She felt abandoned, rejected, and very hurt.  Her adoptive family was wonderful to her, but she never got over that hurt. It has haunted her for her entire life. And she has always refused to talk about her biological family.
When I moved to Italy, I sought out her adoptive family. These people opened their homes and their hearts to me. I have been welcomed and loved up like I was one of their own. But I have always wondered where the biological family might be. Was anyone still alive? Did anyone remember my mother?  Did anyone know what the circumstances were around my mothers adoption. My mother certainly wasn't talking, and the adoptive family, if they knew anything, weren't sharing anything either.  

On the few occasions I brought this subject up with my Italian family, they seemed hurt that I was curious about my biological family. I'd given some thought to going to the Comune in the city where my mother was born to try to search records.  Not wanting to hurt them in any way, I filed those thoughts away. Until recently.

I'm always reading accounts of other Italian-Americans who have successfully tracked down family members by searching at the local city hall or even on Facebook. I still really wanted to know who this biological family was.  I knew only the family last name, my nonno's (grandfather) first name, and the city where my mother was born. 

Yes, I did it. I searched on FB and found a few people in the city where my mom was born with the same name.  Most were young people, but one man was about my age.  I thought there might be a good chance he could be a cousin.  I sent him a FB message, asking if he knew anyone who might have information about my grandfather and/or his family. That was in the middle of March.  I didn't get a response, and promptly forgot all about it. 

Yesterday, at 5:29pm,  a FB messenger window popped up on my computer screen with a message from this man.  He wrote, in Italian, "You have found your family. The man you are asking about was my grandfather."

It took a few seconds for that to sink in. Holy Shit. Holy shit. Holy Shit. Can this be for real? Then he told me his name. Giuliano.  He wrote, "My father named me after his sister Giuliana."  That's my mother. Oh, let the waterworks begin. How weird is this? 

Even though it took months for him to respond, it's bizarre it didn't take lots of searching to find the right person. One message sent, bingo! I have family!  

We had a grand conversation lasting a few hours. There is a ton of family information to cover and we only just scratched the surface. His father is the older brother my mother recalled. That would make him my uncle. For the first time in my life I finally knew his name- Giorgio. And got to see a photo of him!  His father never forgot his baby sister. Giuliano told me his father had wanted to find her his whole life. 

Plans have been discussed for meeting face to face soon. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers, and shared lots of "Holy cow, this is unbelievable" on my end and "Non ci credo!" on his side. I think we are both still pinching ourselves. And later last night he sent a WhatsApp message telling me he'd realized his father's dream.  Mine too!

Through the magic of the internet- thank you, Al Gore, and Facebook- big hugs to you too, Mark Zuckerberg, I found my real blood Italian relatives.  

Life is good. 

Yes, life is good. We are loving every day on this beautiful little island.  Each day we feel a little bit more like we are home. 

I want to send special thanks to all of you for keeping me in your thoughts. I appreciate all the messages and emails asking how the move was going and what we're up to. I needed the space to get through the transition. 

Has anyone else ever tracked down long lost family members? If you have, I'd love to hear how your search went.  As you can imagine, I'm still in disbelief! 

 Grazie mille from Procida!  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Yes, finally a blog post from me.

Ciao, tutti!

First, I must thank everyone for sending emails and messages asking me what the heck has happened to me. Why no posts ? I've been keeping a secret, and the time for me to explain has come.

My internet is being disconnected tomorrow morning. (So I had better get this posted tonight!) Tomorrow afternoon and Friday morning the mover will be here. We'll be saying goodbye to the yellow house at the far end of Venice.

I've been sitting on this for months, not sure what to say or how to say it. The simple truth is Venice has become too expensive for us to live here anymore, and so we had to find a place we could afford. Venice also has changed in the last couple of years, and that has made it much more difficult to sustain a life as a full time resident here.

We decided to move south, and found a perfect apartment on the tiny little island of Procida, not far from Naples.

This move is bittersweet for me. I've had nine and a half glorious years in Venice. I've loved every last second.  Wouldn't have traded this adventure for anything in the world!  And ten years here on this blog with many of you following me for that long.  I am grateful for each and every one of you. Many of you have become personal friends over the years. Trust me, my life has been enriched by you in countless ways.

So what comes next?  I have thought about changing the name of this blog.. perhaps The Venice Experience goes South?  Or maybe Procida Tales.  I've already got a few chapters of fun stuff that's happened just in finding the apartment and getting the move executed. No doubt there will be more of my "experiences" to come.  I'd like you to tell me if you have any interest in keeping up with something that isn't connected to Venice, or whatever your preference might be.  Feel free to also let me know if it's of no interest at all. I'll get it.

Mike and I also have a brand new blog that will launch soon, hopefully by June. Look for us on "Hendersons on the Road" where we'll share our travels in, around, and out of Italy.

So now my secret is out of the bag. We're excited about what lies ahead and are eager to begin the next chapter of our life.

Still a few last minute things to throw into boxes before my mover Cristian (yes, we are on a first name basis now. Long story.) arrives tomorrow.

Arrivederci, Venice.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 9

Advent Calendar for Day #9 of the Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style collection

Ciao, tutti! 

This just might be my favorite Advent calendar this year. I've been thinking about what I might put in each of those drawers. Don't laugh, but I'd put Hersey's kisses in them, the same number in each box as the number on it. So, 1 kiss for Dec 1, 2 for Dec 2 and so on. December 24 would be like a winning the lottery- especially since we cannot find Hersey's kisses over here. Having them would be such a treat! Any thoughts on what you'd load those drawers with? 

Today I'm taking you to one of my all time favorite shops in Venice, to meet a very special artisan. This is one of the very first places I visited on my first trip to Venice, I returned every year, and now I pop in several times a week. Ca Del Sole mask shop is just a few minutes from St. Mark's square, on Fondamenta Osmarin in the district of Castello. 

At the front door of Ca del Sole, one of Venice's most famous mask shops

Hamid Bandar, owner and mask maker at Ca Del Sole since 1986

Meet the man behind the masks, Hamid Bandar.  Hamid opened his shop in 1986 and was one of the first artisans to create a revival of the traditional Venetian mask. I caught Hamid mid-lecture in his workshop the other day, doing something he loves - sharing the story of Venetian masks.

Scary collection of plague doctor masks at Ca Del Sole

Inside his shop you'll find a wide assortment of masks, ranging from the Plague Doctor to fancy, elegant creations perfect for a Las Vegas showgirl. All individually made from paper mache and decorated with gorgeous accessories such as beads, gold leaf and feathers. 

Vast array of handmade masks at Ca Del Sole

Exquisitely decorated masks at Ca Del Sole

Doges hat and masks at Ca Del Sole

Each mask is made of paper mache lining a plaster mold of a face at Ca Del Sole

A handmade Venetian mask is a work of art which takes days to construct from start to finish, beginning with strips of blue paper mache and glue in the plaster mold. Recreating the traditional masks worn in Venice is a labor of love for Hamid and his assistants. 

Handmade Carnevale costumes available for rent at Ca Del Sole

Ca del Sole not only sells Venetian masks, but also rents handmade costumes for Carnevale masquerade balls. 

Hope you will put Hamid's shop on your list of Must-finds next time you are visiting Venice. It's definitely one of Venice's gems. 

You can visit Ca del Sole at Castello, 4964, Fondamenta Osmarin
www. cadelsolemascherevenezia.com

Here's the link to the Countdown to Christmas 2014 post Just click here!

Today's Advent calendar thanks to imaginifnz.blogspot.co.nz

Celebrating the Festa della Madonna della Salute in Venice

             La Salute church

Ciao tutti! 

In going through recent photos I discovered I'd neglected to make a post about one of Venice's biggest festa's, the Festa della Madonna della Salute. Other cities hold festivals to celebrate the wine harvest, or mushrooms, or garlic. Venice holds festivals to remember the black plague. Every year in July we have the Festa del Redentore to commemorate the Plague of 1574, and in November we celebrate the end of the plague of 1630.  

During each of these plagues, Venetians prayed to be spared from death and destruction. To keep their promise to God when the plagues ended, they built a church. In 1630 the called on the Madonna directly to end the plague, and their thanks resulted in the marvelous church of Madonna della Salute, in Dorsoduro. 

Every year, on November 21,  citizens make a pilgrimage to the church in order to give thanks to the Madonna for her intervention on Venice's behalf, and to pray for the health of their families. In the old days, people crossed a makeshift bridge across the Grand Canal made of boats tied together, to make their way into the church for mass, led by the Doge. Today, the city constructs a temporary votive pontoon bridge across the canal. 

Festa della Salute is huge. People still make a mass pilgrimage, flooding the streets and over the pontoon bridge to buy candles, attend mass, and afterwards, buy goodies. It's an annual tradition that is absolutely essential to Venetian life. 

What most people don't know about the Festa della Madonna della Salute is that the festa actually begins one week before November 21. Always on the Saturday before, the rowing community of Venice rows a giant candle down entire length of the Grand Canal to the La Salute Church, where they are met by the priests who will then bless the boats and the rowers of Venice with a special benediction.

Rowers taking the candle to La Salute

Close up view of the large candle being rowed to La Salute

Pink Lionesses participating in the row to La Salute

Arrival of the candle

Delivering the candle to La Salute

Priests at La Salute giving the rowers the benediction

Priests on the steps of La Salute blessing the boats and rowers

Alze remi, the rowers honorary salute

 Alza Remi (raise the oars), an honorary salute given by the rowers. The young men and women in blue jackets are from the Francesco Morosini Naval Military Academy in Venice.

The votive bridge being constructed for La Salute

The pontoon bridge during construction a few days before November 21.

On November 21, the calle next to the church of La Salute is lined with vendors stalls selling all sorts of goodies- nutella crepes, candies, marzipan, cheese, roasted nuts, just to name a few. And there are balloons. Tons of balloons.  Take a stroll down the street with me, and I assure you, the temptation to stop and indulge will be strong. My weakness is always the cannoli booth!

Chestnuts roasting at La Salute festival

Big fat cool looking porchetta

roasted nuts at La Salute

donuts at La Salute

Candied apples at La Salute

Chocolate candies at La Salute
Arancini at La Salute

Cannoli at La Salute

Roasted corn on the cob for La Salute

Street view at La Salute

Either before or after you hit all the goodies, you will stop to purchase candles at one of the numerous candle vendors, then make your way into the church to have your candle lit. 
Candle vendors at La Salute

Candles lit inside La Salute

Decorated inside of the church La Salute for the festa 2016
The main altar at La Salute church dressed out in velvets specially made by Bevilacqua.

For more information about the church of La Salute, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_della_Salute

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 8

Recycled Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Advent Calendar:

Ciao, tutti!

Welcome back for day #8 of my Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style.

Every time I write "Venice Style" for these posts, I hear the "Gangnam Style" song in my head. Sorry. Couldn't help myself. You are all doing the dance, aren't you? 

Today is a very important holiday in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Banks, schools, government offices are all closed. In fact, most are making a four day weekend out of it. It's also the day most Italians put up their Christmas trees  and arrange  their  Presepe.  As of this very moment, our fake tree is out of the box, constructed and lights are on.  I have a feeling the rest of the process will get done tomorrow. But.. we're almost there! And on the right day too. 

So, are we ready to take a peek behind door #8? 

I decided to stay in Campo Santa Margherita again today. 

Say hello to my favorite fishmongers (peschivendolo in Italian) - Gianni, Paolo and Riccardo.  

Gianni, Paolo and Riccardo in Campo Santa Margherita

This family has been selling in one of the few areas of Venice where fish vendors were located for hundreds of years. Right in the campo. Every day, Tuesday through Saturday, they set up shop.  That's my salmon Riccardo is holding in the photo (eaten tonight for dinner and it was yummy). I love that they will prepare the fish any way I ask. They even peel and clean my shrimp! Who could ask for better service? 

Ricardo with rhombo
Riccardo holding up a huge flounder (rombo) for us.

With the number of Venice residents declining rapidly, we're happy to see our favorites still in business.  Should you be in the neighborhood, stop by to say hello. Better yet, if you are renting an apartment, be adventurous and buy some local fish to make for your diner! 

Here's the link to my Countdown to Christmas 2014 post for Day 8 Glass Ornaments!

I promise, tomorrow we're not going to be in Campo Santa Margherita again. I'll leave you guessing what I have up my sleeves for you, though!

Today's Advent calendar thanks to  The Crafty Blog stalker. Great use of old toilet paper rolls. Ingenious! 

A domani!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style- Day 7

                                                            Stars. One of the great ideas for advent calendar:

Ciao tutti!

Once again, I have to begin with a huge "Grazie mille". The response to this series has been overwhelming, the blog has record page views this week. I love reading all of your comments, so please keep them coming.

And I love the advent calendar I chose for today. I only wish they had included a little footstool or ladder so this cutie pie could reach the very top pockets! Being short myself, I can empathize with her.

Are we ready to crack open door #7?  I know I am!

Today we're visiting a spot very dear to my heart, close to where we used to live over in the Santa Croce district. But we're stopping just 1 bridge short of Santa Croce, ending in Campo Santa Margherita instead.  If you are a regular reader of my blog you are well aware of my attachment to this campo. If not, then you will be shortly!

Campo Santa Margherita, the heartbeat of the Dorsoduro district, is home of one of our favorite places, Imagina Cafe.  I know, I have been featuring artisans of Venice on my advent calendar posts so far, and you are probably scratching your heads wondering why I'm mentioning a cafe today instead.  I promised I'd focus on people in this Advent Calendar instead of things, and I can't think of any better place to introduce you to some of our favorite people.

Remember that TV show Cheers? The place where everybody knows your name? Well, in Venice, Imagina Cafe is that place. You come in the front door and there is always a happy "Ciao" for you, and a smile. It's your home away from home, your second family.  And trust me, when you are a foreigner trying to make a life in a country far, far from home, you need that. These people have been our second family since the day we arrived in Venice, 9 years ago.  

Domenico and Ramona
Here's Dominico and Ramona

stefano and jacopo
and absent this morning while I was snapping photos were Stefano and Jacopo. (  recent photos courtesy of http://iaindeau.blogspot.it/)

IMagina cafe

If you want to get an up close and personal experience with the locals, this is the place to be. If you need a spot to duck away from a busy day full of Venice sightseeing, this is the place.  If you want one of THE best spots to people watch, grab a seat at one of the outdoor tables. If you want a drink and one of the BEST tramezzini (Venetian sandwich) in town, this is the spot.  

Their walls also host the work of local artists, so you're getting a little dose of culture as a bonus. (And you never know if there will be one of those local artists sitting at the next table- some famous, some not so much).

Oops...almost forgot....Imagina Cafe is home to some of the most decadent hot chocolate with Whipped cream. Must have. 

 And just say Karen sent you. 

Imagina Cafe, Rio Tera Canal, Dorsoduro 3126

The link to my Countdown to Christmas 2014 Day 7 blog, just click here

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 6

Mini Felt Stockings Advent Calendar from Garnet Hill.com $78.00 Embroidered with white numbers:

Ciao tutti!

One of my friends here in Venice came up with a very unique Advent calendar this year. I can't help myself, I have to share it here.  Thanks, Paolo. 

24 days of beer advent calendar

Brilliant idea, isn't it? 

Now, back to what is in store behind door #6. 

Today, I'm taking you on a walk to Rialto Bridge to meet a friend, Marco Jovon. Marco and his family have operated a jewellery shop on the bridge since 1934, first opened by Marco's grandfather. 

Jovan cameo shop on Rialto bridge

Walk into Gioielleria Eredi Jovon and you are walking into a unique part of Venice's past and present.  The tradition started by Marco's grandfather, continued on by his father Bruno is now proudly carried on by Marco, his mother Gabriella and the rest of the family. 

Cameos by Jovan

But Jovon's isn't just any ordinary jewellery shop. Marco hand carves exquisite one-of-a-kind cameos. At the shop you will find many works of art of Marco's own design, or you can request a custom design just for you.  

Marco and Giorgio

Marco and Giorgio, always ready to greet you with a smile.

Jovan cameo

example of cameo caving

tools for carving cameos

The ancient tools for cameo engraving are still in use today.

shell used for cameos

Amazing, cameos all start from a shell similar to this one. 

Blue cameo Jovan
photo www.eredijovon.com
One of Marco's latest creations, a blue cameo with woman at the Rialto bridge.

Inside the shop  a small cameo museum displays an unusual collection of family pieces. Jovon also sells other types of jewellery, including corals and Murano glass. 

I'm honored to be able to share another wonderfully talented Venetian artisan with you as part of my Countdown to Christmas, Venice style.  Hopefully, as you are walking over the famous Rialto bridge you will take a minute to stop in to meet Marco and his family, and perhaps take home a special cameo too. 

 You can find Gioielleria Eredi Jovon, San Marco 5325, on the Rialto Bridge.
For more information check out their website http://www.eredijovon.com/en/ or like their page on Facebook. Marco has written an ebook about cameos which is available for download on the website. 

To see my Countdown to Christmas 2014 - Day 6 post,  Just click here.  It's one of my favorite posts from that year - lucious cioccolata calda con panna (hot chocolate with creme)! Makes me want some right now. 

Today's advent calendar thanks to digsdigs.com.

Have a favorite post so far in this series?  Which Advent calendar did you like best? Suggestions?  I'd love to see your comments, so please leave a note for me in the comments section here. 

Ciao, Ciao!