Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Faces of Italy - a Collection of Casual Photos

I took these photos during my trip to Italy last month.  They are of people I saw during my walks around Rome, and of old and new friends in Castiglion Fiorentino in Arezzo, Italy. Most of them were not aware I was taking their picture.  Some of them are expats, others are immigrants, but most are native Italians just going about their daily business.  A few of the photos are out of focus because I snapped as I walked, a very bad habit of mine. The photo of the model, though, she was twirling around her gold lame gown while I was walking by, and so that is totally out of focus, but it was too cool not to share. Also, the photos were taken with my iPhone 6, and I zoomed in some of the time.  Long gone are the days when I used to bring along my camera bag containing camera, lenses and filters.  Too cumbersome and painful for someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
I walked past this pizza joint, turned around to photograph the people down this stone path and right before I snapped this photo, the guy on the left turned his head to the right, straight in my direction.  The timing was perfect.  He was the most interesting to look at, so with some editing, I made Pizza Guy the center of attention.
I was taking a break at a public water fountain and watched this couple walk straight to the silver car.  For some reason, they didn't enter the car.  Perhaps they were deciding where to grab lunch? Her al-amira (head scarf) and teal shirt caught my attention.  I wondered which country she emigrated from, or maybe she didn't. Maybe she's Italian and then I wondered what her cultural identity or religion was.  But it was just a thought, then away I went to sightsee some more.

As I was leaving the Piazza della Rotonda, where the Pantheon and the Fontana del Pantheon sit, I looked up and around for pretty flowery windows to photograph.  No flowers but I found this guy looking intently at his cell phone.  He was so oblivious to all of the beautiful music and activity in the piazza.  His window looked out to the Pantheon.  How wonderful it must be to wake up to such a majestic sight every day, and to the sound of a constantly flowing fountain.
The cellist played music that was so ethereal, I almost changed my mind about roaming the Eternal City.  My ears and heart were telling me to have a seat at the fountain and to listen to the musician for a couple of hours.  We happened to come upon this guy when we exited our hotel, the Hotel Pantheon, turned the corner and there he was.
This is three generations of the Buccelletti family in Castiglione Fiorentino in Tuscany.  We are at their winery in the valley.  Renee, an American whom I met at Pappalecco's in San Diego, married the son of the co-proprietor, Lidia, of the Buccelletti Family Estate. The baby boy, Gianni, is a cutie!  We enjoyed a wonderful stay at one of their villas.  We also helped harvest grapes in the vinyard, and tasted a variety of their wines, and the food was so delicious. They spoiled us.  We drank and ate so much at lunch, our stomachs were still full at dinner time!  If you plan to visit Italy, please check out their website, Casali in Val di Chio, before you go and book a villa-stay.
Two nuns arriving at St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, to receive blessings from Pope Francis. The Pope receives audiences every Wednesday, weather permitting.  My group and I were fortunate to have seats along one of the corridors to see Pope Francis up close. It was very exciting to be in the presence of the Pope and Cardinals.
This is Orestes, proprietor of the Sagrestia Ristorante in the Piazza della Rotonda.  The restaurant has been there for 15 years, but the building itself was erected in the 1800's.  It housed many businesses and was home to many people, but it was for quite some time a monastery.  Orestes was very friendly, his English not so good but neither was our Italian.  We understood that his parents named him after the son of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, of Greek mythology.
Every Wednesday morning, the pope greets his audience in St. Peter's Square, weather permitting and unless he has an engagement with world leaders and the like. We arrived at the Vatican very early in the morning to get to our reserved seats.  We had a great spot, right along the barricade and where the popemobile would be passing by.  All through the morning, and before Pope Francis would make his appearance, wedding couples were coming in past the Vatican guards.  I wasn't counting, but maybe 12 to 15 couples were allowed to go to the front of the audience.  Curiosity got the best of me, and this is what I learned.  You can have a private audience with Pope Francis, in front of the extremely large crowd, if you were married within two months of your scheduled Papal Audience visit, you have a marriage certificate signed by a priest to show the Vatican guards before entering the restricted area, and you must arrive in your wedding attire.  Pope Francis spends a few precious moments with each couple for selfies, autograph-signing, gift-giving, and in return, the pope gives the couple a very special wedding rosary.  
We reached this quaint wooden toy shop, Pinocchietto, after spending time at the Fontana di Trevi.  It was fascinating to watch this toymaker at work.  He carves lots of toys, but his specialty is the wooden Pinocchios of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Quanto costa, Signor?
Like the wedding couples, others were vying for a seat at the front of the audience such as members of various religious orders and those with crippling medical conditions.  I was thoroughly entertained by the numbers of nuns, monks, brothers and sisters coming through. It was like watching a parade.  The soldier to the right wearing the Gala red, yellow and blue striped uniform is a Swiss Guard.  The soldier to the left is the Vatican police known as the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State.  The corps help augment the Pontifical Swiss Guard during the Pope's appearances, among other duties.
This is our tour guide cooling off at one of many fountains found throughout Rome.  She took us on a three-hour tour, and it was a very, very hot day.  While the fountain doesn't look clean, the water is cool, tasty, and very safe to drink.  I always tell my travelers to bring a water bottle to refill their drinking water.  Why pay for something when you can get it for free?  In Rome you can find around 2,500 public drinking fountains which are called nasoni (big noses).  The first nasone was created in 1874.
Oh, here's the cell phone guy again.  Looking at this photo brings to mind the damaged plaster walls, peeled paint, and all those wires and cables draped across the old buildings throughout the Eternal City.  I can honestly say that I didn't take notice of the wires and cables until I saw this photo.  There's just so much beauty in the architecture of the surrounding churches, statues and ruins.  People-watching sometimes tops even that!
These ladies caught my attention right away.  They were so animated, and their speech was expressive, which I guess is what the Italian language is - fast and passionate.  Also, this photo reminds me that European women love to wear dresses and are very trendy.  They do not wear jeans on a daily basis as we Americans generally do.  I love the black sneakers. I need to get me a pair.  White ones, too!
These guys might look pretty in their striped uniforms, but truth be told, they are members of a deadly army of elite warriors selected to protect the Pope, the Cardinals and Vatican City.  Here, they are walking to their posts in preparation for the arrival of Pope Francis. The Swiss Guard is the smallest army in the world with about 125 soldiers and officers serving at any given time.  There are many requirements to becoming a Swiss Guard, one of which is you must be a Swiss citizen.  Also, the sword or halberd (a two-handed pole weapon with an axe topped with a long, sharp blade, and a spike opposite the sharp end of the axe) is not for show.  The Swiss Guard are trained in the use of medieval and modern weaponry.
When we left the Piazza Navona after a lovely dinner one evening, we came upon a photo shoot happening nearby.  The model was a pretty, skinny thing and she swished her gold lame gown this way and that.  With the sun beginning to set, the light bouncing off the gown was sort of mesmerizing.  
Viva il Papa!  Everything Pope Francis says and does resonates with most people of all faiths, even atheists.  He leads by example. Humble. Peacemaker.  A servant of the servants of God.  Pope Francis is a rock star!  We must've waited a little over two hours under the hot, hot morning sun to see him in person - up close and personal.  It was such an amazing experience!  I would like to say everyone was orderly, but when it comes to people trying to push me out of my position at the barricade, you better watch out.  I will push you back, and I did.  Not a shove, but a very firm push. Notice the gentlemen in the dark suits.  They are also soldiers of the Swiss Guard.  Their other uniform, the striped red, blue and yellow, is referred to as the Gala Uniform.
During our last three days in Italy, we stayed in a rustic villa in the heart of Tuscany.  Owned by the Buccelletti family, the villa is one of four in the countryside.  We arrived in the late afternoon and soon after, Giuseppina (I think that's how she pronounced her name) came by to cook us dinner.  Oh my word, it was fantastico! For starters, she made Eggplant Parmesan followed by a first course of stuffed ravioli with a light butter, sage and Parmesan sauce. The second course consisted of peposo (spicy forequarter meat, beef cooked in a wine gravy).  The beef comes from the Chianina breed of cattle, the oldest and most prized.  It is noted for its porcelain-white coats, and for being the biggest and heaviest breed. Giuseppina is a very good friend of the Buccelletti family. She was a restaurant chef, then retired to raise her family.  She now cooks for the villa guests. I loved her smile and cheerfulness. 
Believe it or not, we paid to participate in a wine harvest.  Just those words "wine harvest" sounds so lovely and inviting, doesn't it?  It is until you get a kink in your neck, or your back aches.  It is hard work.  I heard the laborers were astonished to learn we paid to work alongside them for a couple of hours.  I don't regret one minute of it, though.  How many Americans can say they actually harvested grapes in a Tuscan vinyard?  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
This is Carla, an employee at the Casali in Val di Chio.  After the grape harvest, she graciously took us around the widespread farm which includes the wine tasting room, production rooms where the grapes and olives are made into fine wine and olive oil, the family chapel, the large garden of fruits and vegetables, formal gardens, wedding venue and the villas.  There are future plans to add a museum.
I'd already posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook.  This cracks me up.  This character is a fake.  Beneath the long coat and long head scarf is probably a robust young lady. maybe 25 years old.  The beggars and con artists come in all shapes and sizes.  This beggar was wearing expensive athletic shoes.  This reminds me of a prior trip to Venice, where I observed a crouched beggar in a deserted alley stand up straight to stretch her back.  No matter where you travel in the world, always beware of your surroundings.

Thanks for having a look!