Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Blog and Happy New Year to you!

I will bring in 2012 by raising a glass of Col Vetoraz Prosecco and toasting all of you! 
One year ago today I started writing this blog, and today as I sit at my desk and think back over the last 12 months my thoughts are like those of a mother who looks at her child, lays a sweet kiss on her cheek and says my how you've grown before quickly conceding to the silent guilt tugging at her heart and letting those gentle thoughts transform into but can you forgive me for those moments when life stole my time away and caused me to neglect you?

I began writing this blog with you—my readers and followers—in mind, and because sharing my experiences and showing others what it means to be an American living in Italy brings me great joy. But the best part of keeping this blog is what I learn from you. From around the globe you have graced my pages with nearly twenty-thousand clicks and many, many thoughtful comments. You have responded with vero amore for Venice and Italy, and it fills my heart to the brim to know there are so many who understand and share the deep passion I feel for a city and a country which burst with immense beauty and curious contradictions.

Writing-wise 2011 was a fine year and gave me the opportunity to explore, learn and grow.  Early in the year, on a cold, foggy winter’s day my blog article Celebrating Armenian Christmas in Venice, Italy was picked up by Yerevan magazine and published as their online cover story. Then spring brought me down grapevine lined paths which led me to write about my beloved Valpolicella wine region, and further away from home to wander up and down the coastal routes of the Cinque Terre which made the tragedy that hit that beautiful spot and the proud people I met while there a little more personal. I thank all of you who felt compelled to contribute to the Cinque Terre relief fund and who shared my blog so others would do so, too. In July the heat of the summer aroused my love for fireworks, good food, a quiet gondola ride down the Grand Canal and Il Redentore. When the last weeks of summer rolled around I met the magical island of Sicily, tasted the richness of a real cannoli and stood at the heart of the Teatro Antico in Taormina and witnessed Mount Etna billow clouds of ash and smoke in the distance. Then when the third season arrived and the nights required a light wrap across my shoulders I spent a working autumn break in Matera—the elegant città di pietra in the Basilicata. Oh how lucky I feel to have had so many Italian wonders fill my year!

Some may know that while I was blogging about the places I had seen and love I was also full force trying to get my women's contemporary fiction: Beneath the Lion’s Wings published. In the first month of 2011 it seemed my book was ready for the world—or at least ready for an agent or two—to see. I sent out queries and received many “no’s”, I revised my query and began to see a few “yes’s” and some requests for a partial or the full manuscript.  In the months between those first query letters and late summer I learned that publishing is a very, very slow process and not suitable for those with a fragile ego. During the last weekend of September I attended my first writer’s conference: the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera. I met fabulous authors, agents and editors from around the world—the United States, England, New Zealand, Australia and of course Italy—and made friends for a lifetime. I brainstormed with authors and pitched Beneath the Lion’s Wings to agents and editors, and I was so thrilled to hear quite a few were interested and actually liked it! I came home and polished it up once more only to learn in order to make it even better there is still more work to be done. So my project will continue well into 2012 because I don't like to give up!

Alas, I am ready to step away from 2011 and greet 2012. My arms are full of goods which I have gathered from my blog, my travels, from you and from my writing experiences and I am taking them all with me. I look forward to continuing my blog and hope you will stop by, leave a comment, share a post with a friend or just read and click on. In the coming months I will dedicate as much time as is needed to make Beneath the Lion’s Wings as good as I possibly can so one day the story I have to tell—the story I so passionately want others to hear will be read by, hopefully, many.  

I'll leave you with this tribute for good luck, good health and the right amount of prosperity in the coming year. May it come to all of us!  Libiam nei lieti calici from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, New Year’s Day 2011 Venice-Teatro La Fenice. Please know that at midnight on New Year's Eve I will be raising my calice of bubbling prosecco to all of you, but for now I'm sending warm thoughts your way and wish you all Buon Anno Nuovo—Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I took a walk in Venice today and this is what I saw...

Blue lights against a blue winter sky reflecting more blue on the iron lid of a waterwell-Campo SS. Apostoli

Sottoportico near Rialto Bridge

Ice Skating Rink Campo San Polo, Venice

A view from a very famous bridge, Rialto

Thun ceramic manger figures facing St. Mark's Square

Thun ornaments decorate Christmas tree set beside the Church of San Marco

Il Leoncino "the little lion" guarding the manger in St. Mark's Square

Sottoportico in St. Mark's Square dressed for Christmas

Starry lights above Strada Nova

Night falling early-Winter in Venice

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baimaiself: Tommaso Luppi's Atlantic Crossing running update continues here...

The Homecoming: Tommaso Luppi & Baimaiself arrive in Venice!

Tommaso Bringing Baimaiself Home

April 22, 2012: Just a few days short of eight months have passed since Tommaso Luppi, Venetian gondolier, set sail alone from Almerimar, Spain aboard Baimaiself to successfully follow Christopher Columbus’ route across the Atlantic Ocean. On Sunday, beneath grey skies and through the wakes of the Adriatic Sea—which must have seemed like bath water in comparison to the waves he faced on the Atlantic Ocean—Tommaso completed his journey aboard Baimaiself  by bringing her home to Venice. 

Gondola escort for Baimaiself

Bai, as we have all come to affectionately call her, arrived through the port of Lido, glided passed the gardens of Saint Elena and the marina of San Giorgio Maggiore Island flanked by sailboats from the Diporto Velico Veneziano sailing club. As Bai arrived closer to St. Mark’s Basin Tommaso’s colleagues manned their gondolas and escorted Bai to the Molo traghetto to be docked among Venice’s most symbolic vessels. 

Loud cheers, and a banquet of food and drink organized by the gondoliers and offered by local restaurants and bars, added an even more festive touch to the celebration, and welcomed sponsors and fans that like Italy to Los Angeles and Back have enthusiastically followed Tommaso’s adventure. 

Buffet Celebration with Gondoliers, Sponsors & Friends

Tommaso’s determination, courage and accomplishment shine a light on the city of Venice and brighten the spirit that sits at the heart of the gondolier trade. I, along with those who have followed your adventure, thank you Tommaso for showing us that our dreams are meant to be realized.

Tommaso & his fellow Gondoliers celebrating aboard Bai!

Bravo Tommaso, Brava Baimaiself e Bentornati a Casa!

Tommaso & Bai running free!

To read about Tommaso's adventure just keep scrolling down the page!

Venetian Gondolier Tommaso Luppi has successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone on Baimaiself and has arrived in Martinique!

The flag of San Marco on Bai waving goodbye to 3000 miles of Atlantic crossing

Tommaso's view from Baimaiself as they approach the Island of Martinique

Le Marin Bay Island of Martinique as seen from Baimaiself

Tomasso Luppi wearing his Venetian Gondolier uniform and completing his journey after 23 days at sea. He honors his trade, his colleagues and the city of Venice, Italy.

December 5, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. Italian timeTommaso wrote: Finally I'm anchored in the Le Marin Bay and in front of my eyes is the enchanting scenery I've been dreaming about! Now all I want to do is rest and relax...there's a part of me that thinks I deserve it. Until later, Tommaso.
And I say: Thank you Tommaso for making Roberto and I feel so much a part of your adventure and for calling us once again this evening, and more than anything else thank you for letting me share your adventure here on my blog. To my readers, who have now become your fans, I'd like to say that it was wonderful hearing your voice, learning you were safe and sound, and listening to your enthusiasm leap through the telephone as you retold much of what you have shared with us on this blog. You have followed your dream and made it reality. Now enjoy your time sailing the quieter waters of the Caribbean with your lovely family. Your fans will be waiting to greet you upon your return to Venice. Grazie!

December 5, 2011 at 12:30 p.m. Italian time Tommaso Luppi called my husband via SAT and then wrote: Bai and her crew has spotted LAND!!!!! I'm 30 miles from Martinique.
AND I SAY with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat: Tommaso you are an incredible person and an inspiration to all who have a dream. Thank you for letting us share yours with you! Sei Grande!!!!

December 4, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 14°20'N-59°00'W. Well I've only got about one hundred miles to go. Tomorrow I'll be able to let you know how it feels to see land after 22 days at sea; who knows maybe I'll get land-sick! At this very moment I'm using motor because there's no wind and I prefer to approach the island by day and have a more secure landing between the barrier reef and mangroves. Now, seeing as my surroundings are quite calm, I'm going to get some rest; tomorrow I need to be prepared and rested for the moment and an enormous emotion. Ciao my friends...until tomorrow!  

December 3, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 14°17'N-56°46'W rotta 270°. Today is a calm day with a few strong gusts of wind up to 30 knots which I actually found quite entertaining. The only thing I blame myself for is my awful cooking and having a lack of culinary creativity--if I never see another can of food! As for the rest I'm really satisfied how the trip is going. And to Mauro, I'm glad that along with my family, my friends and colleagues are deeply enjoying my adventure, too.  Thank you all. A warm salute, Tommaso. 

December 2, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from14°41'N-54°13'W rotta per 270°. Hi dear Facebook friends; I'm about 300 miles away from Martinique and I'm navigating in the middle of rain showers that alternate with clear skies.  On the horizon you can see walls of violet which are actually downpours that suddenly teem down upon Bai and then rush off leaving peace and quiet. This morning an oil tanker passed in front of me; I guess that means I'm getting close to land and seeing the first forms of civilization or lack of civilzation. I thank all of you for the support you have shown me, and I wish you a good night.

December 1, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from14°35'N-51°52'W. Thanks my Facebook friends for the wonderful comments you're writing. This evening I'm a little later than usual getting back to you because up until sunset I had to spend my time working as if I were an exclusive taylor: the spanker split! I must say as far as stitching and sewing I did a pretty good job. The tear was caused by the constant friction of the sail against the crosstree. Oh well, it happens. I'll get it fixed when I arrive in Martinique. Today I spotted three boats; they were probably part of the Arc regatta, so I don't feel all alone anymore! Have a good evening...until tomorrow. 

November 30, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 14°40'N-49°08'W route at 275° speed at 6 knots wind at 15 knots. Today there was a small accident with the spinnaker yard after a sudden broach of the boat. It slowed me down a bit because I had to take the time to do some repair work at the foot of the mast to fix the genoa. It happens; what's important is that the remedy works, and more than anything it holds against the continuous yanks and pulls caused by the constant sea rolls. As for everything else, it's going well; calm and tranquil. This journey has given me time to relax (even with the waves) and read--today I finished my second book dedicated to the life of Christopher Columbus. I think I've got a little less than 600 miles to go, so I'll be keeping you company for quite a few more evenings. Until tomorrow. Ciao.

November 29, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 14°41'N-46°39'W. Hello friends! Outstanding navigation today; I traveled just under 160 miles and now I've got less than 1000 miles to go. According to the last weather forecast I got from Roberto this evening--thank you Roby you're fantastic and an enormous help--the storm that was hovering over the Caribbean islands is headed north therefore it shouldn't affect my route. My best to all; until tomorrow evening...good night.

November 28, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 14°43'N-43°54'W. Dear friends, today, thanks to the wind at 25 knots, I beat my own record and traveled 158 miles between yesterday at noon and today. Now with the sea swells and the intense wind at the bow the difficulty lies in keeping Bai from pitching. In fact, this morning, the main sail gybed and I found the sea at my side and a swell washed through the boat wetting just about everything, including the correspondence table which holds all the instruments; fortunately everything is still working! Besides the water I had other guests: a baby seagull was seeking refuge in the cockpit. It was probably tired of flying against the wind! However, no need to worry, the situation is under control--even if I don't think I'll get much rest tonight. You know what they say "when the going gets tough the tough get going". All the best from the Atlantic...until tomorrow! 

November 27, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote: Hi friends! I've just updated you on my position with a spot message Today was a beautiful windy day which permitted me to travel about 150 miles in 24 hours. This afternoon I crossed paths with another sailboat; an English couple who via radio told me they, too are headed for Martinique. We took photos of each other and we'll exchange them once we're docked in the Martinique Marina. It's a great opportunity to have a photo reminder of Bai in the deep blue Atlantic! Good night to all, Tommy.

November 26, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote: Aeolus didn't make me wait today and gave me 20 knots of wind which took me to my current position of 15°26'N-38°48'W. While Bai was gaining territory through the waves--proceeding across the ocean--I spotted a group of sparkling fish swimming alongside us; I think it was a school of Dorado! According to the weather forecast the wind should be good in the next couple of days and I hope to make up the miles I wasn't able to travel in the last few days. I've yet to see another boat on the radar since I left port...oh, wait, for a minute I forgot I was in the middle of the Atlantic! Until tomorrow, ciao!

November 24, 2011: ‎Today Tommaso wrote from 15°39'N-34°32'W: Today I didn't gain much distance because there's very little wind and the waves have flattened so much you could take a gondola out for a nice ride; it's calmer than the St. Mark's Basin back home! The sky is clear and the sun is burning hot! Peace and silence surround me; the only sound is that of Bai's gentle splashing as she advances forward on the intense blue sea. Marvelous! My best to all of you, I bid you sweet dreams. You can follow Tommaso's route and progress here:

November 23, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 15°47'N-32°40'W. Hi friends, unfortunately I'm travelling a bit slower due to the lack of wind, and when I look at the nautical map it seems as if I'm standing still! Hey Aeolus, did you leave on vacation? I'm faithfully waiting! Fortunately I've got all of you to keep me company through your messages; some of you are even keeping my morale up with a joke or two--Thank you Mattia and Sara. I hope to be able to have more to tell tomorrow. Good (and damp) night!

November 21, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from 18°14'N-29°09'W route for 215°. The wind is blowing at 15 knots and we're running at 6.5 knots. Today I added more canvas seeing that there wasn't much wind and the sea conditions permitted; in fact the roll of the sea extended a bit giving the boat more stability. Yesterday the Arc regatta left Gran Canaria, so maybe in a few days I'll meet up with a few of the boats. However, everything is proceeding well and I really like hearing from all of you on my Facebook page. So please do keep writing. All the best from the Ocean.

November 20, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from:19°25'N-27°25'W route for 260°. Hi friends, wind at the stern at 13 knots.Yesterday Bai travelled 147 miles in 24 hours! Now she's slowing down because the wind has died down; it'll probably be this way for the next few days because of atmospheric disturbances in the north Atlantic. This afternoon was pretty exciting though, because off the stern I spotted a fin--I'm sure it was a whale--and earlier I discovered Bai completely covered with flying fish, unfortunately they were already drying in the sun. Most likely they had "landed" during the night. Until our next episode tomorrow!

November 17, 2011: Today Tommaso wrote from off the coast of Western Sahara: Hi everyone, this is my position 21°12'N-20°24'W rotta per 250° at 18-20 knots I'm proceeding with the wind at the stern and open sails. Last night I was "resting" in the company of dolphins. The hull of Bai transmitted their fantastic sound and verse! Thank you my travel companions, I'll be waiting for you tonight, too. And to my supporters, I wish you all a good night. Until tomorrow.
You can follow Tommaso's route and progress here:
Gondolier and Sailor Tommaso Luppi on Baimaiself

November 14, 2011: Well Tommaso Luppi has set sail on his transatlantic crossing! Above is a photo he posted November 13th as he passed the Dunes of Maspalomas and the Melonera lighthouse. From that point it'll be blue water until he reaches the Caribbean. Buon Vento Tommaso!
I'll be translating and posting Tommaso's updates here in English as he makes them from aboard Baimaiself, and you can follow his path using this link See My Location A presto!



Dunes of Maspalomas-Gran Canaria

As promised this blog post will be a running update of Tommaso Luppi's transatlantic crossing. If you haven't already done so read my August blog post here and then follow along to see what Tommaso has to tell us from his Facebook page and while aboard Baimaiself :

Gran Canaria Island in View

September 11, 2011: Hello to all! We made it to the Canary Islands—precisely Gran Canaria Island. Bai for now is docked at the Las Palmas Marina while waiting to find out where she’ll be kept until November. Our departure from Gibraltar was a bit uneasy, because when I slipped the moorings to pass the mythical Pillars of Hercules and navigate the Ocean for at least 5 days I knew the weather could change even though the predictions confirmed a week of Portuguese alisei.

It was 8:45 a.m. on Sunday September 4, 2011 when I set sail and my neighbors from the boat docked beside me bid us goodbye. As Bai moved away from the dock they stood up, raised their hands and crossed their fingers while wishing me good luck. Believe me when I say that their gestures made me a little preoccupied, however as soon as I began to sail I left all thoughts of preoccupation behind. Leaving the Strait of Gibraltar took longer than I had anticipated because the current was against us and at times it blew at 4 knots causing Bai to run at 2.5 knots. At 1 p.m. I crossed Tariff in steep, intersecting waters which finally freed us to enter the open Ocean. I was holding a route of 270° for about 70 miles leaving the coast of Africa, and about 10 miles from the Strait Bai was able to sail at a minimum of 5 knots. All the while the wind was coming from the prow; at 9 p.m. I leaned and went 250° only using the sails until dawn on

Baimaiself facing some mighty waves
September 5 with winds constant at about 20 knots. It wasn’t until daylight came that I could see that the waves were enormous confirming my thoughts as to why we had experienced such unusual rolling during the night.

However Bai did well, and thanks to Mustafa the wind rudder she held at a speed of 6/7 knots. Now I need to repair the wind straps because the roll caused all the rivets to pop. So with a drill, and a lot of balance on my part, I’ll be able to fix what needs to be fixed. In the meantime the wind is orienting more from the stern so I decided to go a farfalla or butterfly, and I discovered that Bai, by reducing the mainsail (due mani di terzaroli alla randa) she navigates well often reaching, and while descending enormous waves, 11.5 knots. On September 6 at dawn I spotted a blanket of flying fish; the sight filled me with emotion. It was just like those events I’ve read about in books of great navigators.

As for the rest the sailing went like this: wind in the sails, sun and Bai flying through immense oceanic waves. When I think about how I’ve taken her out on the Murano canal to pick up my daughter from school on a day when the local transportation was on strike, or on the Saint Erasmo canal for a swim, and now we’re out in the Atlantic Ocean…it’s incredible!

Then on September 8, my birthday, I got a surprise visit from a family of dolphins with a lot of young dolphin calves following along, truly a herd of them; Now another 200 miles to go before we reach Gran Canaria Island.

September 9, 2011 was the day of arrival in Gran Canaria Island. I was so excited when I saw the island. As soon as I entered the first seawall—which is enormous—a docked tugboat honked at me. The commander raised his hand in a sign of victory and then saluted me again with a ring of his siren. He most certainly must be a fan of Sea Shepherd—but he also was paying tribute to Baimaiself and her first Ocean crossing. I docked at the Marina Las Palmas at 9 p.m. Italian time, here it was 8 p.m.

Bai has made her first 750 mile ocean crossing in 5 days and 11 hours at a median speed of 5.7 knots. Now she’ll rest until November when we’ll face approximately 2,800 miles of ocean to cross together.

The Rock of Gibraltar
 Friday September 2, 2011: I’ve arrived in Gibraltar! A place I’ve always dreamt about, as I imagine most sailors have. From here it’s all Ocean navigation and therefore we’ve arrived at the beginning.

Yesterday I set out at 5 a.m. from Malaga and after having sailed about 70 miles we arrived at 7 p.m. The sailing went pretty well; up until about 15 miles outside of the coast, with, obviously, the wind and sea blowing against the bow. I was 35 miles away from the Rock of Gibraltar when I spotted it, and the coast of Africa. I began preparing to take the mythic photo of me and the Rock but, like I said, about 15 miles outside the Rock the wind picked up and began to blow at 35 knots—obviously against the bow—and the light rain limited the visibility causing me to have to use radar to navigate and keep an eye on the many, many boats that navigate in that area.

On top of all that the tide was lowering, in other words, pulling out toward the Ocean while the wind was coming from the West, creating choppy, rolling waves which covered Bai with water a number of times causing me to slow her down from 6.5 knots to 3 knots.

A Rainbow to Salute Bai & Tommaso

However, in the end we were able to pass the Europe Point leaving behind a marvelous 180° rainbow. Now, Bai and I are in the Atlantic Ocean. We did well; and Bai is an exceptional boat. She keeps moving forward, even against walls of water and she never pounds against the waves; she’s always sweet.

Yesterday I slept anchored in a bay because I was too tired to make the needed docking maneuvers. Instead today I went to the Marina Bay. Nearby, about 50 meters away, there’s an airport runway, and the airplanes are pretty much landing right next to me; it’s an uneasy feeling.

Now I need to wait until the low pressure system passes, it’s brought a lot of wind from the West and I hope to leave for the Canary Islands on Monday or Tuesday.

Ciao to all!

Thursday September 1, 2011: On route to Gibraltar with southwest wind, all is well to move forward...will get back to you later.
Wednesday August 31, 2011: I left Almerimar this morning with the bow headed out to sea and the wind against us, more updates to come from the next port...

Evening: The web connection is really slow today so I can't post any photos, however I sailed about 70 miles from Almerimar to Caleta Velez, Malaga against swells and wind all, of course, coming from the bow, Bai behaved perfectly and it seems she, too, is anxious to enter the Ocean, however, we'll have to wait because there's a low pressure system arriving which will worsen the weather. Tomorrow I’ll get closer to Gibraltar and wait out the bad weather in a Spanish dock, once again travelling against the wind, pietà...pity! Today I saw a group of flying fish "fly" across the bow of Bai, they're extremely strong and can fly up to thirty-meters at a time.

I'm not sailing at night and I need to stay very close to the coast to avoid even rougher swells, so there will be more water traffic and it's not as safe. I hope the internet connection is better tomorrow so I can post more photos...

Tuesday August 30, 2001: Another hard day of work has come to an end. It seems the chores to get Baimaiself ready never end, however, that's okay because it seems that everything is working well with Bai; the new mainsail fits like a glove; all the instruments are okay, and the motor--after 5 months--started up on the first try...

Fuel tanks

The gasoline tanks I've installed will give Bai about 350 miles to travel on; I need to fill about 800...let's hope the wind turns!

Monday August 29, 2001: Hi everyone. I arrived in Almerima (where Baimaiself is docked) yesterday August 28 at 4p.m. and up to this moment (August 29 at 3:45 p.m.) I've been busy working aboard, first cleaning, she was covered with sand (it hasn't rained here since I left her in April) and then getting her ready to set sail.

Saturday August 27, 2001: Today is my last day at work on the gondola, tomorrow I'll fly to Gibraltar where Baimaiself has been waiting for the last 5 months. I'll begin applying the adhesive sponsors' logos and start to clean her up. Then on August 31 I set sail for Gran Canaria Island which I should reach in approximately 10 days...

Some Sponsors...there's room for more!

Follow my progress here:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can we help The Cinque Terre and Lunigiana Get Back Up on their Feet?

Vernazza as it was April 2011
As many of you have already read the Cinque Terre in Liguria and the Lunigiana area which extends into Tuscany were struck with exceptionally heavy rain and devastating mudslides early Wednesday morning. The images of mudslides sweeping away cars, boats, homes, shops and restaurants in the quaint town of Vernazza conjure up disbelief in someone like me who has recently returned for a second visit to shop, eat the best pesto on the planet and enjoy the beauty of marvelous towns clinging to a hillside.  Worse yet is that lives have been lost or are missing as a result of the violent effect of the storm.

I know I speak for anyone who has ever set foot in this enchanting area of Italy when I say that it is heart wrenching to see the Cinque Terre brought to its knees. What was once a chain of sleepy fishermen villages connected by the sea or by winding coastal footpaths had only just begun to flourish from international tourism and strengthen its economy. Now one of Italy’s most beautiful spots—and Italy is known for her beautiful spots—must recon with the rage of what makes it so special: the picturesque hillside that not so gently sweeps toward the sea.

The sea at Vernazza April 2011
In the days to come fingers will be pointed, most likely at the government for not providing adequate river banks and sustaining walls, but 
what is more unfortunate is that Italy isn't known to be quick at providing financial aid for cleanup and following through to get people and businesses back on their feet. They try, but bureaucracy doesn't run at the same speed as the desperation that strikes the family shoveling mud out the window of their second floor apartment or the restaurant owner who has just closed a remarkable season but will hardly be able to cover the cost of replacing everything.

I have never used my blog to promote the collection of funds, but my time in Italy has taught me that the government may not be capable or able to see these towns through their difficulties. So, I am going to provide a link to "Un Aiuto  
Main seaside Piazza in Vernazza April 2011

Subito. Alluvione Levante Ligure e Lunigiana...Immediate Help. Floods in Levante Ligure and Lunigiana"

The link was set up by Corriere della Sera, an Italian national newspaper and Tg7, a national news channel. There is a bank account number and a cellphone number (Send a blank text message to 45500). Every Euro helps…so please pitch in and spread the word.

For those donating from Italy: Conto Corrente IT80O30690506110000 0000567 Reference: «Un aiuto subito. Alluvione Levante ligure e Lunigiana» presso Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, filiale di Roma, viale Lina Cavalieri 236 or from an Italian cellphone or landline send an SMS text message to 45500. Two euro will be donated to the fund with each message. Please spread the word!
The photos on this page were taken in Vernazza during my trip in April 2011. Links below will give you an idea of what Vernazza looked like two days ago.

Photos of Vernazza during the flood:

 Photos of the situation 

The edge of Vernazza meeting the sea

Monday, October 17, 2011

A mix of Southern and Northern Italy--Matera: a Town of Stone & Gondolas: the symbol of Venice

Well I'm back from Matera, Italy and the Women's Fiction Festival. What an experience!

View from my hotel "Hotel in Pietra" in the Sassi area of Matera, Italy
 I came away from the magical "stone" city after having met, mingled with and befriended authors, agents and editors from across the globe. One of my favorite events was a fabulous brainstorming session with fellow writers which helped push me over a hurdle and reinforce an idea I was pondering. Since my return I've been polishing up my manuscript and getting it ready to send off to the literary agents and editors that liked my pitch. I couldn't ask for more.

 I'll still be checking in here from time to time, but most of my writing time in the next few weeks will be dedicated to my manuscript. It's an exciting moment and I feel fortunate that someone might just want to work with me and put Beneath the Lion's Wings on the road to publishing. There's a lot to do before that, so continue to send me good thoughts, and who knows it just might happen.

In the meantime here are a few photos taken in Matera and a link to a charming piece by Seth Doane from CBS Morning News...Gondolas: the symbol of Venice. The gondolier, Pierluigi Pila, is a close colleague of my husband's...he's also a huge fan of anything American. A presto!

Morning walk through Matera

Matera by night

Monday, September 19, 2011

Feeling so guilty...yet so lucky!

GUILTY! I'm feeling so very guilty.

It's not that I've wanted to neglect my blog and I especially don't want to neglect those of you who are so kind to stop by and leave the comments I enjoy reading. But the last few weeks have been filled with a much needed, fabulous vacation in Sicily, and dedicating pretty much all the rest of my time to preparing for the Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy.

I believe I've mentioned that I've written a women's contemporary fiction. As of today it's entitled Beneath the Lion's Wings, and I'm in the process of  looking for a literary agent who will love my story as much as I do. So my adventure to find that person is taking me to Matera at the end of September. Attending the festival will bring me face to face with writers, literary agents and editors from around the world. Am I excited, nervous, curious? Yes, all three! 

This a snapshot of what you can expect from Beneath the Lion's Wings:

                            There’s a miracle in falling in love…and then there’s the truth.

Keep your fingers crossed, and wish me an enormous in bocca al lupo, (which means in the mouth of the wolf; Italy's way of saying break a leg). If nothing else it will be a learning experience, and I plan on coming away with loads of information that will put me on the path to getting published. Stay tuned, drop by often and I will bring you news and tales of my trip to Matera, one of Italy's most magical cities. 

In the meantime enjoy a few of the photos I took on vacation, and see for yourself why I fell in love with Sicily!

La Grotta Azzurra--The Blue Grotta, Taormina

Nature's shade of blue

View of the North Eastern Coast of Sicily looking toward Taormina

One of the most elegant piazzas in Italy. Ortigia, Siracusa

Me at Castello Maniace, Ortigia, Sircusa

Fichi d'India-Prickly Pear Cactus and fruit

Stairway to upper level of Castello Maniace, Ortigia Siracusa

My favorite Sicilian city so far-Noto, Siracusa

 The bay at Isola Bella up-close and personal

View of Mount Etna fuming from the heart of the Teatro Antico in Taormina

A street in Taormina

The Beach

View from hotel terrace and traditional Sicilian ceramic busts

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Venetian Gondolier to Sail the Atlantic...all Baimaiself...all by myself!

In the more than two decades that I have lived in Venice I have met many Venetian men and women who are passionate about boats and the sports surrounding them. Yet none have impressed me as much nor do I consider them to be as daring and determined as 35 year old gondolier by profession and sailor by heart Tommaso Luppi. 

Tommaso Luppi aboard Baimaiself

When being greeted by his sincere handshake and warm smile what one quickly notices about Tommaso is that his eyes are as blue as the Atlantic Ocean; that vast body of water he is set to sail across this November—all alone. The vessel he will command on the 23-25 day journey from the Canary Islands which sit off the Northwestern coast of Africa to the island of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea is a 32 foot Moana sailboat appropriately named Baimaiself…the Italianized pronunciation of by myself.
The moment I heard about Tommaso’s adventure the romantic impulses in my brain bounced around images of a young, contemporary Venetian gondolier bewitched by desire to raise the sails to the wind and call upon experience and an inborn sense of adventure to challenge and conquer the second largest ocean on earth while succumbing to the same passion that had possessed his fellow countrymen Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus. But the logical side of my brain battled with those thoughts and wondered: Why? What pulls a man to want to accomplish such a treacherous feat alone? I had to meet Tommaso and get some answers.
Then on a warm summer evening Tommaso, his lovely wife Sara and their charming eight-year-old daughter Matilde—one-year-old Camilla stayed home with I nonni—joined my husband and I for dinner at a bustling pizzeria in Campo San Polo. Between bites of bubbling hot pizza and above the sound of Robert De Niro’s voice booming from the nearby cinema all’ aperto, Tommaso calmed my curiosity with his deep sense of serenity and reflection, proving he has left no stone unturned in preparation and thought for his journey. This is what he so kindly revealed to me so I in turn could share it with you:

       Marie:  How long have you been a gondolier, and how long have you been sailing?
        Tommaso:  I’ve been sailing since 1994, and working as a gondolier since 1999. Becoming a gondolier seemed logical to me because it intertwines with my passion for the sea.

        Marie:  A gondolier mans and masters his own boat, is it the same for you when sailing?
        Tommaso:  A gondolier rows a gondola alone however we are always surrounded by tourists, colleagues and friends, while at sea it’s different. Out there you are all alone and the sense of freedom one feels is incredible; there’s a sensation of being part of nature, and maybe one can say that primitive senses emerge. I think these same emotions are impossible to experience in situations we face in our everyday lives.

Marie:  Why make the journey alone?
Tommaso:  Simply because I have always imagined and dreamt about making my first “crossing”   alone; it’s hard to explain but it’s something I feel deep down inside.

Marie:  Have you made other journeys alone?
Tommaso:  Yes. My very first journey alone was in 1994, the same year I began sailing. I crossed the Adriatic Sea from Venice to Rovigno, Croatia.  At the time I was sailing my first boat which was 5.5 meters, approximately 18 feet. Since then I’ve transported boats for work or for friends, often taking them to various sites for regattas enabling the crew to arrive rested and ready for their race.

Marie: Why have you chosen to follow in the “footsteps” of Christopher Columbus one of Italy’s most famous sons?
Tommaso:  Navigating across the Atlantic by sailboat and following the route of Christopher Columbus is every sailor’s dream. At least it’s been mine since I was a child. Columbus’s voyage has always fascinated me and I’ve imagined myself onboard his caravel. However, it must be said that the route the Admiral followed is the most logical because it taps into the Alisei or the East North East trade winds. For centuries these trade winds have accompanied sailing ships on Atlantic crossings between the months of November and January.

Marie:  Where and when will you begin your journey?
Tommaso: My departure is scheduled for September 1, 2011 from Gibraltar where Baimaiself is now docked. From there I’ll head to the Canary Islands assisted by the Portuguese Alisei—trade winds—which blow in that period. Then, on November 16, 2011, I’ll set sail from Gran Canaria and after 24 days and approximately 3000 miles of nothing but ocean I’ll arrive in the Caribbean island of Martinique where my wife and two daughters will be waiting.

Marie:  What is your favorite part of sailing the seas alone?
        Tommaso:  Other than the beauty and magic of watching your boat navigate day after day and being able to feel that you are one with nature, it’s also an internal journey.  Perhaps it’s a quest for something ancient that everyday life keeps from us. But more than anything else sailing alone is freedom without borders; living by instinct.

Marie:  Why are you ready now, at this time in your life, to make this journey?
Tommaso:  I’ve prepared each and every boat that I’ve ever had with the idea of making a transatlantic crossing, but often they turned out to be insufficient for such an endeavor, therefore I had to start over. I’ve also had other priorities in my life like my home, my children and various unforeseen situations, and there has always been a lack of funds. So here I am today ready to realize my dream, even though I believe with the proper boat I would have been able to attempt this undertaking as far back as 1994.

Marie: Beside your passion for boats and sailing what other aspects of life have prepared you to take on such an arduous journey?
Tommaso:  I believe, other than my own technical preparation and that of the boat, in order to be able to cross the ocean alone on a journey that you have planned without any assistance you need a great amount of internal motivation which goes far beyond any other sort of technical preparation. I truly believe certain qualities needed to face this type of challenge either are or are not a part of a person’s character.

Marie:  How will you stay in contact with land/family while on your journey? And how will the boat be navigated when you sleep?
Tommaso:  Thanks to modern technology, unlike sailors of another time, I have a satellite telephone which if necessary will permit me to call from any part of the world. I plan to keep my Facebook page up to date so I can communicate with friends about my progress with the crossing, and again thanks to satellites whoever may want to can send me a free text message to my onboard telephone; something that is always a pleasure to receive and is also very encouraging. And the boat will be controlled by Mustafà, who isn’t a stowaway, but a marvelous and simple wind rudder; in other words a steering mechanism that permits you to maintain the route with respect to the wind angle. So if I’m going west and the wind comes from the north, by regulating Mustafà in the direction of the wind he makes the boat go west. In any event, when you navigate alone there’s not a lot of time to sleep. So I’ll be taking short 15 minute naps within brief but repeated intervals because 15 minutes is the length of time that a ship which is out of sight can appear over the horizon and still allow time for any needed maneuvers.

Marie:  What thoughts do you expect will go through your mind when you see the island of Martinique?
Tommaso:  That’s a good question! I imagine when I arrive and see the Caribbean I won’t only realize that I have crossed the Atlantic and accomplished my endeavor, but it will be the end of a dream that has continued for 17 years. At the moment I can’t give a clearer answer. I think it’s something that has to be lived, but I’ll be happy to let you know when I arrive!  

Marie:  As a good hearty eating gondolier, what food/drink will you not go without while on your journey?
Tommaso:  Without a doubt I’ll have lots and lots of pasta, which of course is my favorite dish! But I must confess I’m not a great cook, so I’ll also use some freeze dried foods especially when there are sea swells. And I’ll certainly supplement my diet with freshly fished seafood.

Marie: What are your sailing plans after the Caribbean, onto other harbors?
Tommaso with daughter Matilde
Tommaso:  My wife and two daughters will be waiting for me and we will sail around the Caribbean for about two months, reaching each and every island. Then my boat will be shipped back to Genoa, Italy where I’ll circumnavigate all of Italy trying to touch each region and principal city until I reach Venice and St. Mark’s square, where friends and family will be waiting to celebrate.

Marie:  Do you have sponsors, and are you looking for more?
Tommaso: Up to now I have a few sponsors who have assisted me in purchasing supplies, but I’m looking for others to help me bring Baimaiself back to Italy. All sponsors will have their logo on the boat for the entire voyage and until she is safe in harbor back in Venice.

In closing I want to send my best wishes to Tommaso for a safe voyage and thank him for letting me feature his adventure on my blog. I invite you all to join me right here over the next few months as I bring you up to date on his Atlantic crossing.

And I am honored to add Italy to Los Angeles and Back to the following list of sponsors:

You, too, can sponsor Tommaso Luppi’s transatlantic adventure
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