Italians take their traditions seriously and have many ‘holidays’ throughout the year. Carnival, which can also be known as mardi gras, is a party with ancient roots and still celebrated today in a big way all throughout the country and in different ways. Carnevale which comes from the Latin words carne vale which means ‘farewell to the flesh’ and it is 40 days before Easter with a final party day, ‘Martedi Grasso’ which is translated to ‘Fat Tuesday’ in English. In Venice they throw huge parties where people dress in costumes and throw masquerade balls. In Ivrea they celebrate with a ‘battle or oranges’, allegory of struggle for freedom, where they actually throw oranges at each other in the town square! Viareggio is a town about 1 hour from where I live and is one of the most famous Carnivals in Italy. They celebrate Carnevale with a month long full of parties, parades, dances and entertainment. It is also common for children to play tricks and run around throwing confetti in the air.
There are also special types of sweet treats especially for the month of Carnevale as well. All sorts of desserts are made in every part of Italy and also called differently. In Tuscany there are two common fried desserts, frittelle, which are little fried balls of creamy sweet rice covered in confectionary sugar and stracci, which are like a crispy sweet fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. The Catholic roots of this tradition is to eat lots of sweets and treat yourself because after Fat Tuesday is Ash Wednesday and you are not to eat meat or sugar for lent until Easter. Not many people I know personally still celebrate the Catholic traditions but it is very fascinating to me learning about the history.
Last weekend E had a wine event to work at in Siena and I went along and explored the town solo, getting lost in alleyways and taking photographs. Siena is an hour and half away from where we live through curvy roads deep into the tuscan countryside. The whole town was built around the famous Piazza del Campo. Piazza del Campo is the center public square and like the city, has rich history. Every year, twice a year, there is a long going tradition of The Palio, a medieval horse race around the Piazza del Campo. This photo was taken in the afternoon once the people started to come out.
Getting into Siena so early in the morning for the wine event was special timing because I was too early to check into the hotel and so I roamed about the city before anyone was up and felt I had the whole city to myself. Exploring through this medieval city seemed as though I had fallen straight into one of my middle school history books. Siena has a renascence feel because of the history and walking through the cobblestone streets with my oxfords on, bundled up with my scarf and coat I truly felt like I was back in time.
One thing all my friends and family know is that I am not good with directions. Don’t hand me a map because I will most likely get us lost. Just as my grandma would say, “I could get lost in my own closet.” Well, I am the same way! I actually almost prefer not knowing where I am going and turning a corner to something breathtaking, which in Italy, happens often.
I have been to Siena twice before, once when I first came to visit E in the summer of 2012 and also two years ago when my aunt came to visit me. The photos above are of the Siena Cathedral and it always takes my breath away. The city of Siena is very rustic and most of the buildings are all brown and so to turn the corner and come across this magnificent building was an awesome surprise. Even though I have seen many extraordinary European monuments, it still amazes me every time that they were built by man without the use of technology. I love imagining all the towns people dressed in old clothes walking down the same path as me centuries before.
Later on I went to my favorite vintage shop full of all the Moschino, Prada and Charlotte Olympia shoes only dreams are made of. My kind of heaven! I have loved fashion since I can remember. I would stay up until 3 am at my grandma’s house just to watch the fashion shows on tv and would remain awake for hours just watching all the creative pieces of clothing on the models walk down the runway. I loved it and I still love it. It is my thing. I read articles all the time and for over 15 years now have had my monthly subscription to my personal favorite magazine, Vogue. I love dressing up and putting outfits together and being able to show my creative side through styling clothing together. I have a special place in my heart for vintage clothing just as I do with vintage furniture. Things just seem to have been made in better quality and they are even more special because they have a story to tell. I have been asked by many over the years to start a fashion blog and I have always had the interest but doubted myself because I am my own worst critic and also don’t have anyone to take photos of me. I decided I won’t let my insecurities get the best of me and I will be incorporating styled outfit pictures to my blog. I may not know how to solve all the math problems in the world but I can say with certainty that I am a creative person and I love to express my creativity in many ways whether it be through acrylic painting, my love for fashion or in the kitchen by cooking. I thrive on pushing myself to explore that side of me more because it makes me happy.
Lately I have been putting more effort into appreciating all that God has given to me and my life. Coming from the United States there has always been certain pressure by society to be something great. Which is an absolutely wonderful thing in some ways because we have so many innovators, business owners and creators, but it can also bring a lot of pressure onto people. I know this is a generalization, but in my own personal life I have always grown up to believe that if I didn’t become a successful person in society’s eyes, then I failed in life. Although I have such a strong love for life in the U.S and it will always be my home, I am learning to appreciate the things in life that are more important than being “successful”. Successful can mean so many different things to each person but I don’t know how to word it in the right way to get my point across. I have always wondered when the lightbulb would come on and I would know “Okay, this is what I was put on this earth to do.” I tried many different colleges, I tried working in retail and also doing visual merchandising work. But I still feel like that lightbulb has yet to come on and wonder if it ever will. I have family members who are doctors and teachers who all finished college and often wonder why I didn’t see that as the right path for myself. I have and will always make decisions by listening to my own heart and soul and I never regret any past decisions. I am still growing and learning about myself with each day.
One thing I know is that I am where I should be. I am happy, healthy and in love. Aren’t those supposed to be what are most important in life? Why do I still feel like I haven’t achieved what I was put here to do? Does anyone else ever feel the same way? I think that being an American has a lot to do with it but living here in Italy and seeing their priorities about life have opened my eyes to what is truly valuable. I am learning to live in a new culture, speaking a new language and still growing and striving to be the very best me I can. Whilst remembering to be thankful for all that I have in my life and for the people who I love and that love and care for me. Because in the end, those are things that really matter in life. Receiving and giving love while having people by your side to share life’s moments with.