One of the thing that strikes me the most about human beings is our need to feel connected to each other, yet our lack of ability to engage with strangers because of shyness or fear of others.
It is funny how, once you take a seat around a table – especially an Italian table, that fear can vanish and leave space to conviviality, chatter and discovery of each other.
These past Gradara workshops, in July and September, have been the proof of how perfect strangers can come together around a table and end up laughing and chatting with each other like they’ve know each other forever. Finding ‘soulmates’ from all over the world is the most incredible of gifts, for us who are often not understood by our friends and relatives and have close to no one to talk about it or be inspired from who are not people we talk to online.
It is incredible enough that my soul sister, Zaira, is in Venice, which is not far but not exactly close, and we met thanks to our shared love for this blogging world we walk on. And who would have thought that we would gather with people from all over the world? From Betty coming from Boston, and Saghar, who lives in Rome but hails from Iran and delighted us with stories from her home country, to Ingrid, who came as a co-host from Amsterdam and is one of the most delightful strong women I have ever met.
In this workshop, just like in our past July workshop, we spent hours talking about photography, editing, social media, and exchanging our blogging tips, opinions and experiences. We’ve also took a peek into my personal room where all my chiaroscuro photography magic happens, learning the tips and tricks to achieve that dark moody look, while Zaira assisted with her beautiful styling and Ingrid shared insightful tips about writing, from her experience as a journalist.
Every face, every word and every moment that was shared made me grow fond of each attendee and filled my heart with gratefulness, as I realize that, after each workshop, I probably learn more from them than what they learn from me.
Bringing the world together – in whatever way this could be possible, has always been a dream of mine. I dreamed of people in the subway going beyond exchanging looks, people glancing at each other amongst crowds and actually striking up conversations instead of only dreaming of it, and people accepting to taste foods and talk about topics they are not familiar with. I dreamed of people exchanging life with each other.
I feel that this is what sort of happens at workshops and gatherings. This feeling of gratefulness is the best thing I take home from these events.
I think that Italians are especially good at this. And about this – about my Italian-ness, or lack thereof, I have been thinking a lot about lately.
Those of you who follow me probably know that I was in the process of applying for a US visa. Not only have I been denied the visa, I have also been denied the ESTA authorization for regular visitors, meaning that I cannot even enter the country for vacation as of now. No worries, I am not a terrorist or anything, I think it was just a combination of bad luck + the agents thinking I might be doing work in the States. Unfortunately, I will be missing the Saveur awards ceremony. I will be missing you dearly, everyone!
Still, this shed a new light of what Italy means to me and why I have such a love-hate relationship with my own country. Food and experience-wise, this country offers so much. Therefore, I am determined to move my feelings gauge towards the ‘love’ end of the spectrum, in order to prepare for future workshops and become the Italian hostess I know I can be.
Improve my relationship with Italian food
From now on, I want to have pasta once a week. There are many local brands producing tasty, organic, whole grain pasta in my area, and I want to explore more local ingredients and producers. Italy has some of the richest food scene in the world and I feel like I am missing too much of it.
Blogging more stories about Italy, its customs, and its people
I want to tell you more stories about our food, our culture, and our ‘Sweet Life’. I am going to travel more throughout the country and collect the most beautiful stories and photographs, which I will be sharing with you. I look up to people like Emiko Davies, Valeria Necchio, and Girl in Florence, who are so good at talking about glances of life here in the Boot.
Expanding my cookbook collection
I have never been an avid cookbook reader. This is rapidly changing and I cannot wait to explore more. If you have any favorites, especially about mediterranean and Italian cuisine, send them my way (My shelves are already stuffed with French cookbooks for some reason).
Keep on learning
Part of my book expenses will also go towards more texts that focus on photography, lightroom, etc. I want to get better and better at what I do, just because I love it.
I can’t wait to share the next recipe with you, which is already shot and ready to go – with some gorgeous landscape photos to boot!
For 2017, the schedule looks much more interesting: after our Chiaroscuro Australia workshop in April, there will be a plethora of events here in Italy that will focus not only on photography, but also on food, wine, and living that Dolce Vita we are so famous for. From retreats in Tuscany to food tours and secret dinners in the castles between our beautiful regions of Marche and Romagna, to a collaboration with the brilliant wine producers of Poderi dal Nespoli, masters of the Italian way of eating and enjoying local, fresh recipes and ingredients. I am so looking forward to the next season!
Italy, and Romagna especially (the region where I am from) and its people are teaching me how to be Italian again. The care and the nonchalance Italians have with food; the care we have when pairing every ingredient and drink while managing to keep it simple, and taking every bite and every sip seriously but not in an austere way – always with a big smile on the lips, is just beautifully astounding.
Italian tables are noisy, full of chatter, full of laughter, and full of good spirit. I am glad of my experiences abroad, as they made me see what Italy at the table is and how astonishingly beautiful our relationship with food is from an outsider’s perspective.
I would love the world to experience this astonishing beauty as well. So, if you like to join our table, and stunning events such as this one, make sure to keep following these pages!
Thanks to our beautiful attendees:
Elise – The Pinapple Chef
Pino – Say Chocolate Boutique
Claudia – La Capocuoca
Eva – Eva in the Kitchen
Denitsa – Mind your Meal
Romina – Spazio Memoria
Kristen & Joe Camp – Campfire Studios
(And a shoutout to Monika & Joann Pai who were supposed to be here but couldn’t make it!)
Thanks to the great attendees of our previous workshop as well:
Eleni – The Foodie Corner
Isolde – Suessealchemie
Aleksandra – Vanilla & Staubzucker
Daniela – Food Boogie
Carla – DeLuca’s WPG
Elif – Degusta
Roberta Rossi Brunori
You were the sweetest bunch of people and I miss you dearly already!!
Till next time!