Author Archives: admin

An Italian Sea Glass Odyssey

An Odyssey is described as  “an epic journey”.  I am sharing a story penned for  Beachcombing Magazine of how I came to visit my ancestral hometown and hunt for sea glass along the Italian coast. It was an unforgettable journey, and one I hope you enjoy reading!

italy-judith-altruda-beachcombing-magazine-janfeb19-6

Living on the Edge/Torre Del Greco

Christ the Redeemer statue at the marina entrance, Torre Del Greco. Photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

Torre del Greco, a comune of Naples, sits in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. Up until the early twentieth century, it was a resort for wealthy Italians and tourists seeking to climb Mt Vesuvius. Today it is a gritty, blue-collar town, not concerned with packaging itself for outsiders, which is quite refreshing. We went there to meet an online friend from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She and her husband, Paolo, invited us to their apartment for a late lunch after we finished seeing Pompeii. Dennis and I got back on the Circumvesuviana and rode a few stops down the line, toward Naples. We got off the train at Torre and started walking toward the Marina, somehow managing to get lost even with directions.

 

 

Being “lost” is a good way to find your way around!

As we walked through the town I thought about its close neighbor, Herculaneum. Once a city of wealth and prestige, it was completly destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A. D.  Torre del Greco was lucky that day-spared by the gods, so to speak. Natural disasters are kind of personal to me. I was living in Washington state when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and remember the uprooted forest trees stacked like pick up sticks and mountains of volcanic ash along the interstate. Thirty years later I still live in Washington state, on a beautiful peninsula that happens to be in a tsunami zone. With proof that an earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the area in the 1700’s, we live with the knowledge that its “not if, but when”. Still, we go about our daily lives and try not to obsess about the future too much (at least I don’t). Is that how it is to live here? I wondered, as we walked by signs of past volcanic eruptions.

Lava flows following the line of the building and street from an eruption in 1862. photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Times change, of course, but the basics of everyday life; eating, drinking, working, praying go on. Like their ancestors, the modern inhabitants live their lives within the shadow of an active volcano.

Food For The Soul

The fertile (volcanic) soil produces the most flavorful produce and wines, which we were about to experience firsthand at the lunch that awaited us- but we were still lost.

The olive market, photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Fresh artichokes!

Roasting carciofo (artichokes) street vendor, photo by Rebecca Di Dona

The Coral Museum

There is a coral museum in Torre that I really wanted to visit, but it was closed the day that we were in town. The most beautiful coral comes from the nearby Mediterranean sea, and an industry sprang up here in the 1700’s producing cameos and jewelry from the vibrant red and orange branches.  Coral has been used for adornment and worn as a protective amulet for centuries. On a personal note, I have always loved coral ever since I was a teenager and a package arrived from Italy containing a box of Altruda family jewelry.

The cameo’s and broach belonged to my great aunts. There were seven coral amulets, worn by my grandfather and his siblings when they were children.

The residents of Torre del Greco are called corallini, in reference to the cameo and coral jewerly industries located here.

 

Commemorative postal stamp, literal translation “processing of the coral, Torre del Greco”

Maybe next time?

As we walked toward the Marina (the long way, I’m sure), I had to stop to photograph the details we passed along the way. I was hoping we would find Rebecca’s apartment before too long, as we had already walked miles on the hard paving stones of Pompeii. We were ready for a glass of wine and a snack!

The influence of Egypt was popular centuries ago in Pompeii, and today, in Torre del Greco.

Doorknockers are one of my favorite things to photograph!

One of many neighborhood shrines.

The influence of religion and ritual are very much alive here. Street processions, singers, submerged statues in the marina for protection- yes, protection would be very much on the minds of people at any time in history who lived here.

The End is Near

Marina view at Torre del Greco

At last, we found their apartment address and rang the bell. No one answered. Two boys from across the street watched us and then came over. They confirmed that our friends lived here, and then they rang as if that would produce better results, but no dice. Not sure what to do next, we walked over to a nearby bench facing the harbor, and sat down. Very soon a man on a Vespa rode up and asked if we were Judith and Dennis. It was Rebecca’s husband, Paolo. They had been looking for us!

Pranzo Fatto a Mano

Near the entrance to the apartment

View of the harbor with the statue of Jesu, as seen from their living room. Not pictured: Mt Vesuvius-it was too cloudy.

We were brought upstairs to the top floor apartment of a six-hundred-year-old building. Rebecca and Paolo, whom I had never met in person before, seemed like old friends. As with other people I have met from the sea glass world, we already had a lot in common. Soon we sat at their table and had the beautiful food prepared by Chef Paolo for our lunch.

Fried peppers and tomatoes, cooked in locally produced olive oil.

Fresh mozzarella di bufalo, olives, bread, and wine, all from the local area. What more does anyone need?

Bread baked that day at their local bakery.

They fill their glass jugs at the local cellar with wine from a vineyard near Mt. Vesuvius.

As we sampled the delicious food, conversation flowed like the hearty Vesuvian wine. Paolo, who is from Capri, is a professionally trained Chef. He had lived in the States for a number of years, and was working at a restaurant in Santa Barbara when he and Rebecca met. They hit it off, married, and moved back to Italy about five years ago. Our visit included a show and tell of sorts. I showed some of my sea glass and ancient coin jewelry. Rebecca, an artist, showed us some of her mixed-media pieces hanging on the walls of their home. Her creativity overflows in everything she touches, be it painting, photography or lifestyle. Many of her photos of everyday life are included in this post. Thank you Rebecca!

Privacy screen glass, once used in bathroom doors and windows, turned into sea glass and found on the beach by Rebecca, photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

I drooled over her Italian sea glass and pottery collected on Capri and all over the Mediterranian. Of course, we had to do some trading!

 

Grazie Mille Rebecca and Paolo-ci vediamo lánno prossimo!

Before it got too dark, Dennis and I started back for the train station. This time we had better directions and made it there in about ten minutes. We got on the train for Sorrento, tired, content and happy. We could not stop talking about our visit, rehashing Paolo and Rebeccas’s incredible hospitality.  I will definitely return to Torre del Greco on a future visit to see the coral museum. Hopefully next time the sun will be shining so I can actually see Vesuvius!

Next Post/Amalfi Coast

Vesuvius as seen from their apartment-photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Ruins/Pompeii

After a rainy night in Sorrento, we woke early the next morning and walked to the train station. Although the streets were dry, I threw my umbrella in my backpack-just in case. We arrived in plenty of time to buy our tickets for the trip to Pompeii and have a cappuccino at the station.

O Sole Mio! (note the tambourine  for tips to the left.)

As we waited for the train to depart, an accordion busker stepped aboard. He placed a portable karaoke machine down by the door and began playing Italian greatest hits. He did not get a good reception from the commuters (too early for accordion music?) and left the train just before it departed with not many euros in his tip jar. I thought about the young boy from the day before ( see my previous post) and the life cycles of a Sorrento street busker. O Sole Mio, Volare, That’s Amore…The man may age, but the songs remain the same.

Pompeii Scavi

The train stops at Pompei Scavi. Right near the station is a place to buy tickets to the ruins, from there it’s a short walk to the site.

What is Pompeii?

Pompeii was once a  thriving city in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. It had theaters, public forums, bathhouses, brothels, food producers, laundries and more. The population, estimated to be about 15,000, included all socioeconomic levels, from landowners to slaves. Despite the huge differences in lifestyle and social class, all inhabitants were equally defenseless on an October day in 79 A.D. when Vesuvius suddenly erupted. Rich or poor, there was no escaping the torrent of hot ash and pumice that rained from the sky, smothering all life equally.  After that, the city slept for over one thousand years under the ashes.

 

Plaster cast made of a child’s body at the moment of death.

The House of the Golden Bracelet

This golden bracelet (weighing 0.6 kg) was found on the body of a woman inside their richly decorated villa.

We walked down a path that led to the Antiquarium, a combination visitors center and  small museum (rebuilt in 1947 after being bombed in WW2.)  While most of the treasures recovered from Pompeii are housed in the Museo di Archeologico in Naples,  there are some exquisite pieces displayed here, including glassware, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and coins. In sobering juxtaposition to the luxury of these items are the casts of a family who perished during the eruption. Archaeologists dubbed their home the House of the Golden Bracelet, because of the precious piece of jewelry found during excavation.

During excavation at the House of the Golden Bracelet archaeologists found the bodies of a family killed by a staircase that collapsed as they tried to leave their home. Casts were made of the child, man, and baby seated on its mother’s lap in the final moments of their life.

Villa Dei Misteries

After looking at the displays in the gallery, we headed out with the small printed maps received with our paid admission to explore, forgoing the guided tour that was heavily suggested. Pompeii is vast, and there is a lot to see-too much for one day. I wanted to start at the one place that was highest on my personal list-the Villa of the Mysteries.

My friend Dennis had no real tourist agenda and was happy to accompany me to the Villa. Located on the outskirts of the city, we walked along a road where chariots once rolled.  We passed by the Stabian baths, a brothel, the House of the Faun, the House of the Tragic Poet and more, saving these to explore on the way back. Along the way, I did pause to shoot a few jewelry photographs in the of the cemetery of Porto Ercolano, the crumbling tombs, and monuments providing the perfect context for the ancient coin rings.

Larrisa ring, ancient Greek coin, silver, with coral.

Dionysus ring-ancient Greek bronze coin depicting grape cluster, gold, silver, ruby.

 

Along the road that once led from Naples to Rome.

Villa of the Mysteries

There were few tourists around as we neared the entrance to the Villa. The air was fresh with the smell of flowers and the sweet singing of birds. The season of spring infused life and vitality to the sleeping city, a reminder that everything is part of a cycle.

Villa Dei Misteries, frieze depicitng Dioyisian rite.

The walls inside contain one of the largest and most beautiful of all ancient paintings, depicting the stages of an initiation into the mystery religion of Dionysus (The God of Wine). Archaeologists have not been able to come to a complete agreement or understanding about the full meaning of the scenes. Little is known from written sources as the initiates, mostly women were sworn to secrecy. In 186 B.C., the Roman senate banned the mysteries linked to Dionysus-Bacchus, alleging that they encouraged depravity. (Hmm…sounds like a witch hunt to me.)

 

The colors are unbelievably vivid, the photos  I took with the dim available light give an idea of how bright the pigments have remained, even after about two thousand years. Elsewhere in the villa are beautiful examples of the ornamental style painting popular in the time, including a lot of Egypt-influenced imagery. These were beyond the capabilities of my camera to capture, so I am showing just one details here, for the color.

ornamental wall detail

I could not resist placing my jewelry on the beautiful mosaic floor and taking a few photographs.

Ancient Greek coin pendant, with gold, silver and sea glass.

Copper cuff with Roman coin depicting the god Sol (sun).

Ancient Greek nymph coin, with silver, gold, diamonds.

The Walk Back

There were only a few other visitors at the Villa when we got there around 10:00. I felt that nothing else I would see this day could possibly top this experience, and was glad to have been among the first there that morning. We met a lot of people heading to the Villa as we walked back down the road. We stopped to explore to see the previously mentioned sights we passed earlier, ending up at the civic forum.

Pausing at a funerary monument, on the way back to the center.

 

We had a lunch of pizza in the busy cafe, which was now bustling with tourists from all over the world. I really needed the food to get re-grounded after that visit. It was also a good thing we brought umbrellas as the sky began to pour.

The moody lighting and lack of tourists (taking shelter inside) provided more opportunities to shoot jewelry in what would usually be the crowded civic forum.

 

Ancient Greek silver coin, with silver and gold.

Sea glass ring in the civic forum.

Demeter, ancient Roman coin, gold, and silver.

In Closing, a few more shots

In the large theater

Before the rain

By later afternoon, seeing as much as we could absorb for the day, we walked back toward the exit. I will definitely return to see what I missed another time. I will also see Herculaneum on another visit-and Paestum. We still had another adventure in store that day, getting back on the train and heading to Torre Del Greco, to visit a friend, which will be the topic of the next post. Ciao!

Final view of Pompeii dotted with red poppies and wildflowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!

 

The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.

Sorrento

 

Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!

 

We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii

 

Two Nights in Napoli

After Vasto, we hopped on a bus and rode across the country from the Adriatic coast to the Bay of Naples. It was a rainy, three-hour ride. I was glad we’d cancelled the car rental and could relax and take in the scenery with no concerns. It was a nice way to transition from the peace of Vasto to the chaos of Naples.

In this post, I will share my experience in Napoli, and highlight a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.  So if you love ancient art, gritty cities, and pizza-stay with me!

This Is The City

Naples has a reputation for crime, especially pickpockets. I tried not to let the warnings I read on travel blogs make me feel uneasy or paranoid. Well-meaning friends also primed me about various scams perpetrated on tourists, especially in train and bus stations. The day before I left  an acquaintance who had lived in Italy for a few years urged me to buy a money belt, “at least for Rome and Naples.” I chose to forgo the security belts and go with what I was planning to wear-my new Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag. I feel that once you give into the fear of what might happen, its a slippery slope from there. The anxiety vibes you send out might actually attract the very thing you are afraid of.

Room with a View

We felt a tad uneasy when our freelance taxi driver, (who had assured us he knew the address to our accommodations when we engaged him) stopped to ask directions various times from street vendors in L’Antica part of town. Our uneasiness grew when he suddenly stopped the car, saying “sei arrivato”  in a no-nonsense tone of voice. He got our bags out of the trunk and gestured toward an alley, telling us the place was only a few blocks away, then hurried off.

We rolled our suitcases along the bumpy pavement, feeling very conspicuous as we looked for address numbers on the graffiti-sprayed walls of a dark alley. Vespa scooters wove around us as we walked and the heavy air was filled with the sound and smell of traffic. Children shouted up to laundry-strewn balconies and were answered by adults who peered down at us from above. It did not seem possible to me that we were ever going to find the address, and for a moment I silently wished we had kept it simple and stayed in a centrally located hotel. But we had wanted something “more authentic” and were getting exactly that.

We eventually found it and rang a bell on the outside of an iron security gate. My enthusiasm returned as Marco, our host, promptly answered. Siamo arrivati!  The small apartment where we would spend the next two nights was windowless and sparsely decorated on the lower level but had all the necessities. Upstairs was a sleeping loft with two beds separated by a folding screen and french doors that opened onto a balcony.  Marco gave us some tips on exploring Naples, (warning us not to go back the way we came at night).

First Things First

We headed out onto the Corso Umberto, the main thoroughfare which our small alley opened onto. To celebrate our arrival in Naples, we stopped at a nearby bar for an Aperol Spritz.

Later for dinner, we decided to try Michelle’s, the most famous pizzeria in Naples, which was a short walk from our alley. It’s a tiny place, nothing fancy. Just pizza. Many of the customers order takeaway and sit out on the street curb eating their pizza out of the box. The entire street was swarming with customers, waiting to get close to the entrance. This went on for hours. We decided to try the restaurant across the road and were not disappointed. The pizza had fresh yellow tomatoes and basil leaves with mozzarella di bufala and a great crust. While in Italy we had pizza in every city we passed through, but the memory of this one stays with me the longest.

The National Archaeological Museum

The next day, we visited the Museo di Archaeologico. An incredible museum offering four floors of sculpture, painting, mosaics and other objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the Farnese collection of antiquities. On the day we visited,  a contingent of Star Wars cosplayers were there for a Star Wars memorabilia exhibit on the lower floor, near the Egyptian collection. I wondered what Joesph Campbell would say to that!

Artemeis of Ephesus is a copy made in the Imperial period. She is made from alabaster and bronze. Her hands would have held a ribbon.

Detail of her richly ornamented dress, alabaster.

Mosaics

The collection includes all the exceptional finds from the Vesuvian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Later in the week, when we visited Pompeii I had a greater appreciation, after seeing these treasures, for the way of life that had suddenly ended when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

Memento Mori, representing life and death as the leveler of human fortunes.

More

 

Detail The Farnese Gems, collected during the Renaissance. Many were made from glass.

Ancient glass vessels

Artist pigments and mixing bowls.

From the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Room), displaying erotica collected from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Villa Farnese. The Secret Room has been opened or closed to the public depending upon the political climate and morals of the time.

Where Did the Time go?

View from the Museo di Archaeologico.

I did not attempt to photograph much of what I saw, preferring to hold the impressions in my mind, but hope what I have shared here is of interest and inspiring. After the museum visit, we walked around the streets, grounding ourselves by taking in some sights of everyday life.

The dogs of street buskers.

Door knockers are one of my favorite things to “collect” with a camera.

Gambrinus desserts and more!

We took the advice of Ornella and had a caffè and dessert at Gambrinus. It was the perfect way to refresh and get a second wind for more sightseeing.

Next Post: Sorrento

Thanks for staying with me for this many words and images- see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

A Traveler in Italy: Vasto

The dictionary says “when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest.”  More than any other single word I can think of, Savor describes the way I feel about my recent trip to Italy. I’m savoring the memories, the sights, the food, the great people, and already thinking about my return. Until then, I will share some of the highlights in a series of posts, beginning with this one, about Vasto, the town of my paternal grandfather’s family. Even if I had no ancestral connection to this place, I would have fallen in love with this “ancient Roman  town in the heart of Italy” and perhaps you will too!

Fishing trabucco, Vasto

As I shared in my previous post, it was through the sea glass world that I met Ornella Di Filippo, who lives in Vasto and operates a very comfortable Air B&B, where we stayed. She and her husband, Marco, were wonderful hosts-even loaning my friend Dennis and me clothing to wear (did I mention our luggage was lost in Rome?) until our bags were sent to us by the airline a few days later. I had packed for the sunny warm days that were predicted, but found myself buying an umbrella and rain slicker, because of the heavy rain the greeted us! That, of course, did not keep us from hitting the beach in search of sea glass on our first morning there.

Thunder, lightning, rain and wind-note the inside-out umbrella of Dennis!

When you live in Washington State, it takes more than a little rain to keep you off the beach!

Salsedine

We walked down a path to the beach, serenaded by birds, passing by giant fig trees and eucalyptus, which made me feel like I was back in Southern California. The air was perfumed by the sweet blooms of flowering acacia trees mixed with the smell of the sea, which Italians call Salsedine.  We were the only people on the beach that morning, save for a couple of fishermen who brought their skiff in later. There were many shells scattered amongst the rocks and lots of sea glass too!

I found a beautiful marble in the shingle!

Even with all the rain, the air temperature was warm, and we spent the entire morning going to a few individual beaches, known to Ornella and Marco for their sea glass.

Ornella Di Filippo, now flying the flag of Tokeland in Italy!

Catch of the Day

Before our three days in Vasto were up, the sun did come out, and Ornella and Marco made sure we went back to the beach to see it’s “true colors” of vivid green and blue water. Again, we were the only people out there, except for the two fishermen.

This fisherman showed me a live seahorse that was part of the catch. After I took this photo, he returned it to the sea.

Vasto is known for its fresh seafood, and we enjoyed clams, mussels, prawns, octopus, scallops in one form or another, every day. Served with local wine, Montepulciano DÁbruzzo, these were meals to savor.

La Bagnante

Vasto is in the Abruzzo region of Italy, located in the south, with beautiful views of the Adriatic. It has recieved the Blue Banner mark for its clean water and eco friendly practices. Overlooking  a long sandy beach,  La Bagnante, a modernistic sculpture perched on a rock, beckons all visitors. Her name translates to “the bathing beauty.”

Ancient Roman Roots

I was surprised to learn that Vasto has a population of about 40,000. It really didn’t seem that large to me. There was none of the heavy traffic or crowds, but plenty of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We could walk into the heart of town from Ornella’s place, following the road that paralleled the sea.

Using the photos in my grandad’s old album as a guide, Ornella and Marco took me to the places in Vasto where my family had lived, and where they are buried.

My grandfather’s handwritten caption says “The place where I was born.”

The Palazzo Palmieri-what a thrill it was for me to see the place of my grandfather’s birth!

There are some lovely churches and the relics of ancient Roman baths, so many charming sights that I feel they deserve a seperate blog post of their own. So I will stick here to my personal sightseeing, and hope to revisit this topic in a future post.

 

Note the Venetian style architecture of the building to the left-I love the color!

 

La Mia Famiglia

Ornella arranged for me to see the inside of the house where my family lived until the 1980’s. It is now used as a kindergarten/day care center.

Villa Altruda

My grandfather with his siblings, circa 1905, Vasto. What a lovely place to grow up!

 

Thie picture below was taken in 1925, in Vasto. My grandfather (on the left) , stands beside the bust he modeled of his friend  (right.)

Me and Melania, who operates the Mary Poppins childcare center. at the front door of our former family home.

Full Circle

On my last day, we visited the cemetary. This too, deserves a post of its, own, but I will say briefly, that the cimetario is it’s own little villiage, filled with family mausoleums and graves, well tended and at the same time, overgrown in places. Individualistic touches and personal remembrances are everywhere.

 

Remembering my grandfather with fresh flowers.

Salute!

I’m going to end this post here, as I savor the connection to family. It was a great privilege to recognize and honor my grandfather, Giuseppe Altruda in the town of his birth. I must say a thousand thanks, Grazie Mille, to Ornella and Marco, and family, for their kindness in helping me to locate these special places, for the wonderful meals and the sea glassing.  Ci vediamo lánno prossimo-see you next year!

 

My grandfather and me in 1981, when I visited him in Bologna.

Dottore Giuseppe Altruda, 1980, Bologna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destinazione: Italia!

On the Adriatic, my grandfather and crew sailing his boat, the Luisa V.

Next week I’ll be setting my feet down for the first time in Vasto, Italy, the hometown of my grandfather. It’s located on the Adriatic coast, in the Abruzzo region.  Having heard about Vasto my whole life, it’s always been on my list of places to visit “someday” but thanks in part to my daughter studying art in Greece and Italy this spring, the time is now! Soon I’ll be traveling with a friend to Rome, Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast before joining Sophia in Florence at the end of her school term.

How This Came About- The Sea Glass Connection

 

Full circle-from Vasto to the Pacific NW and soon back to Italy,

Through the sea glass world, I met Ornella di Filippo, who makes beautiful wire-wrapped jewelry and ornaments from the glass she finds on Italian beaches. And… she happens to live in Vasto.  I had questions about my family’s ancestral town, and Ornella was most kind and helpful. After sharing a few photos from my grandfather’s album, she was able to locate the home where he once lived and places related to my family history, including graves.

After learning so much from her, It was easy to put Vasto at the top of the list, and go from there to other, more known destinations.

We will stay in Vasto for three nights and soak up the local seafood and sights. Ornella will give us a personalized tour of Vasto and also serve as our sea glass guide, and I feel so fortunate!

 

Vasto sea glass ring

Countdown

As the trip gets closer, I am inspired to make some pieces of jewelry with Italian roots to photograph on location at ancient sites like Paestum, Pompeii, and Herculaneum.  Currently I’m making some rings with ancient coins that I’ve been saving for just the right project.

Larrissa, ancient Greek silver coin c 356-342 B.C. with old Mediterranean coral.

While near Pompeii, we will meet another person from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She has already been helpful in pinpointing places a glasser would not want to miss. I can hardly wait to visit the museum of coral located in her hometown, along with the fantastic natural beauty of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. And let’s not get started on Firenze!

There’s going to be a lot to share, and until my next blog, please follow my Instagram feed https://www.instagram.com/judithaltrudajewelry

Till then,

Ciao Bella!

 

The Best Things in Life are (nearly) Free

“Will brake for sea glass” photo by Eric Fitzpatrick

Recently I was headed down the coast with my sister to a sea glass festival on the central California coast. Along the way, we stayed a couple nights in Ft. Bragg, to visit world-renowned Glass Beach. This post will include highlights of that journey down Highway 101 through the beaches and redwoods of Oregon and Northern California.

We began in Astoria, Oregon with a thermos of coffee and about a year’s worth of conversation stored up between the two of us.  Our last road trip, the previous March, had been to place our dad’s ashes inside a niche at Forest Lawn.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

 

Netarts, Oregon

Whatever Happened To? 

We hadn’t driven very far from Astoria when we took a side trip to find Lex’s Cool Stuff  in Netarts. We had not seen Lexi since we were living in Sunset Beach, California, way back in the seventies. Back then she made candle holders and other crafts from shards of broken automotive glass and surely must have been at the forefront of upcycled art. Our brother told us that Lexi had moved to Oregon and opened a shop. We found her tiny place on a road that overlooked the sea. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.

 

 

Lex’s Cool Stuff, Netarts, Oregon

Having many miles to travel, we moved on down the highway, vowing to return at a later date. Our drive took us through the towns of Newport, Lincoln City, and Gold Beach with scenic points of interest in between such as Devils Punchbowl, Devil’s Lake and Boiler Bay. Just before spring break, the towns were quiet, the highway uncrowded, perfect timing.

Pt Orford, Oregon

We stopped for the night close to the Oregon/California border, in Pt. Orford. This is a magical little place, with an amazing restaurant and art gallery nestled on the bluff above the small commercial harbor. We took a sunset stroll before checking into our room and then heading to Redfish for dinner. We knew this would be a special dining experience and were so glad to make it there before the final seating of the night!

Daybreak, Pt.Orford harbor

We slept with the sound of crashing surf coming through the open window and woke to a colorful sky at daybreak. We started the day with a walk on the beach as the sun cleared the hills.

 

Beachcombing

Beach at Pt. Orford

Another Roadside Attraction

We had barely said goodbye to Pt Orford and crossed the California border on Highway 101 when we had to stop again-for dinosaurs.

To my sister’s great disappointment, this roadside attraction was closed. We will have to visit the lifesize T Rex and brontosaurus another time, I guess.

We continued south on Highway 101 which offered sublime views as it hugged the cliffside high above the sea before plunging into misty stands of ancient redwood groves. Sprinkled between tiny towns, art galleries and quirky roadside attractions offered everything from redwood burls and bigfoot carvings to monumental metal sculptures and more.

The art of Val Polyanin, it was closed the day we drove by but had a telephone number on a mailbox at the side of the road. Maybe next time?

The Redwood Highway

Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA. Monumental Paul Bunyon and Babe statues oversee the entrance to gift shop and End of the Trail Native American museum.

We stopped here to stretch our legs and for my sister to buy a redwood seed at the gift shop. The museum is really worth touring, especially if you admire Native American basketry. We drove along the Redwood  Highway, the twisting road flanked by massive trees, dark and moody. It is indeed a “Place of Wonder”.

Ancient Redwood Grove

We stopped to picnic in the LadyBird Johnson Grove.

In  Humbolt county, as we drive through the towns of Fortuna, Scotia, and Garberville, there were ample opportunities to stock up on redwood in many forms for those seeking a souvenir.

Humboldt County

Or maybe something larger?

Bigfoot Country

At the end of a long day’s drive, we emerged onto Highway 1 and reached Fort Bragg at sunset.

Without Further Ado; Glass Beach

Glass Beach, CA

We timed our trip to coincide with the tide, knowing we would have two low tide mornings to explore the beaches. We woke early the next day and drove to the Glass Beach approach. We left our car there and proceeded down to the trail along the bluff. For those who don’t know, what makes Ft. Bragg a major destination for sea glassers is the fact that it had four city dumps located right there on the beach from about 1895 to about 1969.

Our mission was to shoot some of my sea glass jewelry on location at the beach. I did see a few people on the beach picking up glass, but it is highly discouraged by the city of Ft. Bragg, which seek to protect this amazing treasure for all to enjoy. I recommend a visit to the International Sea Glass Museum, operated by Captain Cass. It will give a better understanding of what makes Ft Bragg’s beaches so unique and has well-organized sea glass collections from all over the world on display. As an extra bonus, Captian Cass will mark the best beaches to hunt for glass on the maps for sale in the gift shop.

Sea glass rings by Judith Altruda, at Glass Beach.

Climbing down to the beach, feeling the crunch of sea glass underfoot and seeing the ground shimmer as the sun comes out, is an out-of-this-world experience.

Abalone

Ravens at Glass Beach

Sea glass and Fiesta ware pottery shard

Sea Glass cove

Sunlight intensifies the carpet of glass!

Farewell, Glass Beach

After two days it was time to move on to Cayucos for the SeaGlass Festival, which will be the topic of a future post. And speaking of the future… those attractions that were closed when we passed by? Perhaps just as well, as it gives us another reason to return.

 

Sister Shadows

Auld Lange Syne Again

sunset 1 13 2014

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot

and never thought upon

summer solstice 2015

The flames of Love extinguished

and fully past and gone:

 

11013219_10205232450024280_2388212221686034972_n

Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,

That loving Breast of thine;

santa cruz

That thou canst never once reflect

on Old Long Syne?

dec4

Robert Burns immortal poem reminds us to appreciate the virtues of reconnecting with old friends and memories. On this last day of 2015, I want to let everyone out there know how much I appreciate your interest and support in my jewelry endeavors. I look forward to the journeys  that 2016 has in store!

 

Into the Wild

aldar eye

Right now, the signs of Fall are everywhere in the  Pacific Northwest. Lately I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the woods, witnessing the changes of the season. And extra lucky to have as a forest companion an 84 year old man who has spent his life working in the woods. His name is Marv Jones. His son, Bruce, who has been taking us on weekly excursions into the wild, compares his father to the original Jeremiah Johnson.

Marv reads the forest both as a living journal of current events and history book. For example, the faintest scratch along a logging road tells him a good sized buck deer was here, the direction it was headed and how long ago. Once a professional bear hunter for the State, he points to Cascara trees with bent branches, a sure sign that bear were here eating berries within the last day or two. He explains to me why one tree is left standing in a clear cut, (as a seed tree) and  recalls planting trees in the 1960s for a timber company, using tree planting machines (that were later discarded because humans do it better.) He shows me  where the timber camp was located. It’s hard to imagine that buildings once stood here, the only marker now is a tree stump with a rusty bucket perched on top.

He gives me a bear tooth for a good luck piece, which I now carry in my pocket.

Marv, photo by Bruce Jones

Marv, photo by Bruce Jones

An avid photographer, he has a keen eye for the beauty of dew coated  spider webs shinning in the sunlight or mushrooms freshly popped up from the forest floor. Speaking of fungi, the first rains of the season have spurred overnight mushroom growth.  I think about the campy Japanese horror film MatangoAttack of the Mushroom People, as I encounter mushrooms of incredible size and colors.

matango

We pick chanterelles, a highly prized seasonal mushroom by the bucket fulls…

chantrelle mushroom

chanterelle mushroom

What follows are some photographic highlights from these “sashays”, as Marv would say…

Bear claw marks

Bear claw marks

Elk graffiti-marks left on tree from where elk polished his horns

Elk graffiti-marks left on tree from where elk polished his horns

mushroom

fungi

fungi

The forest provides an inspirational photographic setting for jewelry…after years of shooting on the beach I am excited by the filtered light and moodiness of the woods.

men's copper cuff

men’s copper cuff

musroom rings 2

Mist Ring on alder leaf

Mist Ring on alder leaf

copper cuff and lycopodium moss

copper cuff and lycopodium moss

 

cuffa and mushrooms

so many mushrooms, so little time!

labrynth and mushrrom

 

black beach stone ring and maple leaf

black beach stone ring and maple leaf

After several  weekends spent tromping through the woods, I dive back into the studio with fresh ideas that practically explode off the bench!

And speaking of new work...I will be showing at the fabulous Santa Cruz Sea Glass Festival   November 7 and 8th. To see more new work , I invite you to follow me on Instagram

in progress on the bench

in progress on the bench

sea glass and eel grass

sea glass and eel grass

I have to thank Bruce and his father Marv for giving me a real insider’s tour of the forest that I have lived so close to and yet never really known before. I hope to share more photos in future posts with you.

October sunrise by Marv Jones

October sunrise by Marv Jones

In closing, hope you are having a terrific Autumn, and taking some time to enjoy the changing of the season.