“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
–George Bernard Shaw
As the year draws to a close, I look back with gratitude. To all of you engaged in creative endeavors, be it challenging yourself to learn something new or go deeper with your craft, I wish you joy and fortitude. Be Bold. Take risks. Dream Big.
See you in 2019!
HAPPY NEW YEAR
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!
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.
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.
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.
The House of the Golden Bracelet
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.
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.
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.
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.
I could not resist placing my jewelry on the beautiful mosaic floor and taking a few photographs.
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.
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.
In Closing, a few more shots
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!
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!
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.
Where Did the Time go?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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
It is the very height of summer here in the Pacific Northwest.The weather has been perfect to unplug and get outside-for picnics, road trips and languorous rambles. To laugh and be silly. To dream.
This is the concept/inspiration for the photos which follows.
The models for this shoot are a mother and daughter I met at a performance of one act plays at a community college. Both women are beautiful, but what really makes them stand out is their loving bond-they positively glow!
With the theme Summer Road Trip, what better prop to use than a 1971 Karmann Ghia? (as luck would have it the car was ready to come back from the garage with a new carberator, just in time for the shoot)
I purchased some exquisite turquoise at the Tucson show last January, (see the post Tucson or Bust.) Inspired by the upcoming shoot, I had a great time making big “Ghia colored” statement rings.
We were especially lucky to have photographer Eric Fitzpatrick and Los Angeles based stylist Amy Jo Davies contribute their talents-it was a magical collaboration!
We set up on the grounds behind the historic Tokeland Hotel on a (former) golf links that has now “gone native.” It was a pristine setting, the sky punctuated by the flutter and dip of swallows and the occasional eagle high above. We waited until the sun was low in the sky, casting long shadows over the tall grasses, and then were ready to begin…
Okay-NOW we’re ready to begin!
What follows are a small sampling of some of my personal favorites…all photos by Eric Fitzpatrick
Field Day…belt, cuff, rings, earrings and necklaces in sea glass and turquoise.
Creativity magnified-the exuberance when it all comes together-location, light, and talent!
Thank you to Dr. Sherry Franks, Meg Moilanen, Amy Jo Davies and Eric Fitzpatrick. Also a big thank you to Katherine White, owner of the Tokeland Hotel, for her gracious hospitality.
Whats next? Follow my late summer sea glass adventures in the UK on Instagram-stay tuned.
Over the past few months I have been taken on a vicarious world tour, via the photos of jewelry shared by customer’s on their travels to Greece, Russia, Mexico, India, the Galapagos Islands, New Mexico and more! Its quite a thrill to see jewelry made in my tiny Tokeland Washington studio end up in some of the world’s most exotic places-but fitting too. As the materials I use, be it ancient Greek coins or sea glass from England or Japan, came from times and places far removed from me, they are only in my hands for a short time in their overall existence.
Jean and Marianne took the trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands this Spring. I was beyond thrilled when they sent photos of their cuffs in such a primeval setting. They seem to belong there! (The bottom cuff was a collaboration between myself and Earl Davis of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, who supplied the drawing which I chased into the copper.)
My good friend and Tokeland neighbor, Jeffro, traveled to Russia this Spring to be a participant in a wood carving invitational. He wore his ancient Greek coin ring and other pieces, promising me he would get a pic from Red Square-and of course he did!
One of my customers, Gosia, (who I have never met in person but feels like a friend,) is a massage therapist and intrepid traveler. She own several of my pieces and sends me pics from her travels, featuring the scenery of her current locale.
Gosia traveled to India and happily for me, took photos of a labradorite ring I recently made in some of the most exotic settings imaginable. The luminosity of the stone and the pure magic of India are a match made in heaven. Thank you Gosia!
Rachel, from the UK wore her Japanese sea glass ring, made in the USA to Greece-that’s covering quite a lot of the globe!
Before the summer is over, I will be adding to this series myself-as I travel to England and Scotland in search of sea glass.
Until then I will close with photos of recent jewelry modeled by my daughter, Sophia. (Proud Mother Moment-she just graduated from high school and the local community college, and now poised for her own globetrotting adventures.)
Since returning from the desert Ihave immersed myself in all things sea glass in preparation for the Seventh Annual Cayucos Sea Glass Festival,March 11-12 2017.
It will be great to once again venture out of the Pacific NW rainy season, (although this is perfect weather for staying in the studio and losing all sense of time at the workbench!)
Sharing here some recent work that will debut at the festival soon.
The beaches of Japan have the most interesting array of old pottery pieces, sea glass and ohajiki (flattened glass disks used in a children’s game similar to tiddlywinks) I wrote about my Japanese sea glass hunting adventure in an earlier post here: In search of: Japanese Sea glass
Barbie Ball Stovall with a bonanza ohajiki finding day during a super low tide on her local beach in Japan.
Sea Pottery and sea glass earrings with silver tassles, from Tokyo to Tokeland!
Heart of Glass pendant necklace, Japanese sea glass heart, naturally formed by the sea and shore, with inset diamond and silver chain and tassle.
The Queen of Sea Glass
I have been obsessed with crowns and tiaras this winter, part of it has to do with research I am doing for a novel. This inspired the making of two sea glass crowns. They are modeled after British Arts and Crafts style designs from about 1908. They are made of silver with sea glass jewerls from England, Japan and California and moonstones from our local beach here in Westport Washington.
Sea glass crown as modeled by Timber Uitto
photo by Eric Fitzpatrick
It was a magic moment, one that surpassed the original goal of getting good photographs of the crowns. These girls rule!
I hope to see those of you who can make it Cayucos for the festival. Its a great little beach town, just North of Moro Bay. And remember, Spring is coming!