Two weeks ago, I left home for Italy not knowing what to expect. I didn't fully understand the language (parlo poco Italiano), and had never been to Europe. Yet, despite this uncertainty, I had faith that it was going to all be OK "va bene" and work out. With great risks come great rewards, and this trip was a celebration on so many levels.
Coming from an Italian family, it was truly humbling to experience the country, meet the people, drink their wine, and enjoy their food. I will never forget the smiling faces greeting me with "Buon Giorno", or at night "Sera". When the occasional language barrier arose, it was quickly overcome by expressive body language, and eye contact. They treated me with such kindness and generosity, I felt as if they could be an Uncle, a Grandfather, Aunt, or Cousin.
Professionally speaking, this was an outstanding opportunity to teach photography to participants from all over the world with different experience levels. There were five photographers in my group, and each one had truly remarkable stories and backgrounds. While I was providing photography instruction, they were sharing their life stories with me. We had many glorious shoots from foggy vineyards at sunrise, to portrait sessions, and impossibly beautiful vistas like the top of Piazzele Michaelangelo in Florence during a full moon. When we were not out shooting, we spent time in the photography studio viewing Keynote presentations that proved informative and entertaining. This studio space was more than I could have asked for with a digital projector, comfortable seating, and picturesque windows with endless views of the surrounding country.
The light in Tuscany is unlike any that I've ever worked in. The magic hour seems to linger for at least twice as long, and sometimes beyond that. There were several occasions where I literally gasped at the scene in front of me, and ran towards it with reckless abandon for my equipment. Whether in the country or the city, every part of Toscana was a visual feast with spectacular scenery in every direction. As such, I believe some of my finest work to date was captured over this period. I am eager to sort through and share my favorites from the thirty plus gigabytes of photos.
The architecture in Italy highlighted the amazing feats that human beings are capable of. Much of the structures were built well before the technological advancements we've come to rely on. Structures like the Colosseum in Roma, St. Peter's Basilica, the Duomo in Siena, and the Duomo in Florence were beyond anything I could have previously comprehended both in sheer scale, and beauty. With my neck craned towards the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I marveled at the way Michaelangelo painted with the same three-dimensionality as his incredible sculptures. The volume of inspiring work was so large, it will take quite some time to fully absorb everything I saw.
"Arrivederci" isn't just goodbye. In fact, it means "bye for now". This is important to note, as I'm happy to report that I've been asked to return to this beautiful land in October of 2013! I'm so grateful for this, and hope to share the Italy I just experienced with more photographers. Right now however, I'm anxious to resume the life I love here in NY with my wife Sue, our puppy, and friends and family.