iPHONEOGRAPHY WORKSHOP IN TUSCANY

A Tuscan garden at sunset
A smartphone capture of the fairytale garden of Podere Genova in Monte Antico

Always wondered how to turn the technical limitations of your phone into inspiring photographs? Learn how to this spring in best location in southern Tuscany!

The award-winning Swedish photographer Sofija Torebo Strindlund will teach composition and use of light, shadows and color in the middle of a perfect Tuscan countryside setting. Sofija will also share her tips about smart accessories, techniques for special effects and teach editing skills using a bunch of apps directly on participants' mobile devices. 

Theory sessions will be mixed with hands-on exercises and practice of landscape, portrait, still life and lifestyle photography. Along the way, there will be some traditional Swedish "fika" – just for the best possible outcome of course ;-). 

iPhoneography Workshop

Date: 15-16th of May 2017. Early bird to lunch and lunch to late night with the possibility to join just for one of the two days. 

Location: half an hour from Montalcino and 45 minutes from the Tuscan coastthe gorgeous Podere Genova in Monte Antico will provide the perfect setting with endless in- and outdoor photo options for this course. 

Price: 250 euro/person for the whole workshop (email for one-day rates). 

Contac: Sofija Torebo Strindlund - Email. Blog: ihpe.se Instagram: @toreboan

THE DISCOVERY OF CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN LITERATURE

'Libreria' and 'Bookstore' signs on the wall of a bookstore in the Val d'Orcia



The crew behind The Florentine, Tuscany's most widely read English language newspaper, is fundraising for a bilingual Italian literature magazine. The Florentine Literary Review will be published for the first time in October 2016 and showcase the works of contemporary Italian writers in Italian and English translation. 

The launch of the new magazine made me think of #Italianliteratureweek, a hashtag project I had started a few years ago on Twitter to start a conversation about contemporary Italian literature available in English translation. The project was not much of a success. Most English speakers and Italy lovers I got in touch with on social media didn't know and read much Italian literature. Dante's 'Divine Comedy' kept popping up on my Twitter stream. I guess a lot of people have the book standing in their bookshelf, but - just like me - can never find the time to actually read it. 

The late Umberto Eco was another name, which was mentioned several times. Whether this was due to people remembering the film 'The Name of the Rose' or actually having read the book itself I couldn't figure out. The hashtag project was short lived - after all I just couldn't raise enough interest in the argument.  

But things have changed a little in the meantime mostly due to the widely translated books by Elena Ferrante which have taken the world by storm. The new and mysterious shooting star is helping Italy's contemporary literature to get a better rep and raised the interest for Italian writers who are alive and kicking.


two Italian books and a cappuccino on a wooden table
Two of the lovely books by Florentine author Pietro Grossi (both available in English translation)


For Italy travelers I have been recommending to pack the books of two contemporary writers for a while. Silvia Avallone's Swimming to Elba, which tells a working class story set in Piombino (the industrial town on the coast where the ferries leave for the island of Elba) and manages to remind the reader that life here isn't always Under the Tuscan Sun. In a similar vein Accabadora, by Sardinian writer Michela Murgia, tells a much darker story of her homeland than the azure and crystal clear waters we normally associate with the island paradise she has grown up on. (More reading tips for a Tuscan beach holiday are provided in my Castiglione della Pescaia post.)

Finding a readership is never an easy task (I'm writing a book myself and am painfully aware of this right now). And finding a readership in translation is even worse. But books by local writers let adventurous readers discover unknown worlds behind closed doors that the average tourist doesn't often gain access to.

Hence, I can't wait to read my first copy of the Florentine Literary Review. I've already got my ticket for the FLR launch in the heart of Florence this autumn. And you are still in time to support the project by getting yours (or a subscription to the magazine) on Indiegogo.

See you there!


A MANUSCRIPT IN THE MAKING

I'm writing a book.

A computer on a table on a terrace with a view in Tuscany


I know I said the same thing in my last post six months ago, but - rather annoyingly- that's still what I do.

It takes an infuriating amount of time to get all these words onto the screen. And once the words are on there, they start, just like my kids, to behave unruly and look badly spelt (spelled?), and it takes another infuriating (used same word already above) amount of time (synonym for time?) to tease them into a an attractive form and lovely singsong that hopefully - one day not too far - you people may want to read.

On a less artistic level I also spend a lot of time running after the pages of the manuscript, which, once gone with the wind, tend to get chewed up by our neighbour's sheep. That's one more reason why the Map It Out Tuscany, Siena and Montalcino blogs have turned into a sort of wasteland lately. Luckily, I planted a few sturdy succulents long ago, which keep this blog alive even though wasn't around here much already during the year before starting work on the manuscript. I was far too busy then with living through the story the book will tell - a story that focuses on the daily ups and downs of the workings of a refugee home in a Tuscan hilltop town and my experience in the midst of it.  

Migration and the so called 'refugee crisis' and the impact of the two on a small village and an improvised shelter in the Tuscan hinterland are the main topics of the book. If complicated (intricate?) matters like these speak to you, bear with me. I'm going to publish The Trouble with Helping (working title) in English in autumn 2016, and further down the lane also in Italian and German.

Drop me an email, if you'd like to be informed once the The Trouble with Helping is ready to roll. Just write 'book news' or something similar in the header and I'll add you to the mailing list. I know there are clever apps out there that would make it easier for you to sign up to my book list, but I haven't had the nerves yet to figure them out. Because - as I said - I'm sitting here typing away. 

UPDATE WINTER 2017: 'Across the Big Blue Sea: Good Intentions and Hard Lessons in an Italian Refugee Home' will be published in February 2017. More info on the book website: www.acrossthebigbluesea.com

A dog, a cat and a table with a Tuscan view
If only they could write it for me.

THE TALE (and some pics) OF THE PERFECT TUSCAN CHRISTMAS LUNCH

I'm writing a book. Hence I raise the wordcount by cutting down on aperitifs (not an easy feat in my Tuscan village), and I keep the storyline going by dodging invitations to Sunday lunch. But when I know that the table will look like this...

The table setting for a Tuscan Christmas lunch in the Chianti



and the food like this

Eggs poached in tomato sauce and Olivier salad

it's hard to resist...



Hence we drove to the Chianti and followed the crowd through the woods to jump into the midst of the clatter, chatter and laughter of a Tuscan Christmas gathering,

Tommy and Giulia serving the second course during a Tuscan Christmas lunch


The long table of a Tuscan Christmas lunch in the ChiantiA bottle of Chianti shared by the guests of a Tuscan Christmas gathering


which was cleverly interrupted by countryside walks to make sure there was room for more,

A group of people walking on a trail through the woods in the Chianti
until - inevitably - the moment arrived, when all the plates were licked and the last bottle of Chianti was emptied and it was time to go home (you said you drive, right?). 

Empty bottles and wine glasses on a decorated table in the Chianti





















INGREDIENTS FOR A TUSCAN GATHERING

Lunch was organized by Emiko Davies and Giulia from Juls' Kitchen, who with the help of their respective partners put together a fabulous Christmas menu. Wines were served by Sarah Fioroni from San Gimignano's Fattoria Poggio all'Oro

Good chats were had with lots of people, but I drunk too much to remember all of them - (Sarah thanks for filling up my glass! But through the mist I definitely remember having met the owners of some fabulous B&Bs and agriturismi in Tuscany and Rome - they obviously managed to leave a vivid impression. 
  • Irene Berni and Paolo from the incredibly stylish Val di Rose near Florence
  • Luisa and Matthias from the ideally located Agriturismo Il Rigo in the midst of Val d'Orcia
  • Linda and Steve from The Beehive, my favorite B&B and hostel in Rome 
  • and Molly McIlwrath - no accommodation here, but plenty of useful Tuscany based information (I've alreday told you about Molly in my article about family tours in Florence)
All of this took place in the fairytale location of la Selva giardino del Belvedere, which - like B&B Val di Rose and Il Rigo mentioned above - is not just a great venue for a festive lunch but also for a romantic wedding in Tuscany. For the recipes don't ask me (no hope there) but find all the details needed to create the perfect porcini polenta or fig filled panforte on Emiko's and Giulia's blogs.

Two bowls in front of the fire in a traditional Tuscan ovenA contemporary amphitheater in the Tuscan woodsThe heavenly swings at la SelvaCandles and quinces on top of the fireplace

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