Thursday, August 28, 2014

My guest blog post on #UNLOCKYOURLOVE-Venetians taking their city’s problems into their own hands

#unlockyourlove logo by Alberto Toso Fei
After one of the most trying tourist seasons today’s generations of Venetians can remember, a grassroots group—tired of visitors using the city of Venice, Italy, like a beach, a picnic area or more crassly as an outdoor toilet. Yes this is happening in Venice, too—is saying basta! Enough of the abuse their spectacular town, a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage site, has been forced to succumb to....

Please continue reading my blog post here on Insiders Abroad:  

Thank You, Insiders Abroad for asking me to share this story with you and your readers. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Venice, not her tourists, is crying out loud!

The Rialto Bridge

Because of a recent article in The Telegraph: Outcry over plan to charge Venice day trippers...I'm climbing onto my soapbox: 

Tourism in Venice has drastically changed in the last 10 or so years. Too many, but not all, come, think it's a beach, walk around shirtless, wearing flip flops and in bathing suits, swim in the canals, climb on historic builidings that are hundreds of years old--all in a city where not long ago travelers knew when in Venice wearing short pants wasn't/isn't acceptable. 

Today, visitors pack a lunch as if they're going to a park, sit on centuries old steps in the Piazza known as the 'finest drawing room in Europe' and eat their meals without realizing where they are or what they're looking at, and then leave little behind except their trash. This is the reality. 

So, as a resident of Venice province for almost 30 years, where my family's livelihood has depended on tourism for three generations, I agree something must be done to save Venice. 

If today's tourists don't understand that this city is a VERY special place, and they continue to treat it like another notch on their 'been there done that' post, then the city must do something to either educate the masses (which in today's society is probably impossible) or keep out those who don't know how to respect and acknowledge Venice as one of if not THE most beautiful, fragile and precious cities on the planet. 

I'm sorry, but it is evident that anyone who doesn't understand why paying to enter the city is being discussed as a possible option hasn't spent more than a day or two in Venice in the last few years. And if they have, and still don't understand the problem, perhaps they are guilty of some of the insulting behavior the Venetians are tired of seeing their city be abused by.

Have you been to Venice recently? Do you agree with my comments or do you think it's okay to ignore decorum in this treasured city, and 'disrespect' the Jewel of the Adriatic? 

I'd like to hear your thoughts, too. 

You can find the Telegraph article here:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eating Pizza New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio's way...with a fork.

My favorite pizza: Cream of artichoke with artichokes and buffalo mozzarella cheese

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio
Recently, I had the honor of spending an evening with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and his charming family during their stay in Venice, Italy. We talked about many things: his city and ours, his proud Italian-American heritage and the joy he and his family felt visiting and being so warmly welcomed to Italy. When I permitted myself to make a light hearted comment about eating pizza with a fork, he gave me a warm smile and, like any good Italian, gently threw up his hands.

Some readers here may not know that since Mayor De Blasio was elected to office last November magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, have mocked and criticized him for eating pizza with a fork. In the NYTimes article one person went as far as to call eating pizza with a fork “blasphemy” and stated that the Mayor “doesn’t know any better”. (See link to that article below)

For the record, Mayor De Blasio is unaware that our brief, pleasant exchange about pizza encouraged me to write this post.

So, here goes. My question to those who find it difficult to accept the Mayor’s way of eating pizza is: What’s all the fuss about?

You see, the Mayor does know better, and he’s right. When eating pizza IN ITALY—where the word pizza is said to have first appeared in Latin in 997 A.D. in the town of Gaeta near Naples—one uses a fork and, blasphemy of all blasphemies, a knife.

Now, I understand your concerns. I grew up in Los Angeles and spent my childhood summer vacations in the heart of Philadelphia. I remember back in the 60s holding my fast-walking grandfather’s hand on our summer shopping trips to 69th Street where a steam billowing pizza stand sat on the corner—or at least near the public bus stop. Twenty-five cent pizza slices sold out the window on a gritty busy city street were a novelty for this then young suburban Southern Californian. Of course I’d eaten pizza with my hands in Los Angeles, but I’d never eaten it standing on a street corner. Served on a square of paper, those cheese-dripping triangles were the best pizza slices I’d ever sunk my teeth into—until I moved to Italy in the 1980s.

What I quickly learned about eating pizza in Italy is that, in the Bel Paese, it’s rarely served sliced. Instead, it’s served whole on a big round ceramic platter and, therefore, must be eaten with a knife and a fork. Also, when eating pizza in Italy—and in recent years in some pizzerias around the U.S.A.—you order your own individual whole pizza, and choose your favorite topping, too. You won’t find pineapple on pizza in Italy, but believe it or not, a favorite pizza among Italian children is Pizza Patatina—cheese and tomato sauce topped with French fries. (You can imagine the expression on my face when fifteen or so years ago a slightly rude and uninformed young waiter in a pizzeria in Pennsylvania told my Italian born, and then six-year old, daughter that if she wanted French fries on her pizza she’d have to go down the street to McDonald’s) In any event, my favorite pizza is a pizza bianca—no tomato sauce—cream of artichoke with marinated artichoke hearts plus buffalo mozzarella, with KAMUT flour crust. Deliziosa!

Eating an entire pizza might sound like a gastronomical task, but pizza and their crusts in Italy are normally lighter than traditional pizzas in the U.S., and making them is an art form.  Whether you’re in New York City, Venice or Naples, a pizzeria is only as good as its pizzaiolo and its oven—preferably wood burning—and the best pizzaioli in Italy are known for preparing their crust thin and crisp.

So, my pizza loving friends, don’t you think it’s time to give Mayor De Blasio a break and lay this how pizza should be eaten conversation to rest? He’s simply eating pizza the traditional Italian way. Whether your pizza is served sliced or whole you, too, might try using a fork and a knife next time. And if it doesn’t seem quite right, no problem, use your hands.

Buon appetito!   

New York Times article January 10,2014: A Fork? De Blasio’s Way of Eating Pizza Is Mocked

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Laundry Day at the Home of a Gondolier...

Honestly, when I posted this photo on my personal Facebook page two days ago I had no idea how many smiles and shares it would bring. So, I thought I'd share the snapshot I took  of my clothesline here, too. I hope it brings a smile to your face, too. 

Feel free to leave a comment below, share this link with your friends, and LIKE Italy to Los Angeles and Back on Facebook, too.  

A presto,
Marie Ohanesian Nardin 

Summer Laundry at "Ca'Nardin" house

Monday, April 28, 2014

Venice's Gondoliers Row for Research

Regata dei Traghetti for the Fondazione Umberto Veronesi

 Criticism has been laid on the gondoliers' strong broad shoulders as far back as when they began rowing down Venice's beautiful canals. Comments which are often heard spoken in dialect by fellow Venetians—their most ardent critics or printed in the local press and more recently on social networks. Now, with the variety of instant communication sources, it’s no surprise that when a gondolier makes an error the world takes notice, too. Granted some critical comments have been warranted, others not so much and most are brought on by a minority of the 400-plus strong category. However, as with any group that works in the public eye, it is
Getting ready  
quite difficult for the majority of the gondoliers who abide by the rules to escape judgment based upon the actions of a few. Therefore, I think when all 400-plus gondoliers make a grand, generous and straight from the heart gesture that it is only right and proper to commend and applaud them.

Last Friday, April 25, 2014, the Association of Gondoliers dedicated their annual Regata dei Traghetti (a regatta between the 10 gondola stations) to the Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, a prominent and effective non-profit medical research foundation in Italy.

Not only did the gondoliers compete while wearing a striped t-shirt with the words Io Vogo per la Ricerca—I Row for Research—they pledged €30.000 (approx. $42,000) to fund the foundation’s “Gold for Kids” project. A first! Because in the ten years since 
Foundation supporters follow the regatta
the foundation began raising funds for cancer research, this is the first time one group has made such a large lump-sum contribution. It may also be the first contribution to go towards the foundation’s new “Gold for Kids” project which supports the most innovative pediatric oncology therapies and medical treatment available to children being cared for in hospitals throughout Italy.

The first place winners: Traghetto Molo/San Marco

The relationship between the Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, one of Italy’s most respected non-profit organizations, and the Gondoliers, the symbol of one of Italy’s most beloved cities, brings an exemplary initiative to life. A noble gesture that comes from the hearts of what I personally consider to be a noble group of people—a gesture that I hope might serve as an example for other associations, groups and individuals to follow.

Un grande grazie di cuore ai gondolieri di Venezia!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pharrell Williams' Happy has made it to Venice!

Italy to Los Angeles and Back 

thought this might bring a smile to all who love Venice! 

Pharrell Williams' Happy 

Danced to in Venice!

Thanks to:


Happy in Venice Video

Watch it here!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A glimpse of Carnevale Venice 2014

Masks-Carnevale 2014
Traghetto Molo, San Marco

Carnevale, for many who live in or around Venice, is a time when you either stay away from St. Mark's square and the crowds that fill the city's only piazza or you wait to view the marvelous costumes and masks on an 'off day'. 

This year the festivities officially opened on Sunday February 23rd with the traditional Volo dell’angelo or Flight of the Angel. It was reported that 105,000 people attended. I, intentionally, was not one of them.

A beautiful mask, Venice 2014
The origins of the Angel, interpreted in the 1500s by a Turkish acrobat and known then as the Svolo del Turco, now stars a selected damsel dressed in costume who, securely belted to a robust pulley, slowly descends from the ledge of the bell tower, over the crowd, and into the welcome arms of the honorary Doge awaiting her on stage at the far end of the square. Over the centuries the Flight of the Turk became known as the Flight of the Angel, until a tragic accident in the mid-1700s caused the human Angel to be replaced by a Colombina (dove) carved from wood. La Colombina remained the opening Carnevale attraction until recent years. In fact, the first few Volos I attended in the late 1980s, and if my memory is correct into the 1990s, were indeed la Colombina. Many Venetians still refer to the opening Carnevale ceremony as il Volo della Colombina. However, some years ago, thanks to modern day safety techniques, the more exciting descent of a ‘real’ Angelo has, once again, returned. 

Court Jester
However, as I stated, I stayed away and instead chose, as I've done for more years than I can remember, to take a walk through Venice's back alleyways on Monday, a quieter Carnevale day. Of course, I ended up in St. Mark's square-- which around our home is also known as my husband's office. 

While waiting for my dear husband to mettere la barca da notte (put the gondola away for the night), I snapped these photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 

My favorite this year.