One early C20th British writer & artist that I have always wanted to step into the shoes of is Estella Canziani, who visited Abruzzo in the summer of 1914 and bound her incredible impressions of the region in her book Through the Apennines and the lands of the Abruzzi: landscape and peasant life. One golden day I have promised I will treat myself to a first edition, currently in excess of $350+ on ABE!
In this day & age of innumerable online resources to aid our global wanderings, I am constantly amazed at Estella Canziani’s journey, deep into the mountains, winding up into small hilltop towns and onto Campo Imperatore. She joined the British Folklore Society in 1910 which no doubt piqued her curiosity and inspired her quest to “record legends and traditions before they died.” Even though she was with her Italian father on this trip to Abruzzo, in a region where dialect is still strong, you wonder how did they manage to travel and paint in the heat that can engulf late May through to ferragosto.
Like so many people today she was taken in by locals, who still remain famous for their hospitality and kindness. It was never regarded as an imposition, a mind-set that even hunger, poverty, the horror of two World Wars and the social transformation brought about by a new digital age have still managed to thankfully leave unchanged.
Every time I re-read these words that she wrote it perfectly encapsulates how I feel, ensconced here in our little village, though obviously no longer peopled by peasants…
“The modern world was a far-away dream, and my thoughts dwelt on our present mediaeval surroundings, the amethyst hills, and the crimson sunset, and these simple peasants whose confidence we had gained and who were now our friends. Outside in the moonlight was the distant range of mountains, the faint whisper of the night breeze in the stone-pines, and beyond?”
A romanticised perspective perhaps, wilfully evading the wearying reality of Italian bureaucracy on daily life, but we can all shrug that off for a time when looking at dancing fireflies.
The Roman photographer Giorgio Marcoaldi and ever-so-lovely anthropologist Annunziata Taraschi, who was kind enough to lend us recipes from her highly recommended recipe book L’antica cucina teramana. Segreti, ricette, piatti della tradizione Contadina, have got together to step into Estella’s georgic footsteps and revisit her watercolours via photography in a new hardcover book Un Viaggio nel tempo Abruzzo.
View a slideshow of the book
This photographic journal over the last 20 years reflects on the natural and anthropological heritage of the Apennines that Estella conveyed nearly 100 years ago. Giorgio visits many of the landscapes she captured, using the exact angle, horizon and light in over 100 shots in his book. He meets contemporary examples of many of the traditional artisans that she described; how strange it is to view those when you have visited their studios. Annunziata dresses those who model in the footsteps of perhaps their great great grandparents as shepherds, mothers, grandmothers, widows and children. As Annunziata says “not only do these images evoke the past but offer solutions that still apply today, showing us a new line of civil progression”.
The translation would have benefited possibly from a good once-over by an proof-reader whose first language was English, and perhaps leaving some of Estella’s English language texts & captions as they were without translating them twice, but the book is stunning and engaging, and would make the perfect companion to that elusive true first edition…
The book was launched with a small exhibition at perhaps Abruzzo’s smallest but most intriguing museum, the Museo delle Genti d’Abruzzo.
For those fascinated by the beautiful jewellery, charms and amulets against the evil eye that are worn across the region, and described wonderfully by Estella, it’s definitely worth making a visit to the museum, particularly as you can cross-reference with the examples on display there. The exhibited archive of photos also includes images of children still wearing these heavily superstitious protectors against all manner of evil, from the 1950s.
16 June – 20 July 2013, Museo delle Genti d’Abruzzo, Pescara
10 August – 1 September 2013 Calascio (Aq)
17 August 7-8 September 2013 Castel del Monte (Aq)
The book is available to buy for €20 plus shipping from CEMultimedia Edizioni di Roma
FREE PRIZE DRAW
Win Un Viaggio nel tempo Abruzzo
To enter our free prize draw for an opportunity to win a free copy of ‘Un Viaggio nel tempo Abruzzo’, available to be shipped internationally, simply fill in your details on the form below. The winner will be drawn 8th July 2013.