WHO: Australian Carla Coulson left her corporate job and Sydney life to start a new life in Europe as a photographer. In her first book, Italian Joy, she describes the joys and hardships of her first five years, spent living in Florence.
WHAT: More than a decade after Italian Joy was published, it has been reprinted into a soft cover version ($A39.99, published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books) which is small enough to tuck into your bag for a delicious read while travelling. The quality of the pictures isn’t compromised in the smaller format. Her passionate anecdotes and observations are timeless.
There’s lots of useful travel tips about discovering real life Italy away from the obvious tourist attractions.
Where to find a great caffe macchiato in Florence, a pensione without a hitch and the best linguine con cozze in Positano.
While Carla’s professional life has been blessed, she’s recently undergone some serious health issues which have changed her life and what she eats now when visiting Italy.
Q&A with Carla
You’ve shared the health challenges of having Graves Disease, Alopecia Areata and Lichen Sclerosous with your blog readers. Does this affect where you travel? What Italian food is now on and off your menu?
I shared my health challenges with blog readers because I was amazed at how changing my diet saved me from a life time of medication and declining health and wanted to alert others to this. The shifts seemed big at the beginning but the benefits have been so incredible they actually feel small now.
I have been gluten free for over a year so I guess that wipes out lots of things on the Italian menu, but also in many cultures, and I don’t eat any processed foods. The bonus of being gluten free is that you can’t be lazy and just grab anything to eat. I now use all sorts of flours such as chestnut, almond meal, coconut flour and sarrasin and prepare most of my meals.
My diet is rich in fruit and vegetables and taking away gluten showed me how little fruit and vege I was actually eating.
Last year in Greece I found it easy to eat, as there are so many vegetable dishes on the menu and always fresh fish or meat. Italy is the same. Once you get past the pasta there are so many wonderful contorni and antipasti it isn’t a problem.
Travel books date. How do you stay relevant?
Italian Joy is a story that in a funny way has no use-by-date. It’s a story that is as relevant today as when it was written and photographed about finding our way in life and following our passion. Of course, my love of Italy is a big part of the story and re-discovering the joy in the simple things in life. I like to think I stay relevant with the books I do by tackling subjects that have no era and not producing guides which date very quickly.
Have your views on Italy changed?
Not really. I still get that feeling of love rush when I am ready to depart for Italy. The same joy and wonder that I found in daily life when I lived in Italy still arises on every trip. For me their is beauty on every street corner, in the language, the architecture and the minds and hearts of the people. Italy will always hold a big place in my heart.
Mediterranean cultures embrace strangers and make them part of the family. This is echoed throughout your book. Does that openness make these countries easier places to settle in?
Yes. I love Italy but also adore going on holidays to Greece every year and I feel just at home in Greece. The Mediterranean people are famous for their hospitality and often it is simple generosity through food and friendship that makes us feel so welcomed.
There was never a day in Italy when I lived there that I didn’t feel welcome. I often was astounded at how much time and patience people had with me. I think the giving of time was one of the big stand outs for me and it seems to be present in all Mediterranean cultures and this makes you feel welcome.
I think making travel photography relevant now is about trying to go deeper into a culture and capture something that doesn’t scream of a stock photo. When I started shooting in Italy at the beginning of my photography journey I just went after the things I truly loved, they were mostly centred around people and their emotions. I see photographers doing a brilliant job when they bring their unique eye to their images and create something that makes you think wow.
It’s easy for all of us to take photos with good cameras now but the truly great photos move us, touch us and transport us to that place.
It’s not about the camera, it’s about the eye and the heart. Making money is another story. Travel has always been one of the challenging photographic areas to make money and as the world moves and changes the challenges continue. I have always done it firstly for love.
Leave a comment, flick me a Tweet @TravelTaster or a comment on Taste for Travel’s Facebook page. You know the drill. In two weeks’ time I’ll throw all the names into the battered sunhat and pick one at random. Open to residents of Australia.
Update: Congrats to Stelle Watts of the ACT, who left a comment on my Facebook page. You’ve won Italian Joy and it’s winging its way to you right now.
More about Carla: In 2004, she moved to Paris with her partner, Francesco. In 2008 she published Paris Tango. Chasing a Dream, a collection of Carla’s photographs and stories, was published in 2011. Naples: A Way of Love with Lisa Clifford was published in 2013. Carla’s blog: Carla Loves Photography. Her images have been published in many magazines including Marie Claire, and Australian Gourmet Traveller.
*Images courtesy of Lantern Books and Carla Coulson.