“Planting May” in Umbria

April 26, 2011

On the vigil of May 1st, a small Umbrian hilltown not far from Gubbio, San Pellegrino, celebrates a curious May ritual grounded in Christian tradition but celebrated with a decidedly pagan flair: la Festa di San Pellegrino. Culminating moment of the festival is the "piantarmaggio" ("the planting of May"). read more...

St. Anthony’s Fire, St. Anthony’s Blessings

January 25, 2011

"St. Anthony's fire" - tormenting (and yes, fiery!) skin flare (ie, shingles, herpes zoster) - is named after him. His image in Italian stalls protects the sheep, the oxen and all the farm animals. Pane benedetto ("blessed bread") is distributed on his feast day, January 17th, day of the blessing of the animals here in Italy - and he was Egyptian, not Italian! read more...

La Befana: Ancient Roots, New Twists

January 13, 2011

La Befana viene di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte,Con le toppe alla sottana, viva, viva la Befana!" ("La Befana comes at night, her shoes all torn, her slip all patched...long live the Befana!"). Clutching her broom handle in front of her, an ugly old beneficent witch, La Befana, rides through the starry night sky on January 5th, sliding down chimneys to fill the shoes or the stockings of good Italian children with sweets, leaving coal (nowadays, made of sugar!) for naughty ones... read more...

Here comes La Madonna!

December 7, 2010

No, Madonna is not arriving in Assisi but La Madonna is - or so the children believe.As darkness creeps in on December 7th vigil of the Feast of the Immacualte Conception on the 8th... read more...

Monteleone di Spoleto: Chariots, Chickpeas and…. Farro

November 16, 2010

Monteleone. The picturesque hilltown's name, "Mount of the Lion", denotes force, domination and greatness. The name might seem pretentious for this tiny mountaintop village in the Val Nerina area of Umbria, not far from Spoleto, nearly abandoned, with two cafés and one restaurant But the sixth-century B.C.gilded bronze biga (chariot) - unearthed here in 1902 - and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - "was certainly owned by someone powerful," local "chariot expert", Roberto told us proudly. The chariot - of possible Etruscan workmanship - embodies a glorious past. read more...

‘Open House’ at Umbria’s Olive Oil Mills

November 5, 2010

Umbria, called "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains of our region and the silver-green of the olive trees which cover our hills. The superb olive oils of Umbria (and particulary those of the Assisi/Spello area) - considered the best in the world by Alain Ducasse, famed French chef - are celebrated in the Frantoi Aperti (best translated "Open House at the Olive Oil Mills") festival from the end of October to early December... read more...