The Island of Lampedusa: a Refuge

September 11, 2013

The island of Lampedusa, southern-most point in Europe, is where Africa meets Europe,  where the West picks up subtle influences of the Middle East.   Closer to Africa (just over one-hundred-fifty kilometers from Tunis) than to Sicily (two hundred kilometers to the north), Arab and Christian sailors crossed paths on this island for centuries, praying to their own gods in adjacent grottoes.   Near those grottoes today is the Santuario della Madonna del Porto Salvo (Sanctuary of the Madonna of Safe Haven) where the lampedusani often stop in to a whisper a prayer to their venerated Madonna,  after reverently touching her cloak. read more...

Good Friday in Assisi: Ancient Traditions Live On

March 31, 2012

Countless religious customs - and innumerable processions in particular - are rooted in medieval street theater. The Holy Thursday and Good Friday of Assisi traditions are living examples. On Holy Thursday night in the 12th-century San Rufino cathedral, the crucified Christ image is detached from His Cross in the ceremony of the scavigliazione (best translated literally: "un-nailing") and laid on a wine-colored funeral bier, covered with a gold-fringed burgundy canopy. From the Middle Ages, crucifixes with removable Cristo Morto images were common and were made specifically for the religious processions which were really a transformation of popular street theater, often acted out in the piazzas and on church thresholds as a way to teach the common people ecclesiastic truths. A living liturgy. read more...

Onna, Abruzzo Wounded

February 6, 2012

When we opened the shutters, the view of the majestic snow-capped Gran Sasso ("big rock" and it IS) unmistakably defined our location: Abruzzo. After breakfast, we headed to the new Comune (L'Aquila's old city hall and most of the centro storico were destroyed in the 2009 earthquake) where Pino had to present a proposal for seismic restoration. I waited across the street at a new cafe' - with modern minimalist lines - and talked Aquilani, stopping there for an espresso before or after one of their innumerable visits (over the past years) to the Comune. Most are still in pre-fab housing and almost nothing of the centro storico has been restored. Only those with houses (now in ruins or leveled) can enter the city center and no car traffic is permitted. Read More

Gubbio’s Guinness Record Lights the Mountain

December 6, 2011

Who could ever imagine that a quiet medieval Umbrian hilltown- not even on the railroad line - would merit a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Gubbio did it with Albero di Natale più grande del mondo. Between 7 and 8 pm on December 7th - vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - thousands of excited Eugubini gather in Gubbio's piazzas, eyes on Mount Ingino backdropping the town, as the lights are lit on the World's Largest Christmas Tree (Guinness World Records, 1991). Read more...