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...

In Città  di Castello, Magnificent Tubers Entice

November 11, 2011

In early November, white truffles star at the 32nd edition of la Mostra-Mercato del Tartufo Bianco in Citta' di Castello in the Upper Tiber Valley. But not only the prized white truffle, Tuber Magnatum Pico: all the many flavors of Umbrian fall goodness team with traditional culinary wisdom in this weekend dedicated to educating the taste buds and the mind through a kaleidoscope of conferences, cooking competitions, theatrical presentations and food tastings. read more...

Elegant Turin, Bracing Against the Floods

November 7, 2011

As the Genovesi and the people of the Cinque Terre mourn their dead and shovel out the mud, the Torinesi keep a watchful eye on the Po, il Grande fiume, up 4.5 meters yesterday and swelling 10 to 15 cm an hour. They know their river - and that ravaging weather can turn it into "un padre ubriacone e malignazzo" ("a big old drunk and malicious father"). The mayor of Turin has ordered all schools closed and advised the locals to stay indoors. read more...

Here Comes the Pope (again..)

November 2, 2011

In 2002, I wrote about the Pope John Paul II's sixth visit to Assisi - and my memory of a personal encounter (so-to-speak) during his 1976 visit. That note follows below. On October 27th, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to Asisisi, called "citta' della pace" ever since the encounter of all the world's religious leaders here at invitation of John Paul II in 1986. This recent Papal visit commemorated the 25th anniversary of that most significant inter-faith meeting... read more...

Our New Italians

August 13, 2011

Italians relax under umbrellas on sandy Adriatic beaches in the hot summer months. Under blistering sun, Moroccans, Tunisians, Indians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Senegalese, Bangladeshi - to name a few of the immigrant vendors - trudge for hours in the sand, toting their wares, hoping to make a sale. read more...

May 9th: Remembering an Anti-Mafia Hero

May 9, 2011

Pino and I will head to the meeting tonight (May 9th) in Assisi in memory of courageous young Sicilian Peppino Impastato, eliminated by the Mafia on May 9th, 1978 for his outspoken criticisms of Mafia crime via the Radio Aut he started (his brilliant broadcasts were often full of irony and cutting humor) in his small hometown of Cinisi, not far from Palermo. read more...