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...

Orvieto Trumpets in the New Year

January 12, 2011

n the mid-thirteenth century, Franciscans shared meagre fare in contemplative silence here in the refectory, attached to their 13th-century San Francesco church. In this once-sacred space - now called the "Ristorante San Francesco" - the jubilant Italians Italians rock out to blues, soul and jazz rhythms as Umbria Jazz Winter blasts in the New Year in Orvieto. I thought about those Franciscans as we joined in the Ristorante San Francesco Jazz Dinner a couple of nights ago, singing along with Italian guests (mostly) to "Respect" sung by Chicago blues singer Chick Rodgers, (who dedicated this song to Aretha Frankln)... read more...

Passione  in Umbria’s May Festivals

December 15, 2010

If you truly wish to experience Italian passione, join "the locals" for their May festivals. Work goes on all winter in Assisi for the town's medieval welcome to spring in early May, the Calendimaggio. In an explosion of color, excitement, and astounding creativity, the Assisani celebrate spring with three days of medieval dance, street theater... 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...

MOSTRA/MERCATO or “Show-and-Sell”

November 30, 2010

Not "show and tell" but "show and sell" is the theme of the Italian mostra mercato. These markets - generally open-air - can feature just a handful of vendors or hundreds and anything on display can be bought - and in some cases, tasted. For us, no better way to warm up a chilly November night than at the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo near Valtopina... read more...

Truffles Reign Triumphant

November 24, 2010

The truffle has always been the richest and most refined element of Mediterranean cuisine. Certainly not desired for its beauty - it resembles a measily rotten potato - the truffle grows underground, like the potato, far from light and air, taking its nourishment, like other mushrooms, from the forest undergrowth. read more...

Passione in the Italian DNA

October 18, 2010

Passione is in the Italian DNA: Each has it. No one can fight it (and why do so anyway?) Passione for his craft is in the heart of the gelataio as he arranges his ice cream flavors in sumptuous mountains in a beauty pageant display of creamy colors - and flavors. You can feel the passione of the townspeople of Bevagna for their medieval history as they prepare months ahead for their late June festival, the Mercato delle Gaite.
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