Naples: A Street-life Nativity

December 22, 2011

In a bustling narrow alleyway in downtown Naples, Neapolitan life and Naples' highest craft traditions merge. I can't imagine Christmas without a walk in Via San Gregorio Armeno, nor any visit to Naples without a stop here. The sacred and the profane blend in wondrous harmony in the Neapolitan creche tradition - and are alive on the streets. read more...

Spello Celebrates its Gold

December 6, 2011

Acclaimed "la citta' dell'olio", Spello celebrates its "liquid gold" with the Festa dell'olivo e Sagra della Bruschetta every year in early December. Its 50th anniversary edition transforms this medieval hilltown gem into a showplace of art and photography exhibits, open markets, traditional Umbrian song and dance performances, oilve-oil tasting events - and more! - the second weekend of December. The president of the local Pro Loco (small tourist board), Umberto Natale, says " This manifestazione is much-loved by our Spellani and is dedicated to the land, our traditions, and a cultivation which has been the livelihood for centuries for many our families. We have now become a reference point for the production of top extra-virgin olive oils. We owe this to the excellence of our producers." read more...

Bejeweled Baroque in Foligno

June 21, 2011

"The applause and affection of my fellow Folignati made up for the fatigue of wearing this stupendous gown," said Miss Italia, Francesca Testasecca from Foligno, (Umbria) after participating in the splendid Baroque evening pageantry of her city's festival, la Quintana. Culminating moment of the festivites is the jousting match the day after, rooted in the Roman history of the town, once called "Fulginium: the "Quintana" was the area of the Roman army camp, site of the the arduous training of the soldiers. Soldiers armed with swords or lances launched themselves at a target in the form of a soldier holding a ring, trying to run the sword through the ring, thus honing their accuracy... read more...

Bevagna’s Festival in June Heat: Passione

June 21, 2011

At the end of June, it's hot in Bevagna, medieval hilltown of Roman origins in the Valle Umbra Nord, Umbria's largest valley. Not exactly the ideal day for dressing in heavy woolen capes or jute or velvet gowns - or armor (!) - or for forging bronze bells, baking bread in a stone bread oven, minting coins, glass-blowing or tanning leather. Not even to be imagined: unless you are Bevignate. Months of work on their medieval festival, the Mercato delle Gaite, are coming to fruition now as the town relives its medieval culture and history...with passione. read more...

La Sagra: Something Sacred?

June 9, 2011

There certainly is something sacred about the sagra: a local village festival offering the best in local cuisine at minimal prices, top (and free!) dance band music outdoors til the wee hours and entertainment for all from pre-schoolers to the elderly. At some sagras, there are mini-soccer tournaments, others offer a performance of a local dancing school on one night, and others fill the food tent walls with artwork of the village school children. read more...

Calendimaggio: Assisi’s Glorious Celebration of Spring

May 5, 2011

Since time immemorial, man has heralded the arrival of spring with ritual and festivity. In Assisi, committees meet nightly for months to plan the annual traditional salute to spring, the Calendimaggio. The three-day festival - which lasts three days - is a re-evocation of the medieval celebration of Nature's rebirth and the initiation once again of the life cycle.
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Singing in May in Umbria…

April 26, 2011

Pino and I had been working the land here outside of Assisi for about eight months and collapsed into bed exhausted on April 30th (1975) - as we did most nights in those days! At around 2:00 am, we were awakened by robust, joyous male voices singing under our window, accompanied by rollicking accordian music and the jangling of a tamburine: our first introduction to the maggiaioli! ("May singers"). read more...

“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...

Spello’s Infiorate: Flowers of Passione

April 17, 2011

It all started on a late June Sunday in the early 1900's when an elderly woman from Spello (Umbria) scattered shredded bunches of brilliant yellow wild broom and mossy green wild fennel on the cobblestone street in front of her home. She had scrambled the slopes of Mt. Subasio, backdropping Spello, to pick the fragrant broom and pungent fennel for her floral "carpet" laid out to welcome the Communion Host venerated by Catholics as the true Body of Christ. It was carried through the streets by the bishop on the Feast of Corpus Domini... read more...

Bevagna: Passione for the Middle Ages

April 17, 2011

I often tell my tour guests that appreciating Italian passione is key to fully understanding the Italians. Passione is the underlying theme of all things Italian: from the elegant presentation of colorful gelati behind pristine glass to the artistic display of meats on butcher's shiny metal trays to the full involvement for months of all the townspeople in preparation for the many local festivals which bring alive Italy's culture and history. read more...