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...

Lest we forget: January 27th, Giorno della Memoria

January 27, 2011

I know where I will be at 9 pm on January 27th: in the city hall of Assisi where young local musicians and actors will perform readings of Primo Levi (his If This be a Man is one of the most compelling books I have ever read.) Brilliant scientist, Primo Levi was one of the few Italians who made it back from Auschwitz (liberated on January 27, 1945). Il Giorno della Memoria as a day of tribute to Shoah victims - "and to diffuse reciprocal respect for the diversities of cultures and religions, denying every type of racism and antisemitism" - became law in Italy in 2000... 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...

The Crèche is Alive (Literally!) in Umbria

December 15, 2010

The crib scene originated in Assisi with St. Francis who was the first to create a "living manger scene". In 1223 (3 years before his death), Francesco decided to celebrate the memory of the birth of Christ at Greccio (south of Assisi, in northern Latium). He had a straw-filled crib prepared, with ox and ass nearby. His frati minori ("little brothers" - to be called "Franciscans" one day) were all invited and the people came in crowds. read more...

Mediterranean Diet: from Art to the Table

December 13, 2010

What do the Acropolis, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, the Old City of Havana, Dubrovnik, the Great Barrier Reef , Yellowstone Park- and pasta, tomatoes and olive oil have in common? They've all been cited by UNESCO as world heritage treasures. The places named are World Heritage sites, but there is another part of the World Heritage list that is less-known. It is called the "intangibles" and includes cultural traditions such as dance, song, textile weaving traditions, religious processions, and festivals. Italy's two "intangibles", Sardinian pastoral songs and the Sicilian marionette theater are now flanked by another one: the Mediterranean diet. Requested by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, UNESCO recently declared the Mediterranean "intangible cultural heritage" due to the important role it plays for health. read more...

Need for Naples

November 30, 2010

Si! Naples has its woes. All the world knows about them. Naples has its treasures - and not all are known. Whenever I have a couple of free days from my tour work here in Umbria, Naples is often first choice for a jaunt with my frequent traveling companion, Roman friend, Silvana. We hadn't been to Naples in two years - and I was feeling the first symptoms of "Naples withdrawal"... 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...