Umbria’s Sacred June Rites

June 13, 2011

It will soon be time to gather the wildflowers, weeds, grasses and leaves for the wondrous rural concoction, l'acqua di San Giovanni. After all, no morning wash is more glorious than that of Umbria's rural people in the early morning of June 24th. On June 23rd at sunset, vigil of the Festa di San Giovanni Battista, the farmwomen head out into the fields with baskets or bags to gather the cento erbe (literally,"one hundred greens or plants", though flowers as well as plants are picked). The flowers and plants will then be soaked all night in a basin - outdoors. The flower-filled basins of water must never enter the home. read more...

Novella’s Last Wild Asparagus

May 23, 2011

Farmwoman Novella had a couple tempting bunches of wild asparagus at her vegetable box (to call it a "stand" would be an exaggeration) in the Assisi "piazzetta" the other morning. I stopped by early to chat with Novella and husband Bruno as they unloaded their 3-wheeled Ape ("bumble bee", literally, but maybe best described as a "scooter truck") and set up their farm abundance for morning sale. read more...

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...

Blessed Easter Abundance in Umbria

April 18, 2011

Driving through the Umbrian countryside during the week prior to Easter, you'd note whiffs of smoke drifting up from the outdoor stone bread ovens fired up by the farmwomen. Holy Week for the Umbrian farmwomen is a busy one, an exhausting one: making the torta di Pasqua ("Easter cake") or pizza pasquale, as it is often called, in the stone bread ovens is a major task. The traditional Easter "cake" or "pizza" is a raised cheese bread, make of eggs, flour, olive oil, salt, pepper and three kinds of cheeses: parmigiano, pecorino and groviera... read more...

Treasured Gifts: Rural Life, Rural Friends

April 18, 2011

I've been writing for quite some time about our life on the land here in Umbria - and our rural friends, "givers of the greatest gifts". I started sharing the memories long before I launched the blog. Our farm neighbors remain our dearest friends... over the years, each has given us treasured gifts... read more...

Revered Rural Rite: La Veglia

April 4, 2011

For Roosevelt, a "fireside chat" denoted intimate dialogue with the people. The fireside chat - called "veglia" ("vigil") - was always an intimate moment of life in central Italy's rural culture. I miss those years of the "andare alla veglia" ("going to keep the vigil") at our neighbors' farmhouses on winter evenings, where so much rural lore and rural wisdom was passionately shared by our farm friends around the fireplace. read more...

“In vino veritas?” …Maybe

February 20, 2011

Wine and its sharp-tongued sister, vinegar, are certainly sacred in rural culture, if not harbingers of truth. Our wise farm friend, Peppa, told me that when her family farmed, weak baby chicks were strengthened by wine... read more...

La Polentata: Cornmeal Communion

January 25, 2011

Breaking of bread together denotes communion, sharing, in Judaic and Christian traditions. In Italian tradition, the most communal food is certainly polenta, when spread out on a wooden board (lo spianatoio, literally "the spreader") down the center of a long table, diners on both sides scooping up the polenta with big spoons. A meal of just polenta, la polentata - best savored with a robust red wine... read more...

Our Farm Friends: Givers of the Greatest Gifts

December 15, 2010

After living the rural life with them for over thirty-five years, I am still learning from our farm neighbors. Over the years, each has given us treasured gifts. The gifts keep coming. Here are some of the people who taught us about the land. Some are still alive. Others are gone. Each has given us the greatest of all gifts: of themselves, fully. read more...