Gubbio’s Forty Modern-Day Martyrs

June 23, 2011

Every year on June 22nd in Gubbio, a solemn procession led by the bishop heads to the Mausoleo dei Quaranta Martiri to pay homage to the forty civilians shot by the Germans against a nearby wall in the early morning of June 22nd, 1944. The shooting of a German medical officer and the wounding of another by partisans had resulted in an immediate irate reaction: the rounding up of local civilians by the German occupying forces. read more...

Auguri, Italia!

June 6, 2011

No, Italians are not flag-fliers. A nationalistic sense of being Italian is missing. For an Italian, first reference point is the family. If you are Italian, identity point is the section of the town where you grew up (whether it be called quartiere, terziere, rione, or contrada). After all, most festivals are about competitions between town districts. read more...

Gubbio’s Glorious Mad May Race

May 12, 2011

Dramatically perched on a hill overlooking the ruins of its Roman theater, Gubbio seems suspended in the Middle Ages: time has stood still in this stunning medieval hilltown. But slumbering Gubbio erupts in frenetic euphoria on May 15th for the mad race, la Corsa dei Ceri... 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...

Frittata Flipping – and other Joys

January 31, 2011

February 4th is just around the corner: D-day for me: "Departure Day". My U.S. cooking lessons/lectures tour starts in Los Angeles again this year - and then I'll be cooking in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Phoenix. Houston follows.....and then on to the Midwest (Chicago). I'll lecture at MIT in Boston - and also cook in the area. I'll have a Connecticutu stop - and my 2011 our winds up in Washington, D.C... 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...

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...

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...

Sublime Music, Sublime Space

January 4, 2011

In front of the majestic 13th-c. Basilica di San Francesco, the life-size crèche figures in medieval garb (in harmony with medieval Assisi), set the Christmas theme for visitors about to enter this wondrous church. "No more exquisite monument to the Lord has yet been built", wrote a thirteenth-century historian of the Basilica di San Francesco. What's changed? read more...

‘Open House’ at Umbria’s Olive Oil Mills

November 5, 2010

Umbria, called "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains of our region and the silver-green of the olive trees which cover our hills. The superb olive oils of Umbria (and particulary those of the Assisi/Spello area) - considered the best in the world by Alain Ducasse, famed French chef - are celebrated in the Frantoi Aperti (best translated "Open House at the Olive Oil Mills") festival from the end of October to early December... read more...