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...

Tuscan Treasures in Winter Hibernation

January 27, 2011

The hilltowns of central Italy - Tuscany, Umbria - slumber in winter hibernation: no tourists at all and not many "locals" affront icy winds blowing through the twisting medieval backstreets. In the tinier towns - like Chiusdino (population 2000) in the province of Siena - the Tourist Office is tightly sealed up, the trattoria is closed for the season - and in the main piazza, you might - or might not - meet "solo quattro gatti", as the Italians say. In Chiusdino yesterday, we didn't even see "four cats" in the piazza, just a couple hardy souls, heads down, affronting the chill and one brave woman washing her mop at the local fountain. The local elderly men were of course in the one open café, playing cards. Hanging wash fluttered in the wind and gave touches of color to the gray stone and weathered brick buildings. Outside some doors, small piles of logs lay ready for woodstoves... 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...

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...

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...

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...

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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