Spello’s Treasure

April 16, 2013

Built in local pink limestone like Assisi, medieval hilltown gem Spello wins over any visitor with its flowering backstreets, Roman remnants,medieval churches, stunning Renaissance frescoes and one of Italy's top wine cellars . But don't leave Spello until you've found Brother Paul. read more...

Peppa Knows Her Chicory!

November 19, 2012

La cicoria d'autunno is not the most tender, Peppa explained to me as we gathered wild chicory today in our field up behind the donkey pen. "Quella di maggio e' la migliore", she affirmed as she cut the roots off a chicory bunch. In the years we worked the land, la cicoria became a main staple for us as I mimicked my farmwomen neighbors in everything, learning from them, loving the snips of wisdom which came along with the snipping of wild greens out on the fields together in the afternoon. read more...

Still Owing an Ode to Alessandro

July 27, 2012

July 26th isn't my birthday but farm friends will be calling in any case to wish me "auguri, Anna" on my onomastico (name day): July 26th is the Festa di Sant'Anna, the mother of the Blessed Virgin and one of Italy's most venerated saints with over sixty churches dedicated to her throughout the peninsula. Due to diffuse infant mortality in the Middle Ages, devotion to Sant'Anna reached its peak and she became not only the saint of pregnant women but was also invoked by sterile women and nursing mothers (as mother's milk was linked to infant survival). read more...

Peppe, a Last Link to Treasured Rural Memories

July 18, 2012

"Giugno, la falce in pugno" ("June, the scythe in the fist"), says an old Italian proverb, re-echoing the days of scything hay manually. Times have changed: at Peppe and Gentile's farm two weeks ago, fifteen hundred bales of hay in the hayshed - with fifteen hundred to go, Peppe told me. He's haying all alone - his tractor, his only companion. With this heat, he's out in the fields before daylight. Amazingly, he's back on the tractor after a short post-lunch pennichella ("nap"). It's now July so the hay is in: time for the wheat, oats, barley. When we farmed in the late 70's, haying was a group venture, all of us rotating from farm to farm throughout June, til everyone's hay was in. There was some mechanization but in our hilly area, the smaller hand scythe, la falce, and the ominous looking grim-reaper type scythe, la falce fienaia (literally, "hay scythe") were used to cut that hay along ditches, on hillsides, and around trees which escaped the motorized falciatrice. read more...

Assisi Floral Passione, Spanning the Ages

June 14, 2012

Passione takes hold of one early in Italy: passione for good food, for soccer, for the frescoes in your town church, for music, for one's village festival - and even for flowers. Flowers of all colors, picked in the fields, on thorny bushes, in your grandmother's garden, way up in the mountains off a twisty, dusty dirt road. Young children pick after a hot sweaty hike with a grandmother, teens zip along country roads on their motorbikes in search of specific flowers, specific colors and elderly Gina picks them as she scrambles like a goat up a rocky mountain path with walking stick in hand and cloth bag on her back. Everyone brings the flowers back into Assisi and then gather at night in the old medieval cellars to de-petal the blooms, grinding some, shredding others, drying or chilling as needed to enhance color, preserve the perfume. read more...

Sant’Antonio e il Malocchio

January 19, 2012

Our beloved San Francesco di Assisi might be revered as the patron saint of animals in other countries but certainly not here in Italy: Sant'Antonio Abate, 4th-century hermit saint who lived in the Egyptian desert with just a piglet for a companion, is the protector of Italy's animals. On his feast day, January 17th, animal-lovers gather at a designated church - cats in arms, dogs on leashes, turtles in boxes, canaries in cages, sheep harnessed, horses bridled - to have their animals blessed... read more...

Il Calendario di Sale

January 9, 2012

Onions and salt to predict the weather in the New Year? Over our years on the land, I've learned how farm women can take off il malocchio, how St. Anthony's image in a stall will keep the animals healthy, how a cross made of woven reeds can protect the crops in the field and that you never shake out a tablecloth nor throw out the crumbs swept off the floor after the Ave Maria (ie, after 6 pm) - and now I've learned how to predict the coming year's weather with onions and salt. read more...

Umbrian Hilltown tours of “Auntie Annie”

December 10, 2011

Our final tour together, the Rural Life Revisited tour, might have been the highlight of the Italy stay of this San Diego family. Chiarina won over little Van when she made us bruschetta with the olio novello. Kathleen and Jon enjoyed tasting the family's wine. When farm friend Gentile asked Aeriel to stay and live with her, Aeriel asked her mother, Kathleen, if she could say "SI"... read more...

Il Nonno di Ustica

August 29, 2011

"A blood relative or not, he's my relative. Pasquale's everybody's relative: he's "il nonno di Ustica." Nonno Pasquale's blue eyes - the same color as Ustica's sea - twinkle at friend Gaetano's affectionate words. A smile spreads ear-to-ear across his gentle face, pink cheeks still smooth with only a suggestion of wrinkles. Pasquale Palmisano will be a hundred next May. read more...

Our New Italians

August 13, 2011

Italians relax under umbrellas on sandy Adriatic beaches in the hot summer months. Under blistering sun, Moroccans, Tunisians, Indians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Senegalese, Bangladeshi - to name a few of the immigrant vendors - trudge for hours in the sand, toting their wares, hoping to make a sale. read more...