La Befana: Ancient Roots, New Twists

January 13, 2011

La Befana viene di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte,Con le toppe alla sottana, viva, viva la Befana!" ("La Befana comes at night, her shoes all torn, her slip all patched...long live the Befana!"). Clutching her broom handle in front of her, an ugly old beneficent witch, La Befana, rides through the starry night sky on January 5th, sliding down chimneys to fill the shoes or the stockings of good Italian children with sweets, leaving coal (nowadays, made of sugar!) for naughty ones... 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...

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...

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...

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...

Here comes La Madonna!

December 7, 2010

No, Madonna is not arriving in Assisi but La Madonna is - or so the children believe.As darkness creeps in on December 7th vigil of the Feast of the Immacualte Conception on the 8th... read more...

MOSTRA/MERCATO or “Show-and-Sell”

November 30, 2010

Not "show and tell" but "show and sell" is the theme of the Italian mostra mercato. These markets - generally open-air - can feature just a handful of vendors or hundreds and anything on display can be bought - and in some cases, tasted. For us, no better way to warm up a chilly November night than at the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo near Valtopina... read more...