Perugia …and all that Jazz!

July 14, 2011

Since 1973, In mid-July the rhythms of jazz, R&B, soul, Gospel, swing, Latino, zydeco, bebop, tango, blues, samba - to mention a few - fill frescoed Perugia theaters, reverberate off the walls of its stately medieval city hall and wrap around the Gothic sculptural masterpiece, the 13th-c fountain, in the main piazza. Yes, things are cooking in Perugia this week giving the city the redoubtable honor of being the hottest city in Italy - but Herbie Hancock, Santana, Prince, Liza Minelli, Gilberto Gil, B.B. King and countless other top musicians - are doing the cookin'...and the rockin' fans filling the piazzas and streets are feeling a different kind of heat... read more...

Goat Cheese-making in the Mugello

July 13, 2011

The Moto Gran Premio draws motorcycle buffs - and not only - from all over the world each year to the glorious Mugello valley in northern Tuscany. One of them is my husband Pino who heads here each year on his moto Guzzi. For the second time, I joined him - and quite literally, only "went along for the ride": the three-hour ride from Assisi into Tuscany and on to the rolling wooded hills of the Mugello. It's not just the glorious, serene Mugello valley: Casa Passerini (where we stayed for two nights) and the hospitable owners, the Manetti family, draw me back, too. While Pino was at the track on Sunday, cheering on Valentino Rossi (uselessly, this time), I was in the kitchen of Casa Passerini hearing Gianna's stories as she coaxed 8 litres of goat's milk into a wondrous caprino cheese... read more...

Bolsena’s Many Treasures

July 13, 2011

Bolsena's many treasures keep luring us back to this Latium lakeside town: the imposing fifteenth century gray tufo rock castle of the Monaldeschi (powerful Orvieto family) towering over the medieval town and the deep peaceful lake below, filling up a volcanic crater, are primary draws. The clean waters of Lake Bolsena refresh on hot days and yield pike, perch, black bass and whitefish to enhance the tasty pasta dishes of the trattorie along the shores and in the village. read more...

Bolsena’s July Living Tableaux

July 13, 2011

Certamente, the brutality of the martyrdom of Bolsena's Santa Cristina in the fourth century contrasts dramatically with the serene bucolic beauty of the Lake Bolsena area. The fifth century text of the Saint's Passio kept alive the story of her martyrdom, metamorphosing into a medieval miracle play. In the sixteenth century, the multiple episodes of her martyrdom became the beloved Misteri di Santa Cristina, ten tableaux acted out each year on her feast day, July 24th, by the Bolsenesi... read more...

Self-Exile on a Mediterranean Island

July 11, 2011

Augustus Caesar banished his libertine daughter, Giulia to Ventotene, tiny Mediterranean island just south of Rome and north of Naples. The exiled Giulia might not have relished the peace and natural beauty of Ventotene but today the island (1 km long and 700 m. wide) attracts those who seek a sort of "self-exile": a move out of the fast lane into a world of all things "slow", from the island food to the idle pace of Ventotene life... read more...

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...

Bejeweled Baroque in Foligno

June 21, 2011

"The applause and affection of my fellow Folignati made up for the fatigue of wearing this stupendous gown," said Miss Italia, Francesca Testasecca from Foligno, (Umbria) after participating in the splendid Baroque evening pageantry of her city's festival, la Quintana. Culminating moment of the festivites is the jousting match the day after, rooted in the Roman history of the town, once called "Fulginium: the "Quintana" was the area of the Roman army camp, site of the the arduous training of the soldiers. Soldiers armed with swords or lances launched themselves at a target in the form of a soldier holding a ring, trying to run the sword through the ring, thus honing their accuracy... read more...

Bevagna’s Festival in June Heat: Passione

June 21, 2011

At the end of June, it's hot in Bevagna, medieval hilltown of Roman origins in the Valle Umbra Nord, Umbria's largest valley. Not exactly the ideal day for dressing in heavy woolen capes or jute or velvet gowns - or armor (!) - or for forging bronze bells, baking bread in a stone bread oven, minting coins, glass-blowing or tanning leather. Not even to be imagined: unless you are Bevignate. Months of work on their medieval festival, the Mercato delle Gaite, are coming to fruition now as the town relives its medieval culture and history...with passione. read more...

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...

La Scarzuola:  From St. Francis to Savador Dali

June 10, 2011

A recent visit to La Scarzuola, in northern Umbria - where our region almost merges with Tuscany - plopped me right into a surreal world of Dali-Miro'-Escher-Fellini-like bizzarities. The name "Scarzuola" derives from a marsh plant of the area, "la scarza", used by San Francesco di Assisi, legend tells us, to build himself a shelter here in the early 13th century. read more...