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...

La Polentata: Cornmeal Communion

January 25, 2011

Breaking of bread together denotes communion, sharing, in Judaic and Christian traditions. In Italian tradition, the most communal food is certainly polenta, when spread out on a wooden board (lo spianatoio, literally "the spreader") down the center of a long table, diners on both sides scooping up the polenta with big spoons. A meal of just polenta, la polentata - best savored with a robust red wine... read more...

Lecturing at MIT on March 11, 2011!

January 19, 2011

Plans have just been finalized for me to lecture at Boston's MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Needless to say I am very honored to be asked and excited at the idea of lecturing at such a prestigious venue. My lecture will be "The Italians - HANDS ON!". read more...

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...