Here Comes the Pope (again..)

November 2, 2011

In 2002, I wrote about the Pope John Paul II's sixth visit to Assisi - and my memory of a personal encounter (so-to-speak) during his 1976 visit. That note follows below. On October 27th, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit to Asisisi, called "citta' della pace" ever since the encounter of all the world's religious leaders here at invitation of John Paul II in 1986. This recent Papal visit commemorated the 25th anniversary of that most significant inter-faith meeting... read more...

The Joy of Cooking – Umbrian Cuisine, in the U.S.

October 21, 2011

As I look forward to my 2012 February/March coast-to-coast U.S tour, memories of my memorable 2011 tour flood in. No single event takes the stage. Each one was unique, each one was highlighted by an unforgettable moment (and laughter!) - and each one connected me with such a wide array of amazing people. read more...

Trevi’s October “Black” Celery Festival

October 19, 2011

Throughout October, the picturesque Umbrian hilltown of Trevi celebrates its renowned sedano nero ("black celery") in a month-long array of cultural events. Celery is justly celebrated in Trevi: after all, celery is a key ingredient in many Umbrian recipes (and one follows at the end!)... read more...

Remembering a Grape Harvest Past

October 14, 2011

Yesteday on my Rural LIfe Revisited tour, we tasted Peppa's mosto (grape juice on its way to becoming wine). Sipping Peppa's mosto brought back fond memories of our first (and last!) vendemmia (grape harvest) in 1975, the year we moved to the land here in Umbria. read more...

November in Umbria: Sweets, Saints and … Cemeteries

October 12, 2011

Yesterday when I visited Peppa, she was sitting on a bench outside of chicken coop, chopping walnuts open with a hammer. "Buonissime!", she said happily as she munched the nutmeats. Her walnuts are tasty this year and will be perfect in the pasta dolce she'll make for November 1st, All Saints' Day and November 2nd, All Souls' Day, two important feast days here in Italy. Here in Umbria, at the end of October the farmwomen start chopping the walnuts they have gathered in preparation for the traditional early November Umbrian sweet, la pasta dolce.... read more...

Assisi’s Glorious Day: Festa di San Francesco

September 13, 2011

San Francesco is not the patron saint of our Assisi: He is the patron saint of all Italy along with Catherine of Siena. Most Italians aren't practicing Catholics. Let's just call them "cultural Catholics". Example: ask an Italian, "Sei cattolico?" "Certo!" will be the answer. Then ask about last Mass attended. A likely reply: "a Natale" ("for Christmas"). Catholic or not, you don't mess with the name of San Francesco in this country. He is "Numero Uno" for the Italians. And Alessandro del Piero is only Numero Due (greatest Italian soccer player?)... read more...

Sirolo, Seaside Treasure of the Marches Region

September 11, 2011

"Center of the Adriatic, center of Italy, center of the heart," reads a brochure at the Sirolo Tourist Office. Sirolo certainly has a place in our hearts. When we have a free summer weekend, Pino and I often set out on his moto Guzzi heading through the mountainous Marche region to Sirolo, "la Riviera dell'Adriatico", as Italians call this rocky stretch of seacoast, just south of Ancona. read more...

The Colorful Sicilian Island, Ustica

September 2, 2011

More than anything, the island of Ustica evokes images of colors: bright intense colors, muted pastel colors. First of all the blues, the greens: The translucent acquamarine and emerald brilliance of the surrounding sea are highlighted by the black volcanic rock of this wondrous island, just off the northwestern coast of Sicily. Maritime pines, the pungent wild fennel, fig trees, date palms and caper vines crawling the lava-rock stone walls blend in varied shades of green. rear more...

Sicilian Thirst-Quencher: La Granita

August 30, 2011

Arab influences are strong in Sicily, from the architecture to the sweets, from the underground Arab acqueducts of Palermo to the granulated-ice dessert, la granita. The Arabs brought their sherbert to Sicily, an iced drink flavored with fruit juices or rosewater. In the Middle Ages, the nevaroli - "ice-gatherers" - had the important task of conserving the snow of Mt. Etna and other mountain ranges in stone depositories built over grottoes, natural ones and man-made ones. The nobility bought the mounds of ice during the sizzling summer months, mixing in the juice of the island's lemons with grated ice to make a perfect thirst-quencher - and thus the granita was born... 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...