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...

Umbria’s Last Castle-village?

August 10, 2011

Maybe not the last of the many castle-villages in Umbria, but certainly one of the most picturesque, pink limestone gem, Collepino, slumbers on a mountainside above Spello in almost monastic quiet. Befitting: Collepino has an ancient link to a monastery, for medieval Collepino was once a defensive stronghold, protecting a nearby eleventh-century Benedictine abbey, San Silvestero.. Embrasures in the outer walls - slit-like openings for the shooting of crossbows - and the crumbling remnants of a medieval guard tower give testament to a bellicose era. 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...

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...

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...

Auguri, Italia!

June 6, 2011

No, Italians are not flag-fliers. A nationalistic sense of being Italian is missing. For an Italian, first reference point is the family. If you are Italian, identity point is the section of the town where you grew up (whether it be called quartiere, terziere, rione, or contrada). After all, most festivals are about competitions between town districts. read more...

May 9th: Remembering an Anti-Mafia Hero

May 9, 2011

Pino and I will head to the meeting tonight (May 9th) in Assisi in memory of courageous young Sicilian Peppino Impastato, eliminated by the Mafia on May 9th, 1978 for his outspoken criticisms of Mafia crime via the Radio Aut he started (his brilliant broadcasts were often full of irony and cutting humor) in his small hometown of Cinisi, not far from Palermo. read more...

Calendimaggio: Assisi’s Glorious Celebration of Spring

May 5, 2011

Since time immemorial, man has heralded the arrival of spring with ritual and festivity. In Assisi, committees meet nightly for months to plan the annual traditional salute to spring, the Calendimaggio. The three-day festival - which lasts three days - is a re-evocation of the medieval celebration of Nature's rebirth and the initiation once again of the life cycle.
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Bevagna: Passione for the Middle Ages

April 17, 2011

I often tell my tour guests that appreciating Italian passione is key to fully understanding the Italians. Passione is the underlying theme of all things Italian: from the elegant presentation of colorful gelati behind pristine glass to the artistic display of meats on butcher's shiny metal trays to the full involvement for months of all the townspeople in preparation for the many local festivals which bring alive Italy's culture and history. read more...

Lest we forget: January 27th, Giorno della Memoria

January 27, 2011

I know where I will be at 9 pm on January 27th: in the city hall of Assisi where young local musicians and actors will perform readings of Primo Levi (his If This be a Man is one of the most compelling books I have ever read.) Brilliant scientist, Primo Levi was one of the few Italians who made it back from Auschwitz (liberated on January 27, 1945). Il Giorno della Memoria as a day of tribute to Shoah victims - "and to diffuse reciprocal respect for the diversities of cultures and religions, denying every type of racism and antisemitism" - became law in Italy in 2000... read more...