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...

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...

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...

‘Open House’ at Umbria’s Olive Oil Mills

November 5, 2010

Umbria, called "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains of our region and the silver-green of the olive trees which cover our hills. The superb olive oils of Umbria (and particulary those of the Assisi/Spello area) - considered the best in the world by Alain Ducasse, famed French chef - are celebrated in the Frantoi Aperti (best translated "Open House at the Olive Oil Mills") festival from the end of October to early December... read more...