San Terenziano Celebrates PORCHETTIAMO

May 26, 2012

La porchetta, noble street food of Umbria and central Italy in general, stars in the May festival of San Terenziano, "Porchettiamo". Best translated as "Let us roast suckling pig it", your Italian/English dictionary won't have a translation and you don't need one: just head to San Terneziano to experience "porchettiamo" with the "locals" in this tiny hilltown near Todi. La porchetta (pork roasted on the spit, generously seasoned with garlic, rosemary, sage and wild fennel) and panini di porchetta draw the crowds to the stalls of vendors - or to their customized moveable trucks - in the piazzas, streets and weekly outdoor open markets all over central Italy. La porchetta is omnipresent at every Umbrian fiera, the traditional outdoor market on a saint's feast day (or the day before or after the feast). read more...

Gubbio’s La Corsa dei Ceri:   May Passione   Reigns

May 21, 2012

During Gubbio's May 15th Corsa dei Ceri ("race of the candlesticks"), passione comes in all sizes - from just-hatched little ones to the elderly - and in three colors: yellow, royal blue and black. You'll see more than one infant in a yellow kerchief and tiny yellow satin shirt and you might see a pre-schooler straddling his grandpas's shoulders, both in bright royal blue shirts. An enthusiastic group of small children in black shirts, traditional Ceri white pants and red neck scarves clapping excitedly, danced to the music of the band on the steps of a medieval backstreet as I wandered Gubbio on the afternoon of May 15th. Passione for the Ceri starts early - and lasts a lifetime. The marching brass bands trumpeting thoughout Gubbio during la Festa dei Ceri inflame that passione. read more

Wild Asparagus Bliss, Then and Now

May 14, 2012

Feeling itchy and sweaty, scratched arms and legs, and hands pricked by thorns can all herald bliss: When you scramble up out of the woods, scratched hands clutching a big bunch of tender wild asparagus. Cool weather these days is ideal for foraging for asparagi selvatici: less chance of meeting a viper. Years ago, our farm neighbors taught us the precautions for wild asparagus-hunting: wear high rubber boots and carry a stick to thrash around near the base of the prickly plants before putting hands among the rocks and leaves to pluck the tender asparagus shoots. Vipers move into the cool of the woods in hot weather, they warned. read more...

Assisi Saturday Nights: Eating and Dancing with “the Locals”

May 9, 2012

The Saturday night ballroom dancing season up at Catecuccio, mountain area behind Assisi, starts in mid-October and goes on until late spring. Our farm neighbors gather for banquet dinners of Umbrian rural cuisine, followed by ballroom dancing to a live orchestra. The very elderly to the very young animate the dance floor. read more...

Narni in May: Medieval Passione Takes Over

May 8, 2012


In the 14th century during the first three days of May, Narni town criers called young riders to join in the races over the next few days: the race for the ring and the race for the Palio (flag), all in celebration of the martyrdom of their patron saint, San Giovenale. The ceremony lives on in early May in Narni as town criers on horseback crisscross the town, galloping under the colorful banners of the three terzieri ("district"), while drummers and buglers announce the festivities. read more

Madonna Primavera Reigns Over Assisi’s Calendimaggio

May 2, 2012

Fanciful legends, myths, age-old folktales, medieval morality plays, ballads and poetry are woven into the rich tapestry of Calendimaggio, Assisi's three-day May celebration of the arrival of spring. A much-loved Assisi legend recounts that long ago, a hooded old crone crept into a noble banquet, ignored by all the merrymakers except for five young damsels who proffered her food and drink. The old hag threw back her veil, revealing herself as La Primavera ("Spring") and the young damsels who assisted her are remembered today as five young damsels are chosen for each of the two factions of Assisi - La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra (the upper area of the town) and La Magnfica Parte de Sotto (the lower area). Another folktale recounts that Springtime who rectifies the chaos of the natural world thanks to her five daughters who put order and harmony into the five time periods of the day: dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening. read more...

Crossbow Passione in Assisi

April 30, 2012

In Umbria, you know spring is in the air when the balestrieri ("cross-bowers") compete in the piazzas seated behind their crossbows, one eye closed, taking aim. The crossbow is an inherent part of colorful medieval festivals animating Umbria, "Italy's green heart" and here in Assisi, La Compagnia Balestrieri di Assisi is integral part of the wondrous pageantry of Assisi's early May festival, il Calendimaggio, celebrating spring. read more...

Gubbio’s Festa della Liberazione, April 25th

April 23, 2012

"L'Italia e' libera. L'Italia risorgera'" ("Italy is free. Italy will rise again") announced the headlines of the newspaper Il Popolo, referring to the liberation from Fascist control of Milan and Turin April 25, 1945. Nowadays, on this day all over Italy, Italians gather to honor their fallen soldiers and in paricular, i partigiani, the partisans of the Italian Resistance who fought the Nazis as well as Mussolini's Fascist troops. Some towns will celebrate la Festa della Liberazione with political rallies or tributes at war monuments, others with concerts or marching bands, and some with flags, huge ones. read more..

Running with Fire in Grello

April 20, 2012

Rural youth living near the tiny walled hilltown of Grello (pop. 45) run whenever they can these days. In serious training. But not for a a track meet. They'll be running with fire on the night of June 23rd, vigil of the feast of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of this mountainside castle-village. Rituals in the Baptist's honor intertweave water rites with fire (his feast is at the time of the summer solstice); in fact, fire and water, propitious elements of purification, combine and merge in many late June Umbrian festivities, all rooted in Roman rituals. read more...