U.S. Tour, 2012: Communication, Connections, and Putting in the Soul

April 3, 2012

If there was any central theme to the 2012 U.S. tour (my fourteenth annual winter tour!), it had to be "communication". Above all, through cooking - but not only: in Denver, I shared "Memoirs of Rural Life" with over 400 persons through my Power-pointed lecture. Another lecture in Denver, "Italians, HANDS ON!", encouraged participants to communicate with Italian gestures. A few Italian gestures also slipped into my Umbrian rural cuisine cooking classes in private homes from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. Read more...

Good Friday in Assisi: Ancient Traditions Live On

March 31, 2012

Countless religious customs - and innumerable processions in particular - are rooted in medieval street theater. The Holy Thursday and Good Friday of Assisi traditions are living examples. On Holy Thursday night in the 12th-century San Rufino cathedral, the crucified Christ image is detached from His Cross in the ceremony of the scavigliazione (best translated literally: "un-nailing") and laid on a wine-colored funeral bier, covered with a gold-fringed burgundy canopy. From the Middle Ages, crucifixes with removable Cristo Morto images were common and were made specifically for the religious processions which were really a transformation of popular street theater, often acted out in the piazzas and on church thresholds as a way to teach the common people ecclesiastic truths. A living liturgy. read more...

Onna, Abruzzo Wounded

February 6, 2012

When we opened the shutters, the view of the majestic snow-capped Gran Sasso ("big rock" and it IS) unmistakably defined our location: Abruzzo. After breakfast, we headed to the new Comune (L'Aquila's old city hall and most of the centro storico were destroyed in the 2009 earthquake) where Pino had to present a proposal for seismic restoration. I waited across the street at a new cafe' - with modern minimalist lines - and talked Aquilani, stopping there for an espresso before or after one of their innumerable visits (over the past years) to the Comune. Most are still in pre-fab housing and almost nothing of the centro storico has been restored. Only those with houses (now in ruins or leveled) can enter the city center and no car traffic is permitted. Read More

In Le Marche, Golden Serpents, Lace Wonders

February 2, 2012

Lost in time are the origins of Offida, medieval hilltown of Le Marche, certainly inhabited in the Bronze Age, later by a local Italic tribe, then finally by the Romans. The town's name might derive from the temple dedicated to the serpent Ophis/Ophite, sacred edifice, where worship took place before a golden snake. Legend relates that the high priest of the temple could miraculously cauterize open wounds and bites by passing his wrist, wrapped with a writhing sacred snake, over the injury. The legend lives on in Offida: il serpente aureo ("golden snake") recurs again and again in place names of the town: after visiting the nineteen-centruy frescoed theater, Teatro Serpente Aureo, we walked down Corso Serpente Aureo to the Ristorante Ophis (ah, that snake again!) read more...

Buono come il pane

January 30, 2012

"Buono come il pane" ("as good as bread") is how the Italians describe a good-hearted, generous person. For the Greeks, bread was "the food of the gods", for the Anglo-Saxons, "the staff of life". "Il pane e' una cosa sacra", Peppa told me the other day as she sliced crosses across the tops of the two loaves she'd just formed, holding them almost tenderly in her hands... read more...

Bread: Rural Lore, Rural Traditions

January 30, 2012

I finally have my matera - or the traditional Umbrian bread cupboard. Many years ago, our farm neighbors, Peppe and Mandina, had decided to chop up Mandina's old and well-used matera for firewood. The doors were coming off the hinges and were cracked. They would not have been able to afford restoration, nor were they in any way attached to their matera. They were suprised when I told them I would love to have it and they were happy to give it to me. Mu husband Pino and I took it to a carpenter who also restored wood furniture. When we went back for it, he told us the matera had been beyond restoration and so he had chopped it up to fuel his woodstove... read more...

Perugia’s SAN COSTANZO – and a Sweet Wink

January 27, 2012

Perugia is not just proud of its chocolate, Etruscan artifacts and the Umbria Jazz festival: this provincial capital of Umbria also boasts not just one but three patron saints! Legend tells us that one of them, San Costanzo, first bishop, was buried outside of the city's Roman walls after his decapitation in the 3rd century. Celebrations start the night before his feast day, January 29, with the luminaria, the candlelit procession to the Church of San Costanzo, built on the site of his martyrdom. read more...

Sant’Antonio e il Malocchio

January 19, 2012

Our beloved San Francesco di Assisi might be revered as the patron saint of animals in other countries but certainly not here in Italy: Sant'Antonio Abate, 4th-century hermit saint who lived in the Egyptian desert with just a piglet for a companion, is the protector of Italy's animals. On his feast day, January 17th, animal-lovers gather at a designated church - cats in arms, dogs on leashes, turtles in boxes, canaries in cages, sheep harnessed, horses bridled - to have their animals blessed... read more...

Cilento: Finalmente!

January 17, 2012

South of Salerno, curvy wooded coastal roads rim rugged cliffs that plummet to the pristine sea below. Tiny towns hug the rocky cliffs hanging over hidden coastal inlets of aquamarine water. Superb seafood restaurants entice visitors to picturesque ports. Oh, yes, Roman ruins, Saracen towers, Bourbon French fortresses, Greek temples, medieval monasteries, and abandoned mountain villages are there, too, in case the splendid seaside is not enticement enough. read more...

2012 U.S Tour: Cooking IS Communicating

January 11, 2012

I've been offering cooking lesssons of Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes since 1998 - when Cathleen from San Anselmo invited me to bring Umbria's flavors into her kitchen. I've never yet had a stated U.S Tour "theme" but I think that I will this year: "Cooking IS Communicating." read more...