Category Archives: italy

Cocullo serpent festival…

This Thursday the festival of the snakes will again happen at Cocullo in Abruzzo as it has each year on the first Thursday of May from at least as far back as 1392. It still has an impact when I think back to when I saw it twelve years ago. The crowds, the food, the anticipation, the snakes… Most of all, I came away with a feeling of euphoria. I mentioned in Mezza Italiana that I reached out and touched one of the snakes (it was one of those held in the third last picture). I wasn’t sure how I’d be around literally hundreds of snakes for the first time but I have to say I felt compassion for them more than fear. The last picture is a painting Estella Canziani did of the festival for San Domenico back in 1913. Compared to when I was there 92 years later, it seemed little had changed…

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Some of Fossa’s laneways…

 … at around dawn while most of the village still slept.

These are just a few of the lanes that wind under, over and around the village and to me they are magical. Some tunnels have small frescoes and lanterns in them.

Most are just wide enough for a tiny car, others only able to be walked. The dog on the steps is Musso Nero, the village dog who was looked after by everybody {page 328, Mezza Italiana}.

I took these photographs with black and white film and an old Pentax camera more than a decade ago while staying in the village writing Mezza Italiana.

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Pasta alla chitarra…

Making pasta alla chitarra just as my Abruzzese great-grandmother, Maddalena used to make. The shoebox-sized wooden box strung with steel wires must be ‘tuned’ like a guitar (chitarra). A sheet of pasta is laid over the strings and pressed through with a rolling pin, slicing it into strips. And the pasta sauce is like the ‘gravy’ Nanna Francesca cooked (with a few extra greens I added!)

I certainly don’t use the chitarra too often unless I have a few hours to spare but it was lovely to make this and remember my grandmothers. I like how in a way cooking can bring together different generations, even after some are long gone, as only handed-down recipes can do.

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Dolci con il caffè…

The dilemma of what to have with a coffee… took this in the gorgeous Gran Caffé, Assisi a few years back.

{Music: Coffee Cold by Galt MacDermot.}

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From a laneway in Fossa…

I took this from the tiny balcony of the house in Fossa. As Roger walked along the laneway below on his way to the Boccabella shop and passed someone on their phone, he had no idea I was taking a photograph from above.

It is some years ago now, at a time when we were staying in the family house at the village in Abruzzo for a month and I was starting to write Mezza Italiana. It feels so strange to know that the damaged house now stands empty and the village a ghost town since the earthquake.

But I also feel so fortunate and grateful for the times I got to the experience the village at its happy and lively best, the connection it gave me to family and for the stories it has given, and hopefully will continue to give.

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buon anno a tutti…

A much younger me at the window of the medieval Castle Ocre above Fossa in Abruzzo…

It’s now more than 20 years since this was taken on my first trip to the village in Italy where part of my family came from. I never expected the impact this journey would have, how it would come to be something I would write about or that the castle would be badly damaged by earthquake and partially collapse thirteen years later.

Change is constant – both the good and the difficult. I hope this fresh year brings you a lovely, new experience no matter how small or large that may come to make you look back and feel such surprise and gladness. Tante belle cose, Zoe xx

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Christmas shopping…

Christmas shoppingCouldn’t resist taking a quick picture of these Italian products I saw as part of a Christmas display in the general supermarket of a country town in Australia. And both northern and southern Italy represented!

There was once a time when it was unusual to see even a panettone in the supermarket of an Australian capital city let alone a smaller town. So lovely how food can quietly keep on bringing different cultures together!

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From over the Aterno Valley, Abruzzo…

Santa Maria Assunta, Fossa, AbruzzoThe steeple of Santa Maria Assunta in Fossa… the church that sits opposite my family’s house in Abruzzo. It was lovely to walk along the lanes below and listen to the bell tolling the time of day or to hear it from afar when you were on your way back to the village.

When I took this in 2005, it was a beautiful, serene day with no hint that just four years later the steeple’s turret would be gone when the earthquake caused it to crash down through the church roof.

Originally built in the 1200s, the church was expanded during the 1400s and then partly rebuilt following the earthquake of 1703. (At this time, my family’s house was about a decade old and had experienced its first terremoto.) I took this photograph with my old Pentax camera on black and white film. Although just over a decade ago, I didn’t yet have a digital camera then!

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from Italia to Australia…

glory-box-calabriaAnother piece from my Italian great-grandmother’s glory box… {Bisnonna Francesca (Cesca in my books)}. This hand-embroidered pillow sham from 1920s Calabria travelled in the hull of a ship across the world to a new life in Australia and remained tucked away for many decades… a keepsake of another place and life that might have been.

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Earthquake in central Italy…

Amatrice before the earthquakeStretti abbracciati to all in Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto, Pescara del Tronto and the surrounding towns to have faced the most recent earthquake in central Italy. I have not experienced such a terremoto though being in Abruzzo weeks after the 2009 earthquake I saw up close the devastation on towns and the despair and pain wrought on people and animals. I keep thinking of those who are currently living through this tragedy and those survivors of 2009 who felt the quake being fifty kilometres south. Both quakes occurred just after 3.30am, the most dangerous time when people are vulnerable in sleep. While the people of the Apennine Mountains in central Italy are strong and know living amid such exquisite beauty has its underside, this is a great blow to bear when recovery is still ongoing from the 2009 earthquake. There were those who experienced it and moved north to be safer and have now had the trauma of another. Again, abbracci to all…

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Books update…

Mezza Italiana and Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar are both now in bookshops in Italy!

It is such a thrill, especially to think back to when I first started writing Mezza in a notebook on the kitchen table in the Abruzzo house of my family. What might the generations who sat there before me have thought?!

Thank you to all of you who have shown such affection and support for these books (and to those who’ve messaged me after spotting the books already in Milan and Florence!) I am very grateful! Tante belle cose, Zoe xx

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the Violet Coast of west Calabria…

Costa Viola…the Violet Coast of west Calabria (when I took this the violet colour of melding sea and sky seemed even more vibrant in reality).

This view of the Tyrrhenian Sea is what my Italian grandmother, Nanna Francesca, saw from the balcony of her childhood home – her grandmother’s house – where she and her mother lived after her father went to Australia in 1927.

The house is now gone but I took this from the street where it stood. Those hills across the sea in the distance are in Sicily. Closer are some of the palm trees that give the small, coastal town that was my grandmother’s birthplace its name – Palmi. Though hard to spot, the tall-masted boats on the sea are sword-fishing boats.

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Seven years on from the earthquake…

Chiesa PaganicaOn the anniversary of the 2009 Abruzzo earthquake today, I’m thinking of the 309 people who lost their lives and the many thousands who continue to reside in temporary housing seven years on.

This recent article from the Irish Times sheds some light on where reconstruction efforts in L’Aquila currently stand…

Seven years on, shadow of earthquake still hangs over L’Aquila.

As well as the damage to the Abruzzo capital, many surrounding small towns also continue to be affected in the aftermath including the villages where my family comes from and the house that has belonged to the family for generations. Many of these once lively villages remain almost ghost towns while it is assumed they have been rebuilt.

Stiamo pensando di tutti voi.

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Window light….

Fossa windowThis window in the small house in Italy, that has sheltered different generations of my family for centuries, is my favourite. It is the tiniest and gives a view out over the village of Fossa like peering from a cubby house. I also love that it shows how thick the stone walls are.

Currently, the house still stands uninhabited and damaged as it was from the day of the earthquake back in 2009 but the good news is, after a long wait, it seems several villagers are now in the process of their houses starting to be repaired.

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The path toward a fresh year…

Verso FossaA new year stretches ahead and there is something thrilling and also sobering in not knowing where our paths may meander as the months unfold. Hope this year is a wonderful one for you that brings much happiness! I couldn’t go past this beautiful painting by L’Aquila artist, Juan Alfredo Parisse to begin the year. He painted it on the road below my family’s village of Fossa in the Aterno Valley of Abruzzo and it is called, Verso Fossa.

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Tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the Galleria degli Uffizi in Firenze…

Firenze…taken in 2005 when I was about to join the queue to the gallery. At the time, it was 240 years since the Uffizi Gallery officially opened to the public in 1765 and I love the thought that perhaps standing in this spot a couple of centuries ago with everyone wearing the clothing of the time, we could still look up and see almost the same view…

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Classic lasagne…

LasagneTraditional lasagne, for me, is in the same category of favourite, comfort food as a good, old-style hamburger with the lot. {Perhaps a reflection of an Italian-Australian upbringing!} I learned to make lasagne when I was about 11 or 12, and must have made hundreds over the years.
Recently, I cooked the first in my new lasagne dish from Umbria. My previous lasagne dish that my Mum gave me I used for 20 years {sadly, it got a large crack in it}, so this dish has some work ahead of it!
Some say Italy didn’t have spaghetti until Marco Polo discovered noodles in Asia and that may be the case, however Italians did already have pasta. In Roman times, they cooked sheets of pasta in a dish similar to lasagne and therefore it is possibly one of the original pasta dishes.

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from Italia to Australia…

remo ship in SydneyThe ship, RemoThe Italian ship, ‘Remo’, which is linked to four generations of my family… my great-grandfather, Vitale arrived in Australia for the second time aboard it in 1932, my grandfather, Annibale sailed from Italy in it when he was just 15 in 1939, my father was named after it, and my nephew shares with it his second name.

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‘Sali e Tabacchi’…

sali e tabacchiThis sign might be familiar to those who have bought a bus or lottery ticket, tobacco or, until recent years, salt in Italy. Yes, the traditional ‘Sali e Tabacchi’ or ‘Salt and Tobacco’ shop was for a long time the only place to buy salt while it remained a monopoly of the state, (a nod perhaps to ancient times when salt was worth as much as gold!)

However, we took this photo in Australia, not Italy, after spotting the sign hidden along a Melbourne laneway. Another little bit of Italy in the hearts of those in Australia. Looking forward to heading back to Melbourne again in March!

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uno zufolo ~ an Italian folk flute…

zufuloGiuseppe (Joe) Castellana was taught by his Nonno in Sicily how to play the zufolo (an Italian flute dating back to the 14th century). After he migrated to Australia, Joe continued the tradition – playing the folk music that he learnt from his grandfather in Italy at performances in Australia over many decades.

He swapped between playing the zufulo and the accordion at the launch for Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar and I was touched when, at the end of the evening, Joe, who is now 82, gave me a zufolo that he had hand-carved himself.

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Chiacchiere… chitter-chatter ~ carnival sweets

crostoliMy Italian grandmother made these all the time so I thought it fitting to serve them on one of her Florentine, painted wooden serving trays on the terrazzo table that sat on my grandparents’ patio for decades.

These crispy ribbons of pastry dusted with sugar are a sweet popular for centuries throughout Italy and across Europe and Asia. In Italy, they are traditionally eaten at the time of Carnevale, when cities, towns and villages celebrate their historical connections. The ‘chitter-chatter’ pop up under the guise of different names in different regions – chiacchiere, crostole, bugie, cenci, sfogliatelle, nodi, ali d’angelo, frappe, cioffe, galani, sfrappole…

Beware, for chiacchiere or ‘rumours’ can be addictive. They are best if light and flaky but still crunchy with some substance.

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour {plus extra for kneading}
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 50g butter
  • 100g caster sugar {raw, unbleached if available}
  • 50ml Marsala {grappa or brandy may be substituted}
  • 1tsp vanilla bean extract
  • oil for frying
  • extra caster sugar or icing sugar to sprinkle

Method:

  • Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, butter, sugar, Marsala and vanilla, mixing thoroughly to create a dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth {dusting extra flour across surface to prevent sticking as needed}.
  • Use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to roll the dough to lasagna sheet thinness.
  • Cut into strips roughly 4-5 cm wide, or to your liking {an alternative is using a fluted, pastry/ pasta wheel cutter to give a crinkled edge}.
  • Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry several strips at a time until they are golden.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot, or allow to cool completely then cover with sifted icing sugar.

Serves a good gathering chatting over coffee or sweet fortified wine.

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vino e formaggio…

vino e formaggioFossa house, Abruzzo, a decade ago… pecorino cheese made by two women on a farm down in the valley, olives from the L’Aquila market, cerasuolo wine from a nearby vineyard, the paisley tablecloth Nanna Francesca purchased from a travelling merchant who drove from village to village in his small truck full of wares, an Italian folk song blaring from speakers to notify buyers he had arrived.

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Italian street painting in Sydney…

Pepe GakaGiuseppe, aka Pepe, is a Madonnaro whom we came across by the harbour at Circular Quay in Sydney. Since the 16th century, Madonnari from Puglia in Italy’s south have been itinerant artists who originally went to cities to work on the cathedrals and when the job was done found a way to make a living by recreating paintings from the church on the pavement. Aware of festivals and holy days in each town, the Madonnari would travel to different provinces throughout Italy to eke out a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the work. Pepe explained he makes a living based solely on donations and never sells his paintings. Once they are completed, he gives them away to charitable organisations that then raise money by auctioning his paintings. His most recent work sold for $16,000.

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Piano accordion orchestra

Piano accordion orchestraFor the first time, we recently saw a piano accordion orchestra concert. It was great, some of the music taking me back to attending those big Italian weddings when I was a child and also our family gatherings when my uncle sometimes played the piano accordion. Of course, there were a couple of classics played, including Volare and Funiculi Funicula.

{Photograph courtesy of Germaine Arnold: http://deptford.tumblr.com/}

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Twilight over Scanno, Abruzzo – 1928 by Estella Canziani

Twilight Scanno Abruzzi

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July 26, 2014 · 11:59 am

Fossa, with Castle Ocre above, in Abruzzo, Italy…

panorama fossa

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July 9, 2014 · 9:36 am

a little bit of Italiana…

IMGP3701Anyone with Sicilian connections or who have been to Sicily may recognise this doll in folk costume (right) and the decorated cart, carrello or carrozza…

Came across the display as part of an Italian migrant exhibition at the Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane.

Along with some bomboniere… (below) familiar to Italian weddings, christenings and communions.

IMGP3697

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the little world of Don Camillo…

giovanni guareschi blurbCame across this bio for Italian author, Giovannino Guareschi in one of my father’s original copies of the Don Camillo books published in the 1950s, and loved it.

After my grandfather and my father, I’m now the third generation to be reading these sixty-year-old copies and treasure every yellowed page.

http://www.mondoguareschi.com/

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Homemade arancini with ragù alla Bolognese…

homemade aranciniIt is claimed that arancini originated in Sicily as far back as the 10th century. The balls of rice with various fillings are shaped, crumbed and fried, resembling an orange – the Italian for orange being arancia. (Rice cooked the day before and cooled in the fridge works best.) In Messina, they can be more cone shaped, while in Naples they are pall’e riso (rice balls) apparently. I think ours (made 11 centuries later in Australia!) ended up being influenced a little by both cities.

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il Corno in Caserta…

il corno in Caserta…this 13-metre high sculpture of the ancient amulet,
il Corno (to protect against the evil eye)
appeared in the middle of one night to gain attention regarding
the deterioration of the world heritage listed Palazzo Reale in Caserta,
and has since been creating some heated debate.

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Italian paper dolls…

I couldn’t resist this Italian paper doll book with regional costumes from all over Italy. Sofia and Ernesto are the names of the two paper dolls that come with it. I admit I haven’t come across paper dolls since playing with a 1960s set owned by one of my relatives a very long time ago in childhood. I think it was American and being from the sixties, the paper clothes it in were very groovy.

Italian paper dolls

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Togetherness and separateness within la famiglia…

…this family from le Marche were photographed by Mario Giacomelli during time he spent with them between 1964 and 1966 for his series, la buona terra – the good earth, in which his aim was to capture the story of work, of life, throughout the revolving seasons, and endlessly repeated throughout a lifetime.

la buona terra

Related article: Priests dancing in the snow

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“Dolcetto o scherzetto” ~ trick or treat

as night falls, the children may call…

{vintage paper cut – ‘if these walls could talk’}

…vigilia d’ognissanti ~ eve of all saints ~ halloween…

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‘alla fontana’ ~ to the fountain…

Civita d'Antino AbruzzoThe woman in the foreground carries two conche, the copper vessels traditionally used in Abruzzo to collect water from the village fountain for the household. Perhaps she was teaching the young girl to carry it back on her head (depicted by the women in the background). The village women used to do so to transport all manner of heavy things with evidence of this including iron bedheads and, on occasion in very steep areas, even coffins.

The artwork pictured here was painted in Civita d’Antino in Abruzzo by Danish painter, Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) who first travelled to the mountain town of Civita d’Antino in June 1883. Zahrtmann came to consider it his second home as he was fascinated by “the life there, the strong Italian sun, the brightness of colours, and the exoticness of Catholic Church rites”.

He spent every summer from 1890 to 1911 in Civita d’Antino where he stayed with the Cerroni family, and was named an honorary citizen of the town in 1902. In Civita d’Antino, a memorial plaque to Zahrtmann is set into the wall of the Cerroni house near the town gate.

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Pane Casereccio…

Pane Casereccio – delicious served warm – R made this Pugliese bread studded with salami and cheese, inspired after watching an old television series with Antonio Carluccio making it. I love how so many Italian recipes have been created to use leftovers.

For the recipe… http://www.antonio-carluccio.com/Pane_Casereccio

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Flight of the angel… il Volo dell’Angelo

Il Volo dell’Angelo… {the flight of the angel} – something a little different to do in Italy – ‘flying’ between the villages of Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano in the Dolomites of Lucania, Basilicata.

  Apparently, you start 1020m above the ground with the flight covering 1415m and reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h. Not sure if I’m game!

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Castrovillari, Calabria…

I first learnt of this town when reading Old Calabria by Norman Douglas (published 1915), and on the map it looked a good halfway point to stay between Palmi and Pompeii. This part of the old town reminded me of some of the lanes in Fossa, (not so the 40 degree heat at the time) and even though it appears not to have changed much over the years, the town was quite different to the one Douglas had encountered about a century before when brigands were still imprisoned in the castle.

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Castel del Monte, Abruzzo…

  • Castel del Monte – “Fortress of the mountain”.

    Castel del Monte, Abruzzo

  • Evidence of the site first inhabited as early as the 11th century BC.
  • Visited and painted by artist and folklorist, Estella Canziani in 1913.
  • Birthplace of a distant cousin I was pleased to meet the last time I was in Italy.
  • Location where George Clooney was filmed in, “The American”.
  • In mid-August the town hosts the annual event, La Notte delle Streghe – The Night of the Witches, a late-night spectacle I really hope to see in the future.

Castel del Monte by Estella Canziani, 1913

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The Dome…

The Dome 1977 Jeffrey SmartJeffrey Smart, 1921 – 2013.

 

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Giro d’Italia…

It’s ‘Giro time’ again in Italy at the moment.  {4-26 May, 2013}

Took this photo near the finish line of the leg of the bike race that ended in L’Aquila in 2005. Hours of waiting… seconds of cyclists rushing past…

The winner of this leg was Italian rider, Danilo di Luca {from the Abruzzo}. He rode the 229 km stage from Frosinone to L’Aquila in 6 hrs, 1 min. Waiting in the crowd was quite an experience! {p.197 Mezza Italiana}

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eggs in purgatory…

At home when I was growing up, we sometimes ate eggs baked in leftover pasta sauce which we called, ‘eggs in tomato’, not quite as evocative as ‘eggs in purgatory’ that I later discovered this dish is also called.

I’ve been told it’s origins are in Napoli {although the Abruzzo claims it too} and it is said that the eggs are like the souls in purgatory who are caught between the tomatoes {purgatory} and trying to escape to heaven.

 

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Litografia di Maurits Cornelis Escher…

Goriano Sicoli, Abruzzi, 1929, by M.C. Escher (1898-1972), a Dutch graphic artist known for his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

After finishing school, he traveled extensively in Italy, where he met his wife Jetta Umiker. They lived in Rome from 1924 until 1935, during which time Escher travelled throughout Italy, drawing and sketching for the various prints he would make when he returned home.

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Maremma sheepdogs and penguins…

Abruzzo postcard picturing Maremma SheepdogThe Maremma Sheepdog is indigenous to central Italy, particularly Abruzzo and the Maremma area in Tuscany and Lazio, and has been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to guard sheep from wolves.

Recently I discovered a project in Australia where Maremma Sheepdogs are protecting a penguin colony almost decimated by foxes, and under their protection the penguins are increasing in numbers. {The dogs also guard free-range chickens.} A little mezza italiana/ australiana perhaps…

To find out more visit the Middle Island Maremma and Penguin project

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Popes, murder and Dante…

{Il Portale. Watercolour by Juan Alfredo Parisse.}

It was unexpected to hear of Pope Celestino V {1294} being spoken of in the media until I heard it was in relation to the decision by current Pope Benedict XVI to resign. Celestino aka Pietro del Morrone, a hermit monk who lived in caves in the Abruzzo’s mountains, instigated the building of the Santa Maria di Collemaggio cathedral in L’Aquila (entrance pictured), where he was crowned Pope in front of a crowd of 100,000, including Dante who referred to him in his epic poem, Inferno.

It’s thought the naive Celestine was chosen as a stooge for those in Vatican politics, and when he abdicated in 1294 after just five months, the next Pope, Boniface, took umbrage, and imprisoned him. Celestino was found dead in his cell with a nail-sized hole in his skull, alleged to have been murdered by Pope Boniface. {More from page 314 in Mezza Italiana.} No doubt Pope Benedict XVI will enjoy a more relaxing retirement.

Related articles… Fossa sole…         una passeggiata…

 

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The beauty of walking in Italy…

…a fleeting glimpse down a narrow, side alley often reveals the unexpected and the beautiful. 

{Taken in Orvieto, Umbria.}

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the stillness of time…

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Neve in Roccacaramanico…

I grew up with stories of villages in the Abruzzo being snowed in, sometimes the snow so high people couldn’t open the doors and had to climb out their windows. Hearing this in the heat of a subtropical summer in Australia, I could only try to imagine….


{Neve in Roccacaramanico. Photographer: Andrea Basciano.}  

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una passeggiata in italia…

Passeggiando Santo Stefano Sessanio by Juan Alfredo Parisse

~ a walk in Italy…

Costa Masciarelli, L’Aquila by Juan Alfredo Parisse

 

 

‘…success
unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau

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The need for a lie down…

…about seven hours into an Italian wedding. 

{Photographer: Giuseppe Leone, Sicily.}

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Cannoli, cantucci and cornetti…

Cannoli, cantucci and cornetti…   Pasticceria in Assisi.

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September 20, 2012 · 9:32 am

Italia at night…

….taken from the International Space Station above the Mediterranean Sea on 18 August 2012.
{The lights of Rome and Naples are clearly visible on the coast near the centre.}

 {Courtesy Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, Australia.}

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Rogues, gargoyles and gallery….

Gargoyles, in their myriad forms include being carved to represent local heretics, controversialists, rogues, or personal enemies of the architect or building owner, particularly for ecclesiastical structures during the Middle Ages.

Photographer, Giuseppe Leone ~ known for his photography that ‘narrates’ life in Sicily, its traditions, monuments, landscapes and in particular, its people ~ has created a series that strives to match the faces of locals with gargoyles on nearby buildings.

Related article: the Italian wedding…

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The Strega Literary Prize (Premio Strega) in Italy…

Perhaps because my great-grandmother Maddalena was an Abruzzese village witch, there is something that appeals to me immensely that Italy’s most prestigious national literary prize, the Premio Strega is named ‘the witch prize’. In 1944 , Maria and Goffredo Bellonci began hosting, at their house in Rome, Sunday gatherings of writers and artists that became known as the Amici della Domenica, or ‘Sunday Friends’. This resulted in 1947 the Belloncis, together with Guido Alberti, owner of the Strega liqueur business, inaugurating a prize for fiction, the winner being chosen by the Sunday friends.

Winners include Italian writers such as Umberto Eco in 1981 for Il nome della rosa {In the Name of the Rose} and Giuseppe di Lampedusa posthumously in 1959 for Il gattopardo {The Leopard} – one of my favourite books.

Liquore Strega has been distilled since 1860 in the town of Benevento, located roughly between Rome and Naples, the place where witches from all over the world gathered (and still do at a certain time of year). There is an old legend, still very much alive, that this drink was a love potion witches created to forever unite couples who drank it. Strega liqueur continues to be tied to the sorcery of its origins. Some modern covens use the liqueur in their rites, burning it in bowls for various purposes.

More in Mezza Italiana in the chapters ~ The Village Witch p.137 and Witches’ Brew p.299.

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To the beach!

To the beach! ~ Gina Lollobrigida

Photographer ~ Gina Lollobrigida {from her book Italia Mia, which my father purchased in the early 70s}.

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Fossa Sole, fossa soul, Fossa in the sun…

This painting of Fossa in the Abruzzo is by artist Juan Alfredo Parisse, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and whose parents are from L’Aquila, Italy.

Parisse paints watercolours ‘en plein air’ to capture the people, the towns and rural villages of the Abruzzo.

http://juanalfredoparisse.it/

Dietro Collemaggio by Juan Alfredo Parisse

Dietro Collemaggio by Juan Alfredo Parisse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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una passeggiata in italia…

Popes, murder and Dante… 

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Roasted chestnuts….

Autumn means chestnuts, castagne and I always think of my Italian grandfather, Nonno Anni whenever we roast them {Mezza Italiana}. In the Abruzzo in the 1930s, Nonno Anni harvested chestnuts beneath Gran Sasso, later taking them to turn to flour at the stone mill with the wooden water wheel on the canal below his village of Fossa.

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Life in the Abruzzo in 1913…

Maria with cooking pots”, painted by Estella Canziani in Mascione, Abruzzi, 1913. Part of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery collection and printed in Canziani’s book, Through the Apennines and the Lands of Abruzzi.

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3 year anniversary of Abruzzo earthquake…

On April 6th it is 3 years since the earthquake hit the Abruzzo around L’Aquila in 2009 and most residents are still in temporary housing. This photograph shows residents also in temporary timber housing or barracks, taken in L’Aquila after the area’s previous major earthquake in 1915 killed more than 30,000 {epicentre Avezzano}. The humour of the man on the roof bending looking through his legs is heartening considering the recent trauma they must have experienced.

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Freshly baked bread…

For many centuries, baking in most Italian villages took place mostly once a week or even a fortnight. Both my grandparents told me how they recalled the women of the village taking their dough to the forno (often the only oven in the entire village), and that each piece of dough had an identifying mark on it for when the women came back to collect their baked bread.

In Palmi, Calabria my great, great grandmother and bisnonna baked for their area in a large, wood-fired oven or forno in a room beneath their house {p.161 Mezza Italiana and p.30 Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar}.

While I’d heard these stories and have been to the village forno I had never seen any pictures so I was thrilled when photographer, Carla Coulson recently sent me this Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph. It was taken in 1953 in the Abruzzese town of Scanno as women were carrying their dough to the forno for baking.

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Dancing in the snow…

This picture of young priests
dancing in the snow
was taken at a seminary in le Marche
in the early 1960s by Italian photographer,
Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000).

Initially they reminded me a little
of whirling dervishes but it is not any
type of ritual, merely an innocent time of
relaxation. The seminarians were
playing ‘ring a ring o’ roses’,
unaware of being captured by
Giacomelli’s lens as he hid up in a roof.

Later, he gave them cigars,
which the young priests enjoyed
but the rector wasn’t too pleased.

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Michetti’s Abruzzese shepherdess…

Francesco Paolo Michetti - Shepherdess Carrying a Bunch of GrapesBorn in 1851 in Tocco da Casauria of Pescara province, Francesco Paolo Michetti was an Abruzzese artist who aspired to paint ‘real life’ capturing people, animals, and local events. The Abruzzo was his inspiration and in 1883 he purchased a convent there as his home and studio. For the next 20 years, the convent was a meeting place for Abruzzo’s artists including writer Gabriele D’Annunzio. Time moves slowly in the Abruzzo and fortunately some landscapes such as in this painting remain.

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Pasta drying in Naples, 1897…

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Cherry wood and Estella…

Piedmontese peasant wood-pipe carved from cherry wood that writer, artist and folklorist, Estella Canziani presented to The Folklore Society of London in 1911. She donated it along with other items from her travels in northern Italy when she wrote and illustrated her first  book, Costumes, Traditions and Songs of Savoy (before she ventured to the Abruzzo in 1913 to pen Through the Apennines and Lands of Abruzzi).

I saw a similar pipe sitting on a stall table at the antique market in Arezzo and am still regetting not having bought it…

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