Tag Archives: Abruzzo

conca d’Abruzzo in Australia…

Received this lovely gift from a reader, Augusto (who doesn’t mind me sharing that he lives in Australia, was born in Fossa, Abruzzo and was pleased to discover the books). At 80, for the first time he’s learnt copper smithing and made me this little, copper conca and ladle, like those larger ones traditionally used in Abruzzo to collect water (women like my bisnonna Maddalena carried them on their heads).

Thank you to Augusto, such a beautiful kindness. I will treasure it always! And many thanks to all who’ve connected through messages and letters. It’s such a pleasure to hear from you. What most drives me to write is to preserve experiences of ‘everyday’ people and their often overlooked yet I believe significant parts of history. Thank you for your interest (and I’m working hard on the next book!!) xx

 

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Looking out from Fossa to the Apennines and nearby towns…

When I think back to first leaning on these railings more than two decades ago, the unexpected sense of belonging to a place that until then I’d only heard about, amazes me even now. Such a beautiful landscape in all it holds, its timelessness, change, ancestry, scars, history and splendour. xx

“Nonno Anni’s face creases in smiles when I join him. He leads me out to Piazza Belvedere and we lean on the railings taking in the magnificent view of the Aterno Valley. Nonno Anni straightens and takes a big breath. He slaps his chest, encouraging me to take some deep breaths of the pure mountain air with him.”

from Mezza Italiana

 

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Mezza Italiana released in the US!

Mezza Italiana has been released in paperback in the US! With many thanks to HarperCollins 360, Mezza is now available at US bookstores, online or to order in.

So lovely and incredible to think this book that was first written on a kitchen table in Italy has made its way across another ocean! Thank you for embracing it!

Tante belle cose, Zoë xx

 

 

 

 

Mezza Italiana

 

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Back roads beauty…

This hillside speckled with wildflowers could perhaps be out of Little House on the Prairie but is in Abruzzo (where, incidentally, many spaghetti westerns were filmed in the 1960s and 70s).

Took this photograph near the farmhouse where I stayed after the 2009 earthquake (as my family’s village of Fossa was evacuated). This was just outside the village of Sant’ Eusanio Forconese, population around 400, with the hilltop castle (pictured) of the same name.

At the time, I was too overwhelmed by the earthquake to take it in much but later found out this castle was built in the 12th century with walls around a metre thick, up to seven metres high and also a moat, enabling it to retain its defenses for nearly 600 years.

Such a quiet, tucked away spot, easy to rush past, yet as always, the landscape in Abruzzo’s Aterno Valley never ceases to amaze me in its history, varying beauty and terrain.

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Feb 2, 2018 · 11:55 am

Reading about Abruzzo…

Quite a thrill to see Mezza Italiana among such good company – thank you Life in Abruzzo!

A Traveller’s Companion: Top 15 Books on Abruzzo

 

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From that first trip to Fossa…

With Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni outside the family house in Fossa when I arrived there for the first time all those years ago (bearing in mind by then I’d been travelling and living out of a backpack for several months!!)

Little did I know how much this first trip to see where in Italy my family came from would come to have such an effect, and when this was taken I certainly didn’t imagine that Mezza and Joe’s would follow. Have just completed work on the next book (fingers crossed!) and wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me here along the way. It’s so lovely to have your support and to know you a little through your messages. Thank you!! Xx

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via dei Beati… and being almost home

Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.

In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)

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From Monte Circolo…

My grandfather, Annibale, on the eastern edge of Monte Circolo near Castle Ocre looking over the Aterno Valley (with Fossa just below) in 1975. It was the first time he was able to return to the village and was so happy to revisit all the places of where he’d grown up.

Exactly 30 years later, I took the other photo from almost the same spot. I didn’t know about this photograph of Nonno Anni at the time but I think one day I’ll have to attempt to replicate it by standing on the same rock. He was about 52 in that photo, perhaps when the time comes I should try getting the similar shot at the same age!

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Sitting still…

Sometimes it’s those little slivers in a day that you remember and miss most when you are far away… like stepping onto the balcony of my family’s house in Italy in late afternoon to sit overlooking the laneway seeing people stroll by below, hearing a Vespa buzz past and with the only thing to think about perhaps cooking dinner.

 

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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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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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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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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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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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Twilight over Scanno, Abruzzo – 1928 by Estella Canziani

Twilight Scanno Abruzzi

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Jul 26, 2014 · 11:59 am

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

panorama fossa

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Jul 9, 2014 · 9:36 am

‘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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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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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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a beautiful place to sit and read, or lie and daydream…

Painted by Estella Canziani (1887-1964) who wrote {as well as drew and painted the illustrations for} one of my favourite books on the Abruzzo about her 1913 travels – Through the Apennines & Lands of Abruzzi.

She painted this picture {oil on paper} from inside her house in London at 3 Palace Green in 1922. The white bird in the painting one of the many birds she rescued and cared for.

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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.

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Italian Christmas treats…

CaggionettiCaggionetti/calcionetti are traditional Italian Christmas treats particularly popular in Abruzzo. They have a filling of almonds, walnuts, chocolate, chickpeas, lemon zest, cinnamon and honey enclosed in paper-thin ravioli casings fried in white wine and olive oil then cooled and dusted with icing sugar.

Perfect for eating in front of a fire with nighttime snow falling outside… far from the heat and humidity that Brisbane promises for me this Christmas….

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!

 

{Photo courtesy of Gabriella of Teramo, Abruzzo}
Find her recipe and step-by-step photographs here… http://ilrifugiodigabry.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/calcionetti.html

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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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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. 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.

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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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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