Cooking – Live From Pontelandolfo

The sky outside was grey, but my kitchen was bright and filled with the laughter and joy of Pontelandolfo’s Carmela Fusco. Disclaimer – Carmela is my talented cooking cousin. Was Carmela literally in my kitchen?  Nope, we were testing the concept of a virtual cooking class.  From sunny Italy, Carmela led students thousands of miles away through the process of making bignè, the airy pastry you need for profiteroles!  

I felt like a cooking idiot when, during the process, I realized that profiteroles – I had only ever seen stacked in a pyramid and covered with dripped chocolate – were literally the favorite dessert of my youth.  Chocolate covered cream puffs!  My mother, bless her soul, used to make them for special occasions.  I never tried, but when I needed a mom hug, I would buy a box of Boston Cream Pie mix and get almost the same creamy taste. It wasn’t the same but I could feel the love.

Something else I learned, was that bignè is also called choux pastry.  There isn’t any yeast or raising agent in the dough.  It has a high moisture content that creates steam and that puffs the pastry.  Isn’t the science of food grand?

Carmela’s daughter Annarita Mancini, as she does for our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program, was there to translate.  Those of us gathered around our tablets trying to make bignè study Italian with Annarita and vowed not to ask for her help. Gulp, I needed her help. I mean, I have only been trying to learn Italian for twenty years, cut me a break.  This wasn’t just a cooking class. This was a chance to use the Italian we had been studying in a real-world situation.  What could be a better place to practice our language skills than Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo? (Admission – when we obviously didn’t quite get what Carmela was saying, Annarita jumped in.)

I am only going to talk about the first step towards the light, cream filled profiteroles – making the bignè. This is the small pastry of a cream puff.  Carmela told me that the neat thing about her bignè is that you can stuff it with sweet or savory fillings.  She doesn’t add sugar, as I think my mom did, into the pastry.  The ingredients are:

150 grams acqua – water

80 grams burro – butter

150 grams farina – flour

5 – 6 uova – eggs

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius .

Prep a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

Even though we got the ingredient list sent to us, there was a wee dilemma changing the metric measures into the British Imperial System on the fly.  Correct, I had no idea that cups, ounces and pounds were part of something called the British Imperial System.  Cripes, it even sounds like empire building. One learns something new every day.  Time to work on my math skills or have the conversion app open on my phone.

We put the water in a big pot on the unlit stove and added all the butter.  Then we turned the heat on high and melted the butter.  It takes a long time to melt that much butter.  When it finally melted and had little boiling bubbles we added the flour a little at a time. (Other recipes on line said dump all the flour in at once – Carmela was meticulous about drizzling the flour in.) KEEP STIRRING.  This part requires a strong arm.  Who needs a gym – you have a kitchen!  When the dough started to cling together in a ball and no longer stuck to the pot, we turned off the heat.  We stirred the dough a bit more – with Carmela warning us, “not too much we don’t want it to cool.  Now, crush it so it isn’t a ball.”  What?? We just stirred until our arms ached and made the bloody ball – now I have to crush it? We smooshed our balls.

This next part was kind of magical and required eyes that saw the nuances of color.  We added an egg and blended it into the dough until the color of the dough was the color it was before we added the egg.  When your arm starts to scream, get someone else to take a turn stirring.  Finally, the color will be same as it was.  Then add the second egg and repeat the process.  Yup, it is a long process but the results – delicious.  Once again, when the color was the same as it was before the second egg we tossed in egg number three.  

No, you are crying not again!  Why didn’t we just toss all the eggs in at once?  Carmela pointed out it might seem easier to add all the eggs at once but the secret for a cloud like bignè is to do it this way.  The dough needs time to absorb each egg. I think this should be a team sport – like a relay with someone else there to take a stirring turn. They could also keep the Prosecco glasses full.

We were laughing out loud as we tried to show Carmella our dough by tilting our iPads and phones towards our pots without dropping them in.  Stop laughing!  Add egg number four!  We repeated the process and then added the fifth and final egg.

Whew, this was the hardest part.  Where is that prosecco? 

Using a spatula we cleaned the sides of the pot by drawing all the sticky dough to the center in a ball like pile.  Now, taking two tablespoons,  we attempted to drop the dough in cute balls on the prepared cookie sheet.  Carmela is a master at this, she rolled the dough back and forth and created balls.  She pointed out they didn’t have to be perfect.  Misshapen was fine – except all of hers were perfect and all of mine looked a lot less than perfect.

Carmela said, “Make sure you leave space between the globs.  With all those eggs the pastry will rise. When our nonnas made this pasta they used their hands to mix the dough – even though it was really hot.”  Hmmm, maybe that is where I got my asbestos hands.

Almost done. Put the tray of bignè into the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes.  They will grow and get a warm toasty color. They really do grow! Well not everyone’s grew we did have a batch that kind of looked like tasty hockey pucks.

When you take these lovelies out of the oven and they have cooled you can slice them and use them for light little tea sandwiches or invite me over because you are filling them with a decadent cream and topping them with chocolate.  Yummy.

Carmela’s Bignè – Perfetto!

We all had a great time giggling, groaning and cooking with Carmela. Can’t wait until the pandemic is over and we can really be with her in her kitchen!

Ci Vediamo.

Midge

Organizing 2022 Now. Click here for more information.

Pontelandolfo’s Movie Makers

Ever notice that in some communities the arts just flourish? Kids enjoy not only sports but making art too. Towns comes together and theatrical/musical magic happens. Pontelandolfo, a teeny tiny Southern Italian village, is one of those artistic Petri dishes spawning talented artists, dancers, writers, musicians and filmmakers. Older posts have talked about our dance company, the visual artists, village wide theatrical productions etc. Is something in the air? Is it in the nature or nurturing of our young people? Or an enchanted coupling of both? I think it is a combination.

During the holiday season, I discovered yet another group of young people making art – filmmakers under the moniker Nonna Anna Film Group. Spearheaded by Gianluca De Michele, the bourgeoning company is committed to not only telling original tales but shooting their films in Pontelandolfo. According to De Michele, “The short films we shoot are set in Pontelandolfo, because I believe that there is a reality to be re-examined here, not only from a historical and traditional perspective, but also from a visual point of view.

Meet Igor Rinaldi, Francesco Mancini, Gianluca De Michele,
Federico Mancini and Nicola Colesanti

De Michele studied directing and screenwriting in Bologna at the Accademia Nazionale del Cinema. (Check out the website, I think Gianluca is in the cover photo!). He has always been in love with using media to tell a story but is quick to say that Nonna Anna Film Group was not something that he created alone. The company was developed with his friends Igor Rinaldi, Nicola Colesanti and Federico Mancini. I asked him – why call it Nonna Anna – you are all in your twenties. This brings us back to the nature and nurture question. When the company was producing their first film Oro nel Torrente – Gold in the Stream – his grandmother, Anna, who provided the locations and support was instrumental. As was his father and brother who provided all of the video equipment. It was their second film, Il Regalo di Natale – The Christmas Gift, that I saw.

According to De Michele, ” In The Christmas Gift,” I emphasized the inner conflict of a father who knows that he will disappoint his son by not being able to buy him the gift he wants, precisely during the period when children dream the most. Pirandello believes that comedy works with tragedy. The message of our short film lies in the fact that, paradoxical as some situations are, the seriousness of a topic is developed on the basis of a comic intention. The film is the mirror of a dream that must not be broken and of the deep love that inspires every parent…” Take a peak and let’s discuss it –

The setting will make you all want to visit Pontelandolfo.

It took the film crew one full work week to shoot what we just watched in a few minutes. I am delighted to have discovered yet another group of dedicated artists living and working in Pontelandolfo.

Ci vediamo!

MIDGE

Join us – Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

Arrivederci 2020

the joy of out with the old and in with the new!

Weeeeeeoooo! 2020 will soon be OUT and a new decade zooms in.

Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – www.freepik.com

Who won’t be sorry to see 2020 hit the highway. Pandemics, thousands dying, food shortages, toilet paper wars, weird weather, floods, political mayhem and… Basta! Enough looking at what was horrible, atrocious, disastrous, horrific, terrible and inconvenient this past year. Time to move forward with the hope for all mankind that this holiday season brings. To help us remember ’tis the season to be jolly’ and ‘goodwill to all,’ I thought I would play the part of the ghost of Christmas past and share some wonderful older moments.

One of the most joyous activities of the Christmas season is Morcone’s Presepe Vivente. This is the best community theatre production is the world. The entire Southern Italian village of Morcone – which is just around the hill from Pontelandolfo – would come together and turn their normally quasi abandoned, historic center into Bethlehem. WOW! In 2018, Jack and I spent hours immersed in the story of Christmas. It is the story of poverty, intolerance, a gentle soul providing shelter to a couple who had no where to go and love. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. 

Enjoy the camaraderie of the story tellers.

I will admit it, over the years I have over indulged – often nightly. My eyes never close, sounds just fall out of my mouth and my heart explodes. I am a Christmas Light junkie. Put me in a car after dark, drive me around and I will fill the car with Ooooooos and AAhhhhhhhhs that will rock your socks. The next night I will do it again – in a different part of the Sannio Hills – but I am attracted to those lights. Perhaps it has something to do with that big star over Bethlehem. This is one holiday event that we all can do and still keep that ugly virus at bay. The car is a super social distancing bubble and I intend to drag Jack kicking and screaming out to our car to drive around and Ooooo at holiday lights – tonight, tomorrow and dopo domani.

Benevento has a wonderful pedestrian street that in years past was a holiday joy to walk.

Food glorious food. We are still doing our traditional seven fishes this year with our foodie friends and family. Sharing a meal is a heartwarming holiday ritual. (Did you ever check out this blogs recipe page?) Everyone makes a fish dish and we start eating early and finish pretty close to midnight. Laughter, swapping tales, toasting and burping fill the room. It is a tradition that we will not miss. No, we are not risking our aged bodies in maskless revelry. I set up a FaceBook Messenger Group and we will be eating together but apart. That means we can swig the Prosecco and won’t have far to go when we are done. That also means we can still raise a glass to each other in love, friendship and food.

Memories of a meal shared long ago can still put a smile on my face.

This holiday season we won’t be gathering in the piazza, wandering the Christmas Market, or going to Sesto Senso for an incredible New Year’s Eve feast and musical event. We will be sending our love to you and yours from our home to your home over wi-fi, phone lines and cell towers. This is the time for gathering up the steam to forge ahead for a new year, a new season and a happy, healthy love filled life. Buon Natale.

2019 wasn’t a bad year and 2021 will be even better.

Ci vediamo prossimo anno!

Midge

PS: Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo will be organizing for 2021.

Language Schools Need Help

Have you every visited a place or met a person and just known that they would always be a part of your life? That is how I felt the first time I spoke to Nicola Schroeder and the first time I visited Alghero, Sardegna. Nicola and Angela Canessa are the founders of what I think is the best Italian Language school for foreigners, Alghero’s Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera. Over the years, Jack and I have enriched our language skills and cultural acumen by spending time in Alghero and studying at Pintadera. Knowing Nicola for years, I was taken aback by our recent phone call. The school was in trouble – big trouble – caused by the pandemic. No tourists equals no income from anywhere. During the pandemic, unlike bars and other businesses, Italian Language Schools are not eligible for any government assistance. That means all the teachers, administrators and support staff are not bringing in any money. Nicola was literally my first friend in Italy – literally my first friend and one I value – I would hate to see the school she worked so hard to build close.

Ever the organizer, Nicola has connected with other language schools throughout Italy to develop a collective lobbying effort and organization – Scuole LICET (Lingua Italiana, Cultura e Turismo). What follows is that story, generously shared with us by Nicola Schroeder.

During the spring of 2020, in the middle of Italy’s total lockdown, we (Pintadera) received a phone call from Roberto Tartaglione, a prominent figure in the field of Italian language teaching, author of significant and innovative textbooks, and decades ago the founder of an important school in Rome. Angela and I were delighted and flattered that such an important person was even calling our little modest language institution out in the boonies of remote Sardinia! He laid out his concerns for the future of Italian language schools. I remember him saying that we would be lucky if we got back to operating in the summer of 2021. At the time, it was probably end of April, we were convinced this would all be over by the time summer started. Little did we know…

In order to get the government’s attention as to our importance in the country, it was Roberto’s idea to join forces – us, Italian language schools up and down the Italian peninsula and on its islands. I embraced the idea and got other Sardinian schools involved. 

Italian language schools for foreigners are active promoters of Italian culture and language, those that come to Italy to attend one of our courses are the same people that visit our museums, our archeological sites, they rent cars, go to restaurants, stay in hotels or flats, they spend money! Yet, we, Italian language schools, promoters of tourism and the “italia” brand worldwide are not recognized by the government. Our category has not received government funding, despite having been shut down in early March.

Unfortunately, so far there are no real fully documented statistics on Italian language schools in Italy. We think there are about 200. I was in charge of researching and doing excel sheets of all the schools in Italy, region by region. There’s an association called ASILS which groups 43 of the older and larger schools, those that were set up in 80’s and early 90’s. LICET includes we smaller schools dispersed all over Italy, those that sprouted as the low-cost airlines started bringing foreigners to the smaller towns. We’re 50 schools now with an average of 350 students a year each, who stay on average 2 weeks. Official calculation by ASILS says that each student spends 1800€ in Italy including course fees. So, let’s say there are 200 schools and they average 200 students per year who each spends 1800€… that makes €72,000,000 in expenditure in Italy by Italian language students, It’s probably more, or was more.

ASILS schools claim their turnover is 75-95% less this year than last. LICET Schools are about 70% less. I think in general the larger schools are more desperate than us peewees. The big Italian language schools had lucrative agreements with American colleges and loads of Chinese students. These all disappeared overnight. I remember when President Trump pulled American students out of Europe, sometime in March, I was on the phone with my friend from Florence and she said that 24,000 Americans left Florence over one weekend and that would mean the city’s end, so much had they become dependent on the U.S. student income. 

LICET’s objective is to be recognized by the government, not only as Italian language schools but also as the promoters of tourism that we are, and receive subsidies to be able to survive. And we want to offer our expertise and contacts to continue to promote Italy, its language, culture and heritage. We would like to be part of the recovery plan.

Thank you Nicola for the update. The group has been working diligently to address the issue and be heard by the appropriate government agency – Ministero per i beni e le attività Culturali e per il Turismo. Here is an earlier article from the Italian daily paper – LA Repubblica. What follows is a translation of the crux of the story –

For this reason, the newly formed LICET association addresses the Ministero Beni Architettonici Cultura e Turismo directly, asking not only for support, but proposing a collaboration: “Our activities, scattered throughout the national territory, in large cities or small centers, are two hundred magnets capable of attracting foreigners and giving a strong impulse to the relaunch of that important tourism that is talked about so much in the country’s plans for rebirth. – concludes Roberto Tartaglione – Each school has mailing lists, contacts, small propaganda machines capable of enticing foreigners to return to Italy; every school has been doing this for years, just to develop its own business. Today is the time to do it all together to relaunch a market beyond individual interest.”

Call to action – First – like the LICET Facebook page. Then, why not send an email to the person who is in charge of the Ministry of Culture’s Facebook page – after you send a Facebook Message! Let the Ministero per i beni e le attività Culturali e per il Turismo know if you came to Italy to study at a school and how the schools help promote tourists. Let us put on our advocacy hats and help the language schools get some government help. The Ministry’s Twitter handle is #MiBACT. I am tweeting that they need to help the schools and you can too. Check out their website and send a letter. This is my idea not Nicola’s. I’m from New Jersey we leap into the fray.

Making plans for 2021 or 2022? Besides coming to visit me and Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo, enhance your visit by studying Italian at Centro Meditteraneo Pintadera.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Missing Venice? Visit With Donna Leon!

Many of us are stuck in our homes thinking of all the places in the world we’d like to visit.  Why not take an armchair tour of Venice with my favorite detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti.  The fictional Italian detective,  is a commissario in the Italian State Police, stationed in Venice.  He is proud to be a native Venetian. The creation of Donna Leon, Brunetti becomes our eyes and ears in Venice. His wife, children, family life, upper class in-laws, obnoxious boss and the other detectives all become part of our tour.  We peek into the worlds of Counts and Countesses, immigrants, Venetian middle class and the very poor.  What I love about Leon’s books is the way they draw me into  the social, political and historic fabric of the city, and region.  With Brunetti, we hop on a traghetto (think bus in the water), a police boat, sometimes even a car, but most often on foot to wend our way through canals and neighborhoods tourists don’t see.

 And then the air was just as suddenly filled with the sweetness of springtime and buds and new leaves, fresh grass and nature’s giggly joy at coming back for another show
As they turned into the broad stereet, Brunetti saw evidence in support of his belief that this was one of the few areas of the city still filled primarily with Venetians.  It was enough to see the beige woollen cardiagans and short carefully permed hair to know the older women were Venetian; those children with their skateboards were not there on vacation; and most foreign men did not stand so close to one another during aconversation.  The shops, too, sold things that would be used in the city where they were purchased, not wrapped up and taken home to be shown off as some sort of prized acquisition, like a deer hunted and shot and tied to the top of a car.
“By Its Cover” 2014

The Venetian inspector also editorializes on the not so positive transitions that have occurred in Venice over the past fifty or so years.  He often speaks of the changes that all of us who have been fortunate to visit Venice over the decades have seen. The enormous cruise ships that displace tons of water and toss thousands of back pack smashing tourists all at once onto the island.  Like whirling dervish they twist and twirl over bridges.  Made in China faux Venetian glass, masks and more have taken over bakeries, butcher shops and vegetable stands.

Brunetti — I had the good fortune to grow up in a different Venice, not this stage set that’s been created for tourists …  Venetian families, especially young ones, are driven out because they cannot afford to rent or buy a home.

“Earthly Remains” 2017

Picking up travel and life hints while binge reading Brunetti is also a great way to plan your next visit to Italy.  There are so many food references that fans demanded and were rewarded with the Brunetti’s Cook Book.

The first time I had a prescription filled in our villages local pharmacy I was mesmerized watching the farmacista peel and stick labels from boxes.  Leon’s accurate description of the action had me smiling.  There are many more bits and pieces of everyday Italian life sprinkled in the books.
She took the boxes, peeled off stamps from the backs, and pasted them on to the prescriptions the woman gave her.  Then she ran the prescriptions over the sensor plate next to the cash register, put the boxes in a plastic bag, and accepted a twenty-Euro note in payment.  She rang up the sale and returned the woman’s change, added the receipt, thanked her, and wished her a pleasant eventing.
“Temptation of Forgiveness,”  2018
Take a walk with Donna Leon’s Brunetti and become a part of  Venetian life.  Just be wary when and where you walk.  Once we were trying to get over the Rialto Bridge and cross the Grand Canal.  A wild large tourist group of where could they be going in such a hurry, came galloping over the bridge.  Jack and I clung to the sides.  No, even though I thought it, I didn’t stick out my foot.
Brunetti’s first response, given that it was a warm day in early spring, had been to calculate the easiest way to walk from the Questura to the Palazzo without becoming entrapped in the by now normal migration paths of the herds of tourists.  Because of the clear sky and benevolent temperature, walking hip Riva Degli Schiavoni would be impossible, crossing Piazza San Marco an act of madness.
Brunetti walked home quickly, paying almost no attention to what or whom he passed, deaf to the sound of the returning birds, the only tourists no one resented.
“Upon Us a Son Is Given,” 2019
Donna Leon is incredibly prolific.  I think there are twenty-nine Brunetti novels. But there may be a new one coming soon.  She is my literary work ethic idol. Besides the cook book there are television shows, a Brunetti walking tour, even stories with music!  But hey – she IS a Jersey girl! Born in Montclair, New Jersey, she lived and worked in Venice for over thirty years.  Her Commissario Brunetti series has won countless awards.  I would love to award her the Midge’s Favorite Author of All Things Venetian award.  Would it be stalking if I just sat outside her house and stared???
“Trace Elements” is the latest book.  I can’t wait to get mine and see where Brunetti goes next. Why not pour a glass of Prosecco and visit Venice with Guido Brunetti. You will be so happy you did.
Ci vediamo!!

PS. Stay safe and wear a mask.

Buying a House in Italy?

Last week my inbox was hopping with messages. 

Thinking of moving to Italy. How hard is it? How do I apply for Italian Citizenship?  Ya think I can find a house to buy in Italy?  Will the Italian bureaucracy make me insane? If I don’t speak Italian am I screwed?

For whatever reason, it seems folks who read this blog are getting the ex-pat fever or maybe simply looking for an alternative lifestyle. La Dolce Vita!

Before you dive into buying a home, you may want to commit to a long-term stay. Try out a town for a few months and see if the village or city is a good fit. Because everyone wants to live in Tuscany or Umbria doesn’t mean that you will adore the backpack carrying hordes of tourists who share those regions with you. Explore Campania, Basilicata, Molise, Puglia or Sardinia. Southern Italy is beautiful, costs less and I’d be able to visit. We’d love to see you in my hometown – Pontelandolfo (BN)

Thank You Raffaele Pilla. Grazie Mille!

We love living in a small Southern Italian village.  Becoming part of the fabric of a tiny community is doable.  Prices are low, people are friendly and the fresh food…  Sigh.  Let us get back to the task at hand.

Disclaimer – I never bought a house! We rent a house twelve months a year. To aging Baby Boomers – oops Jack reminds me he is not a boomer since he was born pre boom and is just old – rental is an easy alternative. That said, I called my favorite Italian attorney, Rossella Mancini and asked her how it worked.

Steps To Buying Your Home

Step one: Codice Fiscale

Apply for a codice fiscale.  This is like an American social security number or tax code.  This number follows you.  It is used by Italian public offices to identify you.  You need to have one to enter into contracts, leases, loans etc.  The codice fiscale is assigned by birth to all Italians and upon request to the rest of us.  You can apply for your Italian codice fiscale through any Agenzia delle Entrate. (tax,office)

If you have applied for and became an Italian citizen, check your documents. I swear, I got a codice fiscale when I got the letter confirming my citizenship.  If you don’t have one, contact your nearest consulate.

Step Two: Love a House

Find a house you love.  The inexpensive ones need a lot of work.  Unless you speak Italian, I would suggest you hire an “Italian Friend” to help you search and translate discussions with owners, towns and contractors.  You may want to know about how much a renovation would cost before you commit.  Join us in Pontelandolfo and we can find a team to help you look for something cool.  

Sites to Help You Search for a House.

Check them all out and then just come to Pontelandolfo.

Step Three: Contracts

Now comes the interesting part. Contracts and commitments. A Notaio – notary- handles land transfers and is allegedly impartial doing work for the buyer and seller. We are lucky to also have an attorney, Rossella, in the family to explain all this stuff to us. The seller must pay for the technical report on the state of the property and any necessary certificates.

To calculate fees and taxes at the time of sale, the price in the contract must be determined in Euros and it if possible, include the equivalent in dollars or other currency. 

If the cost of the house exceeds 2,000 euros, payment can be made according to the method agreed by the parties but cannot be made in cash. To allow for traceability, it is preferable to pay by bank transfer or wire from abroad. 

Disclaimer:  Double check all my info.  Rules Change and I could be wrong.

At the time of closing of the sale to a private person – like you – one pays between 2% to 9 % stamp duty tax calculated on the cadastral or real value of the property, with a minimum of 1,000.00 euro. I’m told it will be 2% if the house is your primary residence and 9% if it is a secondary residence.

I have heard from the breezes over the hills that some sellers and buyers have deeds that have one sale number and a handshake deal for a higher number. Contract price paid at the closing and the extra outside of the closing. A little tax scam for both sides.

Step Four: Cough up the cash.

Registry Fee: There is an imposta catastale, land registry tax.  This is a fixed fee that is €50 if you buy the house from a private person and €200 if you buy from a company. This pays for the change of ownership on the cadastral lists.

Value Added Tax: The VAT or as it is called in Italian IVA is due on every purchase and there is no exception for a house.  The percentage amount is based on whether you are buying from a private person or a company and if the house is a primary or secondary residence. It is 4% for a primary home, 10% for a secondary and 22% for a luxury model – like that villa with a tennis court, pool and putting green.

Again, I am not an attorney, Realtor or even good at math. Double check everything! This is what I understand the process to be.

Step fivePay the Staff

You will of course have to pay for any translations, translator, notary, real estate agency (if you use one) and the person who keeps you sane. This is really no different than buying a home in the USA.

Step Six: The Beat Goes On

Live la dolce vita and pay property taxes and utilities.  There is currently an interesting law in Italy.  If this is your “first house” or primary residence you pay lower taxes.  As an expat you will have to take up residency within 18 months of the purchase.

• IMU is the municipal real estate tax payable by those who own a property. If it is your primary residence and isn’t what is classified as a luxury home, with today’s laws there is no tax due. IMU is paid to the Municipality where the house is located and depends on the cadastral value of the properties. Currently in Pontelandolfo it is equal to 0.95%.  Less than 1%!

• TARI is the annual tax on waste. TARI is always paid to the Municipality and depends on the square meters of the house and the number of family members. Pontelandolfo is expected to reduce it by 2/3 for residents abroad. The town figures you won’t be there all year.

Step Seven: Dinner?

Call me.  I will bring a bottle of prosecco to celebrate.  Then we will find a lovely little trattoria for dinner under the setting sun.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

PS – 2021 – Come Cook in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo! New one to seven day programs for groups and individuals. Ask about our Learning Italian in the Kitchen classes!

COVID Italian Rapid Response

Listen up!  Italy has a nation wide policy on Covid that includes a Rapid Response Team. Wouldn’t it be cool if the USA did too?  The health care system, under the Ministero della Salute – Ministry of Health – remember, Italy has national health care – Il Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – is administered by each region. What follows is a true tale of fast contact tracing and testing in Southern Italy.  The country and regions are working together for the greater good –

It all started in the Sannio Hills with the renovation of the medieval castle below.  Man the battlements!  

REINO-CASTELLO.jpg (1100×459)

On a Saturday at the end of August, the village of Reino in the province of Benevento held an event to celebrate the grand opening of their restored medieval castle.  They got great press and hoped the castle would become a tourism anchor.  (That link has a video of this grand edifice designed to ward off all war mongering enemies.) The sun was shining and people, including Pontelandolfo’s own mayor, Gianfranco Rinaldi, enjoyed exploring the space. The following Monday, the warm memories turned cold with fear.  The mayor of Reino tested positive for Covid 19. Immediately the town and the Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) – the local health agency leaped into action.  

  1. The town immediately activated it notification system. Masks were made mandatory everywhere in the town of Reino.  With outdoor social distancing they had previously eased up on the wearing of masks.
  2. Everyone who was at the grand opening was contacted.  Those contacted helped spread  the word.  Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and local media all were full of the news.  

For example, our Mayor quickly posted his possible Covid contact on Facebook and went into isolation quarantine. Facebook in Pontelandolfo is read by the majority of the citizens.  The town uses it to let people know about everything from new laws to weather alerts.  The Mayor is a Facebook Friend with just about everyone.

Just how did the town of Reino know who was at the event?  How were people contacted so rapidly?  How did the Ministry of Health do something that we haven’t been able to do In the USA?  One answer is that the majority of citizens in our little corner of Italy have loaded the App Immuni on their smart phones.  The idea is simple and doesn’t sacrifice privacy. Immuni doesn’t collect names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers or email addresses.  It cannot determine someone’s identity or the identity of those that they come in contact with.  It doesn’t save  GPS or geolocation data.  The data is saved on your smartphone and the connections to the server are encrypted.  

 

Simply put – the App notes where you are, the date and time of the day.  That information is saved to your smart phone.  If someone else who was in that same place at that same time is tested positive for Covid, you will immediately be contacted through the app.  Yeah, yeah all you folks who are afraid of them knowing where you are need to remember that if you have a smart phone, use social media and don’t have an spy quality encrypted phone they probably already do.  I realize that not all Italians have a a smart phone and that not all Italians have downloaded the App.  What I do know is purely anecdotal from my very politically active sources in the Region of Campania that tell me everyone they know has the App and shares information with elder family members who may not have a phone.

3. Besides the alarm on the App sounding, phones ringing, town websites putting up notices and social media being loaded with information, the province’s Rapid Response Team left the bat cave. The ASL Rapid Response Testing Team  set up a mobile voluntary testing site across the piazza from Reino’s castle.  Folks got quick blood tests to see if they had Covid antibodies hard at work in their systems.  Everyone cooperated.  Out of the 746 people in this tiny village who took this quick test 15 people tested positive for the antibodies and went to take the yucky nasal-pharyngeal Covid test.  In reality anyone who wanted to could also make an appointment for the full Covid test.  Happily Pontelandolfo’s mayor tested negative but remained in quarantine for fourteen days.

4. To control the pandemic, people entering Italy register with the town they are going to and remain in isolation quarantine for two weeks. The police will stop by and check on you.  We  know that because my cousin, returning from New Jersey to Pontelandolfo,  made the mistake of sitting outside on her veranda during her isolation.  The police arrived and sent her back inside.   We are so blessed in Pontelandolfo that everyone working together for the greater good has kept us Covid free.

Obviously it is much easier with National Health Care and a national plan.  I wondered about App use in the USA.  Jack insisted he read about Apps were available in the USA but that people were hesitant to use them.  Are any connected to government Departments of Health?   I wondered if New Jersey’s Department of Health recommended an App. Just for fun, I searched at NJ.gov and then called the General Covid Questions hot line to find out.  The gentleman who answered the phone was very nice and put me on hold to investigate.  Nope, nada, niente.  Unlike Italy, New Jersey residents don’t have access to a tracing application that is coordinated by a government health agency.  I asked the call center person to please forward my suggestion that New Jersey needs an App – we can’t wait for the Federal Government – and  if there were to be an App it should be mandated.  The states I found that have asked citizens to voluntarily use Apps haven’t been successful. North Dakota was the first state.  At the end of August, Nevada launched an App. Let us hope that Nevadians sign up.  I haven’t been successful in finding many more.  Wooo Wooo fear of Big Brother watching seems to be the problem.  I’m a theatre kid – I don’t care who watches me, where, doing what or when. Seriously, I don’t care.  If tracking where I go can help stem the pandemic, I am all for it.  The New York Times just had an article about Apple and Google creating software.  Click Here to read the article.  If it is coordinated by our home states, I hope we are encouraged to use the software.

As those who follow this blog know,  I am not afraid to point out things that don’t work in Italy.  We hate to admit it but not everything in Southern Italy is absolutely amazing.  This commitment to keeping the population safe, however, is incredible and something that one would hope other bigger countries would copy.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

 

You too can make fresh pasta.  Consider Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo in 2021.

 

 

August Flashbacks

How did September get here?  What happened to August?  The pandemic – duh – no wonder I have no stories to tell of the annual August festa. Remember the year I tried to write about each of the seven events and slept through the last two? August in Pontelandolfo is usually jam-packed with concerts, art exhibits, processions, remembrance celebrations, Feragosto picnics and house parties. Pontelandolfesi from all over the world return home to eat, drink and reminisce with family seen only once every few years. This year, thanks to the pandemic, the monthlong whirlwind didn’t happen.

No stage was set up in Piazza Roma. 

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Performing artists weren’t  contracted or were cancelled.

Ri Ualanegli, our internationally acclaimed folk dance company, didn’t host a 2020 dance festival.

What did happen in August?  Gardens were tended.  Crops harvested.  Produce canned. Bars opened. Cards were shuffled. People strolled the piazza. Families ate, drank and enjoyed each other.  Trekking, forest foraging and picnics took place in the mountain.  Beaches were visited.  Kids started thinking about school starting on September 14th. Some folks did the usual August thing and went on vacations. Returning vacationers caused a surge in Covid-19 cases.  

Not again…

Pontelandolfo is a microcosm of good health.  During the pandemic, there has only been one case of Covid.  Perhaps it is the mountain air and great wine.  I will start thinking about next August and what a joy the annual festa will be.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.  Booking 2021.