Norwegian Air Gets You There

Up in the air junior bird man.  Remember when flying was as easy peasy as putting your thumb and pointer fingers together to make a mask out of your two hands and then, with mask in place, singing and zooming around the house?  Sigh, how I long for those days.  Now it is surfing the web for air fares, thinking you found a deal and then pulling out your hair as your dates won’t work.  Errrrggggg.  With an extended family that we adore deciding they should all be getting married this year, we have been flying back and forth to Italy more than normal.  That meant one of us had to handle the insanity that is ticket buying.  Thank God, Jack enjoys the hunt and doesn’t cave under the price chase pressure.

This flight back Jack booked us on “low cost” (their website words not mine) Norwegian Air.  Compared to our usual flights in premium economy seats, we saved about $1500.  

WHAT A BIG LIE! – BECAUSE WE SAVED $1500 we promptly booked a hotel in Rome for four days, first class train tickets to Benevento and ate in great Roman restaurants – What?  Jack is reading over my shoulder AGAIN and says the air fare savings is the story.  Stick to the story.  Beh.

Norwegian Air now flies directly to Rome from Newark – a much easier airport for us to get to.  So for a base price of $959 for two premium economy tickets one way, Jack started shopping.  Of course the $959 number was only good after we wanted to go.  Our tickets form Newark to Rome cost $1293.  Getting back next year will cost us the $959.  Still pretty cheap.  Jack bought the $32 priority boarding privilege.  Not bad. Then you add on the airport fees – eleven different fees to be exact.  What the hell is Council City Tax (HB) or US APHIS FEE (XA)?  Smack the fees on and our price for two  premium economy seats  was $2535.

 

Why not cram four bags and two computer bags into Tony’s car?

The Norwegian Experience —-

Tony and Andrea once again drag our suitcases to the curb and kiss us good-bye.  We were there the requisite three hours early and were the only folks at the Norwegian Air counter.  The woman who helped us was charming and fun.  We dumped our luggage and headed for the included Arts Lounge. This is the “First Class” lounge for a slew of low cost airlines.  We discovered that Premium Economy is also considered First Class by Norwegian air.  Actually, they only have two classes on a plane – couch and premium.  The lounge was incredibly full of furniture and people speaking a babel’s worth of languages.  The chairs were comfortable and they had a hot buffet.  Did I mention that our flight was leaving after 11:00 PM?  Snacks, wines, sparkling wines, beers, hot food and comfortable seats – hmmm next time we should come earlier.

I read our tickets and realized that the flight was operated by Privilege Style.  A quick google resulted in our knowing that this was a charter company that offers flights on behalf of other companies.  Gulp.  Maybe we need to cancel the flight or just walk to Pontelandolfo.  The ever tranquil Jack brought me another glass of something alcoholic and said it was an adventure.

We easily got through TSA and went to the appropriate gate.  At 11:00 PM I noted there wasn’t any plane at the gate.  A glance at the call board didn’t even have a flight listed.  I had to restrain my Jersey girl bully and started to get up to find out the story.  Suddenly, an announcement was made to the 100 of us sitting at the gate.  “Norwegian Flight 7194 was leaving from the other f%&^ing side of the airport – RUN.”  No, they didn’t say that but they should have.  We all got up and power walked to the other side of the terminal.  There this line of pissed off people calmly – NOT – went through the TSA drill for a second time.  Our priority boarding fee wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.  By the time we got to the right gate they were boarding everyone.

Then we turned left into the plane.  Our seat – my God our seats – they were the size and shape of Business Class seats on other airlines.  There was a security screen that Jack could raise between our seats so I couldn’t talk to him.  The seats reclined flat and bed like.  There was tons of leg and wide butt room.  Cozy and comfortable.  Each of us was given a very Nordic throw to keep us warm.  Pillow?  Nope.  Headphones to watch the video screens?  Nope. Cute little bag with earplugs and eye shades?  Nope.  But hey it was cheap and I carry all that on anyway – well not the pillow.   I put on my eyeshades, plugged up my ear and slide the seat down to bed.  Ahhhh – what is that I hear – a cocktail cart.  Whisk, I was up and had my hand out.  Sorry no Scotch.  They had wines, beer and sparkling wines.  I sipped my Prosecco and went back to sleep mode.  About an hour later my nose woke me up sniffing hot food.  I vowed since this was a red-eye flight I wasn’t going to eat but the smell – – –

We both had pretty tasty salmon, salads and I don’t remember – oh year a funny messy bunch yummy potato thing.  All was served in a cardboard box with plastic cutlery.  Remember this is a low-cost carrier.  Since my earplugs weren’t compatible with the entertainment system, I popped open my iPad and watched the movie I had downloaded.  Actually, I will make sure to always do this.  Than, the choice is really mine.  After the movie, the mask was back, ears were plugged and the big snooze happened for a few hours.

At 11:30 AM Italy time, we were all woken up to the scent of coffee.  Instead of breakfast, we got a cardboard box of a brunch thing – teeny tiny pigeonesq eggs, salad, salami, salad covered in crumbly cheese and mild Nordic cheese.  Not the best food – remember this is a low-cost airline.  Correction – Jack said the food was good!

Would we fly them again?  Hell yeah – the seats went flat and were big.  Will I let Jack convince me to drop a bundle on a mini Roman holiday?  Hell — maybe.

Ci Vediamo!

PS – This is the time to register for 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

 

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Fried Basil

Some days it is almost spring-like.  Others are so freakin’ cold that I want to stay under the covers.  On those winsome warm October days, I have been walking and weeping over all those fresh garden herbs that are now just sticks of their former selves.  It seems like only a moment ago, I was savoring something unique – fried basil!

One hot summer day, as she often does Zia Victoria arrived with a plate of fried something or other.  (We are blessed to live on a working farm next door to a contadina who is a great cook and likes to share.).  I guessed that it was probably zucchini or eggplant or zucchini flowers or even just little savory bits of fried dough.  She looked at me, I looked at her and we both looked at the plate.  Steam was still rising off these narrow lightly battered yummies.  Wait – why is green peaking out?  What is this stuff?  She wouldn’t answer and told me to taste it. Wow, it was something so much better than I expected. Fried basil leaves – who knew you could do this.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought of frying giant leaves of basil! When basil overruns the garden most of us pick the leaves, toss them in a Cuisinart with oil, garlic and some type of nut.  The resulting pesto gets popped in the freezer for a hint of summer in the winter. Well that’s a great activity. But during the summer when the plants are creeping skyward full of leaves, why not just eat the leaves? Fresh basil has its own interesting taste a little sweet, a little bitey, a little perfect. When it’s married with a very fine coating of a simple batter – she told me it was just flour, eggs and milk – it becomes something wonderful.  I tried it with GIANT basil leaves – small ones turn to mush -seltzer and flour – kind of like a tempora – and that worked too.  The oil was really hot and they were done in a second.

Fried Basil

Zia Vittoria, my nonna and most of the elders in Pontelandolfo use everything they grow.  No part of an edible plant or animal gets tossed. (Remember my story on pig parts and weeds?)  As I was scoffing down this great snack or appetizer, the crunchy unique taste sent me back in time to 1950s Flagtown.  Growing up – nothing was wasted. Before anyone was allowed to cut the lawn, we had to scavenge for young dandelions.  Tossed in a salad, sautéed with onion or eaten with cheese and chunky bread the green was something to forage and enjoy.  Wild herbs like camomile and fennel were found in the nearby woods and hung to dry.  As a kid, I hated this stoop labor.  Cripes, I wanted to be rich enough to just go buy the freakin’ stuff.  In my artsy hippy dippy days, I baked my own bread, foraged and thought how I was an earth mamma.  I don’t know when it happened but one day, I found myself throwing out unopened food that had rotted in my refrigerator and not giving it a second thought.  As I worked more and more, this careless tossing became a regular thing. I would casually toss out clothes that no longer fit or I felt fugly in.  Next thing I knew, I was one of those conspicuous consumption folks who had to have….

Here we are in our second – or is it third – act and I’ve come full circle. I’m living on a working farm, eating animal parts that most people stick up their noses at and realizing that the Nonnas and the Zias of the world have the right idea.  Don’t waste a thing.  Share when you have an abundance and don’t race around buying what you don’t bloody well need.

Damn, how could all that come from tasting a simple dish like a fried basil leaf?

Ci vediamo!


Come Cook in Pontelandolfo!  We are registering for our May 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo Now.  CLICK HERE to find out more.

 

 

LA? No, Pontelandolfo!

Get your fancy clothes out of storage! Force your feet into those sexy pumps.  It is almost time to prance down the red carpet at  Pontelandolfo’s International Film Festival – Comicron! 

This December 15th and 16th our little southern Italian village will be screening short comic films from all over the world. The glitterati will be there.  The press will be there.  Hell, Jack and I will be there.  Will your short comic film be there?

Producers of Short Comic Films – Enter ComicronToday!

Pontelandolfo, in cooperation with Centro Studi Ugo Gregoretti and Pontelandolfo’s Pro Loco presents the fifth edition of the Comic Short International Film Festival, Comicron. The project creator and artistic director is award winning film director and Honorary Pontelandolfo Citizen, Ugo Gregoretti.

Reaching out to handy dandy Wikipedia, I discovered a little of Gregoretti’s background –

Ugo Gregoretti is an Italian film, television and stage director, actor, screenwriter, author and television host. He has directed 20 films since 1956.  For RAI, Gregoretti worked as a documentarist and a director. In 1960 he won the Premio Italia Award for the television documentary La Sicilia del Gattopardo. In 1962 he made his film debut with the comedy-drama I nuovi angeli. Having directed both theatre and opera, he was president of the Turin Permanent Theatre from 1980 to 1989 and in 1995 he was nominated president of the Accademia Nazionale di Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico. In 2010 he was awarded with a special Lifetime Nastro d’Argentofor his career.

The location of the Festival in Pontelandolfo is not only indicative of the Gregoretti’s desire to create an alternative venue for this quirky art form, but also his commitment to the village where he summered as a child.  His family actually owned Pontelandolfo’s iconic tower.  Not only is he the driving force behind the Short Comic Film Festival, Gregoretti has also donated his personal archives to the town.  Centro Studi Ugo Gregoretti is an invaluable resource for film students.

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2014 Festival – Ugo Gregoretti cuts the Red Carpet Ribbon.

 Comicron, devoted exclusively to one genre – comedy – is a unique experience in the International Festival scene.  Audiences come and leave the viewing areas smiling.  Seriously, this is not only a great experience for we giggling audience members but also for Indie Film makers with a comic flair.

So, now that you have the basics please spread the word to your artsy and funny film making pals.  Unlike other festivals this one is FREE to enter – it costs nada, nothing, niente.  The top prize is €500!  Think about it for only a nano-second and then forward the guidelines to your pals. (The website only translated the guidelines – hisss – but you can check out the pictures and let google translate play.  Also, they call the application area subscribe.  Strange, I know.  If you need help ask me.)

Registration Fee: Free

Deadline for applications: November 10, 2018

Festival dates: December 15 and 16, 2018

€500 Award – ComicronAward 2018 – Best Short Film

ENTER TODAY AND VISIT PONTELANDOLFO THIS DECEMBER!

Ci vediamo sul tappeto rosso!

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Nonna’s Mulberry Tree LLC is now accepting registrations for our May 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!

 

 

Secret Tomb Found!!!

Rinvenimento Tomba Sepolcrale – Discovery – Sepulchral Tomb

That was the headline on a statement circulated by the Comune di Pontelandolfo.  Italians have a great vocabulary. I had to use the Miriam Webster Dictionary for kids to understand the translation of Sepolcrale – Sepulchral – “relating to the burial of the dead – gloomy”– I would think being buried in an ancient tomb would be pretty dark and gloomy.  What is not so gloomy is why they issued a statement.  It was the precursor of some pretty exciting news.

On 21 Augusto 2018, in the Pontelandolfo section of Sorgenza, ScaPollici (the company putting mammoth wind turbines on our pristine hills) needed to bury conduits and began digging. I can almost see and hear the scene.

Vroom Vrrom VRRRRRRoooom, roared the backhoe.

“Che fa???? Whoa, what is that – a skull,” queried one of the guys watching the work.

“Cripes, whose it is,” asked the other guy standing and watching the work.

“Stop digging. Turn off the excavator. STOP. STOP. STOP DIGGING,” screamed the head guy standing and watching the work.

Someone alerted the police and the town. Our mayor promptly called the office of the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the province of Caserta and Benevento. This office of the superintendent is the local office of the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Cultualli e de Turismo (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism.)  Quickly, State sanctioned archaeologists raced to Pontelandolfo and supervised the work at the location.  Immediately, the front loaders were silenced, and manual excavation began. Our diligent municipal administration was not only updated by archaeologists constantly, but also repeatedly checked out the on-site activity themselves.

The archaeologists dashed off a report to the superintendent.  Wham bam, work was suspended in the area and the local Carabinieri were dispatched to guard the location.

I had no idea this was going on and being a gossip hound, I am glad I didn’t. Our Mayor and Council, supporting the requests of the archeologists, kept the information about the site a wee bit secret. During the excavation, the mayor, with the press pressing for information and locals gossiping up a storm did as he was asked and zita, kept his mouth shut. The professionals feared that if a lot of publicity was blasted about the site unauthorized “Raiders of the Lost Ark” type folks might start digging. Historically, artifacts have been looted from the village.

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Now the site is secured.  Who was this little Roman baby? What were her parents like? Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

Now the word is officially out and it is incredible news.  A 90 cm by 120 cm tomb, presumably from the Roman era, containing the skeleton of an infant was uncovered.  The skeleton was subsequently preserved in a safe place.  The tomb was covered with steel plates and secured.  More archeological sanctioned excavation will occur later.

Why is this great news?  Where there was an infant there was a group of people!  The importance of this discovery not only brings a sense of historic pride to the community of Pontelandolfo, but also the archeologists confirm what we all thought – there was a presence here of an ancient civilization. This unleashes scores of opportunities!

According to city spokesperson Gabriele Palladino in Pontelandolfo News –

…in the pleasant and spacious plain there was once a prosperous and laughing Pag: The Pagus Herculaneus, or village of Hercules. This rural district of the ancient Roman territory, embellished with marble, glass, mosaics of frescoes, statues, temples, aqueduct, fountains and spas, had life in the Piana…

Now our administration is considering all of the possible opportunities this gives us.  Imagine the collaborations with major universities to create an archeological zone!  Or the development of a museum to exhibit newly uncovered artifacts and the items already available to us!  This is incredibly exciting to me.  I envision, yet another reason to visit Pontelandolfo.

Yes, this poor baby’s bones, kept hidden for hundreds of years, could represent a new beginning for a small village in the Sannio Hills

Ci Vediamo.

 

It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Like a lioness roaring at her cubs, I announced in una voce forte, “hop in the car we have places to go and animals to see.”

“What,” queried Jack, “sheep in the mountain? Stop bellowing like a lion. Where do you want to go?”

“Lions and tigers and bears -oh my – to the Zoo Delle Maitine in Pesca Sannita!”

Spending a lot of time in Pontelandolfo BN, we are always looking for day trips. Since lots of folks come to visit us or are culinary tourists in our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program, I think of it as research for our guests. Actually that is just an easy excuse. I love to explore. Life is short and there are lots of places to see. I have an old Visit Campania book – which I love. It is much more complete than the website and includes little towns. I looked up the Provincia di Benevento. Pesca Sannita had a fairly good write up. Hmm, I bet their administration understands PR and sent something in when they were asked. I googled the town, expecting to get the droll web-site template that Pontelandolfo and other towns use. Whoa – Pesca Sannita has a website dedicated to tourism. The blurb included a photo of a parrot and an invitation to visit Zoo Delle Maitine. That impressed me enough to get in the car and point driver Jack towards Pesca Sannita.

Besides, who knew there was a zoo? Perhaps the gnu knew, and now I’m telling you. A scant trip over the mountain to Pesco Sannita and we came upon a darling well thought out little zoo.

There was a sign saying “paid parking”. We pulled in and an older man pointed out where to park. I had a €5 bill in my hand – huge mistake – and asked him how much? He took the 5 and scampered off. I found out from the ticket taker that you just tip the person in the lot – like €1. Oops. For a well organized place, the zoo needs to get some “Parker Beware” signage up in the parking lot.

Our €6 each senior citizen tickets made up for the scammer in the parking lot.

What struck me at first was how clean the zoo was. Every animal encampment was pristine and large. For example, only two lions are in the huge lion park. It had a little lake, trees and lots of grass – very plain like. Next to the lake, the lioness was reposing in the shade. The man with the mane was posing for the cameras.

My zoo experiences are urban – Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo. And I remembered as a kid holding my nose against the smell – I was a wee bit obnoxious – thinking it was stinky and the animals were squished. We visited the Zoo Delle Maitine on a hot summer day and there wasn’t any odor. OK, that is a lie, it was a hot summer day and there were lots of sweaty kids. I will rephrase that – there wasn’t any overt odor from the animal habitats.

Signage near each grouping of animals talked about extinction. There were charts showing how endangered the animals were and why. I hope the signs are a catalyst for family discussions.

Most of the visitors had small children with them and some of the viewing areas had glass partial walls that permitted small faces to get up close and personal with the monkeys and other animals. One part of the zoo, that my “child” particularly liked was the fattoria, farm. They had really miniature goats and sheep. A perfect size for little people to look at and play with. It was an open area – still clean. We walked in and the farm yard animals obviously used to guests, ambled over to play. I had on a white skirt and bolted, but I’m told there were all kinds of food bearing animals.

Here is my wee companion playing in the farm yard.

Did they have every animal in the universe? No, but what they did have seemed well cared for and a joy to look at. Also, for the nonni who were bringing kids, there were lots of benches placed in shady nooks. One of the things I appreciated was that, unlike urban zoos, they didn’t gouge us at the refreshment stands. A bottle of water was the same €1 we would pay in a local bar. They even had a picnic area for folks who carried their own grub.

Jack and I spent half a day there and really enjoyed ourselves. Granted, people looked at us strangely because we didn’t have any kids with us. Occasionally, I remedied that by looking at groups of kids and saying things like Salvatore, sta attento!

Salvatore didn’t listen but this guy came over to say hi.

Next time you come to visit Provincia di Benevento, add Zoo Delle Maitine to your list!

Ci Vediamo!

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We are now signing up culinary adventurers for our May 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo. Check out our website.

Rainy Day in the Museum – ARCOS

Like a ticking time bomb, I was ready to detonate. BAM!  It has been raining or threatening rain or rain was predicted for more days than I  – BAM. BAM.  With the voice and bared teeth of a Giganotosaurus, I bellowed – “Jack, I refuse to stay in this house another day.  If it fahkackata rains, it won’t melt us!.  Let’s go to Benevento and check out the contemporary art exhibit at ARCOS.”

Sigh, “What kind of art?  Where?”

“The show is called Materiche Geometrie.  Maybe its cubism.  Does it matter?  Let’s just go!”

I had read somewhere that there was an artist from Benevento, Mario Lanzione, who had an exhibit at the ARCOS Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Sannio.  We had often gone to the primary museum in Benevento, Museo del Sannio, and found it incredibly interesting.  We had never visited the companion museum across Corso Garibaldi.

Corso Garibaldi is a broad  avenue that has been turned into a charming shop and bar lined pedestrian street.  At the top is a castle and a park and at the bottom a parking lot.  In the middle, a UNESCO heritage site! For whatever reason, roads were closed and we couldn’t park at the top near the museum but at the bottom of the hill.  Well, the sun was shining and walking up hill is great exercise. Rats, I forgot to put the umbrella in my purse.  It won’t rain – look sun – hot sun.

When we got to ARCOS we were greeted by an incredible couple of museum employees. I was remiss in not getting their names.  Once they detected that my Italian was accented and we were pegged as foreigners, we engaged in a terrific conversation about why we love the Sannio Hills.  We paid our whopping €1 each senior citizen, Province of Benevento resident entrance fee and were surprised when the woman who was working at the ticket counter jumped up and took us on a personalized tour.  Now granted we were the only people in the place and rain was predicted and she might have been bored, BUT whatever the reason she made our visit absolutely incredible.

What we didn’t realize was that the facility held not only the Contemporary Art Museum but also Museo del Sannio Sezione Egizia.  Our knowledgeable guide steered us away from the art and on to the Egyptian part of the building.  I discovered that she was one of the educators that conducted programs for school children – in full period costume.  How could I not love her!

The name of the permanent exhibition is ISIDE la Scandalosa e la Magnifica!  Isis, the scandalous and the magnificent – who could not want to visit an exhibit with such a tantalizing name?

What we discovered was that a temple to the goddess Isis had been built in Benevento during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian.  He had his minions drag lots of Egyptian artifacts to Benevento.  The temple was built with a mixture of ancient Egyptian items and recreated Roman items.  Our guide pointed out how one could tell which statues were Egyptian and which were Roman replicas.  I have to say, the Roman ones are still pretty ancient.

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Roman copies – an original was there too and you could see the difference. God Horus, son of Isis was depicted as a resting Falcon.  There long beaks were chopped off in 380 AD.

Domiziano (Domitian) apparently said – IO sono il grande della vittoria. Re dell’ Alto e del Basso Egitto, sono Domiziano, vivente in eterno. Per Iside, madre divina, astro del mattino, regina degli dei, dai monti di granito rosso di Siene ho trasportato questi monumenti nel nobile tempio che ho edificato in onore della grande signori di Benevento nell ‘ ottava anno del mio regno.

I am the great victor. King of Upper and Lower Egypt, I am Domitian, living forever.  For Isis, divine Mother, Morning Star, Queen of the Gods, from the mountains of red granite of Siene I transported these monuments to the noble temple that I built in honor of the great gods of Benevento in the eighth year of my reign.

I couldn’t understand why a Roman would build a temple to an Egyptian goddess.  Rome had tons of its own gods and goddesses.  Along with a photo of a statue we saw in the museum, here is what I discovered:

Like other foreign rulers in Egypt, Domitian embraced Egyptian religion and co-opted, so to speak, a particular goddess cult – that of Isis – to enhance his own stature through association. Domitian spread Isis worship throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, this statue probably originally decorated a temple to Isis in Benevento in what’s now Italy, built during Domitian’s reign.

http://www.getty.edu/art/mobile/center/egypt/stop.php?id=364903.   J Paul Getty Trust

As we looked at headless and faceless statues, our guide explained that the temple was destroyed by the Edict of Thessalonica from the Emperor Theodosius who in 380 recognized Christianity as a state religion, forbidding all other pagan cults.  Essentially, when Christianity became the religion of choice all of the heads of the statues were lopped off.  Just a hint as to what the Christians would do to you if they caught you worshiping some other god or goddess.  Interesting how history repeats itself.

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Hacked off head of Isis.  The 3/4 life size statue was probably from the Temple of Behbet-el-Haga in the Nile Delta.

Since 1892, the sculptures and other found Egyptian items were merged in the collections of the Museum of Sannio.  At ARCOS, the items were placed in a manner to help the viewer – me – get a feel for what the temple looked like.  They also had screens for a currently non-working multi media immersion.  I can imagine the how much fun learning is for the school groups who work with our guide.  She not only told us what everything was but brought the place to life.  We also found out that a celebration to Isis still happens once a year!  (Don’t tell Theodosius.)

Oh, oh and get this – they hold jazz concerts and tastings in the recreated temple!  We made sure to get on the e-mail list.

I bet you’re wondering about the exhibition of contemporary art.  The galleries are wonderful, the geometric based art was interesting and provided a brief respite from the now pouring rain.  The artist currently lives in Benevento and has exhibited internationally.

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PS – Did I mention the museum staff offered to walk us back down the hill with an umbrella?  Did I mention they wanted to buy us coffee and hang out with us until the rain let up?  I love them!!!

Ci vediamo!

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He who knows the arts….

Cripes, look at the time, I bellowed.  Sweat was pouring off my brow and my clothes were frankly disgusting.  Rossella Mancini and I were setting up an art exhibit and had been collecting and cataloguing pieces all day.  The show would run for seven days and the opening was gulp – in two days.  We were juggling artigianale items – incredible hand loomed fabrics, straw woven into sculptures, wood carvings – with paintings by contemporary artists.  Our idea was to demonstrate how the traditional crafts of a community had a direct impact on the work of younger artists.

No, I screeched, leave her sitting at a table – wait, I’ll add one of the purses.

A painting, waiting to be placed, had been sitting on a little table and propped up on a column. With a little swatch of red cloth, a handmade purse and an empty chair, the painting of a young women in a bikini by Angelo Palladino became one of the “scenes” in the gallery.  Rossella and I were both racing around madly trying to get it all pulled together.  The program booklet?!  We need to design and write something and get it to the printer tonight.

I looked at my watch again.  We had seconds to run down the street to the book launch produced by a group of young friends.  As we raced down the block, from the opposite direction we could hear the tech crew setting up an outdoor stage.  Tomorrow night an International Folk Dance Festival opened.  

Good, there is a line to get in – No one will know we are late.  Cripes, I hope no one I know is here.

Looking like something the proverbial cat dragged in, I said hi to folks I knew and dropped into a seat.  Wow, I thought, the glitterati is out tonight. Not only was the audience well dressed, they all had come early – that must mean something “hot” is happening tonight. The performance space looked incredible – from the comfortable overstuffed turquise couch and coffee table on the stage, to the display of art photos by the incredible Salvatore Griffini, to the piano and guitarist primed to play – the tone was set for an interesting evening.  Taking a breath and hoping no one sat too close to me, I was hit in the head with the boing boing of an epiphany.  This very second, we could be anywhere the arts flourish – in a swank artsy neighborhood in Brooklyn or Downtown Manhattan or Chicago or Austin – BUT WE WEREN’T.  We were in a tiny little southern Italian village – Pontelandolfo.  A place where the young and the old make art.

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The evening was produced by “Liberia Tutti”, a group of young writers, actors, artists and musicians.  They had joined forces to produce the book launch in support of photographer, Salvatore Griffini, whose work was in the book. The evening hummed as Liberi Tutti embraced all art forms from vocals supported by piano or guitar, a Brechtian monologue superbly preformed by Gianmarco Castaldi, to a wonderful reading by the talented author Martina del Negro.  Frankly, the editor of the self-published book being launched spoke and I had to suppress my yawns.  Professor Renato Rinaldi, the driving force of the Pontelandolfo News was one of the highlights for me.  What he said reached into my heart and moved me to tears. I hope it will move you.

Chi sa musica, chi sa arte, che sa danza, chi sa teatro, chi sa letteratura, chi sa poesia, sa Pontelandolfo. He who knows music, he who knows dance, he who knows theatre, he who knows literature, he who knows poetry, knows Pontelandolfo.

The art show opened, dance companies from throughout Europe performed, bands

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Here I am moments before the opening.  I cleaned up pretty well.

played and the first week of August – Festival Week – tired us aging second actors out but reinforced the words of Renato.  He who knows the arts understands our little corner of the world.

Ci Vediamo.

 

 

Concetta Biondi

Ponte Old

On August 13, 1861, Pontelandolfo, home to 18 year old Concetta Biondi, was a quiet little mountain village.  Contadini were farming the land, children were seeking shady places to play and women were doing the million chores that women did daily.  Concetta may have been doing laundry in the common fountain trough.

THIS IS AN ARTIST’S RENDERING OF WHAT HAPPENED THE NEXT DAY!  

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Concetta Biondi was collateral damage in a battle – massacre – during the unification of Italy.  “Collateral damage,” that sounds so much better than raped and … I’m getting ahead of myself. Pontelandolfo is famous, along with neighboring Casalduni, for being destroyed by the Italian army.

In 1861, some partisans captured and killed a small number of Italian soldiers in nearby Casalduni. Seeking revenge, Italian Colonel Pier Eleonoro Negri directed his men to launch an attack.  “Leave no stone left standing,” he cried.  (Cfr. Nicolina Vallillo: L’incendio di Pontelandolfo in Rivista storica del Sannio. 1919.)

Entering Pontelandolfo smack in the middle of the night, Negri’s oafs butchered and burned the village . Oops, husband Jack just read over my shoulder and said, “oafs is not fair.  They were soldiers obeying orders.”

Ok, OK, I’ll fix it.  Soldiers obeying orders butchered and burned the village. Within moments, the countryside was in turmoil. Families leaped out of bed to the ringing of the church bells, rapid discharge of rifles and the crunch of boots pounding on the cobblestones. Clutching their drowsy children, adults wondered what the hell was going on. Racing to windows, balconies and doors, the Pontelandolfese were shocked to see soldiers running through their streets. The Italian Army had arrived and they didn’t look like happy campers.

The soldiers, kicked in doors, leaped up stairs, raced into homes killing men, women and children. Those that tried to fight back were dragged under the tilia tree in Piazza Roma and shot. Flames soared as the village burned.   I’m guessing my ancestors were lucky to live in an outlying Contrada or I wouldn’t be here.

“The conduct was horrible and immoral.  The looting and arson is infamous.” (Historian G.De Sivo, The Story of the Two Sicilies, Vol.II).

Concetta Biondi’s story has come to represent the disdain the mercenaries and the Italian army had for women.  Hmm, hot night, testosterone high men, sleeping women dragged out of bed wearing who knows what…  The bastards, as history has told us happened countless times, passed the women around like bowls of candy waiting to be munched.  Children were tossed aside like garbage and trampled.  In the name of Italy, dads and husbands were held by the barbarians and forced to watch the madness.

As the marauders plundered the city, Concetta Biondi, hid in her basement behind some barrels of wine . When she was discovered by the mercenaries, she fainted. I can imagine them tossing her around like a sack of potatoes, copping feels and stripping her.  Her father, Nicholas Biondi charged down the steps to save her. Tied to a chair, he was forced to witness the depravity.  When they were sated, the pigs killed Concetta and tossed her aside.  Wine poured out of the tapped barrels mingling with Concetta’s blood. Nicholas Biondi was executed by a firing squad.

StatueThis giant sculpture near Piazza Roma reminds us never to forget 14 Agosto 1861.  We even have a walking trail for tourists who want to learn more about the atrocities and walk where the dead walked.  Gruesome, but interesting. Lots of books have been written about the incident, including a graphic novel!  IMG_0004

Professor Renato Rinaldi of the Pontelandolfo News is one of our resident experts. He has documented much of what happened.

Can we get back to Concetta Biondi please?  Certainly.  Saturday, for the first time I realized she was an actual human being.  Not just a fable representing war crimes.  But a real young woman who hadn’t done a thing to deserve dying like she did.  Il Club del Libro di Pontelandolfo hosted Italian genealogist Domenico Carriero for the day.  Many of us tagged along.  We went to the parish archives and watched as Domenico started researching Concetta Biondi.  The books – held in a area that is anything but climate controlled – though it was hot and a window was open – go back to the 1600s!  Our guide to the archive was Antimo Albini. ( This is the link to a story about him researching my family.). When this book was opened –

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I began to feel the spirit of Concetta Biondi.  Her existence was noted in the parish records.  She once had walked the same cobblestone streets that I have explored.  She might have known my great grandfather or great grandmother.  Seeing the registry brought tears to my eyes and frankly, created an “ah ha” moment.

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As mankind continues allowing violence to occur in villages around the globe, I’m glad Concetta Biondi reminded me that atrocities leveled in the name of nationalism are often heinous deeds perpetrated on innocents.

Ci Vediamo.

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 Announcing the 2019 Session

May 18 – 25, 2019

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

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