Wind Whips the Hills

The wind is howling outside the house. It has been battering the windows, the walls and the tiles on the roof since Wednesday night.  Today is Friday.  It seems to be getting stronger and stronger.  Now I understand why giant rocks purposefully sit on so many tile roofs. It is incredible to me that our house doesn’t move.  Not one shimmy, shake or shuffle. The force of this wind feels almost like the hurricanes of New Jersey. There, I would feel our wooden house tremble and I would hear the shutters rattle. Here, I hear nothing but the wind.  It is screeching around us. Leaves, nuts and fruits are flying off the trees.   Hmm, I wonder if the olives and grapes are OK?

I’m not quite sure why I feel compelled to write about the wind. It’s keeping me inside in a way that the snow or the rain never did. But simply walking from our house to the attached house next door was more than my body wanted to handle. It’s interesting how the weather here has an impact on our lives. I guess I could be watching television.  Oh no, the wind is jiggling the antenna on the roof.  I guess I could be on the internet researching where to pitch another play.  Oh no the wind is dancing with the big Internet dish on the balconey.

I keep thinking of the three little pigs and I’m so glad that we lucked into a house made not of brick, but stone.  Not just some pretty decorative stone, giant rocks stacked into two-foot-thick walls.  The rock bones of the house go back generations and have withstood earthquakes.  

Restored Stone Italian Home Isn’t Going Anywhere – Take THAT wind!

Apparently, in the town center the wind wreaked havoc on businesses.  Doors were smacking you as you tried to open them.  Car doors flapped like eagle wings.  Yesterday, we heard that the elementary school kids could barely make it from their parent’s cars into the building. Jack asked did they crawl?  I thought perhaps they tied them together with ropes and dragged them in!   In reality, children clung to parents and like hearty hill people wouldn’t let the wind keep them home.  

Not being a hearty hill person, I chose not to leave the house on Thursday or Friday.  Not to go to the piazza, not to go to the butcher, vegetable store, and not go to visit a soul.  I was waiting for the wind god to get tired of puffing his cheeks out.

Wind Gods can be found in our historic center on walls and above doors. Perhaps they are there to blow the bad people away.

Listening to wind that sounded like huge waves pounding the New Jersey Shore, I shuddered and got comfortable with an Elizabeth George, Detective Linley book.  Just as Linley was finally going to propose to Lady Helen, the unlocked interior connecting door between the houses crashed open. In burst next door neighbor, Zia Vittoria carrying a huge tray. She has a hurricane force personality. During yesterday and today’s windstorm I sat, read a book, and stared out the windows at the dancing trees. During yesterday’s windstorm my neighbor made taralli (round breadsticks.) Then she got bored and made a stuffed bread with broccoli.  The wind was still blowing so she made another sweet bread. She became a whirling kitchen dervish.  Obviously, she couldn’t eat it all so she burst into our half of the building to share the carbs.  I was happy to see her and gave her a hug.  The wind was making her feel a wee bit lonely, she said, and cooking and cleaning kept her sane. 

Why is the wind forcing me to sit in a chair all day? What is it about the sound that makes me want to bury myself in blankets and do nothing? One would think the energy of the wind would pump me up and send to the kitchen or computer or close that needs cleaning. But no. The wind sent me to a book to read and an early drink to drink.

The lights started flickering. The digital clock on the oven when berserk.  Darkness.  Light.  Darkness. Light.  The electricity went in and out until it tired of toying with us and stayed out.  Jack played with the breaker box.  Nada.  I went next door and Zia Vittoria was in darkness too.  Hmm, was it just our house?  What if my iPad runs out of battery – what will I read? Thanks to functioning cellular towers – they must be made of real sturdy mountain material – WhatsApp messages raced from house to house!  No one on my street – which wends it way in a circle though the hillside – had power.  I dashed out a message to pals Mariann and Jeff further up into the hillside.  Nope, senza corrente there too.  Emojis flicked back and forth around the hills even if the lights couldn’t.  The power did return and I decided to be productive.  Hence, today’s little tale.

In honor of my husband’s heritage- An Irish Blessing – May the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face…

Ci Vediamo!

Midge


This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Think about sharing a copy of my play, E-Mail: 9/12, published by Next Stage Press with your book club, history teacher pals or friends. CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK.

Blatant Midge Promotion!

Blatant pitch – my play E-mail: 9/12 joins the roster of Next Stage Press! (Go on – click on it!)

That’s mine – circled in yellow! Oh My Goddesses!

Since I have been typing away in Italy, I have gotten some publishing contracts. I am so excited that I have been jumping up and down. They can feel the vibrations in Switzerland. Today is a super duper big day for me – Today, October 1, 2021, Next Stage Press is launching the publication of my 20 year old play E-mail: 9/12. This play had a lot of performances during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Now it is the 20th anniversary and it is getting published. Weeeeooooooo!

Everyone has that special place and maybe even time when creative juices bubble up to the top and magic happens. Pontelandolfo is that place for me. Perhaps, this is my time. Since we arrived in May, I have been a writing and pitching maniac. Maybe it was the Covid-19 reality that death could come knocking when you least expect it that put me in hyper creative and marketing mode. Maybe if is the cappuccinos at Bar Elimar. Whatever it was, I am thankful and feel blessed.

E-Mail: 9/12, takes place on September 12, 2001 – the day after the 9/11 tragedy. The work demonstrates how sharing, caring, grieving and even allowing a spark of humor to fly through cyberspace helped our nation get through the painful aftermath of 9/11. During and after one of the most horrific tragedies our nation has ever faced, our keyboards kept us connected. The play, written as a series of e-mail responses, provides a picture that probes into the hearts of the people that were there, had someone there and those of us who will always be able to tell you where we were when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 AM in New York City.

Have I mentioned, the launch is today? E-mail; 9/12, besides being an easily producible play, would make great auxiliary reading for history, social studies or sociology classes. At the end of the play, there are questions developed in conjunction with social worker, Cindy Quick to help spur on discussion.

Of course, I would love to see the play produced by College, Community, Professional or any type of theater. That said, I think you would also find the play an interesting read. Blatant Pitch – why not buy a copy? Share a copy! Thank you so much for letting me fill my blog with a Blatant Pitch. Hugs to you all.

Here are the other works being published today by Next Stage Press:

Ben Franklin and Baron von Steuben vs. The Paine County School Board – https://nextstagepress.net/ben-franklin-baron-von-steuben-vs-the-paine-county-school-board/
Cranium Fandango- https://nextstagepress.net/cranium-fandango/
Dark Twist – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
Email: 9/12 – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
The Hound and The Yellow Wallpaper – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Miss Julie En Hollywood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Parish Dunkeld – https://nextstagepress.net/parish-dunkeld/
Sally, Hank and Their Son Harry – https://nextstagepress.net/sally-hank-and-their-son-harry/
Setting the Moon – https://nextstagepress.net/setting-the-moon-2/
Short and Scary – https://nextstagepress.net/short-and-scary-2/
The Spirit, The Body & The Blood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-spirit-the-body-and-the-blood/
Trash Day – https://nextstagepress.net/trash-day-2/

Ci vediamo!

Midge

My First Big Italian Wedding!

Hmm, is Midge telling a big bugia? Her “First” big Italian Wedding – doesn’t her sister’s wedding – replete with major politicians – count? How about nephew Joey’s – taking place in a New Jersey palace? If we are concerned about the truth here – how about her “simple wedding” to Jack. The ceremony featured ballerinas and a harpist? Stop! It is absolutely the truth – Midge and Jack went to their First Big Italian Wedding in Italy! For tradition, glamour and length, being at an Italian family wedding in Italy tops all those others.

I thought it would be fun to glide over those things that are the same and talk about the differences between the weddings I’ve witnessed before and this one. Let’s start with the invitations. In today’s frenetic USA world, save the date notices are often sent out a year before the wedding. Here in Pontelandolfo, no one is notified until one month before the wedding – after Il Promesso – I told you about that a month ago. That “Promise” is the contract to really truly get married. A few days after it, the bride and groom hand carry the invitations to everyone within driving distance. Giusy did e-mail invitations a wee bit in advance to the United States. I bet Antonio did the same thing for relatives who live far away. How incredibly personal! The invitations were printed on a natural fiber that was imbedded with wild flower seeds. After the wedding, invitees were encouraged to plant the invitations. They had witnessed the love between Giusy and Antonio bloom and next spring would watch the flowers blossom.

About two weeks before the big day, I couldn’t understand why my cousin Carmella was frantically calling a caterer, cleaning and perking up her house. I figured an incredible venue had been booked why stock food for the masses at the house? Tradition. The morning of the wedding the bride’s family – which included me – was expected to show up at the bride’s home, eat a bit and celebrate la sposa. Ladies, imagine, the day of your wedding a bunch of family members happily visiting you as you tweaked your make up?

A week before the wedding – we ladies did what women around the world do. We dragged the giggling Giusy away for a day with the ladies. We went to a fabulous spa, Fonte del Bennesere Resort in Castelpetroso.

Swirling water, super lunch and sex talk!
Nothing like a floating bar to keep the party happy.

That final week before the wedding, the push was on to finish all of the guest gifts. Groom, Antonio De Michele raises bees and produces some of the finest honey in the area. Giusy and Antonio – with the help of family – bottled 200 small jars of Antonio’s honey, decorated and boxed it. Seating charts always take time to figure out. The design was a no brainer – honeycombs! Each table had a name and all guests were listed in bee hives. Check. Two jobs done. Then came the work on the love phrases. Yes, love phrases – Giusy and Antonio researched and chose quotes that dealt with good relationships by famous authors. Each guest found the gentle love reminder at their place. “Salutarsi è una pena così dolce che ti direi addio fio a domani.” William Shakespeare. (Saying goodbye is such a sweet pain that I would say goodbye until tomorrow.)

Knowing that party was going to go on into the wee hours, Jack and I decided to do an advance trip to the venue and see if slightly drunk/tired we would be able to find our way home. We followed the GPS round and round hill top roads to Villa Clodia in Pago Veiano (BN). The majestic wedding palace is in the middle of nowhere on roads that this lady in her third act didn’t want to navigate at night. We booked a B&B down the road.

Wedding gifts in Pontelandolfo seem to always be in cash. There are no bridal registries. No one ships silver or crystal to the bride to be. The cash is also a set amount per person. I kept asking about this and heard the same amount and same story from numerous people. Couples use the gifts to pay for the elaborate wedding parties. Some misanthropes, I’m told, make sure the cash is in small bills in the “busta.” If they don’t feel they are getting bang for their bucks at the reception, they pull out some of the euros. I’m not making this up – really – more than one person told me. The opposite is also true. Annarita told me she and Emanuele went to a wedding that was so opulent they opened their gift envelope and stuck in an extra euros.

Wedding day was finally here. Hair dressers, make-up artists, videographers, photographers and Jack and I all paid a visit to Giusy and the Mancini family at home. This tradition of the extended family seeing the bride off from her home is very sweet. The house was festooned with flowers, tulle and camera boxes. Everyone was smiling and laughing as the video and photography team managed the show. Hmm, were we dress extras?

The house, family and of course Giusy all looked amazing.
Giusy looked like a movie star – or a princess. Beautiful.

Time for the church! The mass was scheduled for 11:00 AM. A morning event, I discovered, doesn’t necessarily mean one dresses in a tea length dress and pearls – like I did. There were women arriving at the church in bejeweled evening wear. I will admit, I felt correct in my navy blue silk. Equally sure that the gorgeous women in floor length finery felt equally correct. The exterior of the church was decorated by Nicola Ciarlo and really set the stage. Speaking of stage – there was a drone flying over head videotaping our arrivals.

Groom, Antonio, zoomed up in a red Ferrari!

Applause! This hit me as something I hadn’t seen in the USA. Led by the priest, the audience was encouraged to applaud for the bride and groom not just at the end of the service but three or four times during the service. I love it! Applause was a mainstay later at the reception too.

The church with its gold alter is always a sight to behold. Festooned with flowers and tulle it was the perfect setting for a lovely wedding.
Antonio and Giusy are ready to lead a life of love. Jack and I wore matching navy. So did my cousin Carmela and her husband Mario – Giusy’s parents. We all look yummy.

We dashed off after the mass to La Vecchia Fattoria, the B&B we booked. The rooms were clean and utilitarian – if you like youth hostels. The place was country-set beautiful and we found the parking lots packed. Turns out it an agriturismo with a stellar reputation for lunch. We landed in foodie heaven! Leaving our bags, we drove the three minutes to Villa Clodia. First step, proof of vaccine. Second step, fill out the contact form. Third step, join our “hive” of friends at a table for 8 under a giant pergola. The cocktail hour was glamorous. Uniformed waitstaff flowed between tables pouring Prosecco and tempting us with small plates of everything from seafood to rice balls. Knowing that a multi course meal was scheduled, I held off and only tasted a bite or two. Yumm.

The wedding was a moving feast. The next stage was the grand ballroom. The couple did something very clever. Each table entered the foyer to the ballroom as a group. They were then placed by the photographer around the bride and groom for a photo. That insured that every guest was in a shot with the stars of the show. A three piece combo was set up in the corner of the ballroom. We found our hive and began our 6 hour – or was it 7 hour – feast. No one was dancing. We were told due to COVID dancing was not encouraged. Applause was encouraged by the band. Applaud the grandparents. Eat a new course. Applaud the parents. Eat a new course. Applaud the sibling. Eat a new course. Thanks the goddesses for the energy expended applauding. It freed up space in our filling stomachs. Actually, the applause was heartfelt and fun. After the second or third Primi Piatti, the bride and groom did their first dance. When the parents and grandparents were encouraged to join them, Jack and I snuck in. Hell, we are old enough to be their grandparents.

There were fairly long periods of time between courses – I counted 14 courses but could be wrong. People would go outside and sit on the well appointed terrace and amble back just as waiters scurried about with the next course. After the fruit course, which – groan- we realized was probably the last, I went to the ladies room. Sadly, I was there for a while. When I got back, the grand ballroom was empty. Not a guest. Not a waiter. Not a band member. No one except Jack. He didn’t know where everyone went. I sure as heck, not having been in the room, had a clue where all the people were. We walked out of the ball room to the upper terrace and didn’t see a soul. We left. WHAT A COLOSSAL MISTAKE!

The party had apparently moved to the lower level of the property. Tables were set poolside. Waiters ported huge trays filled with glorious pastries from table to table. Prosecco was poured. After dinner drinks and coffee were available. Music filled the late night air. The couple cut the enormous wedding cake – actually it was a faux cake and they just pretended. During Covid, buffets and touching the cake are off limits. Individual tiramisus made there way to each guest. Then the scent of grilling meats filled the air. An after the party, party of more food was about to begin. WE MISSED IT ALL. The next day in the piazza, I was chastised by a friend for not saying goodbye to anyone and just leaving. That is when I discovered what we had missed. I felt incredibly stupid for not understanding or asking in advance what the usual protocol was. Sorry for leaving my First Big Italian Wedding before it was over.

Ci vediamo,

Midge

Check out what launches October 1st!

La Mostra È stato un Successo!

Sunday, September 12th, featuring the work of Rito Ruggiero, the veranda in front of our house was transformed into an outdoor gallery. We had two days to pull it off. The framed collection of work arrived Friday night. As we catalogued and created labels for the twenty pieces, our delight in Rito’s unschooled talent increased. Saturday morning, Jack, Rossella Mancini, my partner, and I went into overdrive. I only threw a hammer at Jack once – it missed.

Speaking of my husband, Jack Huber, he has an incredible eye for composition. (He married me didn’t he.) I have to give him all the credit for designing and hanging the show. Rossella and I were his somewhat able assistants. Saturday evening all the pieces were in place. The stage was dressed and we snapped pictures to continue our outpouring of digital publicity. Then we struck the set! Yup, we took all the work down. WHAT! The show was outdoors. Even though we have a gated home, between the weather and the potential for thievery we had to bring everything back into the house. Jack had made a diagram of what went where. I gulped and thought “how the hell are we going to do this on Sunday?”

Sunday morning the blue skies and bright sun created the perfect backdrop for the show. Annarita Mancini, my incredibly talented assistant, arrived and put on the caffè. Rossella and her terrific kids, Annalaura and Alessio, raced in. Everyone leaped into the fray. Silver arrows soon could be followed directly to our house. The veranda was swept, mopped and tweaked. Nicola Ciarlo arrived with flowers and arranged greenery. Jack’s diagram was essential – the art was rehung. Tables were set, viewing chairs set. Food and wine delivered. Annalaura took her place behind the bar. The giant banner was hung on the gate. More pictures were taken and quickly posted on social media. Our energetic team did a stellar job. Then I panicked.

Would anyone come? We had press in the daily paper, tons of social media inserts, direct invitations and wine – lots of wine. But would anyone come? At 3:59 PM I felt like a kid impatiently waiting for her birthday party to start. Rito arrived with his family. My stomach was in knots. Bing. 4:00 PM – no one. Merde. 4:10 PM the parade started. People came alone, in groups, with families or friends. I smiled and took a breath.

Rito, in blue, greets Carmine Fusco who arrived with a surprise.
Rito had drawn this when he was twelve. That was over 70 years ago. Carmine, a local historian had it in his collection.

We were quite pleased with the number of guests that not only came, but also purchased art. Our social media generated requests for information from potential buyers in the United States. For me, the highlight of the day was watching Rito do gallery tours for interested people. Explaining not only his technique but the inspiration and location of each piece. At one point, a group of the village’s young business people came and were asking questions, commenting and engaging with Rito in a passionate discourse.

Then it was over. Guests left, all was packed up, leftover wine was drunk and the team took a breath and went out to dinner. A celebration of accomplishment was in order. And you all wonder how I spend my time in a small Southern Italian village! Come to Pontelandolfo and see!

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Www.midgeguerrera.com

P.S. My 9/11 based play, E-mail: 9/12 will be available from publisher, Next Stage Press, on October 1st. Besides being a play, it would be a great addition to a High School or University history curriculum.

The Art of Rito Ruggiero

Living in Pontelandolfo and blogging about our life, I am often sent questions. The most often asked is, “Just what do you do all day in a small Italian village.” When I’m feeling snarky, I tell folks, I walk to the well and pull up water and then hand wash our clothes in the stream. What I really do is leap into village life with both feet and get involved on lots of levels. Since my brain was pre-wired to love the visual and performing arts, I get involved with the arts here in Pontelandolfo too. Note the poster above. (Thank you Valerio Mancini for the graphic.) In two weeks, we are producing an art exhibit at my house! Talk about an up close and personal setting. It is open to the public. Who knows how many people will show up? I hope a lot. Now I am not thinking like the a member of the Medici family. These famous patrons of the arts often shared the work of their favorites with polite society. I don’t want to share Rito Ruggiero’s art. I want people to buy it and bring the fabulous pieces home. This is an art show and sale. Hmm, I am getting ahead of myself. We need the Who, What, Why and When. Let’s start with Who.

In 2018 as part of a weeklong festival of the arts, Rossella Mancini and I produced a huge art exhibit that featured the work of Pontelandolfo artists. It was during that crazed week that I was first introduced to the art of Rito Ruggiero. I was so impressed that I immediately put a “sold” sticker on one painting and took it home. It proudly hangs in our dining room. The work represents Pontelandolfo’s past.

Ooops – my reflection in the glass. Yes, we have stone walls..

Rito tells me, that since he was a boy, he as been passionate about the arts –  especially  painting. A visit to his home confirms that. A table is set up in his studio filled with supplies designed to entice his grandchildren to share his love for painting. Hanging upstairs in his dining room are a number of incredible works in charcoal pencil. The images of children’s faces, faces of actresses, women’s  nudes and mountain landscapes defy anyone to think they were drawn years ago by teenage Ruggiero. He later worked in watercolor, tempera and oil.

He has participated in several national and international painting competitions. His work has garnered numerous awards including gold and silver medals.

Even though he was a banker for most of his adult life, he kept on painting. No matter where he was, the art supplies came along. His work encompasses scenes from all over Italy, as well as, still life and nudes. He has a huge inventory of framed finished work. Now retired, he is revisiting his work and that bring us to the What.

Before the evil pandemic set in, I promised Rito we would organize a solo show of his work. The show is September 12, 2021 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Yes, there will be wine!. The air here is fresh and clear, the exhibit will be on our covered terrance so everyone can social distance.

Now you have the what and the when. The where is on the poster. If you happen to be in my area, come and introduce yourself. Enjoy the art and the conversation.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Midgeguerrera.com

Toss Those Zucchini in the Freezer!

Who knew?! I sure didn’t know I could slice, dice, and shred zucchini and toss it in the freezer. No hot stove and a pot of boiling water for blanching. No standing over a pot of steaming stuff with sweat pouring down my neck. All I needed was some local advice – grazie Carmella and Zia Vittoria.

The fields were laden with zucchini. In the morning the orange/yellow zucchini flowers would open to entertain the local bees. The color was almost as appealing as the yummy fried stuffed with mozzarella zucchini blossoms we have eaten all summer. Problem. How many fried zucchini blossoms could one person eat before succumbing to death by gluttany? Solution. Freeze the flowers to use with pasta, stuff a ravioli or add color and flavor to rice. Freezing the flowers took soooo much work. I don’t know if I should share the process, it may be taxing.

  • Wash blossoms – I picked them with clean hands from a chemical free garden. I just tossed them in cold water for a bit.
  • Drain and let blossoms dry thoroughly.  I actually patted the babies dry with paper towels.
  • Toss in freezer bags.
  • Put in freezer
  • Have a glass of prosecco to celebrate.

Carmella told me to make a simple pasta sauce by sautéing onion in olive oil then adding shredded zucchini and chopped zucchini blossoms. Some salt, pepper and grated pecorino cheese rounded out the dish. This was a great way to use up two zucchini and about 8 blossoms but what about the rest?

You can shred and freeze the zucchini! That is exactly what I did with about a third of my zucchini haul. Listening to the blues, I was bouncing and shredding. It went quickly. Soon the bags of shredded zucchini were in the freezer. Imagine a winter yen for zucchini bread and popping a bag out of the freezer. Brrr it is a cold December and you want to make zucchini fritters or “crab” cakes. Oh no, need to bring a quick dish to a party – zucchini frittata cut into bite sized squares.  With a smile you will remember that the prep is already done.

I have also diced zucchini to use in soups and sliced zucchini to use in – well something or other. Those too went into bags and then into the freezer.

Shredded, Sliced and Diced Zucchini

It is embarrassing to admit this. Please don’t tell anyone. We went out and bought a second refrigerator with a huge freezing compartment just so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about not using all the produce we got from Zia Vittoria. I love the freezer!

One day I went over to Zia Vittoria’s and found her in her work/canning kitchen frying up huge batches of something. I could smell the onions – who doesn’t love the smell of sautéed onions. Since the garden was also full of tomatoes, she was doing a quick sauté of onion, tomatoes and zucchini. She keeps saying “dura” hard. Then I got it. This was a flash plop in the olive oil and the vegetables were still crispy. She uses this mixture with pasta but I figure it is a quick side dish too.

I promptly went home and gathered up all the ingredients – did I mention a bunch of basil too.  As speedily as you could say “chop-chop,” I cooked up a fast batch. When I would rather write than cook or rather have cocktail hour than cook – all I need to do is grab a bag. I freeze in tiny sandwich size bags that I thrust inside a big freezer bag – it really is just grab and go.


We are blessed to live in a place that is rich in fresh produce and friendly neighbors who love to share with us.  I hope you are having a safe, healthy and farm to table summer! (Local farmers rock!)

Ci Vediamo

Midge

PS.  Great news to share – I just got a publishing contract with Read Furiously for my new collection of Pontelandolfo centered short stories.  “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be out in 2020.  Don’t fret – you all will be the first to know!

My First – La Promessa di Matrimonio

We were so excited to be invited to cousin Giusy’s La Promessa di Matrimonio.  I didn’t have a clue what that meant – besides an event that warranted a glamorous after party.  All we could figure out was the couple had to go to city hall and do something and then, a couple of months later, they could get married in the church.  Was it just getting a marriage license?  Was it an actual civil wedding first?  This inquiring mind wanted to know!

Antonio and Giusy July 29, 2021 La Promessa di Matrimonio.

My cousin and her fiancée, Antonio, have reserved Pontelandolofo’s Chiesa San Salvatore for a September wedding.  Before that can happen – or even if they were going to have a civil ceremony – they had to head down to town hall and in the presence of an official, like the registrar, go through the process of La Promessa di Matrimonio.

On April 4, 1942, Article 79 of the Italian Civil code was finalized. La Promessa, was established.  From what I read, it looks like it stopped forced marriages.  Hmm did that mean the sale of brides and grooms for ten sheep and a goat?  It protects marital freedom and insures that the couple both consent to marry each other.  It also nullifies previous obligations – like the secret ex-husband you forgot to mention.

La Promessa is not a super binding legal contract.  You can always jump ship and change your mind – as long as you are willing to restore any economic loss your former fiancée suffered.

It kind of reminded me of the day Jack and I went to the Asbury Park City with a video cameraman and a witness to get our marriage license.  The couple here had to present the usual bureaucratic documents plus a couple extra – proof of identity, birth certificates, tax stamp that you paid the fee, request form for the marriage bans by the parish priest, request form for the publication of the bans and probably something else that I forgot. Oh yeah, Antonio belongs to the church in Casalduni. He had to get a letter from his priest there and supply his birth, baptismal and communion certificates.

The marriage bans, public announcement of the upcoming nuptials, take place in the church and the town.  This gives advance notice to folks who may know of some dastardly impediment to the wedding and race out to stop it.

Someone told me, or I read that this civil action takes the couple from being engaged to absolutely betrothed.   Sort of a throwback to the ancient request for the hand in marriage by the groom.  It is also kind of the official meeting of the two families.  Or simply a great excuse to have an intimate party – think engagement party!

The date was bright, sunny and hot! Jack and I parked as close as we could to Palazzo Rinaldi. It is an historic building that has been totally renovated. It even had magic doors that opened when you got close. I looked around the foyer and figured the Council chambers should be here somewhere. Seeing a directory, we realized that it was on the second floor. The second floor of an ancient building and its huge marble staircase. The staircase had a landing or two so I could attempt to breathe. Clutching my lungs we made it to the second floor and couldn’t find the room. I peaked in an office and asked. It was up yet another flight. I gasped and the wonderful woman showed us the modern elevator! Duh – the second floor in an Italian building is really the third level. I should know by now the ground floor isn’t in the count. The elevator whisked us up to the next floor. We arrived at 4 minutes to 5. The event was to start at 5:00 PM. The room was empty! Jack looked at me and asked if we were there on the right date. I checked my calendar and my WhatsApp messages. Then I assured him that it was the right time and the right date. He looked at me and we both said “questa è Italia.”

The handsome groom to be, Antonio, arrived with his family. They were decked out in cocktail dresses, jewels, suits and ties. I looked down at my casual summer dress. Gulp. Another thing I should remember is that any event is an opportunity to dress up and look fetching. Oh well, next time.

Where was Giusy? The registrar appeared with the necessary items for the signing. Where was Giusy’s family – which is my family? Suddenly, I heard heavy breathing and panting. They all staggered in having climbed three ridiculous flights of stairs. Like us, no one knew there was an elevator. It was worth the wait – Giusy looked like a movie star. Her backless white jumpsuit festooned with lace at the shoulders was a whimsical reminder that she was the bride to be. Everyone took a seat. I happily noticed a bottle of Prosecco made it’s way to the front of the room.

The registrar opened the proceedings by reading both Anonio’s and Giusy’s recorded history. Dates of birth, parents names, place of birth and residency. I knew that stuff so I didn’t pay close attention. Then she got to to the important Article 79 of the Civil Code and read part of that. The cute couple signed something and bang – it was all over. The bang was the popping of the Prosecco cork. The whole thing took less than ten minutes.

La Promessa è per Sempre – The promise is forever!

Time for the second half of the event – the party! After asking other guests, I discovered this was a Southern Italian tradition. Though others said, not everyone did it. The site, La Rossella, is a restaurant about fifteen minutes out of town. If I tell you everything we ate you will drool on your electronic device. I’ll give you the quick version. We started out side in a lovely garden. Thank the goddesses I brought my anti mosquito juice and shared it with the other barelegged women. I hate mosquitos but they adore me. The Prosecco glasses were held high to once again toast the couple and then we each grabbed a paper cone filled with crispy tempura fried pieces of fish. Yummy. The fish kept us occupied while each family group lined up for the de rigueur photos. Photos done? Check! Time to move inside and leave the marauding mosquitos for the next group.

We had an absolutely huge table set up for the scant party of 20 – absolute Covid social distancing. Then the feast began! The appetizer of steamed octopus coupled with thin slices of swordfish and salmon was exceptional. As was the wine that freely flowed. The tone of the party was light, filled with laughter and applause. Literally applause. For example, I shouted out auguri ai genitori and everyone cheered “I genitori” (parents) and clapped wildly. This happened sporadically throughout the evening until everyone was toasted.

The appetizer was followed by not one but two primo piatti! The first pasta dish was homemade linguine and clams but with a creamy sauce. The second was pasta with swordfish. I will try to replicate that one. Then came more and more and suddenly it was after midnight and out came the delicious cake with it’s whipped cream frosting and pistachio cream filling. Sigh….

Jack and I wished the couple a happy engagement and rolled out to our car. What a night! What a perfect first time experience of La Promessa di Matrimonio.

Ci Vediamo

Midge (Check out my website.)

I am currently organizing both cooking, farm to table and writing adventures in Pontelandolfo for 2022! Message me for information!

Calcio and Me

Last week Italy played England in the UEFA EURO 2020 match. Until last week, I didn’t know there was a UEFA or that it stood for the Union of European Football Associations. I also didn’t understand why this was the 2020 match – duhhhhh – the pandemic squashed last year’s. As our entire village started preparing for this event, I realized I better do some research or would be a really stupid Italian – American.

Italian Flags Fluttered in Advance of the Match

AHEM, said the professoressa with rich but boring academic tones, Italy has been in 10 major tournament finals – 6 world cup, 4 EURO.  Among the European nations, only Germany has played in more.  The not so staid English have never been in the finals of a European Championship.  This was their first try at a major tournament since winning the 1966 World cup.  Sadly, for them, but not for us THEY LOST!

The night of Italy’s win, I finally began to understand calico. Don’t be silly, I still don’t understand the rules or why a sport that is supposed to take 90 minutes takes a lot more than 90 minutes. What I finally began to understand was that the game wasn’t as important as the opportunity for neighbors, friends, soon to be friends and outright enemies to have a communal focus. Joining the majority of the village in the Piazza that night, I saw everyone from infants to people older than Jack staring at movie screens and holding their collective breaths at the same time. Cries of alarm went up when goals were missed. Chairs were knocked over as the crowd leapt to its feet when a goal was made. In-between these specific moments people were talking to not only those at their table but those around them.

All the bars in town, who had starved during lockdown, had prepared for the onslaught of customers – who were more than customers. Surrounding each bar, staring at television and movie style screens, were people who had been trapped in their homes for over a year and were now not only supporting their country’s team but supporting each other. Babies were passed from person to person, drinks and food were bought and sent to different tables, bar owners were assisted by family and friends who are like family, strangers and “the local Americans” were embraced. (There was no embracing but lots of elbow touching.)

For one night, no one was worrying about the latest designer version of Covid or what would happen when the region moved from Covid White status to yellow or worse. The angst of the past year was lost as a team of Italian men chased a ball across the pitch. (That is what they call the playing field – don’t ask me why I haven’t a clue.)

At the beginning of the match, as fireworks filed the air, all stood and sang the Italian national anthem. Italians were coming together with one focus – winning. We won the match and we in Italy will beat this pandemic.

Here is a quick peak at what I enjoyed:

Ci vediamo-

Midge

Join us in Pontelandolfo in 2022! Check out Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.