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!

 

 

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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.

 

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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Political Season – Huzzah!

How can I not be excited! It it a political season and I am a political junky. Proudly as Democrats abroad, Jack and I voted in the New Jersey Primary absentee and early. Now, we get to vote again in the Pontelandolfo local election. Politics is in my DNA!

Rossella Mancini For City Council

Hoorah, we get to vote for Rossella Mancini, our cousin and the other force behind the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program. Those of you that know my family or have followed me for a while, know that politics really is in our DNA. Tante anni fa, my nonno, with a group of other Italian immigrants, started the Flagtown-Hillsborough Democratic Club. My dad, John Guerrera, was a democratic icon in Somerset County, NJ, serving as Mayor of Hillsborough, on a variety of boards including the Board of Elections and Tax board, the Executive Director of the County organization and a political operative for many national and state wide campaigns.

Dad’s Head Shot for his Senate Run

That means when I was old enough to lick a stamp and close an envelope, I was involved in a bunch of political stuff too. It was addictive.

Politics in Pontelandolfo reminds me of the door to door campaigns that my Dad ran in the 1960s and 70s and that I ran in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a kinder gentler kind of campaigning and one that truly engaged the electorate. Here, campaigns by law are limited to 30 days. HEAR THAT USA ONLY 30 DAYS OF POSTERS, PHONE CALLS AND ADVERTISING. What a welcome change.

Rossella, accompanied by friends and family has been visiting homes, talking about the platform of her ticket and getting honest – historically they have been honest – responses. Here, folks will actually tell you they will vote for you, or if not, who they intend to vote for and why. I have been with her on some of these house calls and actually heard a pal of mine tell her that he liked her a lot but was voting for his other pal’s son. Talk about a divergence from the American system.

Having lived in Asbury Park, NJ before they changed the form of government, I sort of understand how it works here. Every 5 years, someone who wants to be sindaco – mayor – asks 10 people to join him/her on La Lista. The 10 people on the list could become the consiglio, council-people. Here is the rub – only 7 will serve. The other three spots will be comprised of the minoranza – people from the loosing tickets who were top vote getters for their ticket. Each of the voters in a city of 15,000 people or less – we have way less – only get to vote for one person. The cumulative total of all votes cast for people on one list, determines the winning list. Automatically that person who is denoted as sindaco becomes the mayor and the top 7 vote getters are on the council. The other three – out of luck. What does that mean? It means, if you want to have a seat at the table, you have to get more votes than other people on your ticket!

Now this is PC – voters in towns with more than 15,000 residents can vote for two people and one – by law – must be a woman! Huzzah! The law is called Quatarosa and recognizes how few women were represented in local government. It truly was an old boys club. The list that Rossella is on has three women on it.

There is another piece of the election that I find difficult to understand.  If I were a pazillionaire, I could swing an election. The most recent census says that Pontelandolfo has 2,288 residents, including children, and 3082 registered voters! WHAT!!!! That is 794 more voters than residents. Normally, about 1500 people – who are actual local residents – vote in local and federal elections. The rest of the registered voters could be young people working in other parts of the EU or some of the thousands of Pontelandolfese who immigrated to Waterbury, Connecticut or Montreal or Argentina. Shazam, it looks like they never purge the voter’s list. Absentee voting is not allowed. For a local election you have to physically be in Pontelandolfo, make your way to the polling place, write your candidate’s name in a blank and wander to the local bar or home to wait for the results.

What this literally means is, if I could charter a plane with my 500 best East Coast Pontelandolfese pals and they accepted my free ride so they could vote in the local election, one could change the outcome. Like I said, SHAZAM!

The other piece that is strange to us New Jersey voters, is that if a race is uncontested – only one list is formed – there is no election. Someone from a higher level of government will come in an appoint your officials. No uncontested elation’s here – even if second list is composed of smoke and mirrors.

There is so much I have to learn about politics, life, traditions and culture. Guess I need to hang out here for a few more years.  Meanwhile, this Sunday, I will be voting for Rossella Mancini for city council!

Ci vediamo! Vote early and often!

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They Came to Cook and Conquered a Village

In a small town, like Pontelandolfo, everybody knows your name. Tweens in a dark alley getting into something that they shouldn’t, don’t think it is such a good thing. “Second act’rs” like Jack and I living in a new place, find it magical. Whenever we go into the piazza we know we’re home. Folks say salve – hi, come stai – how are you, smile and wave. When we first started staying long-term in Pontelandolfo, going to the piazza was kind of like going to the high school cafeteria on the first day of school.  Who would I sit with?  Who would talk to me?  I don’t know how it happened but we too became part of the fabric of life here.   What struck me this past Saturday, was that every time a group of adventuresome cooks come to Pontelandolfo to be part of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo they too quickly become part of our village’s life.

For three years the homes, citizens and businesses of Pontelandolfo have opened their doors and hearts to strangers looking for a different tourism experience. These strangers aren’t strangers very long.  Relationships are formed in nanoseconds. I know that the relationships are strong because I see the tears when folks depart. I read the FaceBook posts as connections are kept.  Love – the feeling of love is everywhere.

This latest group jumped right into village life with that first night “bar crawl.” They met bar owners, bar goers, politicos and curious folks. Pontelandolfese out for their evening passeggiata got a look at them. What troupers, having snacks and drinks at not one but all three bars on our piazza. It was obvious to all who met them that they were really interested in Pontelandolfo, our home town.

Tourists often pop in and out of Piazza Roma, take a picture of the iconic tower and dash off. The seven day commitment that both these latest and our past Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo participants made,  meant that the visitors wanted to have a meaningful encounter with not only the food of Pontelandolfo but also the community. They became regulars at the bars, chatted up everyone, played with the children, cooked and ate with families, visited with our baker, cheesemaker, butcher, listened intently as an elder craftsman talked about weaving fabrics as his great grandfather did – all this endeared them to the community.

Now if you know me, you know I wear my emotions on my sleeve and tear up often. When something really touches my heart, I not only tear up but am speechless – cause talking is impossible. There were many times during our cooking programs when I couldn’t speak. I have seen love crossing economic lines, ignoring politics and breaking down cultural barriers.

Some of our guests have had a root of their family tree here in Pontelandolfo.  They came not only to learn traditional Pontelandolfo cooking but to discover more about their past.  Our first group, three years ago, visited the Contrada (little village) of their ancestors and felt the connection that only blood returning to its source can bring. One of this past week’s women had ancestors from Pontelandolfo.  At the B&B she discovered a couple that knew her  distant cousin.  They embraced her and took her to see where her family was from. She was full of stories and felt the spirit of Pontelandolfo.

The women who open their homes to these strangers are so warm and loving that it is impossible not to feel welcome.  They have been touched as these strangers, who are strangers no more, have bought them gifts from their home states or made them something special.  A young female ship’s captain just presented each teaching cook with little dream catchers she knotted and wove from one long piece of ship’s string. Those little catchers will be holding a lot of love.

Everyone always pitches in as meals are being created, parties started or excursions planned.  I can see men and women of all ages flicking tablecloths, setting places and carrying dishes.  I also saw them carry wood from outside for wood burning ovens, making brooms from the sambuca tree and washing hundreds of dishes. This May, a female Broadway sound engineer, even fixed the butcher’s sound system. That meant that music flowed during our last night party. All of these actions felt like the actions of family members not recent strangers or guests.

Some of our visitors have even made sure that children’s books in English were added to our community library.  Since everyone must study and pass an English proficiency test this was a fabulous and thoughtful gift.

Children, twittering with stage fright,  who in traditional dress, performed stories from the town in English, have been cheered like movie stars.  Our guests have loved the challenge and work that these little actors put into sharing stories about their town.

I thank all the culinary tourists over the years, for bringing a tear to my eyes and silence to my mouth. I thank them for being willing to experience a small southern Italian village. I thank them for accepting us for who we are. I thank them for being who they are. I thank them for making me understand that love and food break down barriers!

Huzzah to those who came, cooked and conquered our hearts!

Cooks 4 sessions

Laughter in the Kitchen

Sitting outside the antique kitchen of B&B Calvello staring at the view and taking the sun – I got smacked in the head. Wham – an explosion of laughter burst out the open door. Boing – epiphany.

Giggles, guffaws, titters and screams of laughter are erupting in the kitchens of Pontelandolfo. This week, adventuresome Americans are here and they are up to their elbows in ground pork, pizza dough and wine. Wait, did I just say wine? Who in their right minds would be up to their elbows in wine? Bending their elbows with Alperol Spritzes- maybe.

Our May 2018 participants in Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo are a wickedly affable bunch. This morning while they were working dough near the fireplace, wood burning stove and oven, all I heard was laughter. Boing, boing – there is that epiphany. This cooking program is not just about learning how to make traditional Southern Italian food, it is about having the freedom to laugh at yourself, laugh with new friends and truly enjoy cooking. We all have incredible schedules – work, home, children, grandchildren, appointments etc. Often, making dinner or entertaining feels more like a chore than something to enjoy. We stare into open refrigerators, sigh at the empty pots and pans, clench our jaws and stifle angry words at those in our families who are having a cocktail while we cook. Errrg. Cooking is not fun. This week, normally over scheduled Americans, rediscovered the fun of cooking.

I never thought of it that way before. The joy of cooking really is a skill that may also have been lost during the industrialization, digitalization and work comes home with you world. The only time I enjoy it is when I’m having a dinner party. Then sipping scotch, reading cookbooks for ideas, planning and prepping becomes an opportunity to create. The rest of the time – errrrrrrr. Why can’t we always just live in the food moment and enjoy ourselves?

Maybe it really takes time away from our normal lives. Maybe it takes someone like our host, Angela Addona, who was born in the small stone house that her grandmother raised 9 children in, to instill in us that a big kitchen with the latest equipment does not make a good cook. A big heart and love for cooking does. “A small kitchen and a cook with a big heart makes the best food.” Even if all you have are wild vegetables picked along the road and the parts of a pig that no one else wants to eat, you can create heart in the kitchen.

Ci Vediamo! Next time I see you I will be laughing in my kitchen.

Angela’s pig parts recipe – click here.