Writers Retreat Coming to Pontelandolfo!

HUZZAH!  YEAH!  WOOO!  WOOO!  Massachusetts based, Shape & Nature Press is organizing a June 2017 writers’ retreat for women in Pontelandolfo!  Why?  Why not!  Our green mountains, incredible history and welcoming residents could provide American writers with tons of inspiration.  Shape & Nature’s founder, Maria Williams, is a grad school buddy of mine.

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Maria explores Altilia – an archeological site nearby.

This past August, she came to hang out in the Sannio Hills with us and enjoy the village’s week long Festa.  Maria loved our medieval village.  One afternoon with pals George and Evert Ben from Holland, we had a four-hour lunch at my favorite agriturismo, Borgo di Cerquelle. I entertained the table with tales of the successful May 2016 “Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo” event.   Maria had a weird look in her eye and I realized later, I had given her an eureka moment!

That night as we sipped our Campari Spritzes, Maria looked at me and said, “why don’t I do a writer’s retreat for women here – in Pontelandolfo.”  Why NOT!!!!! I screeched – lets get started.  That is how this was born –

Out of the Castle
Writing Conference & Retreat – June 3-10, 2017

The first decision was where – that was a no brainer.  The Agriturismo Borgo di Cerquelle is set in the mountain, has loving owners and is committed to farm-to-table cooking.  The views from the bedrooms will inspire a novel or force the harried writer to take a moment and appreciate the beauty one finds in the Province of Benevento.

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The next hurdle was finding an Italian female author to be the keynote speaker.  The universe always provides – thanks to my New Jersey pal – another Maria – who introduced me to her pals Salvatore and Rosanna – I was introduced to Anna Santaliquido.  I spent 3 days in Bari as the guests of Salvatore and Rosanna and had the opportunity to hang out with Anna, one of Italy’s most respected and greatly published poets.  She is also the founder of  the women’s poetry organization, Movimento Internazionale “Donne e Poesia”!  Perfect!  She is amazing and was excited to help.

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Anna and I in Bari

Anna was not only enthusiastic about the writers’ retreat for women, but gave me tons of suggestions on how to integrate the community into the project.  We will be organizing programs for middle school students and recent English speaking refugee immigrants.  Public readings will be held and open to all.

Women writers of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry are invited to participate in Out of the Castle, a writing conference and retreat. The conference is named in honor of 16th century Italian poet, Isabella di Morro, who was locked in her family castle by her tyrannical brothers but still managed to create a canon of work. So get out of your castle and come write in Pontelandolfo.  For the details – here is the link to the Shape & Nature Conference Information.

Share the information with your literary pals!

Ci Vediamo

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

La Torre Mini Market

What? Has Midge gone daft? Is she writing a story about a grocery store – a mini market?  You can bet your pjeeeze I am!  La Torre Mini Market is the creation of a young married couple – Luigi Silvestri and Mariavittoria Stringile.

It is energizing to see young people get in touch with their entrepreneurial spirits and take the idea of alimentari to a new level.  Before they opened, they did something I am so impressed with.  They sat down with Pierino Di Angeles who had the Alimentari that I adored and asked her where she used to buy  her out of this world mortadella !  I bet they asked her other well founded questions too.

This little grocery store and deli – with the stress on the deli – not only carries all the stuff you need but ran out of just as you needed it.  But also stocks things that are a wee bit exotic like – truffle oil, goat’s milk, unusual spices and baked goods including real dark  – think those old Brooklyn bakeries – healthy rye bread!


The deli meats never looked dried out and dying in the case.  Salamis, prosciutto crudo or cotto, tacchino, all have been noshed on in our house to great satisfaction.  Even though we enjoy going to the local Caseficio – place that makes cheese – for our cheese quotas,  I’m glad to see that Luigi and Maria Vittoria stock mozzarella di buffalo made a wee bit up the road. l Casolare di Alvignano has won the 2016 “Oscar” for best mozzarella in Italy.

I asked them why they decided to take the plunge and work 24 hours a day building a little mom and pop community store.  Mariavittoria explained that her family moved to Germany and she and Luigi could have gone there to look for work.  Something held them back – their absolute love for Pontelandolfo and Pontelandolfese!   They chose to open a mini-market because they realized that after Pierina retired, there was no place in the historic center to buy what she used to sell.  They wanted to fill that void.

They more than fill the void!  I was super impressed during Pontelandolfo’s August week-long Festa  to see them open almost 24 hours a day.  They put a table in their doorway and sold canned beverages and panini to late night revelers.  Daily, construction workers dash in to pick up sandwiches to carry for lunch.  Frantic Midge runs in – because no one else is open on Sunday – to see what she can route up for Sunday pranza.

The couple have a son and are expecting another member of the family this winter.  Soon two little tykes will be running around and asking if I want some delicious mortadella!

Ci vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Local Businesses | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Ponte Simone -Perfetto per Pontelandolfo!

I stared at the defrosted fish, poked at the fresh spinach and then sighed, “I don’t feel like cooking – lets go to Ponte Simone.”  Ponte Simone is Pontelandolfo’s latest new happening spot.  The caffè/bar, tavolo caldo, grocery store, lotto parlor, slot machine parlor and more is the creation of a young and talented duo – Nicola D’Addona and Angela  Varricchio.  They took over a shop located at Ponte Sorgenza – just down the street from the center of town.  Closed the old place for a few months and gave it a make-over. They even made the furniture for the new dining room.

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Since I tasted Angela’s cooking, I have found a million reasons not to cook lunch.  My first experience was a fabulous farro seafood salad. Since Jack and I are trying not to eat wheat or rice, finding a place that cooked with farro was wonderful.  We often wander in, look at Angela and ask what we are eating today.  I’ve had roasted meats, grilled vegetables, caprese salads, green salads, soups – no matter what she cooks I’ll eat it because it is always perfect.  The price point is also perfect – I hate to make my USA pals  jealous by telling them that it costs us less to eat at Ponte Simone than it would to buy the stuff and cook it in New Jersey!

Angela also makes the gelato that is sold here.  Please don’t let my doctor know that I sampled some – how can I not eat sugar when there is home made melon gelato!  She experiments with flavors that are unique and scrumptious.

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Nicola is the bar man, grocery man and everything man.  Even though my Italian is sub par, he smiles figures out what I want and it magically appears.  Sadly, for me, every Campari Spritz I order comes with a tray of little noshes.  I beg, I plead, don’t bring me the snacks.  They still arrive and – gulp – I eat them.  I feel like I’m in a little caffè in any Italian city at cocktail time.  Lucky for me I only have to walk down the hill and stumble back.

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The couple works with other local business and I truly applaud them for that.  In the tiny grocery store I can buy meats from our local butcher, Franco Perugini.  Normally, I go to his shop but if I am in a pinch and he is closed…

Normally, Ponte Simone closes at 8:00 PM.  They put in 14 hour days.  Then there are the nights they produce events – when no one sleeps and everyone parties.  Music, a talent show, ethnic nights – the creative pair are turning this little corner of town into the place to be.  Bravi!

Every Sunday night, I take over a table in the dining room for “English Conversation”.  Whoever is interested in practicing their English that night shows up.  We chat, raise a glass and enjoy the home-town atmosphere of Ponte Simone

The wonders of life in a small town is that everyone knows your name. Growing up in Flagtown meant I couldn’t do anything wrong because everyone knew who I was and would either kick my butt or tell my parents.  Walking into Ponte Simone and hearing “Ciao Midge” reminds me of those days, puts a smile on my face and makes me remember how fortunate I am to be able to spend so much time in a little Southern Italian village.

Ci Vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Local Businesses | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Americans Living Abroad Need to VOTE!

Those of us who are able to split our time between an adventure in a foreign country and the United States are incredibly fortunate.  Living in another country, we still need to remember our obligations as American citizens.  Every American living abroad needs to vote!  Vote in the primaries.  Vote for the local candidates.  AND especially vote during the presidential elections.  Those of you who know me and have followed me, know that I was born into a family of staunch Democrats and frankly, have never had a reason to become anything else.  That said, I’m not going to use this platform to tell you who to vote for.  I am going to ask you look at the video provided by Democrats Abroad that tells you just how easy it is to get that absentee ballot and VOTE in this presidential election.

AND MAY THE BEST WOMAN WIN!!!

Ci vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Practical Matters - Living Abroad | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Do You Hear A Bell?

Che sarà sarà – Rant #1

Emergency Preparedness? “Bo?”


My hip isn’t always a happy hip. After a day of sightseeing in Bari, my hip was hurting. Our Pugliese pals, Salvatore and Rosanna, wanted us to see an art exhibit in the village of Conversano’s medieval castle. The artist – Giorgio de Chirico – is famous for “pittura metefisica”.  Think Picasso. Suddenly, we found ourselves living in a metaphysical nightmare. 

Salvatore entered the ancient stone structure, climbed the rock steps to the top and discovered the elevator for folks with disabilities. Actually, it looks more like a floating floor than an elevator. He bravely stood on the sheet of metal and rode it down to pick me up. Bump, click, groan and emergency bells started to bellow.  Frankly, we heard bells and didn’t have a clue what they meant. We were in the courtyard waiting for Salvatore.  Apparently, no one who worked at the castle knew what they meant either.  No one came running. After about 15 minutes we all walked to the elevator and light bulbs started flashing in our brains!!  Salvatore!! 

When the platform got to the ground floor the door wouldn’t open.  I would have been screaming my bloody head off. Salvatore calmly rang the bell. When we got there, he chatted with us through the locked door. 

Let him out!!!


After what seemed like ions of bells ringing, The security guard arrived opened the closet housing  the motor, reset it and nothing happened. He moved to the locked door, bent over and opened-a cleverly disguised by a lump of black rubber – keyhole. “We need the key.” What key? The key that in a nanosecond would open the door. Other castle staff members appeared and didn’t have a clue what to do. The sweet young thing hired for the exhibition leaned over the top of the floating platform and told Salvatore not to worry. 

Salvatore’s view for over one hour.


We were told that help may be coming from the nearby city of Monopoli. Che sarà sarà may make for a nice song but the laid back attitude doesn’t resonate with me. As a matter of fact it sucks. Why hasn’t the management of the public space trained people for this type of incident. Why didn’t they have a copy of the magic key?Is this another example of bureaucracy gone insane – is there a regionally annoited key keeper? What if a pregnant woman was trapped inside with her water breaking all over the vertical tomb?  What if I was inside screaming every curse word I knew in multiple languages and kicking the shit out of the walls?
More folks kept coming and looking. Nothing was happening.  Until, after one very long hour the Man got here from Monopoli. Two seconds and one tiny key later, Salvatore is released. 

Quest’è Italia. Che sarà, sarà…

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 1 Comment

Beware Duty Taxes

A few weeks ago I recieved a lovely gift from a New Jersey pal.  It was an envelope with six artfully designed dish towels.  Scrawled across the envelope was €15.29.  Since I wasn’t home when the envelope came, the postman couldn’t collect the duty.  Actually, until my pal Nicola explained what the scrawl was I didn’t realize I owed the post office anything or that the number scratched was a tax. Yup, on an envelope with contents valued at $50 it was simply scrawled €15.29. The recipient would know through osmosis that it was a tax.  Note, I said the amount was scrawled across the envelope.  There was not an official stamp, not a receipt, not – well not a thing to indicate why I had to pay someone anything. 


A few weeks went by and I didn’t go to the post office.  I never got a formal notice of owing the duty tax.  I kind of just forgot about it.  Guess who didn’t forget about it?  Il postino, the postman.  Finally, one day I was home when he came. What I didn’t know was that when he got back to the post office from his route he had to pay the €15.29 in duty.  He delivered the envelope and he was responsible.  

Errrrrggggg, I felt like a real creep for not following up and paying.  When I paid him and asked if there was a receipt of any kind from the customs people he looked at me like I was crazy.

Welcome to Italia.  

Ci vediamo

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 8 Comments

Donation Avenues and Earthquake Thoughts 

Donation Avenues –

No time today for courtesy. I’m going right to the “ask” – reach into your wallet and give what your heart tells you is right, in what ever method you choose to help the victims of the Central Italy, August 24th earthquake that destroyed complete villages, killed 290 people and left thousands living in tent communities.

1. This Sunday, September 3rd, entrance fees from public museums across Italy will be dedicated to rebuilding the earthquake stricken zone.  This is incredibly fitting since many churches and irreplaceable medieval buildings were decimated by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

2. Elizabeth Minchilli shared this information on her blog Elizabeth Mincilli in Rome:

Many have asked me on social media how they can help. For now the best way to help from afar is to donate to the Italian Red Cross.

The Croce Rossa Italiana has set up a special account.
The IBAN number is:

IT40F0623003204000030631681

BIC/SWIFT CRPPIT2P086

Beneficiary: Associazione italiana della Croce Rossa

In the description write: Terremoto Centro Italia

You can also make a donation to the Croce Rosso with your credit card or paypal by going to their website.

3. The National Italian American Foundation and their partners in the Italo-Americano community have set up another fundraising vehicle.  You can donate and research them by clicking here.

4. Do your own research to unearth other methods of giving.  Give.  Then share those avenues with us.

THANK YOU!!!!

Earthquake Thoughts –

At about 3:30 AM last Wednesday, an earthquake devastated towns in Lazio, Umbria and Marche.  Now, 290 people are dead. One moment before they were sleeping and a second later they were dead.  After the earthquake, just like after 9/11 – when the twin towers fell – many people used the internet to reach out to their loved ones.  Not feeling a rumble or hearing a sound during the night, I didn’t understand why Thursday morning I had close to 100 FaceBook messages, texts or e-mails.  That is how I learned about the tragedy, from all of you in a different time zones who reached into my heart asking if Jack and I were OK.  I promptly turned on the television and followed the horror.  I cried.  I cried for the terror those people in the earthquake zone were going through and I cried because so many people cared enough about us to reach out.  The similarity to my experience during 9/11 resonated within my soul.  Different tragedy.  Different country.  Same internet connection.

Life is short. Live it without regrets.

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paris in the Thirties – Guardia Sanframondi

Before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I visited Montmartre, the old artist’s quarter of Paris. Noooo, the artists weren’t old the quarter was old. During the 2016 Vinalia in Guardia Sanframondi I felt like I was walking back in time. The purpose of the Vinalia Festa  is to reinforce the town’s position as a center for fabulous wines. What it also did was help me understand why American writers and artists were buying homes in the funky centro storico.  Clare Galloway, may have been the first artist pioneer.  She bought a house in 2011 for €10,000 and working alone transformed it into “Arthouse,” a B&B and artist studio.  Clare, has been an avid supporter of the arts in this hilltop village.


Borgo Artisti was the best part of Vinalia.  In the medieval quarter we found pop-up gallery after gallery of local art.  Every vacant street level space was professionally lit and showcased  individual pieces or groupings of art.




Jack and my pal the poet, Maria Williams, venture down the steps to Clare’s Studio.

During our walk we met some of the WOMEN who are homesteading in Guardia.  What really resonated with me, was that they are doing this alone.   We met a playwright, massage therapist/ alternative practitioner, artist and —well just a table full of really interesting international women who were looking for a different lifestyle.  AND  a  place to do their art that cost less than it would in the USA and offered the beauty of this Italian hill town.

The sexy sounds of  a French chanteuse  was broadcast through the air. Cobblestone streets, free flowing wine and art. Lots of art. Paris. No – Italy!!  Southern Italy the Sannio hills.

That said, it is 1/2 an hour from Ponelandolfo and really, if you want to live in a beautiful village with wonderful people, consider my hometown.  The hook?   Why me. of course!

Ci Vediamo!

Categories: Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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