Noooo!!! Don’t Bring FaceBook to Dinner

Full moon, clear skies, linen covered tables, delectable dinners and twinkle lights like little stars flicker over the patio. Traditional concertino music wafted in from the concert down the block. A perfect night at Medusa, one of our favorite seafood restaurants in San Salvo Marino.

Jack, I whispered, look around. Notice anything odd?

Whaaat? Jack bellowed his favorite response to anything I ask. What am I supposed to see?

The evil FaceBook blue light of enticement, addiction and control. That’s what.

Whaaat? Get over the phone on the table fixation.

Maybe, I am fixated on groups of people who don’t talk. The first time I saw a couple eating dinner and each reading a book, I was horrified. Why aren’t they talking? Who could go out to dinner and not talk? It was beyond my comprehension. Now, I see it all the time. At Medusa I saw –

Two 50-something well dressed women sipping wine, sharing a seafood antipasti and each reading FaceBook.

A family of three each eating their own pizza and slopping tomatoes on their Facebook linked phones.

An older elegant couple – like Jack and I – eating cozze, mussels cooked in a touch of white wine, staring at their telephones.

Nonna, nonno, mom, pop and one baby were all staring at cell phones. Yup, the moment they sat down, the mom plopped a hand held device in front of the kid.

I could go on and on and on. There were only three groups – four if you count Jack and I – out of about 20 tables that were not glued to their fakakata phones. There were the two men and their adorable dog who chatted away. The couple with the not so adorable 3 year old who they had to chase all over the patio. Lastly, a young family of mom, dad and two sons. The boys were both under 8 or 9 and were chatting about their day at the beach.

This addiction to FaceBook at Italian dining tables is troublesome on so many levels. The silence is deafening. No one listens to the joys and tribulations of the day because they are commenting on pictures of flowers, food and other people’s babies. Over the past few years the FaceBook ferver has grown and grown. I fear that the stereotypical loud Italian conversations will soon fade to key taps.

When we are in the USA, I don’t notice as many phones out on restaurant tables. Have you seen an increase in diminished conversation and growing table side telephone staring? Am I the only person who finds this FaceBook addiction unnerving?

Frankly, I don’t understand the need for Facebook. Somehow we all got along before the social media pipeline sucked us in.

I hear you. I hear you. Yup, this blog has a FaceBook page. Yup, I use it to let people know about Pontelandolfo and our program Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo. Yup, I post links to The NY Times in hopes that those who suck on the teat of fake news websites will read something a bit more valid. Yup, I spend about 1\2 an hour a day checking my notifications and my pages. Yup, the fact that I too have a FaceBook account makes me culpable.

But it doesn’t make me not stare at the ocean, while dining at an outdoor cafe or ignore the people I’m out to lunch with.

Rant is over. Let me know what you think. Maybe I am fixated.

Ci Vediamo.

Passing the Cultural Torch

The other day I visited la mia sarta, my dress maker, Rosa, and found her working on the smallest pair of traditional boys britches I had ever seen. “Are they for a large doll”, I stupidly asked.  Cara, questi sono per il più giovane membro di Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo!  What she meant was – “you silly cluck – it is dance season and I make all the costumes.  This is for the youngest member of the company – a two year old!”  Many of our village’s kids are learning about their heritage by performing with the dance company, Ri Ualanegli.

ariele dance

Not only do they learn the dances, but they explore the stories behind the dances.  Learning about the contadini, serfs and farmers, who worked the land and just how they worked it. Extended families still live together here and children see their elders planting gardens, harvesting olives, pressing tomatoes into sauce and still eating and cooking in a traditional way.  Through the dance company, these piccolo dancers gain an even greater understanding of who they are and what life was like in their home town.  History lessons are a natural part of the dance lesson!   My Arts Educator brain just took over – think about it – these kids are having fun, learning about their culture and have the opportunity to grow as self confident, creative problem solving adults!  Yeah for Dance!  YOU CAN SEE THESE TALENTED KIDS LIVE – HERE IN PONTELANDOLFO – JULY 31, AUGUST 1ST AND 2ND. Here are a group of kids dancing in 2014 – wade through the introduction and you will get to the dance – note the older kids helping the babes in dance along –

Other children are fascinated with the old sounds and music that accompany the dancers. It makes my heart burst with joy to see the little guy learning the musicality of the fisarmonica – accordion – from the old masters.  This instrument, featured in the folk group Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo and other Italian folk companies, looks a small accordion.  These kids who rock out the local Tarantella don’t know it yet but they too are accepting the responsibility of passing on the culture of their village.   The traditional music reflects moments in our historic time line. The songs are of joy, fear and love. I was delighted a few weeks ago to listen to a recital done by a group of young musicians.  The traditional music of the Sannio Hills will live on through this and ensuing generations.


This past week, a group of Pontelandolfese men made sure that the sport that I never heard of before I came here was passed down to the little men who would make up the teams of the future.  These kids began by strapping cord to their arms, loading up a wheel of cheese and letting it fly!  Welcome to ruzzola del formaggio – cheese rolling.  Actually, this weekend was our Festa di Formaggio with competitions for children and adults.  Of course, there was also the tasting of yummy local cheeses.  This was the first annual Festa di Formaggio so plan on being here next year for it!


These wee cheese rolling wonders were working with adults who have been part of Pontelandolfo’s award winning team. Ruzzola del Formaggio competitions are incredibly serious.  The winner gets to keep the cheese – it does get eaten!  There are teams from all over Italy.  Those teams would not exist and that tradition continue if villages didn’t keep the sport alive.

ruzzola 2

Passing the cultural torch is important for all villages and equally important for families.  Share those tales.  Write down those recipes. Dance the dances your grandparents danced. Let your children learn about who they are and where their roots are.

Don’t forget to come to Pontelandolfo on July 31St!  Explore our culture and enjoy our art!

folk logo





Who Needs City Lights – Culture Rocks Pontelandolfo

It was 10:00 PM and we had just finished dinner at Landulphi, a great  space that resonates with its medieval  heritage.  Outside Piazza Roma was a buzz of activity.  Picnic tables were crammed in front of Bar Elimar.  A lit bandstand filled one section of the sidewalk. Tots in strollers, pre-school hellions chasing each other throughout the crowds, moms, grandmas, twenty and thirty-somethings and tweens edge closer to the action.

Crowds creep in closer to hear not Rock ‘n Roll but rocking traditional music.

Tonight, that action was a sweet group of young performers – I’m guessing music conservatory instead of university students – wailing out traditional Italian music on the accordion, all sorts of percussive instruments and electric guitars.

Curtesy Sud Terranea

There is a college age dancer – barefoot on the cobblestones – dancing her heart out in the style of my ancestors.  Twirling, toes pointed and then flexed as she stamps, kicks and brings us back to a time in this village  – even before the unification of Italy.  The sounds of Sud Terranea – “music popolare mediterranea” – brought young people to their feet dancing not the bop of hip hop but the traditional footwork of their great grandparents.  (

Curtesy Sud Terranea

Boy was I happy I had on a white shawl.  It gave me something to hold up as I too did my whirling dervish routine.  Weeee – I almost but not quite worked off the calories I gobbled down at Landulphi.

It was interesting that this bit of performance art popped out of nowhere on this particular day.  Earlier – on a Skype call with my friend George Hansel about producing his new cabaret act, Burly Man Sings Girly Songs: My Life as a Show Tune Queen and Sexual Outlaw, (yes that was a plug)  George raised a devastating question.

George has the greatest laugh in the world. See his show and laugh with him.

Could I really live in a small village with no easy access to the cultural richness of New York and Philadelphia?   Hey, I bellowed back,  I grew up in Flagtown, NJ – a small village with easy access to culture and an uncle who worked for the then New York Mirror and got free tix to stuff.   Ask me how often we actually got to go????

George also, reminded me that I have the attention span of a gnat and boredom can easily weasel its evil sighs into my soul.  I explained that during my last bout of boredom I realized that if I was bored it was my fault.  All it took was a walk down to the village with my laptop in tow to chase the boredom away.  Just sitting at a  bar (cafe) surrounded by village life and listening, watching and being perpetually surprised at the instant art that pops up can get my creative juices flowing and the deeps sighs disappearing.

Living in New Jersey with easy access to my state’s professional theaters and being able to zip into both nearby cities, is indeed terrific.  But how often do we really do it?  Finances come into play.  Tickets are expensive, add travel, or driving costs and suddenly an opportunity to experience art is fiscally out of the question.  Here in Pontelandolfo, the fiscal crisis has folks pinching euros.  Yet, art is accessible to them.  They often create it themselves.

Forum Giovani
Site specific theatre produced by the town’s twenty-somethings took place in a variety of outdoor locations. The audience moved from scene to scene.

Sponsored by bars, community groups and Pontelandolphesi living in the USA and Canada, there seems to be music, dance, theatre and visual art happening weekly.  Look for upcoming blogs on many of those events including a two part blog on Associazione Culturale Ri Ualanegli – our dance company – and the  week long national folk dance festival.

2012-07-14 06.08.31
Folkloric dance companies from throughout Italy performed in the Piazza nightly for almost a week. Here they are on the church steps after mass.

A quick peek at – the EPT Benevento (ente provinciale per il turismo) events website – lets me know that other villages in the province also are bringing in art.  Campania, the region we are in, even has an “art card” – – reduced rate admissions and listings.

A short drive over the mountain takes us to Cerreto Sannita where di antica tradizione ceramica lives on.  Artisans freely open their studios to folks like me to watch and learn the process – note FREELY.

Franco just knoced on the door and Pietro welcomed us in.
We boldly knocked on a studio door and the artisan, Pietro, welcomed us into his space.
Pietro is proud of the ceramic history of Cerreto Sannita. After touring his studio he literally opened the doors to the closed ceramics museum and shared that with us too.

San Lupo – just a scant 10 minutes over curvey mountain roads – sponsors a annual classical music festival.

San Lupo
Music fills the hill top streets.

How much are the tickets?  Nada!, Niente!, Bupkus!

Damn, we missed the theater festival in Amorosi  – a 20 minute or so trek down the mountain.  They do charge for tickets and bring in professional companies from as far away as the USA. (  Next year we absolutely will get tix to something and report back.

The bottom line is that art and culture is just a matter of everyday life in Italy – even in the smallest villages.  There is public art everywhere – our village has three large installations.  Of course, the remnants of Ancient Rome are everywhere too.

2012-06-13 13.20.49
Band stand is getting set up. I wonder what will be happening.

Revisit some of my earlier stories – Circo acquatico, San Antonio Festival, Calcio – stuff just happens here and I don’t have to pay the tunnel tolls, gauging parking fees and high ticket prices to drink in all this culture!  Like my New Jersey ArtPride pals say – Be a Culture Vulture – I am and I am loving every second.

So, dear George, I think I can really live in a small village with no easy access to the cultural richness of the tri-state area.  Of course,  we do have to figure out a way to get your one man cabaret act across the pond.