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

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Festa Della Trebbiatura 2016

This past Sunday, I had a perfect day.  Jack and I went to an event that I not only loved – but drew me back to my childhood.  Growing up in Somerset County, New Jersey when it was still pretty rural agrarian, I experienced lots of farm life.  4-H introduced me to kids who grew or raised just about anything America ate.  Sunday, I thought of my childhood, how much growing up in a farming community shaped me and the work my grandmother did on her subsistence farm.  Festa Della Trebbiatura in the Contrada Montagna in Morcone harkened back to farm days of old and celebrated the contadini – farmers – of the Matese Mountains.  The type of people my ancestors were.

Did I mention mountains?  Those of you that know me, know I clutch the death grip in our Fiat whenever the wicked Jack drives like an Italian around the S curves sans safety rails on mountain roads.  This trip around those curves was worth it.  The views were incredible.

I need to take a moment to praise my Jack a wee bit.  From the town center of Morcone – which is literally clinging to a mountain – we made a left at the Auto School and drove up.  We didn’t know which way to go when the road split.  We opted for the one that looked steeper on the left.  It was really su, su, up, up.  Shit, I screamed as Jack hit the breaks.  The cobblestone street narrow to begin with had cars parked on both sides and didn’t go anywhere.  Jack backed our large car down the hill and didn’t take the mirror off one single parked car. Hugs to him.

Back to the Festa.  We found out about it from Antonella Lombardi, owner of Bar Mix Fantasy, and a member of the Lombardi family that produced the event.  Thank you Antonella for making sure that I knew about what turned out to be a wonderful day.  When we got to the farm and I saw the rows of seats under the trees and the Priest ready to start mass, I smiled and sat down.  Hearing this great speaker do the mass surrounded by mountains, fields of grain, a clear blue sky and floating cotton clouds started the day beautifully.  After mass children went for “hay” rides on the farm wagon festooned with shafts of wheat.  We walked through the exhibition set up by the Museo del Contadino and I kept pointing at stuff that had been in my grandfather’s barn.  Since we sold the family property and all the relics two years ago, it got a little painful to see  the artifacts.

During the day, people could wander through the World Wildlife Federation Preserve in the mountain, watch demonstrations and eat country fare. One of the featured foods was pecora interrata.  Interrata means underground.  Of course that is what I had!  In the evening there was music and dancing.  Since the zanzare, mosquitoes, and I have a love/hate relationship, they love to eat me and I hate them.  We left before it got dark.

The word trebbiatura  means threshing the grain.  There were glorious fields of wheat in this part of the mountain.  We were celebrating the harvest and the people that make sure we have bread and pasta on the table – the farmers.  The first threshing methods involved beating grain by hand with a flail, or trampling it by animal hooves.  The demonstrations included women doing this.  Women were doing lots of the heavy work – this is still not unusual in our little village of subsistence farms.  What was even more fun to watch was the early threshing machine!

(Uggggg – Jack just told me I have a typo in a caption in the video.  Sorry.)

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Dramma Sacro Di Santa Giocondina

Need an excuse to come to Southern Italy?  Here is a great one – a production of the story of Santa Giocondina.  The play is produced every four years – so if you miss it there is a long wait to see it again.  Every four years, residents of Pontelandolfo come together to share the story of this Christian martyr.  The catalyst for the production is a relic of the Saint that the parish is privileged to own .  It is a huge undertaking!  The cast of twenty six plus people rehearse two nights a week for months in the village’s theatre.  Elaborate costumes are made.  Sets are built and the community gathers to see the life and torture of the Saint.  This year Gabriele Palladino,  the artistic director is putting the cast through their paces.

Rehearsal

I snuck into a rehearsal and was impressed with the caliber of actors I saw on the stage.  They were in the moment, took the roles seriously and we’re obviously committed to bringing realism to the stage.  When I mentioned that to Jack he reminded me where I had been a few weeks ago and why the actors were comfortable on the stage.  You might remember, I went to the Scuola dell Infanzia to see an end of year production called “Paese Mio Che  Stai  Sulla Collina.”   In case you missed the story –  5 Year Old Actors Rock The Stage. The ritual of performing is ongoing throughout all grades.  As are class trips not to theme parks but to wonders of art and architecture.  Residents as young as three years old perform with the folklorico dance company – Ri Ualanegli Di Pontelandolfo.   The arts are a part of life in Pontelandolfo.  (Hmm – maybe that explains my families artistic bent.)

During the rehearsal, I heard actors question Gabriele about their motivation.  Gabriele gently led the actors down the path to the through line of the story.  The narrative places in context the antithesis between good and evil – salvation and damnation. I witnessed characters growing under his guidance.  The cast includes a cross section of the community and all take their roles seriously.  Become their FaceBook pal and see more pictures.

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Eleonora Guerrera (I don’t think we are related) is doing a stellar job portraying Giocondina the tortured Saint.  I asked her how she felt about creating the character –

Quando mi è stato chiesto di recitare nel dramma sacro di Santa Giocondina come protagonista, è stato per me un grande onore accettare la parte, nonostante i miei tentennamenti!! Il gruppo che si è creato è molto affiatato, come una famiglia; lo svolgimento delle prove una boccata d’ossigeno; far parte di un gruppo come questo può solo farmi crescere. Sono felice dell’esperienza che sto vivendo e ringrazio Gabriele Palladino per la fiducia riposta in me e per aver tirato fuori qualcosa che non ero al corrente di avere!

When I was asked to perform the sacred drama of Santa Giocondina as the protagonist, despite my hesitation, it was a great honor to accept the part!!
The group of performers that has been created is very close-knit, like a family. The development of the work as been a breath of fresh air for me. Being part of a group like this can only make me grow as performer. I’m happy that I’m living the experience and thank Gabriele Palladino for the confidence placed in me and for having pulled out something in me that I was not aware of having!

Costumes

The 2016 production features Eleonara Guerrera,  Paolo Tranchini, Michela Delli Veneri, Gianmarco Castaldi, Antonio Addona, Giovanni romano, Gennaro Del Negro, Salvatore Griffini, Davide Cocciolillo and Antonio Silvestre.  Angels are played by Serena Romano, Paula Corbo and Margherita Sforza.  There are countless others in the cast in supporting roles.  The assistant directors is Dolores Del Negro. Director, Gabriele Palladino wrote an article on the back story for Pontelandolfo News – which can be read in English.

The production is slated for the end of July – just before the week long festa of San Salvatore.  Buy that plane ticket and come visit Pontelandolfo in time to see the Dramma Sacro Di Santa Giocondina!

Ci Vediamo.

Bravi! 5 Year Old Actors Rock the Stage

Today, I saw a production that had me laughing, literally crying, rocking, smiling and cheering.  I wasn’t anywhere near Broadway or even Rome.  I was in the charming little theatre space below the new church – L’Auditorium Parrocchiale S. Giuseppe Moscati in Pontelandolfo (BN).  Those of you who know me – or worse yet – have gone to the theatre with me know that I have the attention span of a gnat and am critical of anything that doesn’t flow.  Today, my attention was held from the moment I entered the theater.

This morning, however, having been to numerous badly done school plays, overly long boring dance recitals I was not looking forward to the show. “Do I have to go?  Yes, you have to go. You said you would go.  But a preschool and kindergarten play… ”  Putting on my big girl pants I went.    Going down the steps to the theatre, rock and roll children’s music had me energized – wait a minute – a teacher thought to use pre-show music to set the tone!  Right on!  The teachers of the Scuola dell’Infanzia di Pontelandolfo have theater in their bones.  The show, Paese Mio Che Stai Sulla Collina (My Town on the Hill), had all the trappings of really good children’s theater.  Unlike other school events I have seen here, this was a well scripted production.  It dealt with the immigration of Pontelandolfese to America and the traditions they took and those they left behind. The teachers knew how to use the children’s strengths and weaknesses to the best advantage of the overall production.

Now you know that every little 4, 5 & maybe 6 year old waiting backstage was dying to know if their family was there.  They were probably jigging and wiggling with anticipation.  The creative teachers used that wiggle jiggle!  The reason for the pre-show rock and roll was not only to energize the crowd but to give every little actor a chance to check out the crowd.  A little face would appear in the crack in the curtain – the first time it happened I thought “Oh, Oh, that kid is in trouble.”  Then the curtain opened just enough for the little tyke to prance and dance for 20 seconds while his/her relatives cheered.  That hip hopper left and seconds later a different face appeared, looked and danced.  This pre-show was brilliant for the mini actors and the worried parents.  Everybody got to check out everybody else.

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The set was painted by a teacher.  Center stage is the village’s iconic tower and fountain.  The wings on either side represented places that the immigrants travelled to.  (There will not be any pictures of children.  Without a signed release from a parent that would be a yucky no, no.)

What amazed me, is that this is a public nursery, pre-K, K school and the actors memorized lines in Italian, English and the Pontelandolfo Dialect.  Was the English pronunciation perfect – no – did they try their damnedest – yes.  My niece and nephew went to a Waldorf school and children there leaned how to memorize.  This old school method really works and public schools in the USA should think about it.   The show ran about 45 minutes and the dialogue and singing was well disbursed among the 15 or so 5/6 year old actors. The pre-school children were in dances and songs – including the finale sung in English. Again, the teachers worked with the children’s strengths and understood how to capitalize on those strengths.

Traditional dances and songs were woven into the storyline.  Having seen the town’s dance company perform, I knew that the dances had been simplified – again a move by a good arts teacher. There was some side-coaching but generally the production ran smoothly. (No little people stood there frozen in fear scrunching up their skirts.)

The scene that had me rolling on the floor took place in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The immigrants, now living in an American city, were sitting around the breakfast table in robes, curlers and slippers talking about how great the USA was – mostly in English.  Suddenly, they got the itch to travel back to Pontelandolfo and visit.  With a quick change they appeared in Pontelandolfo in sun glasses, shorts, cameras dangling and hoisting suitcases.  They were greeted by locals and stood there looking stunned.  A look I have seen on Pontelandolfese who return to Pontelandolfo speaking the ancient Italian dialect of their grandparents – a dialect that has evolved.  Today, most people speak Italian.

I do not know the names of the faculty.  They all should be commended!  The arts galvanize and unite a community.  Good teachers of the arts give children a gift of a lifetime.  The confidence that has been imbued in these little actors and the visible lack of fear of performing is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their lives.

Ci Vediamo.

Getting to Naples Airport

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Road Rage Doesn’t Become Me.

It is so exciting for us when our friends and family come to visit. It is not so exciting to drive to the Naples airport. We love our family and friends but aren’t kind and gentle enough to drive to the Rome airport to pick them up.  We (OK me – Jack is kind) tell them to fly to Naples.  Now, after schlepping to Naples numerous times to procure our loved ones, cursing and shrieking during the drive and watching Jack clutch the wheel while I turned green –  I started thinking there must be a better way.  Couldn’t the adventuresome guests take the train?  Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, I’m a bitch but have you driven in Naples or Rome?

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Janet Cantore Watson came and found her Cantore cousins in Pontelandolfo!

It is a small world.  I have always considered Janet my daughter and discovering she had family where I had family was an uber woo woo moment.  Being a brazen lady of the world, Janet was the first guest to take a bus from a stop seconds from our house to Naples.  We were told that an early morning direct bus to Naples stopped in the piazza in Compolattaro.  That piazza is literally 5 minutes from our house.  We were there in the wee hours of the morning.  A tiny little bus stopped.  I asked if it went to Naples. “Si” said the lying S.O.B. bus driver.  Janet kissed us goodbye and got on.  As we were leaving a big bus pulled around the corner – h’mmm I wondered?   The first bus only went as far as Benevento – the second bus was the right one.  Merde.  Janet had to figure out which bus from Benevento went to Napoli.  Jack just pointed out that the first driver was not an S.O.B since he stayed with Janet and escorted her to the right bus – which cost her €10.  Double Merde.  After tooling around Naples Janet hopped a €16 cab to the airport. Her experience taught us that we have to over research everything and ask ALL the right questions.

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My brilliant niece, Alexandra Rose, was the first to explore the train to the plane connections from Pontelandolfo to the Naples airport.

When she came to visit this fall, Alex wanted to hang in Naples with her cousin Giusy. ( I didn’t ask what they got up to and they didn’t tell.)  After landing at the Naples Cappodichino  airport she hopped the Naples Alibus Airport Shuttle.  It took her to Naple’s Central Train Station.  After frolicking with Giusy, she took a Metrocampania train from Naples to Benevento.  There we scooped her up in big hugs and drove the scant twenty minutes home.

It is wonderful to have an adventuresome kid in my life.  Living in London she has traveled all over Europe alone.  Alex has scored thousands of points with this Auntie Mame.  Returning to London, Alex was going to do the trip directly to the airport. We hopped in the car and took a short slide down the mountain to Stazione di Benevento.

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There Alex was able to get a ticket on a Metrocampania NordEst train to Napoli Termini.  She tells me the ride was quick, easy and uneventful.

Next, the ever resourceful traveler jotted down specific directions to the AliBus shuttle from Napoli Termini to Naples Cappodichino airport for whoever was going to try it next.  Alex’s directions were simple enough. Tickets were cheap too.  It’s €4 if you buy the ticket on the bus or €3 if you buy it at a shop – but we don’t know which ones.  She was easily at the airport and on the way to England.

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Marta Figueroa – our next adventurer.

Marta, the traveling buddy of my youth, spent a fun filled week with us.  Being another world wide explorer she said it was stupid for us to repeat the drive to the Naples airport.  We had picked her up there and she got the full driving in Naples and on the highways experience.  “How could they be passing on a solid line?”  “Is going that fast legal?”

We got Marta to the Benevento  Train Station in plenty of time.  There isn’t great parking near the station so Jack stayed with the car.  I went in to discover that Alex was right – buying tickets was a breeze.  The station was organized – just lacked parking which reminded me of NJ Transit.  The ticket to Naples was only €5.  She got on the train and all was well until she got to Naples.  Even though we had Alex’s directions and knew that the Alibus stop is located in Piazza Garibaldi midway between the Central Station and Corso Garibaldi.  No one could help her figure out which door out of the train station headed in the right direction.  When she finally dragged her suitcase to the right place a kindly gent suggested that since the bus wouldn’t be there for ten minutes she cross the street and buy a ticket in advance.  Marta bought the ticket and  watched an Alibus come in, unload and leave.  What???  Maybe the driver had to pee.  A second bus came in, unloaded and left!  Now she is panicking about making her flight.  Finally, a full 45 minutes later,  an empty Alibus appeared and let the throng of people on.  Imagine how many people were now cued up, worried about catching trains and dragging luggage.  Marta pushed her way onto the bus and then watched the drama unfold.  The driver wouldn’t leave until a very proper British type lady got a new ticket.  She spoke Italian with great force and pretension.  “I have a bloody ticket and will not buy another.”  Now, you must validate the ticket in the electronic ticket machine on the bus and it is good for 90 minutes from validation.  What Marta couldn’t figure out is if the women had validated it too long ago or it was three years old.  She said the shouts and screams were incredible.  People on the bus were offering to pay her way.  The driver threatened to call the police.  She threatened to – well I don’t remember what.  But there was much shrieking until – —

The bus took off and Marta made it to the airport with only twenty minutes before the boarding of her flight.  Her recommendation – take the taxi!

Some cynic said to me – “Mussolini is dead you can’t expect public transportation to run on time.”

Festa at Terra di Briganti!

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Tante Auguri a Jack!

Jack was turning 70 – that meant I had to throw a humongous bash.  The problem is I had thrown Jackstock when he turned 60 and folks are still gazing numbly out from tents in our back yard.  How could I top three nights of music and mayhem?  Hmm, what’s a girl to do when she is in Italy and without the resources of her home team?  1. Make sure her BFF, Janet, is in Italy in time for the party. 2. Sit in the piazza, stare up the the hills and come up with a gimmick.  While staring at the grape vines that range up and down the mountain it hit me – take over a winery – it would be a blast from the past.

My first call was to Tony at our favorite winery, Terra Di Briganti. (Remember the story I did a few months back – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-ji)  Tony was a tiger and roared out ideas – starting with come on over and let’s pick out the wine.

Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!
Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!

Tony, his dad and his brother were pouring us a glass of Pidirosso. Then a glass of Aglianico.  How about a Falanghina.  Wait did you taste?  We tasted and knew that we would have a cocktail hour with a lovely sparkling – well it doesn’t matter just know it is all good.

Then came the menu.  Tony works with a chef – Gennaro – who by day is a policman!  But Gennaro is a foodie who relishes the dishes of historic Casalduni.  This is what we ate:  Quenelle di baccalà, Risotto al’aglianico e salsiccia profumato al rosmarino, controfiletto di pelatella casertana al Martummè con papacelle al’agro, Zuccotto con ricotta di pecora e ciccolato!  Notice that the Italian sings with the dialect of Casalduni.

Let’s just go to the video and you can see Jack’s 70th birthday at Terra di Briganti!  Click on the link and be sure to sing “tante auguri a jack!”

https://vimeo.com/107592027

To find out more about Terra di Briganti visit their website at www.terradibriganti.it

Festa Di San Antonio – Day Three and we are still Standing

August 2nd was Day Two of Contest Musica Live and day three of the Festa.  At 9:00 PM – dressed to the nines and with my party attitude on –  I left Jack snoring on the couch and forcing myself to put one tired foot in front of the other drove down to the piazza.  Gulp, I was going to a concert alone.  Who would I talk to, where would I sit, would I know anyone there?  The questions I just typed may have floated through my insecure 16 year old brain but the 65 year old knew that I would talk to everyone, sit where I wanted and – hey this is Pontelandolfo – I would know folks.

The first hint that less folks might be coming to this amateur event was the lack of vendors.  Many of the previous nights venders were somewhere else.  No one was selling shoes and there were fewer food trucks.  H’mm I got a parking space really close too.  This didn’t bode well for lots of people coming

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Look – a pre-lit stage!

Wow, somebody noticed that the stage didn’t look so professional for the first day of the talent contest or else they hired a different company for Day Two.  The set up was much more professional looking. There were blacks up stage – black curtains across the back of the stage and a different light set up.  Jack said how do I know these things – I just know OK.  You’ll see on the video.

The pre show started at 9:50 – a lot earlier than the day before and almost on time!  (The show was scheduled to start at 9:30 PM.)   The MC – who over the week I began to loathe more and more – did his usual warmup.  When the first group came on stage, folks started pouring into the piazza – not thousands but a healthy crowd.  The opening act was a fabulous singer and band from Pontelandofo!  That explained the enthusiastic crowd.  I also discovered that the day before many of our talented young folks were performing out of town with our dance company, hence, could not be bopping and rocking in the piazza.  They made sure to be back for our home town singer,  Eleonora Di Marzo!  She was terrific and so was the lighting. From smoke spurts to strobes it was much better rock lighting than the night before.

Bar Mixed Fantasy had tables set up that gave a great view of the stage – I bought my Campari soda, grabbed a table and started dancing in my seat.  As more folks came, I chatted, rocked and rolled and throughly  enjoyed the music, booze, friends and summer night.  I am not a music critic but can easily say that the bands the second night were a hell of a lot better than the bands we heard the first night.  They excuse Jack had given for not wanting to come – before he drifted to dreamland –  was the bands were beh the first night, why should we go and listen to mediocre music.  Because it is FESTA WEEK and it is our responsibility to go and support the festa.  OK, I want to go because it is always one hell of a party.

Unfortunately, my videos of the later bands had lousy sound quality.  So you will only hear our local favorite BUT note the clips of the accordion player – his group was amazing doing Neapolitan classics – too bad my camera recorded the conversation of the folks next to me.  UGGGG

Let’s go to the video.

http://youtu.be/SwNO7ynLa3U

Festa – Night One!

Light and sound check as we were walking in at 9:30PM.
Light and sound check as we were walking in at 9:30PM.

Jack and I aren’t sure how many nights we can go out at 9:30 and get home at midnight – and that was early for festa. This morning I asked Marilina at Bar Elimar how much sleep she got – she opens at 7:30. She said they closed the bar at 3:30 AM and she got 1.5 hours of sleep. Whew – I remember when I could do that, but I think sometimes I had the help of little blue — oh never mind. So how was the first night your wondering?

When we got into the center of Pontelandolfo at 9:30 PM there were still lots of places to park. Hmmm, thats not so good. People were slowly arriving and the show was supposed to start at 9:30!  Of course as everyone tells me, this is Italy and nothing ever starts on time.

Need more chicks or ducks? Get them at the Festa!
Need more chicks or ducks? Get them at the Festa!
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Diamonds, rubies and pearls – OH MY!

We walked through the small showing of bancarelle set up selling candy, panini, shoes – really – high end marked sneakers, probably knock offs, cleverly perched on the sidewalk –  jewelry, toys and I can’t remember. I felt there weren’t a lot and a betting there will be more on the weekend.

Then I spotted the most amazing ride – the swing to your death ride – set up in a rear piazza. I dragged Jack through the alley to get there just in time to watch the swings held on chains swinging out into space and teams of riders pushing each other to grab the “horses tail” that was hanging from a high perch. If you didn’t kill yourself by falling out trying you won a FREE ride!

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Wheeeeeeeeee! Grab that tail! Safety belts????

Little tykes were practicing on the miniature version of the death swing. Then I noticed parents – OK DADS letting their little boys get on the large death swing!

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Games of chance too!

We got to Piazza Roma and saw that the night’s show was set up. This was the sexiest set up I’ve ever seen here. Great sound system, projections – the screen could have been larger, there was even a grand piano on the stage. We saw my best buds, Carmella and Alda, at a table with a perfect view of the stage and headed over. First things first, lets get some wine and find out what is going on.

 

Alda’s cute daughter came running over, she had taken a picture at Bar Mix Fantasy with PIF an MTV star! Later Gabrielle ran over with his camera, he had a picture too! Wait, Annalaura just posted a picture of PIF with her!  Everyone was excited, I of course had no idea who PIF was or why he was here. So much for being current Auntie M.

PIF
PIF has a show on MTV and is a director. Annalaura needs to be cast in his next film!

Tonight’s show was titled VII edizione del Premio “Ugo Gregoretti – Landolfo d’Oro”.  No one I spoke to was quite sure what the night was about. Only that it had happened in other years.  I better do some research.  The stage was set with a grand piano stage right and two lovely golden upholstered chairs stage left – think talk show set.

We were all a bit hungry and it was now 10:15PM the show wasn’t starting so we looked at our food options. Apparently the pork panini truck had great roasted pork, the Mini Market was selling nice looking prosciutto panini for €1.

The pork stand.  Hmm we need to try this one night.
The pork stand. Hmm we need to try this one night.

Jack and Gennaro, Alda’s husband, said – “salsiccia!”  Since we were sitting at Bar Elimar it seemed right to buy their sausage panini, cooked to order on crispy hard rolls – €2.50.  Of course, one has to have a glass of Peroni Beer with that.  Jack announced the sausages were better than the ones we had at a festa in Casalduni the week before. Yeah for the home team!

Suddenly, music filled the square, a full orchestra was surrounding us. The sound system was top drawer because the sound was from the video. Shots of the iconic Pontelandolfo tower whirled into introductions of the notables who would tonight be awarded Landolfo d’Oro.  Yes I finally found out that it was a prestigious awards ceremony.

Beautiful red chairs were set up – real comfortable chairs, not the usual white plastic things Ii’ve seen here. This was a classy show.  The video was slick and well timed to the music. I realized that while I had been drinking and eating tons of people had showed up.  But why is this awards show happening here, in Pontelandolfo?  Time for the back story.

Ugo Gregoretti, the driving force behind the event, is an award winning Italian film, television and stage director, actor, screenwriter, author and television host.  His father once owned the iconic Pontelandolfo Tower and young Gregoretti spent his summers racing up the village’s green hills and has always had a special place in his heart for the Pontelandolfesi.  He was not happy when his mother decided to sell the tower.  According to one news report I found, he wanted to set up a foundation for the Tower so that the ancient portal could be open to all.  I wish he had – hey – it’s not too late.

He donated his personal library to the town so that his personal and professional history could be preserved in the village he loved.  Now, the library is closed – I wonder where this collection is?  I want to see it – Harriet the Spy is back in business.

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The award ceremony, “Ugo Gregoretti – Landulf D’Oro”, is now the cultural kickoff the the summer season.  By bringing famous artists to Pontelandolfo and honoring them, Gregoretti is bringing the red carpet to our home town. This year’s honorees were art critic Achille Bonito Oliva, filmmaker and television writer Pif, the journalist Barbara Palombelli, the writer and the scriptwriter Giorgio Arlorio, and  author Giussepe Furno.

 

NTR 24 has great video!  Watch it and have good night – we’re getting ready for Festa – Night 2!

http://www.ntr24.tv/it/news/titerno/a-pontelandolfo-la-vii-edizione-del-premio-ugo-gregoretti-landolfo-doro-tra-i-premiati-pif-e-bonito-oliva.html