We have only been back for a few days and the larder was more than bare. Thursdays the shops are only open half a day so I was up at dawn – well, 8:00 – to start foraging. Not being totally insane my first stop was Bar Elimar for a cappuccino and brioche.
Dov’è Jack? Where’s Jack? Repeated the chorus at the bar.
Let us get the “where’s Jack” part of the story over. Cripes, without Jack at my side I am chopped liver. After my coffee, I went to the hardware store. “Where’s Jack?”. Next I stopped at Conad, our little local supermarket. “You’re solo today? Where’s Jack?” The fruits and vegetable store, the place to buy agricultural stuff, the butcher. “Dov’è Jack!” I have that phrase memorized. Thank you merry questioners for today’s basic lesson in how important Jack is to the village. Well, I always knew that, but it was kind of cool to have it reinforced. He is the smiling part of this couple. Actually, the queries about Jack reinforce today’s theme. Shopping is social.
The check out people at the super supermarkets where I shop in New Jersey smile and are courteous but never ask me “where’s Jack?” No one leans over the counter or comes around the counter just to gossip about the weather, life or what is happening in the world.
Today’s foraging had me socially interacting, entertained and paying prices that were so low that I had a hard time not saying they were a mistake. At the Ferramenta, hardware store, the owner and I had a nice chat while he spent time adjusting, cleaning and putting a battery in the remote control for our giant electric gate. We talked about a friends cruise, laughed at the electrical tape that held my remote together, and spent time as neighbors. Repaired remote plus battery – €1.50.
Next stop, Fresh Fruits, for incredible Italian oranges, lettuce, cucumbers, red onions, peppers and I don’t know what else I spent €5.50. Nicola, The young woman who owns the store is always working alone, spends time chatting with each customer and puts a smile on my face.
Jack calls Conad, “the supermarket that time forgot.” Actually, if you didn’t know it was hidden down an alley you wouldn’t know it was there. No sign, not a flag, nothing, niente to let you know it exists. Trucks are constantly unloading supplies for this tiny full service grocery store. It may not have a sign but the three women who work there, make the experience so pleasant that people visit once a day. Imagine, the manager today asked me if I wanted “un buon caffè.” She was going to make me a coffee. I spent about €50 but bought three bottles of Prosecco, a bottle of Jack Daniels, butter, eggs, tuna, canned tomatoes – three bags full of stuff. After dragging the stuff to the car, I was off to the baker, agricultural store and butcher. Each place made me feel like family.
My last stop was a tiny little wooden building in neighboring Morcone. Pecorino Del Sannio only makes and sells cheeses made with sheep’s milk. I had only been there twice four months ago and yet the owner asked,”How did my cheese carry to New Jersey?” We tasted her latest creation, lemon flavored sheep’s milk aged cheese soaked in Aglianico ( a red local wine.) Delish. I bought a hunk. I wanted my cousin Carmella to try the cheese so I bought her a pound. Then I bought a lot more. Before I got the bill she asked if I wanted to taste her sweets. Who could say no? She then proceeded to gift me a huge pecora ricotta and pistachio dessert. This enjoyable outing cost me €31.
To some, shopping in small shops on a daily basis may seem like a throwback to 1950. It may be, or it may be that a life style that rewards conversation, personal service and inclusion is worth keeping.
Isola Ecologica or Hillsborough Dump – by any other name the dumpster diving is just as sweet. For over thirty years, an ornate Jacobean carved hutch graced my homes. When we made the decision to spend more time in Italy, I never should have sold it. The piece was found by my mother, sans the doors embazoned with nude figures, in the Hillsborough dump. Her pal found the doors in another part of the dump. In the early 1960s a Saturday morning run to the dump was an adventure. You brought your garbage and left with someone else’s garbage. Only it wasn’t garbage it was a treasure in need of a new home. Sigh, I miss those days…
Here in Pontelandolfo, fifty years later – could that be true – I was taken back to those blissful adventures at the local dump. We contracted a new internet provider and found ourselves with an old Dish TV style antennae. The big lug stared at us and dared us to toss it. We stared back from Tuesday until Saturday. We won. It would be tossed and we would take our first trip to the Pontelandolfo dump! Excuse me – dump is too common a term for the Sannio Hills. That Saturday, we followed the newly resurfaced mountain road to the Isola Ecologica! One thing the ugly wind turbines did for the town was the repaving of roads going up the mountain. I am embarrassed to say that in ten years I had never ridden the road we live on that far up the incredibly beautiful hill.
Soon houses were gone and more and more intricately shaped white boulders peppered the fields. The road took us up past enormous nature carved rock faces hugging the mountain side. The ride was gorgeous. We didn’t know what to expect so we kept on waiting for a sign or something. No, not a sign from the celestial hill side. A sign that said Isola Ecologica.
The sign was – well there was no sign. Like a dumpster diving oasis, the Isola Ecologica just rose up out of the mountain side. We weren’t sure what the protocol was and like “Harriet the Spy” parked outside the gate and spied.
Jack, I whispered, look some guy is stacking pieces of wood on the roof of his car. Seriously, he isn’t dumping it, he is taking it.
I started laughing so hard the Fiat rocked. Another guy was rummaging through what looked like a giant display of electronics after the Black Friday sale had reduced it to rubble. Until he stood up and proudly raised a monitor over his head, I had only seen his legs. Here on an Italian mountaintop, I had been transported back to the Hillsborough, New Jersey dump! I could see my mother and her pals dragging chairs missing only one leg or a seat out of enormous piles.
We finally pulled into the yard and Lorenzo, the helpful super of the yard, pointed to the bin the giant dish should go into. There was the electronics bin, wood bin, plastics bin, section for things like refrigerators and stoves, furniture piles and something I have never seen before.
Memories can be triggered by the smallest things. I miss that ornately carved hutch, restored by my mom and loved by everyone who visited my homes. I miss my mom and the joy she could find in a day of dumpster diving. Next time I feel sad, I’ll take something that may or may not need tossing and visit the Isola Ecologica.
Hmm, is Midge telling a big bugia? Her “First” big Italian Wedding – doesn’t her sister’s wedding – replete with major politicians – count? How about nephew Joey’s – taking place in a New Jersey palace? If we are concerned about the truth here – how about her “simple wedding” to Jack. The ceremony featured ballerinas and a harpist? Stop! It is absolutely the truth – Midge and Jack went to their First Big Italian Wedding in Italy! For tradition, glamour and length, being at an Italian family wedding in Italy tops all those others.
I thought it would be fun to glide over those things that are the same and talk about the differences between the weddings I’ve witnessed before and this one. Let’s start with the invitations. In today’s frenetic USA world, save the date notices are often sent out a year before the wedding. Here in Pontelandolfo, no one is notified until one month before the wedding – after Il Promesso – I told you about that a month ago. That “Promise” is the contract to really truly get married. A few days after it, the bride and groom hand carry the invitations to everyone within driving distance. Giusy did e-mail invitations a wee bit in advance to the United States. I bet Antonio did the same thing for relatives who live far away. How incredibly personal! The invitations were printed on a natural fiber that was imbedded with wild flower seeds. After the wedding, invitees were encouraged to plant the invitations. They had witnessed the love between Giusy and Antonio bloom and next spring would watch the flowers blossom.
About two weeks before the big day, I couldn’t understand why my cousin Carmella was frantically calling a caterer, cleaning and perking up her house. I figured an incredible venue had been booked why stock food for the masses at the house? Tradition. The morning of the wedding the bride’s family – which included me – was expected to show up at the bride’s home, eat a bit and celebrate la sposa. Ladies, imagine, the day of your wedding a bunch of family members happily visiting you as you tweaked your make up?
A week before the wedding – we ladies did what women around the world do. We dragged the giggling Giusy away for a day with the ladies. We went to a fabulous spa, Fonte del Bennesere Resort in Castelpetroso.
That final week before the wedding, the push was on to finish all of the guest gifts. Groom, Antonio De Michele raises bees and produces some of the finest honey in the area. Giusy and Antonio – with the help of family – bottled 200 small jars of Antonio’s honey, decorated and boxed it. Seating charts always take time to figure out. The design was a no brainer – honeycombs! Each table had a name and all guests were listed in bee hives. Check. Two jobs done. Then came the work on the love phrases. Yes, love phrases – Giusy and Antonio researched and chose quotes that dealt with good relationships by famous authors. Each guest found the gentle love reminder at their place. “Salutarsi è una pena così dolce che ti direi addio fio a domani.” William Shakespeare. (Saying goodbye is such a sweet pain that I would say goodbye until tomorrow.)
Knowing that party was going to go on into the wee hours, Jack and I decided to do an advance trip to the venue and see if slightly drunk/tired we would be able to find our way home. We followed the GPS round and round hill top roads to Villa Clodia in Pago Veiano (BN). The majestic wedding palace is in the middle of nowhere on roads that this lady in her third act didn’t want to navigate at night. We booked a B&B down the road.
Wedding gifts in Pontelandolfo seem to always be in cash. There are no bridal registries. No one ships silver or crystal to the bride to be. The cash is also a set amount per person. I kept asking about this and heard the same amount and same story from numerous people. Couples use the gifts to pay for the elaborate wedding parties. Some misanthropes, I’m told, make sure the cash is in small bills in the “busta.” If they don’t feel they are getting bang for their bucks at the reception, they pull out some of the euros. I’m not making this up – really – more than one person told me. The opposite is also true. Annarita told me she and Emanuele went to a wedding that was so opulent they opened their gift envelope and stuck in an extra euros.
Wedding day was finally here. Hair dressers, make-up artists, videographers, photographers and Jack and I all paid a visit to Giusy and the Mancini family at home. This tradition of the extended family seeing the bride off from her home is very sweet. The house was festooned with flowers, tulle and camera boxes. Everyone was smiling and laughing as the video and photography team managed the show. Hmm, were we dress extras?
Time for the church! The mass was scheduled for 11:00 AM. A morning event, I discovered, doesn’t necessarily mean one dresses in a tea length dress and pearls – like I did. There were women arriving at the church in bejeweled evening wear. I will admit, I felt correct in my navy blue silk. Equally sure that the gorgeous women in floor length finery felt equally correct. The exterior of the church was decorated by Nicola Ciarlo and really set the stage. Speaking of stage – there was a drone flying over head videotaping our arrivals.
Applause! This hit me as something I hadn’t seen in the USA. Led by the priest, the audience was encouraged to applaud for the bride and groom not just at the end of the service but three or four times during the service. I love it! Applause was a mainstay later at the reception too.
We dashed off after the mass to La Vecchia Fattoria, the B&B we booked. The rooms were clean and utilitarian – if you like youth hostels. The place was country-set beautiful and we found the parking lots packed. Turns out it an agriturismo with a stellar reputation for lunch. We landed in foodie heaven! Leaving our bags, we drove the three minutes to Villa Clodia. First step, proof of vaccine. Second step, fill out the contact form. Third step, join our “hive” of friends at a table for 8 under a giant pergola. The cocktail hour was glamorous. Uniformed waitstaff flowed between tables pouring Prosecco and tempting us with small plates of everything from seafood to rice balls. Knowing that a multi course meal was scheduled, I held off and only tasted a bite or two. Yumm.
The wedding was a moving feast. The next stage was the grand ballroom. The couple did something very clever. Each table entered the foyer to the ballroom as a group. They were then placed by the photographer around the bride and groom for a photo. That insured that every guest was in a shot with the stars of the show. A three piece combo was set up in the corner of the ballroom. We found our hive and began our 6 hour – or was it 7 hour – feast. No one was dancing. We were told due to COVID dancing was not encouraged. Applause was encouraged by the band. Applaud the grandparents. Eat a new course. Applaud the parents. Eat a new course. Applaud the sibling. Eat a new course. Thanks the goddesses for the energy expended applauding. It freed up space in our filling stomachs. Actually, the applause was heartfelt and fun. After the second or third Primi Piatti, the bride and groom did their first dance. When the parents and grandparents were encouraged to join them, Jack and I snuck in. Hell, we are old enough to be their grandparents.
There were fairly long periods of time between courses – I counted 14 courses but could be wrong. People would go outside and sit on the well appointed terrace and amble back just as waiters scurried about with the next course. After the fruit course, which – groan- we realized was probably the last, I went to the ladies room. Sadly, I was there for a while. When I got back, the grand ballroom was empty. Not a guest. Not a waiter. Not a band member. No one except Jack. He didn’t know where everyone went. I sure as heck, not having been in the room, had a clue where all the people were. We walked out of the ball room to the upper terrace and didn’t see a soul. We left. WHAT A COLOSSAL MISTAKE!
The party had apparently moved to the lower level of the property. Tables were set poolside. Waiters ported huge trays filled with glorious pastries from table to table. Prosecco was poured. After dinner drinks and coffee were available. Music filled the late night air. The couple cut the enormous wedding cake – actually it was a faux cake and they just pretended. During Covid, buffets and touching the cake are off limits. Individual tiramisus made there way to each guest. Then the scent of grilling meats filled the air. An after the party, party of more food was about to begin. WE MISSED IT ALL. The next day in the piazza, I was chastised by a friend for not saying goodbye to anyone and just leaving. That is when I discovered what we had missed. I felt incredibly stupid for not understanding or asking in advance what the usual protocol was. Sorry for leaving my First Big Italian Wedding before it was over.
Sunday, September 12th, featuring the work of Rito Ruggiero, the veranda in front of our house was transformed into an outdoor gallery. We had two days to pull it off. The framed collection of work arrived Friday night. As we catalogued and created labels for the twenty pieces, our delight in Rito’s unschooled talent increased. Saturday morning, Jack, Rossella Mancini, my partner, and I went into overdrive. I only threw a hammer at Jack once – it missed.
Speaking of my husband, Jack Huber, he has an incredible eye for composition. (He married me didn’t he.) I have to give him all the credit for designing and hanging the show. Rossella and I were his somewhat able assistants. Saturday evening all the pieces were in place. The stage was dressed and we snapped pictures to continue our outpouring of digital publicity. Then we struck the set! Yup, we took all the work down. WHAT! The show was outdoors. Even though we have a gated home, between the weather and the potential for thievery we had to bring everything back into the house. Jack had made a diagram of what went where. I gulped and thought “how the hell are we going to do this on Sunday?”
Sunday morning the blue skies and bright sun created the perfect backdrop for the show. Annarita Mancini, my incredibly talented assistant, arrived and put on the caffè. Rossella and her terrific kids, Annalaura and Alessio, raced in. Everyone leaped into the fray. Silver arrows soon could be followed directly to our house. The veranda was swept, mopped and tweaked. Nicola Ciarlo arrived with flowers and arranged greenery. Jack’s diagram was essential – the art was rehung. Tables were set, viewing chairs set. Food and wine delivered. Annalaura took her place behind the bar. The giant banner was hung on the gate. More pictures were taken and quickly posted on social media. Our energetic team did a stellar job. Then I panicked.
Would anyone come? We had press in the daily paper, tons of social media inserts, direct invitations and wine – lots of wine. But would anyone come? At 3:59 PM I felt like a kid impatiently waiting for her birthday party to start. Rito arrived with his family. My stomach was in knots. Bing. 4:00 PM – no one. Merde. 4:10 PM the parade started. People came alone, in groups, with families or friends. I smiled and took a breath.
We were quite pleased with the number of guests that not only came, but also purchased art. Our social media generated requests for information from potential buyers in the United States. For me, the highlight of the day was watching Rito do gallery tours for interested people. Explaining not only his technique but the inspiration and location of each piece. At one point, a group of the village’s young business people came and were asking questions, commenting and engaging with Rito in a passionate discourse.
Then it was over. Guests left, all was packed up, leftover wine was drunk and the team took a breath and went out to dinner. A celebration of accomplishment was in order. And you all wonder how I spend my time in a small Southern Italian village! Come to Pontelandolfo and see!
P.S. My 9/11 based play, E-mail: 9/12 will be available from publisher, Next Stage Press, on October 1st. Besides being a play, it would be a great addition to a High School or University history curriculum.
We were so excited to be invited to cousin Giusy’s La Promessa di Matrimonio. I didn’t have a clue what that meant – besides an event that warranted a glamorous after party. All we could figure out was the couple had to go to city hall and do something and then, a couple of months later, they could get married in the church. Was it just getting a marriage license? Was it an actual civil wedding first? This inquiring mind wanted to know!
My cousin and her fiancée, Antonio, have reserved Pontelandolofo’s Chiesa San Salvatore for a September wedding. Before that can happen – or even if they were going to have a civil ceremony – they had to head down to town hall and in the presence of an official, like the registrar, go through the process of La Promessa di Matrimonio.
On April 4, 1942, Article 79 of the Italian Civil code was finalized. La Promessa, was established. From what I read, it looks like it stopped forced marriages. Hmm did that mean the sale of brides and grooms for ten sheep and a goat? It protects marital freedom and insures that the couple both consent to marry each other. It also nullifies previous obligations – like the secret ex-husband you forgot to mention.
La Promessa is not a super binding legal contract. You can always jump ship and change your mind – as long as you are willing to restore any economic loss your former fiancée suffered.
It kind of reminded me of the day Jack and I went to the Asbury Park City with a video cameraman and a witness to get our marriage license. The couple here had to present the usual bureaucratic documents plus a couple extra – proof of identity, birth certificates, tax stamp that you paid the fee, request form for the marriage bans by the parish priest, request form for the publication of the bans and probably something else that I forgot. Oh yeah, Antonio belongs to the church in Casalduni. He had to get a letter from his priest there and supply his birth, baptismal and communion certificates.
The marriage bans, public announcement of the upcoming nuptials, take place in the church and the town. This gives advance notice to folks who may know of some dastardly impediment to the wedding and race out to stop it.
Someone told me, or I read that this civil action takes the couple from being engaged to absolutely betrothed. Sort of a throwback to the ancient request for the hand in marriage by the groom. It is also kind of the official meeting of the two families. Or simply a great excuse to have an intimate party – think engagement party!
The date was bright, sunny and hot! Jack and I parked as close as we could to Palazzo Rinaldi. It is an historic building that has been totally renovated. It even had magic doors that opened when you got close. I looked around the foyer and figured the Council chambers should be here somewhere. Seeing a directory, we realized that it was on the second floor. The second floor of an ancient building and its huge marble staircase. The staircase had a landing or two so I could attempt to breathe. Clutching my lungs we made it to the second floor and couldn’t find the room. I peaked in an office and asked. It was up yet another flight. I gasped and the wonderful woman showed us the modern elevator! Duh – the second floor in an Italian building is really the third level. I should know by now the ground floor isn’t in the count. The elevator whisked us up to the next floor. We arrived at 4 minutes to 5. The event was to start at 5:00 PM. The room was empty! Jack looked at me and asked if we were there on the right date. I checked my calendar and my WhatsApp messages. Then I assured him that it was the right time and the right date. He looked at me and we both said “questa è Italia.”
The handsome groom to be, Antonio, arrived with his family. They were decked out in cocktail dresses, jewels, suits and ties. I looked down at my casual summer dress. Gulp. Another thing I should remember is that any event is an opportunity to dress up and look fetching. Oh well, next time.
Where was Giusy? The registrar appeared with the necessary items for the signing. Where was Giusy’s family – which is my family? Suddenly, I heard heavy breathing and panting. They all staggered in having climbed three ridiculous flights of stairs. Like us, no one knew there was an elevator. It was worth the wait – Giusy looked like a movie star. Her backless white jumpsuit festooned with lace at the shoulders was a whimsical reminder that she was the bride to be. Everyone took a seat. I happily noticed a bottle of Prosecco made it’s way to the front of the room.
The registrar opened the proceedings by reading both Anonio’s and Giusy’s recorded history. Dates of birth, parents names, place of birth and residency. I knew that stuff so I didn’t pay close attention. Then she got to to the important Article 79 of the Civil Code and read part of that. The cute couple signed something and bang – it was all over. The bang was the popping of the Prosecco cork. The whole thing took less than ten minutes.
Time for the second half of the event – the party! After asking other guests, I discovered this was a Southern Italian tradition. Though others said, not everyone did it. The site, La Rossella, is a restaurant about fifteen minutes out of town. If I tell you everything we ate you will drool on your electronic device. I’ll give you the quick version. We started out side in a lovely garden. Thank the goddesses I brought my anti mosquito juice and shared it with the other barelegged women. I hate mosquitos but they adore me. The Prosecco glasses were held high to once again toast the couple and then we each grabbed a paper cone filled with crispy tempura fried pieces of fish. Yummy. The fish kept us occupied while each family group lined up for the de rigueur photos. Photos done? Check! Time to move inside and leave the marauding mosquitos for the next group.
We had an absolutely huge table set up for the scant party of 20 – absolute Covid social distancing. Then the feast began! The appetizer of steamed octopus coupled with thin slices of swordfish and salmon was exceptional. As was the wine that freely flowed. The tone of the party was light, filled with laughter and applause. Literally applause. For example, I shouted out auguri ai genitori and everyone cheered “I genitori” (parents) and clapped wildly. This happened sporadically throughout the evening until everyone was toasted.
The appetizer was followed by not one but two primo piatti! The first pasta dish was homemade linguine and clams but with a creamy sauce. The second was pasta with swordfish. I will try to replicate that one. Then came more and more and suddenly it was after midnight and out came the delicious cake with it’s whipped cream frosting and pistachio cream filling. Sigh….
Jack and I wished the couple a happy engagement and rolled out to our car. What a night! What a perfect first time experience of La Promessa di Matrimonio.
Last week Italy played England in the UEFA EURO 2020 match. Until last week, I didn’t know there was a UEFA or that it stood for the Union of European Football Associations. I also didn’t understand why this was the 2020 match – duhhhhh – the pandemic squashed last year’s. As our entire village started preparing for this event, I realized I better do some research or would be a really stupid Italian – American.
AHEM, said the professoressa with rich but boring academic tones, Italy has been in 10 major tournament finals – 6 world cup, 4 EURO. Among the European nations, only Germany has played in more. The not so staid English have never been in the finals of a European Championship. This was their first try at a major tournament since winning the 1966 World cup. Sadly, for them, but not for us THEY LOST!
The night of Italy’s win, I finally began to understand calico. Don’t be silly, I still don’t understand the rules or why a sport that is supposed to take 90 minutes takes a lot more than 90 minutes. What I finally began to understand was that the game wasn’t as important as the opportunity for neighbors, friends, soon to be friends and outright enemies to have a communal focus. Joining the majority of the village in the Piazza that night, I saw everyone from infants to people older than Jack staring at movie screens and holding their collective breaths at the same time. Cries of alarm went up when goals were missed. Chairs were knocked over as the crowd leapt to its feet when a goal was made. In-between these specific moments people were talking to not only those at their table but those around them.
All the bars in town, who had starved during lockdown, had prepared for the onslaught of customers – who were more than customers. Surrounding each bar, staring at television and movie style screens, were people who had been trapped in their homes for over a year and were now not only supporting their country’s team but supporting each other. Babies were passed from person to person, drinks and food were bought and sent to different tables, bar owners were assisted by family and friends who are like family, strangers and “the local Americans” were embraced. (There was no embracing but lots of elbow touching.)
For one night, no one was worrying about the latest designer version of Covid or what would happen when the region moved from Covid White status to yellow or worse. The angst of the past year was lost as a team of Italian men chased a ball across the pitch. (That is what they call the playing field – don’t ask me why I haven’t a clue.)
At the beginning of the match, as fireworks filed the air, all stood and sang the Italian national anthem. Italians were coming together with one focus – winning. We won the match and we in Italy will beat this pandemic.
Days have passed and it seems that in our New Jersey home one day folds into another. Yes, we remain indoors. Yes, we only leave to go to the pharmacy and vegetable store. Yes, household supples, meat and dairy get delivered. Yes, I am anal about wiping down all deliveries and hand washing. Yes, after returning home from an outside trek, I insist that Jack or I immediately strip, shower and wash the outdoor clothes. Yes, besides contacting family and friends here and in Pontelandolfo, I have been a binge watching, novel reading full time layabout.
My “what have you done for me lately” brain got a spurt of energy and sent me to my computer. It is time to tell you the story of Pontelandolfo (BN) and the Coronavirus. My cousin Annarita came to visit us at the end of February expecting to stay for a month and a half. Then the Coronavirus hit Italy and she decided to stay with us. Then the Coronavirus hit the USA and the three of us realized we had to hunker-down in New Jersey for the duration. With her here, we get daily updates on the life of our Pontelandolfo family and friends.
What I realized is that the Italians in Southern Italy do everything with resolve and passion. When Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy, said the quarantine would be extended until April 30 people execepted it. Unlike the ridiculous stories I read in the New Jersey papers no one had a wedding, birthday party, or state house protest with hordes of people. They stayed home. Because they stayed home, only one person in our small Southern Italian village has tested positive for the Coronavirus. The person who tested positive is a nurse in an out of town rehabilitation center. She is isolated in her home and will stay there until she tests negative. The virus has not spread in our village. However, there is a flour and yeast shortage.
Schools were closed and teachers are providing home based lessons. The high schools seem to be giving final exams on line. All the elementary school kids were encouraged to create a rainbow to hang in their windows. The activity was an opportunity for parents to explain how working together by staying home is for the good of everyone.
I can only talk about what is happening in Pontelandolfo. From my family I have gotten first hand information – it helps to have politicos in the family who have an information main line.
Information distribution is key during a crisis. Starting early in March, the country went to the mattresses to stop the onslaught. #iorestoacasa. Pontelandolfo uses signage, e-mails, facebook and its Pontelandolfo 2.0 app to get the word out.
The municipality of Pontelandolfo gave each family one washable mask to use. Why only one? Because only one person per family may leave the house to go the grocery store, butcher, or Farmacia. That person must print out and fill out a “self-certifying traveling for proven needs” form. (Folks titter that every time Premiere Conte speaks there is a new form to fill out.) The police stop all cars coming into town and ask to see the form. They stop you on the way out too. There better not just be a jug of wine and no groceries! Yes, you can get a ticket. The police presence is excepted as necessary and a reminder to stay home.
The sense of community is amazing. The three levels of government, social service agencies and individuals are all working together for the greater good. The men and women who volunteer to be part of Protezione Civile Pontelandolfo, have been instrumental in providing information and assistance. Idea Bellezza, a local company, donated food and hygiene products to distribute. For Easter, the municipality brought Easter Baskets to every child. Tina Perone of Farmacia Perone made hand sanitizer for every customer. The Region of Campania also bought masks for the pharmacies to give away.
Vincenzo De Luca, the president of the Region of Campania announced the following assistance. The region allocated fourteen million euro for a fund called Bando con laFamiglie. Social Service agencies got funding early for problems in the community. Funding was put in place to get food from the producers to the distribution sites. Students who can’t afford to buy their school books and supplies would be helped. Money is also available for families with children under the age of 15 and need financial assistance. Since all children are at home, €500 per month is available to help families that work in essential services pay for babysitting. That said, when the fund is depleted the funding stops unless there is something else in the pipeline.
Conte’s Italy, is providing additional help. INPS, think social security agency, is providing assistance. Anyone receiving a INPS check of less than €1,000 gets up to €500 from the government to insure they receive a monthly pension check of at least €1,000. Since all students are learning from home, there is money available to buy poor students computers and get their homes hooked up to the internet. Funding is available to distribute food to families in economic difficulty. Self – employed persons and those with small companies are also being assisted.
My first thought was could someone double dip – get funding for the same sort of thing from all levels of government. My cousin looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I guess the answer is no.
Families are spending time together. Music is being made. Songs are sung. No one disobeys the rule to stay home and don’t go beyond two hundred feet of your home. Nationally, Coronavirus numbers are falling. In Pontelandolfo the number remains one.
I think there are lessons to be learned here. The government jumped in and tested tons of people. Rules were put in place and the people listened. Everyone understood that one helps oneself and the world by staying home.
When “buffalo” means Buffalo Mozzarella! Who knew that the creamiest of mozzarella cheeses came from a water buffalo? I didn’t. Did I just admit a lack of knowledge on something edible and Italian?
About 20 years ago, Jack, my Aunt Cat and I drove through the valleys of Compania searching for buffalo. Silly me imaging the bison that ruled the plains were nestled in the Sannio Hills. Oooops – classic mistake. Can you imagine milking a two-story tall mammoth bison? Thanks to Martenette Farms, a group of ten farm to table foodies will see the buffalo for themselves.
Fattoria al Tavolo With Martenette Farms*
Ace organic farmers Andrea and Tony of Martenette Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey wanted to share their love of farming and good eating with others. They created a super culinary and farm adventure that takes place in my home town, Pontelandolfo, from October 17 – 24, 2020. Guess what it includes? A visit to a buffalo farm!
Participants will explore, eat and live in a small southern Italian village. Becoming part of village life, they will gain a cultural understanding of what lies behind great Southern Italian dishes. This farm to table experience is for those of you who want to see a part of Italy that is off the crowded tourist trail, see where the local food comes from and taste dishes that go back generations.
For example, the group will eat in private homes and at agriturismos – farms that serve food. Visit working farms, hear lectures on herbs, look for edibles in the Sannio Hills, learn the ancient sport of cheese rolling – La Ruzzula, and of course visit olive groves and taste great wine after trekking through vineyards.
I can’t wait to meet this group of culinary adventurers! Ci vediamo!
*Regretfully, there are no special dietary considerations. Since you will eating in people’s homes, not restaurants, accommodations cannot be made for allergies or preferences. This medieval village has charming cobblestone streets, but it is not handicapped accessible. The adventure and experience in the home of local families requires the ability to climb stairs, walk on uneven streets and feel comfortable in a hilly mountain environment. The calendar of events may change but will be similar.