The Empty Piazza

The other night and again this morning as Jack and I sat at Bar Elimar, I realized something was different. The vibe was different. The sun was still shining and the piazza dogs were still smiling at Jack. (Jack tends to drop things off his plates on purpose, hence the smiling dogs.) The silence hit me. The piazza was empty. I mean, not literally empty, but fewer people were lingering over coffee. We easily got a table in the shade. It is still August but summer season is over. The Pontelandolfese who returned to their roots have flown off. For some reason, I found this quiet period depressing. I, who hate crowds and backpacks, actually felt sad that there were less people out and about. Perhaps, I too am entering a new era or turning back the clock to a time when I couldn’t function unless there was a crowd to sap the energy from. Brrrrrrr. This is sounding too contemplative.

Snap out of it! This is the perfect time to be here in Pontelandolfo. The air is crisp. The sweat has stopped pooling under my boobs and the mosquitoes have stopped using my bare legs as a buffet. It is a pleasure to sit here, stare and sip my cappuccino.

Midgeeee! Tutto posto? Cheerily said a couple of men as they passed by our table on their way into the bar. Maria, the ever efficient barista/waiter knew exactly what we wanted without our asking. The silent piazza was still home for us. Full or empty we belong here.

Ci sentiamo dopo.


Not too late for a summer read of my Pontelandolfo based book, Cars,Castles, Cows and Chaos!

Teachers need a lesson teaching Halloween play or a play about America’s first people? Check out my plays on Next Stage Press.

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.


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.



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!


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.

Storms Silence This Yapper

Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.”  Now, Kathy knows I love to chat.  We  Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot.  What do we talk about?  I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting  stopped.

Run Dorothy Run!

On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn  your umbrella inside out wind.  The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.

What? No Magic Jack or Viber?
What? No Magic Jack or Viber?

Suddenly I was silenced!

 Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting.  For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!

It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something.  It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision.  Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.


Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills.  When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.


(Read –…ome-without-it/ ‎)

No internet means NO Magic Jack.

(Read –

No internet means NO Facetime or Skype

(Read –…ound-the-world/)

How does one overcome this dilemma?  First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider.  We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data.  Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot.  I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.

I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.

To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air.  Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.)  Apple products all work incredibly well together.  

I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad.  Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook.  Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer.  Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)

Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.

photo (1)
Thanks Apple for Facetime.



Missing Those City Lights?

Last night I wended my way over the curvy hill road – checking for the sheep that graze and amble across the road from one field to another.  I decided to go visit Rosella and her great kids – they live in a medieval grotto next to a waterfall and antique water fountain.  The road scares the pajeeeezuz out of me – holes, animals and curves on cliffs.  But visiting the Iacovella house is worth the risks.  I’m thinking a quick game of scopa and a cup of caffè.  That was not in the cards – it was time for city lights.

Who needs Times Square!
Who needs Times Square!

I jumped into the car with Rosella and the kids for a “solo cinque minute” visit to Casalduni.  Rosella’s husband, Pasquale, is running for Sindaco (mayor) and silly me thought we were bopping into the village to pick up campaign stuff.  My first clue was all of the cars parked along the road into Casalduni.  My second clue was the kids opening the windows and sticking their heads out to see something.  Whoa!  That something was this brilliantly lit street leading to the small villages central square.  Tonight was the first night of the festa for Santa Rita!

Of course, when I got back I had to google Saint Rita to find out who she was and what her deal was.  She is the patron saint of Casalduni and the patron saint of impossible causes.

She was married to a brute.  He died, her kids died and she devoted herself to God.
She was married to a brute. He died, her kids died and she devoted herself to God. Also for years after putting on a crown of thorns, she suffered with a terrible gash in her head.  Even carrying all that pain she committed herself to doing good works.

Every Italian village has a patron saint and it looks like that saint’s day – for Rita it’s May 22 – is a good excuse to bring some music, art and history to the village.  Last night the entertainment was Gruppo Folklorico Sannio Antico –  ( .  These all volunteer dancers told the story of Casalduni through music and movement.  Supplying the music was Il Gruppo Fontanavecchia.  In the hills,  old fountains – a source of water and life – seem to be a recurring theme. One movement piece showed women washing their clothes, gossiping and filling  jugs at the fountain – while the men flirted.  Ah a typical Italian scene. 

This is the village’s ancient fountain and water source. The water comes from the mountain.

Casalduni is an interesting village.  It only has about 1500 residents but covers a great swath of land.  The village historic center has tons of empty properties.  I’m guessing families immigrated and just deserted their medieval row houses.  The place is charming and would make an easily accessible artists colony or pied a terrè in Italy.  It saddens me to see these historic villages just slowly empty.

Last night, the enthusiasm and energy of the “cittadini”made it a terrific night on the town.  My theory is that people need the arts to survive and if the arts are not close by they will create their own artistic feast.  I grew up in New Jersey, NY’s step-sister.  Our town, Hillsborough Township, was and still is an artistic waste land.  There is the occasional art show and band in the park but mostly if you want action you can visit one of the hundreds of jock filled fields – soccer, baseball, and  well I don’t know what the other jock fields are for but they are there.  Since Hillsborough is so close to New York, Philadelphia and Princeton, we leave town for our art fix.  Here in the hills of Italy, people don’t have a lot of cash, there is limited public transportation and everyone has the soul of a Da Vinci.  They make art!  Dance companies are formed. Theatrical “spectacollos” are staged. Live music is found in piazzas and every child doodles on a sketch pad.  Folks here create the art they crave and a saint’s day is a great opportunity to share it.  Since Saint Rita’s day is May 22, we will go back tonight to see what artistic feast we can munch on.

Dancers waiting to take the stage, join the audience.

Gruppo Folklorico Sannio Antico wishes –

Con le nostre danze e canti, auguriamo a tutti una serata piacevole e che sia portatrice di pace e serenita.”  Noi devoti di Santa Rita chiediamo la sua protezione.

 With our dances and songs, we wish that every person enjoys the evening.   Also, may this event bring serenity and peace and may Santa Rita protect everyone with many blessings.

Me, I’m just happy to see the city lights.

The night may be over but the lights and St. Rita will follow us home.
The night may be over but the lights and St. Rita will follow us home.


How Many Bags of Fava Beans Are There?

Fava beans are sprouting in everyone’s gardens!  Yea, these protein filled little fellows make a yummy dinner.  Last year, when the fava beans kept gracing my doorway, it was the first time that I had ever seen a fresh one.  Well, maybe I did when nonna was alive and had the garden the size of a campo di calcio (soccer field) – but I don’t remember.

Pods are really green giants!

Seriously, this is a question that merits exploration.  How many bags of fava beans are there in Pontelandolfo?  When people pop in after pranza for caffè they usually bring something to share – like what ever is growing in the garden or was baked that morning.  Now me, I like the “what was baked” this morning – no fuss, no muss, just yummy delight.  My neighbor, Zia Vittoria, has an incredible garden.  It is chock full of every vegetable you could possibly imagine – including fava beans.

Bursting with protein the pods just wait to be picked, gifted and gifted again.

Yet, as other women pop in to visit Zia Vittoria, so do giant bags of fava beans.  H’mm when women visited these women they too brought fava beans.  One day it hit me.  What if there was really only a finite number of bags of fava beans and in any given span of two days the same 15 bags got re-gifted from house to house.

The bags stop here!  Well, when a bag appears on my door step I don’t re-gift it.  I say “guess whose coming to dinner.”  Last year Mr. Fava came often. The top picture is of my first bag of this season.  I pulled out the colander, a knife and a bag for the compost pile.  The sky was blue and I cheerily began popping beans out of the pod.

Eat local and touch your food first.

So there I am shelling beans and wondering how I was going to cook them when my nipote (Italian for any kid in your family that you are related to and older than) popped by, reached into the bag, ripped open the pod and tossed the beans in his mouth.  RAW!  Who knew!  I was forced to try it – I mean I’ll taste just about anything.  The bean was sweetly good and obviously picked this morning.  I discovered that the day they are picked they are deleeeeesh as a salad – tossed with tuna or just a few slices of onion or whatever you can imagine.  That is also an abundantly easy lunch or dinner.

If you can find the “zipper” these are pretty easy to open. Or stick the tip of the knife in the top and give it a slice. Then pop the beans into a bucket – just like a carnival.

I kept at the de-podding for a while.  My brain taking journeys back to the early seventies when with my long hair braided, I shelled beans, baked bread, grew sprouts and didn’t inhale.  It seems to me that it used to be fun.  This ain’t fun but it is worthwhile.

How many more are there?  And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?
How many more are there? And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?

One of the things I remembered while I was mindlessly popping beans, was an article in the New York Times that I read last year. A snotty assed food writer had gone to Rome. ordered fava beans in a restaurant and was appalled that they weren’t peeled!  I had no idea what the hell Miss little anal retentive was talking about.  In all the homes I’ve visited for pranza, all the fava bean stew, soup, frittata I’ve eaten, no one peeled off the outer shell.  I was taught to par- boil the beans before creating the dish.  Apparently, after this par-boiling part you can take off the outer shell.  Hell lady, I just spent an hour popping pods and now you want me to spend two hours popping par-boiled beans?

It looks like a nursery of wee ones nestled on a flannel bed.

I caved and decided to try it.  After boiling the beans and dumping them in the ever faithful colander, I burnt my fingers trying to pop them out of their little shells.  What?  Wait till they cool?  What a thought!  Ten minutes is the maximum of waiting time I give anything.  I popped a few and tasted them.  Damn, it did make a taste difference.  They tasted sweeter and less meaty than they do with the shells on. I looked at the bowl of about a pazillion beans and I looked at Jack.  He gave me the “are you crazy” look – no one here takes the shells off.  When in Rome……

Without skinning the par-boiled beans, I made a simple recipe.   First I sautéd a couple of large onions in local olive oil, toss in cubes of pancetta and let that all get caramelized and crispy.  I always buy un etto of cubed pancetta – 100 grams – so that is probably what I used.  H’mm, from all the veggie tops and pieces I had languishing around, I made vegetable broth yesterday.   I tossed some broth in the pan, added the beans, a dollop of red wine – this is Italy – and let it simmer.  That and crusty bread made a perfect “cena.”

What’s that outside my door?  FAVA!

Thank you Rachel for my present!
Thank you Rachel for my present!

Antimo – Keeper of the Keys to a Family’s History

 Chased by the emotions welling from a simple e-mail subject line – Invio Ricerca Famiglie Rinaldi e Solla (Search for Families Rinaldi & Solla), – tears race down my cheeks.   An incredible gift was soaring over the mystical internet highway.  I took a breath, double clicked and read –

Come eravamo rimasti, finalmente posso inviarti la ricerca delle due Famiglie Rinaldi Mariantonia e Solla, spero che il tutto sia soddisfacente.  (As we left it, finally I’m sending you the documents about the Rinaldi and Solla Familes – I hope this is satisfactory.)

Una caro saluto

Antimo Albini

How could it not be satisfactory?  It was so much more than satisfactory!  Attached were two incredible documents – documents tracing my grandmother’s family back to the 1500’s!

Family tree1
Little boxes of wonder! Pages of them waiting to be entered in my Family Tree software. Anyone want to help?

Immediately I sent  PDF’s flying through space to my family.  With a little more digging,  my newly found ancestors will share incredible stories.   But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me start at the beginning –

One beautiful morning Annarita Mancini and I walked up Via Municipo and stopped in front of a small attached stone row house.  This part of the Pontelandolfo dates back to the 1600’s.  Annarita rang the bell.


The shutter of the second floor window burst open and our guide into the past thrust out his sleepy head. “Beh?” Oops, were we too early?   Annarita explained that we had an appointment to see the church archives.  While he was mulling that over, the beaded curtain in front of the door parted and a middle aged woman peeked out.  Shouts from above moved her.  She ushered us into the front room.  More shouts from above and she ushered us up the stairs.  Annarita and I looked at each other.  Weren’t we supposed to go to the church?  Wasn’t he the dude with the archive room key?  Why are we going up to – well who knows what?  What had my quest for the family’s history gotten us into?  That quest had led us to the true keeper of the keys to knowledge – Antimo Albini!  After a cursory greeting,  Antimo promptly sat down at the computer, lit a cigarette and led me on a four hour journey into my grandmother’s past.

His head of thick grey hair bobbed and weaved as he pulled up database after database.  This passionate historian had decided that the history of Pontelandolfo would be lost if someone didn’t do something.  He decided to be that someone.

2012-06-29 05.05.29

Antimo spent four years of his life meticulously going through all of the church records and putting the information in a Microsoft Access database.  This was an incredible undertaking.  As he digs into my past, the gleam in his eyes  reveals a man filled with passion for both history and the story of Pontelandolfo.   He entered data from books going back to 1607 – separate books for each year of the census.  There were also combined year range books of births, deaths, and baptisms.  That is a heck of a lot of books.  Whoops – he had matrimonial books back to 1505!   He said, ” as the books disappear, their stories will be gone unless people like us who care about our pasts start passing the stories on.”   So get on the stick and start recording your stories!

Imagine reading thousands of pages like this one.

As he created the databases he noted the book name, page number and entry number.  That way if anyone really wanted to see the fragile old books they could just go to the relevant pages.  He also created separate data bases labeled by book.  Damn, he is good.  The organization will help future historians track data.

We learned that until 1903 the priest of each parish was responsible for doing a census.   The census held the tales of the village.  The priests would visit each house in the parish – why am I wondering if they also got donations for the church at the same time – and ask questions.  They noted the names and ages of people living in the house, if the house was owned or rented, what kind of jobs folks had, nicknames and what ever else caught their fancy.  Those notes are now safely ensconced in Antimo’s database.  In 1903 the state took over the job and started to do a census every ten years.  These sure has hell don’t include the interesting notes the priests wrote down.

Book in comune
Birth and death registration book from the 1800’s.

Before 1700 there were four parishes serving this mountain town of peasants and landholders – San Felice, San Angelo, San Piedro and San Salvatore.  So priests from all of those parishes kept records of births, baptisms, deaths, weddings.  These are great old journals with meticulous handwriting on paper so old that it crumbles when touched.  We know that because the Comune has it’s own set of unprotected books that are manhandled, falling apart and not digitized!  Che fa!  Thank God Antimo created a database of the much more complete church records.

In 1688, there was a huge terremoto – earthquake – after which the parishes were forced to merge.  Well. not  exactly forced, but San Felice and San Pietro parishes spent a lot of time fighting over who got to be the cemetery.  In those days that meant holding the bones of the departed in the catacombs of the church – you know that space just below the seats for the congregation.  In the throws of the fight neither church got rebuilt.   That narrowed the playing field and  in 1700 there was only the mother church of San Salvatore.  The church where my grandmother was baptized and twice married.  It still stands and we go to mass there often – not because I’m a good catholic but because I can feel her presence there.

Paolo Collection 2 (38)
San Salvatore

Paolo Collection 2 (47)
The art in San Salvador is awesome.

Paolo Collection 2 (48)
These are shots from the 50’s. Later we will have a blog on the parish and you’ll see glorious color.

As I sit in the piazza writing this, my heart fills and tears start to glide down my cheeks.  What is that about?  How could a middle aged, hard assed woman like me get so sentimental about finding my family?  I haven’t a clue but the universe sent me here and as my dad’s first cousin,  Giusippina, says often – sangue è sangue – blood is blood and I am the first of the family to return looking for those that stayed.

Finding one’s family is a backwards process.  Start with the birth and death certificates of today and work backwards.  Since I had already done a lot of research to gather the documents to become an Italian Citizen, I went to see Antimo with the materials he needed to leap even further back in time. (Read the blog about citizenship for more background.)

Antimo started by finding my grandmother’s birth records.  We had the day, time and name of her parents, Liberantonio Solla and Maria Antonia Rinaldi. (I am dying to know if we are related to the Rinaldi Olio di Oliva folks.)

Rosaria Solla Brith
Every village in Italy will provide you with your family’s documents. There was a very nominal fee for grandma’s birth certificate.

Then he painstakingly worked backwards, creating a new excel data base for me that included everything he could find.  The little details he unearthed painted a picture of the times and the people.  nicknames were used everywhere.  My great-great grandma Solla had the same name as mia nonna – Maria Rosaria.  It was also the same name as her mother.  Her birth certificate was noted as Maria Rosaria D’Addona.

Antimo said that baptisms were very close in date to birth records.  Many children died soon after birth.  Since everyone wanted the babies to go to heaven, people made sure they got those kids to church and baptized immediately.  Often if a child died, the same name was given to the next child of the same sex.  Boy, does that add another database layer of confusion.

Later we paniced – we couldn’t find  my grandma’s grand-mom, Maria Rosaria D’Addona, in any database.  Oh where oh where could my grande bisnonna be!  We only found the unborn (no birth record) Cesare D”Addona in all the family census databases.  Like she fell from the sky.  The brilliant Antimo scanned even more documents and realized that Cesare was Maria Rosaria’s  nonna’s name.  Since there were two Maria Rosarias in the family they  decided to call  my great great grandma – Cesare.  In 1839, Cesare was only 16 years old when she married the widower Felice Solla from Morcone.  I am guessing he didn’t have much cash because they moved in with her mother on Via San Felice (now Via Municipo –  the same street where Antimo currently lives.) That means I have walked past my great – great grandparents first marital home a million times!

I never would have figured that out.  We were blessed to have Antimo,  a focused detective, helping us by constantly  cross checking information from birth, death, marriage and census records.  OK, we found the lineage of my great grandma.  Now let’s talk about great grandpop.

My great grandfather was Liberantonio Solla – family tales are full of his musical ability.  Zia Caterina also remembered his ability to drink the night away and fall down the mountain on the way home to Via Porta Nuova.  On my second visit to Pontelandolfo,  we found my great granddad’s house . The rocks of this small medieval stone cottage – now in  ruins  –  held secrets that we will never know.  Or will we?

rock side wall
Only a few stone walls are left of the house that my young grandmother, grandfather and aunt and uncles shared with grandma’s parents.

What we didn’t know was that Liberantonio wasn’t called Liberantoino by anyone but his mama.  Pitocchio (flea in dialect) was his nickname.  As he played the concertina, villagers shouted Pitocchio .  I’m not quite sure of the name my bisnonna, Maria Antonia Rinaldi,  shouted when he came home dead drunk, having spent all he made singing at the bar.

Oh, I just remembered,  great grandma Maria Antonia Rinaldi  was born in a rented house.  Liberantonio Solla was born on Via San Felice – in the home of his grandma!  How the hell did we discover all this in less than ten hours?  My great grandfather was a “bracciante” – an ancient term for working the land for someone else and getting a piece of what you grew for yourself – yeah serf.  I come from a long line of indentured servants.  Weeoo.  My great-great uncle Nicola Solla (Liberantonio’s bro) worked for the commune.  We discovered that for generations a Nicola Solla worked for the commune.  I can’t wait to find out if one works for the town today.

So much to discover.  So many stories to hear, feel and relive.  So little time to do it all.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you  Antimo Albini for keeping the keys to family history at our fingertips.


Chasing Windmills


Whirling dervishes dance madly in the noon day sun as the wind whips

over the mountains of Campania.

One morning, on our way to the  Naples airport , I screeched at Jack to pull over.  He raised an eyebrow and kept on driving.  Rats, how would I really get a glimpse of the thousands of windmills that peppered the mountain ridge if he didn’t pull over?  That was the first time I spied the windmills that are part of the onshore wind farms that earned Italy its 2012 standing as the world’s sixth largest producer of wind power. I have no idea how wind power works but the science guys at will absolutely explain it all.


Sentries posted on the tops of mountains

Sannino soldiers gaze down on the approaching Romans.

Tall, helmets pointed to the heavens – bodies still against the azure sky.

When I first saw them, I wasn’t thinking – “Gee, how green and save – the – planet this is.”  I was thinking, “Hear the sounds of the marching feet as the Roman army emerges over the crest of the hill.”  Seriously, from a distance they look like advancing ramrod straight soldiers with pointed hats.  Up close they are more like super giant stick figures.  Up close?  H’mm did she really drive up the mountain to get closer?  Yes, by gum we did!   Why?  Because we could!  So why not.  OK, if the truth be told, it was a chilly, dreary day and I was going to poke out my eyes with a pen if we didn’t get in the car and do something.  Anything – as long as it didn’t cost a bundle of bucks and we didn’t have to change out of comfy clothes.  Anything – never give me that option.  My brain tumbles and rumbles and soon bizarre suggestions spew forth like Vesuvius.  Anything meant – chasing windmills.  Jack, knowing divorce was eminent if he didn’t get behind the wheel of the car, started the engine and let me navigate.  Navigation was something like – “NO, NO – TURN RIGHT” – when ever I saw the top of a windmill.  We were so intent on getting close to the windmills that I didn’t even shriek at the switchbacks along the way.  What we didn’t do was record exactly how to get to the ridge.  All I remember was from Colle Sannita take SS 212 and make a right on SP 55.  I was too entranced to take notes but said into my video at least 10 times – we were on SP55!

700px-Strada_Provinciale_55_Italia.svg keeps a database of wind farms and their operators.  You tech folks might find this interesting.  I don’t know how often they update it.  I swear I counted more windmills than are noted.  Some may have been the third or fourth phases of a farm and not yet included.

According to, Installation of new wind farms in Italy continued its pace in 2011. Total online grid-connected wind capacity reached 6,878 MW at the end of the year, with an increase of 1,080 MW from 2010. As usual, the largest development took place in the southern regions, particularly in Apulia, Calabria, Campania, Sardinia, and Sicily. In 2011, 590 new wind turbines were deployed in Italy and their average capacity was 1,831 kW. The total number of online wind turbines thus became 5,446, with an overall average capacity of 1,263 kW. All plants are based on land, mostly on hill or mountain sites. The 2011 production from wind farms could provisionally be put at about 10.1 TWh, which would be about 3% of total electricity demand of the Italian system.

Electricity is expensive here so I was hoping the wind farms were producing a lot more than 3%.  Well, this data is from 2011 and we know that Italy in 2012 was the 6th largest producer of wind power.

Hay fields surround the windmills.

 What is interesting is that the farmers are still working the land around the windmills.  As we wended our way around we passed beautiful new combines, tractors and balers .  I am guessing that the income from the utility companies helps keep this area green and farmed.  Windmills plus farm land sure beats the housing developments plus loss of farm land that are a blight on New Jersey.

Grey day washed away by the buzz of chasing windmills.

I learned something this grey day – chasing windmills is a guaranteed cure for boredom.  Listen to the sound of the wind whistling on the ridge!

Cittadina Italiana – Citizenship


In 2007 my mug graced my brand new Italian Passport.  The process to become a Cittadina Italiana took me about three years and numerous trips to the Philadelphia Consulate.  It took my sister less than one year and two trips to the Newark Consulate.  It took my niece (her picture is above) about 6 months.  It will take my cousin about three years plus.  WHAT????  Let  us start at the beginning. The questions most people ask me are these: Why would you do it?  What is the benefit of having dual citizenship?   Is the process difficult? How much did it cost you?

Why would I do it?

Why wouldn’t I do it is more like it.  In the early 1990’s I started actively researching the Guerrera Family Tree.  Piece by piece, I was collecting data, adding branches and getting more and more involved with the lives of people I had never met. To get a better handle on the research, I knew that I had to go to Pontelandolfo and visit the archives of the commune.  Zia Caterina, Jack and I made that journey in 1995 – another blog will tell you that whole story.  We not only added numerous branches to the tree but discovered my father and Zia Caterina’s first cousins!  When Zia Caterina and I had gone to Italy in the 70’s their uncles were still living – we missed an incredible opportunity then.  After meeting my extended Italian family, I became even more obsessed with all things Italian.  Particularly, all things related to this small village in Campania, Pontelandolfo. While we were there I bought a few copies of my grandmother’s and grandfather’s birth certificates and certificate of marriage.  That was an incredibly smart thing to do since folks have told me it is difficult to retrieve those documents via mailed requests – unless you use a service like

Nonno & Nonna
Nonno and Nonna

A quick search on line revealed that I was indeed eligible for citizenship – an act which would bring me even closer to my roots.  There was no “aha” moment or benefits lightbulb that exploded in my brain – just the deep seated need to be closer to my “i parenti,”  the DNA that makes me who I am.

What is the benefit?

How American of us to want to know what the hell we get out of the deal.  Like feeling closer to ones heritage isn’t enough!  Well, let me think what do I get out of it?  If Jack and I really do retire to Italy we are already part of the Italian community. During the Bush Jr. years, My sister and I did talk about moving quickly forward so that if the draft was reinstated and we didn’t particularly agree with the why behind the war we could get her kids out.  Now, that might have been our 1960’s sensibilities kicking in, because  Italy had mandatory service until January 1, 2005.   The other benefit is being able to work anywhere in the European Union – a benefit that my niece is actively using.  Further, I can stay in Italy or any of the Schengen Treaty countries for as long as I like – no ninety days for me!  ( Of course we are only staying 90 days this trip because Jack hasn’t applied for spousal citizenship yet.)  The USA State Department explains all this.   OK, I am bored with the what is the benefit idea – the benefit is IT MAKES ME HAPPY.

What is the process?

Ah, this is tricky!  In the over ten years since my family has gone through this process it has changed based on who we spoke to in which consulate and new regulations.  Here is the basic tenet – if one of your parents was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth – no matter where you are born – than you by blood are an Italian citizen.  Yikes, my dad was born in Manville, NJ – does that disqualify me?  No!  My grandparents had not become American citizens until after my dad’s birth.  That automatically made him an Italian citizen living abroad.  Did my father know that? No!  When I explored the process I explained it to him and he couldn’t believe it.  He had served as a Navy pilot during WWII, had been Mayor of our home town – how could he also be an Italian citizen?  Guess what – lots of you probably are eligible – here is what is currently on The Italian Embassy Website.

CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT / DESCENT (” jure sanguinis “)  And ‘the son of an Italian citizen parents (father or mother) Italian citizens. Citizenship is transmitted from parents to children regardless of generation, with the condition that none of their ancestors ever renounced the nationality.

Go to the web site to read all of the rules and regulations.

The first step is to discover when the elder of your Italian American family became a citizen.  We were lucky, my Zia Caterina saved everything.  Including her dad’s certificate of citizenship.

We still have the original!
We still have the original!

Since my dad didn’t know he was an Italian citizen, he didn’t renounce it.  When he found out, he was thrilled and admitted he never would have renounced it.  OK, I had the blood line covered.  Now what – this is the story of what I went through.  Next will be my sister’s story, then my niece and finally my cousin.

Midge’s Story:

I hop over to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia and ask for a list of the requirements for citizenship.  At that time it listed things like : Birth and Death Certificates of my Grandfather,  Naturalization Certificate of my Grandfather, Marriage Certificate to my Grandmother, Birth Certificate of my Grandmother,Birth Certificate of my Father, Marriage Certificate of My Parents, Birth Certificate of Midge, Marriage License and Certificate of Midge, Birth Certificate of Midge’s Husband.  Easy – no brainer!  When I had the time, I drove from city to city in New Jersey and New York and bought the required documents.  Full of myself for accomplishing this, I waltzed into the Philadelphia Consulate without an appointment.  They took me into a secret room and I waited.  After about a half an hour of staring at the art, a lovely woman pulled me into an office and looked at my fat folder.  She smiled an said I was on the right track but needed an apostile for each document.  An apostile?  Wasn’t that one of the men who travelled with Jesus?  Turns out an apostile is a certificate from a state that guarantees that the documents that I just bought from a variety of towns were valid.  OK, so on the way home I stop in Trenton and go to the apostile office.  They explain that they can’t put an apolstile on any of the documents that I just dropped a couple of hundred dollars on because I didn’t buy them from the NJ Office of Vital Statistics. But, I stammered, the oficies of vital statistics in each town were happy to take my money.  A week or so later, I go back to Trenton and buy all of the same documents.  Since there were so many I had to have them processed.   That took a few weeks – when I got them guess what they looked like?  The same bloody pieces of paper but they originated from the NJ Office of Vital Statistics!  Off to pay for the apostiles.  I don’t remember what all this cost me but I think about $25 a piece of paper times two.  If you order documents online there are additional fees. This is from the NJ Office of Vital Statistics:

How do I obtain a record with an Apostille Seal? You must purchase a copy of your vital record from the Office of Vital Statistics and Registry and indicate on your application that it is needed for Apostille Seal. You will receive a certified copy, which contains the original signature of the State Registrar or Assistant State Registrar. You must forward this certificate to the Department of Treasury requesting an Apostille Seal.

Since my parents were married in New York City, it took a full day to gather the documents from NYC Boro Hall and then walk a few blocks to the State of New York Office to request the apostille. During each step of the process, I purchased additional copies of every document so that my sister would have a set.  When I had a completed set, I made an appointment at the Philadelphia Consulate and carried the box in.  I did make a copy of my entire packet, just so that I knew what I submitted.  About one and a half years later I got a letter from Pontelandolfo saying that I was a citizen.  Wheeeeeeeeooooooooooo.

Sister Susan:

Susan had copies of all of the documents.  When she got around to doing this, residents of Somerset County New Jersey were told to use the Consulate in Newark.  We read the website and made an appointment for her – it was about four months out.  We also read the new regulations – she needed a translation of every document – including the apostiles.  You were only allowed to use an Italian translater from the consulate’s approved list.  That cost her about $50 a document.  This was all done via e-mail.  We scanned the documents and sent them off.  Scanned translations came back.  This was great we thought – because now my cousin Maryellen can use the same translations.  Susan took her two children to the appointment.  We figured we would process everyone at the same time.  WRONG.  Susan had to be certified first.  She was missing something – I can’t remember what – but I do remember pleading and begging with the consulate employee because whatever it was I knew was on file from me in Pontelandolfo. Susan made a second appointment and returned with whatever had been left on the dining room table.  During the second visit, she is given a document that she is told her daughter can use to prove lineage and easily apply for citizenship.  We go for dinner and a drink or three.  Just a few months later Susan gets her letter of recognition.

Niece Alex:

Alex lives and goes to university in London.  I suggested she use the London Consulate.  She took her handy document from Newark and back up documents and headed to that office.  They told her she needed to supply the same complete package that her mother had submitted and that the little certificate from Newark was nothing. UGGGGG.  All of this is now done electronically, Alex asked if they couldn’t just get the same documents sent back to them?  No.  Another appointment please.  Oh yeah, now we have to make the packet and get it to London!  She brings the packet and is nervous about completion.  She would like to stay and work in Europe and the EU Passport would be very helpful.  Months go by and she hears nothing.  She visits and e-mails the London Consulate and they say all things were e-mailed to Pontelandolfo.  We asked our cousin to visit the Pontelandolfo office of Vital Statistics and check on Alex’s status.  Instantly, her paperwork was done and her certification sent off.

Formal Letter
Formal Letter

Cousin Maryellen:

Takes all of the same documents – but adds her dad’s information – translated and in a cute folder to her appointment at the Newark Consulate.  There, she doesn’t get past the triage dude.  You see, my grandfather’s birth certificate from Italy says Francesco Guerrera but his citizenship papers say Frank Guerrera – how do we know it is the same person?  This name change – a common occurrence – happened with her father’s documents and our grandmothers.  They told her nothing could be processed until she got the documents certified as belonging to the same person.  I was with her and argued up a storm, explaining that two of us had already used the exact same documents and gotten citizenship. Further, all of the documents were already on file in Pontelandolfo.  He shrugged.  We left and Maryellen hasn’t moved the process forward. So lessons learned.  Double check everything.  Read all new regulations.  If you can, have a local relative in Italy lobby for you! What did it cost me?  Do we count the trip to Italy to buy the birth and marriage certificates?  I’d say if you include travel and all the mistakes I made it cost me about $1,000.  It cost my sister about the same because it was $50 a document for translation plus the cost of the original documents and apostile.

Was it worth it?

Hell yes!