Concetta Biondi

Ponte Old

On August 13, 1861, Pontelandolfo, home to 18 year old Concetta Biondi, was a quiet little mountain village.  Contadini were farming the land, children were seeking shady places to play and women were doing the million chores that women did daily.  Concetta may have been doing laundry in the common fountain trough.

THIS IS AN ARTIST’S RENDERING OF WHAT HAPPENED THE NEXT DAY!  

pontelandolfo-1861_ricordare-per-non-dimenticare-526x750

Concetta Biondi was collateral damage in a battle – massacre – during the unification of Italy.  “Collateral damage,” that sounds so much better than raped and … I’m getting ahead of myself. Pontelandolfo is famous, along with neighboring Casalduni, for being destroyed by the Italian army.

In 1861, some partisans captured and killed a small number of Italian soldiers in nearby Casalduni. Seeking revenge, Italian Colonel Pier Eleonoro Negri directed his men to launch an attack.  “Leave no stone left standing,” he cried.  (Cfr. Nicolina Vallillo: L’incendio di Pontelandolfo in Rivista storica del Sannio. 1919.)

Entering Pontelandolfo smack in the middle of the night, Negri’s oafs butchered and burned the village . Oops, husband Jack just read over my shoulder and said, “oafs is not fair.  They were soldiers obeying orders.”

Ok, OK, I’ll fix it.  Soldiers obeying orders butchered and burned the village. Within moments, the countryside was in turmoil. Families leaped out of bed to the ringing of the church bells, rapid discharge of rifles and the crunch of boots pounding on the cobblestones. Clutching their drowsy children, adults wondered what the hell was going on. Racing to windows, balconies and doors, the Pontelandolfese were shocked to see soldiers running through their streets. The Italian Army had arrived and they didn’t look like happy campers.

The soldiers, kicked in doors, leaped up stairs, raced into homes killing men, women and children. Those that tried to fight back were dragged under the tilia tree in Piazza Roma and shot. Flames soared as the village burned.   I’m guessing my ancestors were lucky to live in an outlying Contrada or I wouldn’t be here.

“The conduct was horrible and immoral.  The looting and arson is infamous.” (Historian G.De Sivo, The Story of the Two Sicilies, Vol.II).

Concetta Biondi’s story has come to represent the disdain the mercenaries and the Italian army had for women.  Hmm, hot night, testosterone high men, sleeping women dragged out of bed wearing who knows what…  The bastards, as history has told us happened countless times, passed the women around like bowls of candy waiting to be munched.  Children were tossed aside like garbage and trampled.  In the name of Italy, dads and husbands were held by the barbarians and forced to watch the madness.

As the marauders plundered the city, Concetta Biondi, hid in her basement behind some barrels of wine . When she was discovered by the mercenaries, she fainted. I can imagine them tossing her around like a sack of potatoes, copping feels and stripping her.  Her father, Nicholas Biondi charged down the steps to save her. Tied to a chair, he was forced to witness the depravity.  When they were sated, the pigs killed Concetta and tossed her aside.  Wine poured out of the tapped barrels mingling with Concetta’s blood. Nicholas Biondi was executed by a firing squad.

StatueThis giant sculpture near Piazza Roma reminds us never to forget 14 Agosto 1861.  We even have a walking trail for tourists who want to learn more about the atrocities and walk where the dead walked.  Gruesome, but interesting. Lots of books have been written about the incident, including a graphic novel!  IMG_0004

Professor Renato Rinaldi of the Pontelandolfo News is one of our resident experts. He has documented much of what happened.

Can we get back to Concetta Biondi please?  Certainly.  Saturday, for the first time I realized she was an actual human being.  Not just a fable representing war crimes.  But a real young woman who hadn’t done a thing to deserve dying like she did.  Il Club del Libro di Pontelandolfo hosted Italian genealogist Domenico Carriero for the day.  Many of us tagged along.  We went to the parish archives and watched as Domenico started researching Concetta Biondi.  The books – held in a area that is anything but climate controlled – though it was hot and a window was open – go back to the 1600s!  Our guide to the archive was Antimo Albini. ( This is the link to a story about him researching my family.). When this book was opened –

IMG_1265.jpg

I began to feel the spirit of Concetta Biondi.  Her existence was noted in the parish records.  She once had walked the same cobblestone streets that I have explored.  She might have known my great grandfather or great grandmother.  Seeing the registry brought tears to my eyes and frankly, created an “ah ha” moment.

IMG_1262.jpg

As mankind continues allowing violence to occur in villages around the globe, I’m glad Concetta Biondi reminded me that atrocities leveled in the name of nationalism are often heinous deeds perpetrated on innocents.

Ci Vediamo.

___________________________________________________________________________

 Announcing the 2019 Session

May 18 – 25, 2019

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

img_0039

Advertisements

Pontelandolfo Featured on RAI TV!

On Sunday, March 5, 2017, something fabulous happened in Pontelandolfo. The national television channel, RAIUNO, broadcast the 11:00 AM mass live from one of the most beautiful churches in the province of Benevento –  Parish S.S. Salvatore of Pontelandolfo Chiesa Madre.  The church, built in a Romanesque style, heralds back to before 1500.  Completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1688, the church was then rebuilt ten years later in a Baroque style. This is the church my grandparents were married in and my aunts and uncles were baptized in.  It is truly magnificent and deserves to be seen by the world.

Archbishop March 2017 Ponte

Mass was officiated by the new Archbishop Monsignor Felice Accrocca.

Pontelandolfo News  published the formal announcement from our parish priest, Rev. Don Giusseppe Girardi and our mayor, Il Sindaco, Dott. Gianfranco Rinaldi.  My heart filled as I read the announcement.  It reminded me just how many of us left this village in the Sannio hills.

“Sarà un momento unico e irripetibile che ci permetterà di entrare nelle case di tutti, in particolare in quelle dei nostri fratelli emigrati in terre lontane, per stare ancora più vicini agli anziani e agli ammalati.”

“It will be a unique and unrepeatable moment that will allow us to enter the homes of all, in particular in those of our brothers who emigrated to distant lands, to be even closer to the elderly and the sick. “

The WhatsApp texts and e-mails started flooding my in box.  The mayor sent me a notice, my friend Nicola sent me pictures of the crews setting up an incredible collection of cameras in the sanctuary.  My favorite florists Nella and Fabio were up to their elbows in flowers.  My family urged me to grab a plane and get back.  I sadly missed the mass but thanks to the RAI application on my iPad.  I was able to get up at 4:30 AM and watch the program live.

Rai Pix

Pontelandolfese filled the church.

To me – with my public relations hat on – the opening of the broadcast was the best thing that could have happened to Pontelandolfo.   Before Mass, RAI, presented an overview of the village.  It featured the mountain scenery that daily takes my breath away, our iconic medieval tower and other points of interests.

I don’t know how long the link will be live so click on it and see why I return to spend months at a time in Pontelandolfo.

RAI 1 in Pontelandolfo

Ci vediamo.

San Antonio Di Padova and Me

San Antonio is the Patron Saint of Pontelandolfo.anthonyp

Now, I’m not sure what a Patron Saint does.  I asked Jack who went through 16 years of Catholic Education and he said, ” Nothing now, they’re dead”.  After I tossed an apple at him he continued.  They used to do miracles, now they are a conduit to God.  Folks ask them for help.  Ah, I said.  Believing there are no coincidences, I began to wonder why in the play I just finished, Mamma Mia – La Befana?! one of the characters asked San Antonio for his help.  I thought I had used the name San Antonio because I was finishing the play, here in Ponteladolfo and the festa for him was plastered on posters everywhere.  When I looked him up on Wikipedia it said:

St Anthony is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.

Woo woo time.  In Mamma Mia – La Befana everyone is looking for the little lost girl, Mary. (This is a secret commercial for my new play, Mamma Mia – La Befana?!,  which is perfect for Italian American Clubs, schools, children’s theaters. It is a modern spin on the traditional Italian tale.)

Friday night, June 13 a large percentage of our local community went to the piazza to honor San Antonio. The night started with a mass –

IMG_2194
Mass was in Chiesa Madre the “Mother Church”

moved on to procession  –

 

IMG_0649
A band led the procession.

and culminated with fireworks.

 

It was fun to see the whole community participate.
It was fun to see the whole community participate.

In the middle, was a performance by the youth dance company, I Bebiani di  Circello and our favorite – Ri Ualanegli Juonior, the junior company of Pontelandolfo’s folklorico troupe.  The company tours internationally!

Before I share a video of the local favorite, I need to tell you that the woo woo gets better. I asked a few people why the children’s company seems to always dance for San Antonio. The answer – he is also the dude who watches over children.  Boy did I score a home run picking him to be part of my play about a lost child!

Enjoy the video clip of our young dancers on June 13!

https://vimeo.com/98329330

(Think about asking me about Mamma Mia – La Befana?!)

San Antonio Brings Summer to Pontelandolfo

IMG_0632
San Antonio Kicks Off Summer

Yeah, it is officially summer in Pontelandolfo!  Yesterday, June 13th, was the festa for San Antonio di Padova – the annual kick off of the summer season.  This saint merits a two pronged celebration – check out the poster – “Programma Religiouso” and Programma Civile”.  Over two days, San Antonio was given three masses, a procession with a band  and his statue was carried through out the town!  The not so religious program was a great cover band set up in the piazza that played the canon of Italian rock and traditional folk frenzy music.

Jack and I made it to town in time to see the procession come down a hill from the church. The brass band led the way, followed by the little children in white robes and a group of men carrying the massive stature.  There were even more folks processing than I had seen for Corpus Domini.  We decided to sit at a bar and watch the actiity.

The three bar’s in the piazza had set up outside service bars, food stations and extra tables. Think the Jersey Shore! Our favorite, Bar Elimar, sported wicker couches and coffee tables. Two of the bars had set up “kebab” stations – we would call them gyro stations.  Big hunks of mystery meat on a gyro skewer turning slowly and oozing a great scent.

IMG_0433
My favorite place to sit, stare and sip.

We plopped on the comfy couches at Bar Elimar, ordered a vino bianco and a prosecco, and quietly watched the procession wend its way out of the square.  When our drinks arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to also get great little plates of olives, mini mini sandwiches and little fried puff pastries.  After two drinks each and the whopping 5 Euro bill ($6.60), we carefully walked up the hill towards the medieval tower.   We were headed for Il Castello, a great seafood and pizza restaurant.

The band wasn’t starting for another hour and the owners of Il Castello, Salvatore and Lidia, always treat us like family.  We knew that munching on Salvatore’s wood oven pizza and chatting up a storm in both Italian and English with Lidia would be a great way to pass the time.  We ate our pizza, drank our wine and then felt the drums begin to fill the square.   It was time to carefully pick our way over the cobblestones down the steep hill to the piazza.  How do young women wear heels on cobblestones?  I am tripping my way down in flats.  Ooops – #$%#%%.

Since it was a bit chilly – the wind was whipping over the mountain – there weren’t as many people out for the nine o’clock “spettacolo” as I’ve seen at past musical events.  Those of us who did brave the chill, with grappa and caffè in hand, danced in place, swayed and sang along.  Ba ba boom – and then the fireworks kicked in.  Jack and I quickly went to the promenade that overlooks a valley and watched the show.  Something really bothered me – no one said “Ahhhhh” or  “Ohhhhh”.  I tried to get the crowd to ooo and ahh but Jack put his hand on my mouth.  I guess I was embarrassing him.

When we lived in Asbury Park and were the insane proprietors of Caffè e Dolce, the money losing bistro from hell, Memorial Day kicked off the summer season.  In the good old days, there would be a concert on the beach and thousands of kids would squish together on the sand and hopefully buy stuff from all of us starving beach front vendors. The day after the Memorial Day event the beach was full of trash.  The boardwalk was full of trash.  The streets were full of trash.  You will never guess what I didn’t see walking into town today – TRASH!  Last night, there was a concert, dancing in the streets, fireworks and folks sitting all around the piazza. I found one soda can under a tree and a couple of paper towels.  H’mmm che cosa???

I must tell you, until yesterday, I was freezing my proverbial ass off (OK, I wish it would freeze off) but you get the idea.  May was incredibly cold.  I had a visiting nephew pack a pair of sweat pants for me and bring them to not so sunny in May Italy.  Today – the day after we celebrated San Antonio, I walked down the hill to Bar Elimar for my morning cappuccino and it was hot.  Not a little warm, not maybe a great day, but honest to heaven summer hot – and it was only 8:30 AM!  That San Antonio is an incredibly powerful guy!

Check out the slides!

http://youtu.be/Q4jRhFtAYH8

Read all about more Summer Events in Pontelandolfo – In Italian of course!

http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/index.php?id=3387