It Takes A Village to Learn Italian!

Valerio Ponte

Intermediate and advanced students of Italian, here is your chance to burst your ability to speak up a notch.  How?  Through crowdteaching in Pontelandolfo this spring!  WHAT???? Here is the back story –

Gli dico ma.. I was in Pontelandolfo’s library having a conversation with some of my wee English students when like a flash-choir three of them blurted out, “Direi – usa condizionale.”  Huh, I replied to the ten year olds who corrected my Italian.  One tyke rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.  Glielo direi ma, I corrected my sentence – (I was trying to say “I would tell him but…” but had said “I tell him but.”)

Jack and I have been staying longer and longer in Pontelandolfo.  When we first visited my Italian was barely there.  I was great with gestures, acting out what we needed and generally making everyone from shop keepers to small children in the piazza giggle at my attempt to speak la bella lingua. Over the years my Italian improved and just recently I figured out why – CROWDTEACHING.  Hey, if one can have crowdsourcing or crowdfunding – why not crowdteaching? As we became fixtures in the community, more and more people corrected my Italian.  Marilina, in Bar Elimar, made me repeat Caffè shakerato a pazillion times this summer.  If I wanted a decaf espresso shaken over ice and lusciously turned into a summer drink, I had to stop saying decaffeinato shakerooooo or shakirito or shaken not stirred.

Crowdteaching.  Hmmm.  Why not share this concept with other students of Italian and combine it with life in a Southern Italian village?  That thought has turned into Leap into Language Immersion in Pontelandolfo.

Students of Italian who are currently at the intermediate or advanced level, have the opportunity to experience the language in its natural setting, take formal classes and be corrected everywhere and by lots of people.

You will eat lunch in private homes, play cards with the guys in the bar, roll cheese with the Ruzzola Team and improve your conversational skills. Every home that you visit and every social or cultural activity that you attend will include native speakers correcting your speech.  Imagine an extended family of native speakers helping you improve your language skills.  There will be laughter, friendships will be built and you will leave with an increased capacity for conversation.

Included Highlights:

  • Transportation from the Benevento train station.
  • 7 nights, single or double room, with television, refrigerator and breakfast. Five rooms in this cute B&B have private baths.  A two-room suite shares a bath.  Unless it is requested, the last 2 people to register will share a room.  The shared room will be very large. Il Castello
  • 8.5 hours of formal classes and 7 full days of immersion.
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo at an agriturismo. Tour the property, play with the animals and perhaps hear a tall tale or two.
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  • Four (4) meals in local homes. Eat, drink and swap stories with a family in their natural environment.  They will want to know all about you and you will want to know all about them.  Conversation will swirl.  Two participants will be dining in each household.
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  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner.
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products, and other activities.
  • Explore the Sannio hills with Mario! He has walked the mountain hunting truffles, asparagus, mushrooms and more.  This is a unique opportunity.
  • After a morning of exploring the mountain, pizza pranzo at B&B Calvello.
  • Learn the ancient sport of cheese rolling – La Ruzzula!

Thank You Zorrotropa For Their YouTube Video Ruzzola del Formaggio.

  • Drink beer and chat with the men who sit in front of the bar daily, play cards and hand games like a native.
  • Lecture and tour of the historic church, San Salvatore.
  • Italian movie night and discussion.
  • Lecture “I Gesti.” Before you leap into the local fray, learn the sign language.
  • Learn the traditional folk dances of the town from dance company Ri Ualanegli.
  • Excursion to Altilia Roman Ruins.
  • Lecture on the history of Pontelandolfo.

Date: Friday, April 20  through Friday, April 27 2018

This cultural adventure is limited to 8 people.  For more information e-mail us at info@nonnasmulberrytree.com

Crowd-learning – who knew that it would take a village to teach me Italian!

Ci vediamo!

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Been Blogged!

Che cosa?  What?  Non puo essere vero? That can’t be true.  My pal Angela whipped out her cell phone and showed me the blog that had been written about the night Jack and I danced the night away in a tiny local bar surrounded by thirty-somethings.  Note, I said written about –  not by me!  All these years I’ve written about other people, places and things and I hadn’t really thought about how they might have felt seeing themselves revealed.  Actually, I don’t give a tinkers damn how Verizon Wireless feels when I write what a terrible corporation it is.  Or don’t feel sad when I bash politicos.  Perhaps I should.  Perhaps, I too need to think before I pound a keyboard.  I mean, is it fair of me to decide that a certain village isn’t worth stopping in or that I wouldn’t let a wild dog eat in a certain restaurant?

In today’s world of instant access via Instagram, Facebook and all the other “wheeeee I can send something out to stratosphere sites,” I feel compelled to never leave home without full makeup, my hair done and ready for my closeup.  Compelled but often, yawn, don’t bother and then WHAM a fugly photo of me shows up on FaceBook.  ERRRRRRGGGGG.  If you are going to take my picture – stand on a chair and shoot down – I look thinner.

Midge & Jack Party 2017

I didn’t post this picture.  But it isn’t bad. The person who did, likes us.

Back to the blog –  the author didn’t use our names, so why did I think she was writing about us?  Because people who weren’t there told me they recognized our personalities and young folks who were there told me it was obvious. We were the only “old” couple there. GRRRRRRRR.

Ad un tratto li vedo, ballano bene, conoscono i passi, ma non è quello che mi colpisce: sono una coppia di mezza età, ballano stretti stretti, si guardano negli occhi, si amano con la tenerezza e la complicità di chi attraversa la vita insieme…

Suddenly I see them, (Guess who?) they dance well, know the steps, but that is not what strikes me: they are a middle-aged couple, (Bless you darling)  dancing closely together, looking at each other with love, tenderness and the complicity of those who go through life together.

There is more but I would need permission to re-post it.

Discovering that tons of people in Pontelandolfo knew exactly who this particular blogger was writing about – even though she didn’t use our names – felt a little bit squirrely.  Then I read the article.  OK,  it still feels a little bit strange, but since all press is good press, what the hey – I’ll enjoy the moment.  Especially since the story was touching, positive, a wee bit sad and reinforces the good life we have here in Pontelandolfo.  It was also very well written.  I would like to have coffee with the author. PS – if it isn’t about us – gulp –

PS – if it isn’t about us – gulp – I WILL FEEL REALLY STUPID.  Even if it wasn’t about us, it served to make me rethink – or remember – that old adage – “Think before you speak.”

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/speak.html

 Ci Vediamo

Buona Pasqua – The Dancing Pastiera

Buona Pasqua!  Happy Easter!  Wizzzzzzz there goes a pastiera!  Vroom – watch out! Another pastiera is zapping by.  Screeeeeech – quick stop and one pastiera down!   EEEEEKS – is that a flying pizza piena?  WAIT A MINUTE – is that the pastiera I gave you yesterday?  It just landed back on my table!

My best buddy, Rossella and I were laughing madly.  The laughter was so loud that it crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  As a matter of fact, the ocean between us must have been rockin’ and rollin’.  She had been telling me that she had made a number of pastiera – a Neapolitan tart made with cooked wheat berries, eggs, ricotta cheese, flavored with orange flower water and candied citrus.  In our part of Southern Italy, for Easter, we practice the Neapolitan tradition of baking pastiera and/or pizza piena  — crust topped pie or calzone shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and dried meats.  Women from Pontelandolfo, Casalduni and other villages in the Sannio hills  visit their friends and bring them a gift of a lovingly baked pastiera or pizza piena.

As Rossella was talking I was thinking of my  Aunt Julie making “pizza chiena” in my grandmother’s kitchen.  She tossed in eggs, ricotta, mortadella, salami, cappicolla and rice to make a pie that would sink the Titanic.  But boy were they good.  BOING – it suddenly hit me why she made three or four but we only got to eat one!  She too took them to other people’s house.  But in Flagtown, NJ there weren’t any other Pontelandolfese to bring us a scrumptious gift.

Suddenly, I saw a parade of pastiera moving slowly up curvy mountain roads, into valleys, around centro storico, pausing for a moment at a house and dashing out again.  Rossella, I said in my pigeon Italian, let me get this right.  I make a bunch of pies and I bring them to a bunch of friends.  They make a bunch of pies and bring them to a bunch of friends.  What happens if they get more pies than they made?  I bet they give to a friend the pie I made or you made.  How long would it take before we got one of our own pies back as a gift?  She started to giggle, I started to giggle.  The laughter started to roll.

May this day of Resurrection be filled with peace, love, happiness, laughter and new beginnings.

buona pasqua

 

 

 

Who Needs City Lights – Culture Rocks Pontelandolfo

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

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

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

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Curtesy Sud Terranea

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

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Curtesy Sud Terranea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Lupo
Music fills the hill top streets.

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

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

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

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Band stand is getting set up. I wonder what will be happening.

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

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