Celebrating Chestnuts: l’Albero di Pane

— by Anne Robichaud – An Umbrian tour guide in Italy most of the year, Anne also teaches Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes in the U.S. in February and March (see www.annesitaly.com/united-states-events/u-s-cooking-classes)… and lectures.

San Martino, Umbria – Rural people baptized it l’albero del pane (“the bread tree”) for this tree grew on the mountains where wheat would not grow (and if elevation was also too high for olive trees, walnuts gave oil). The chestnut has starred in the culinary history of many civilizations and nowadays, highlights many a central Italy food festival.

To discover the apex of chestnut culinary creativity, don’t miss the mid-November Festa del Vino e delle Castagne (Wine and Chestnuts Festival) of San Martino in Colle, a minuscule castle-village near Perugia.

As you enter the village through the medieval arch, you’ll see red-cheeked Signor Agostino roasting chestnuts over an open fire. At a stand nearby, a volunteer sells il vino novello (new wine, i.e. of this year’s harvest). Chestnuts and wine are inextricably linked in central Italy’s rural culture. A much-loved saying, “San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino” (“San Martino, San Martino, chestnuts and wine”) comes to life here in Umbria on November 11th, the feast of St. Martin, when rural families gather to inaugurate their new wine with roasted chestnuts.

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Poem: Sunday Morning Ritual

This poem, by Pat D’Alessandro, winner of the 1975 California Writer’s Poetry Award, has appeared in NETWORKS (Vortex Editing, 1979) as well as numerous other journals.

I look at my hands and remember

how she mounded the flour on the kitchen table
with her peasant hands
cracked the eggs
one by one
and counted
“una, due, tre, quattro,
cinque, sei, sette, otto”

filling the well she channeled down the middle
and gently beat the eggs to yellow
with her hands

how she kneaded the flour, yolks and whites
until they blended and shaped and formed
a golden ball

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Sicily’s storytelling traditions

— by ELIZABETH SALTHOUSE | JAN 03, 2018 | Published in L’Italo-Americano [Please visit the website of L’Italo-Americano for other interesting articles.]

Since the first days of language, humans have been passing on stories. From the sea shanties of Cornwall to the shadow puppetry of China, from the creation tales of Hula dancing to the drama of Caribbean calypso. Sicily is no different: its puppetry, dating back to Medieval times, is famous the world over for  telling tales of knights in battle. But there’s another story too, the tradition of cuntu, dating back to Greek theatre and based on both sung verse and spoken prose. To discover its compelling history we have to go back to the ancient world.

Mimmo Cuticchio performer of Il Cunto, a traditional form of Sicilian storytelling.

Many modern cultures and languages can trace their origins to ancient ancestors, typically reaching back across decades, centuries and even millennia. European languages from Spanish to Portuguese, Romanian to English, for example, all owe a large debt of gratitude to the ancient Romans. Vulgar Latin forms the basis for several languages spoken by a sizeable proportion of the world’s population, not least of course Italians inhabiting the beautiful Mediterranean peninsula and beyond.

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In Memoriam: Victor Peck

We only recently learned the sad news that long-time IFAFA member Victor Peck had passed away in March of this year (2017). Many of you will remember Victor and his constant companion, Vic Gugliuzza, as “the Victors” who attended IFAFA conferences from the 1990s through 2009.

“The Victors” – Victor Peck (L) and Victor Gugliuzza (R)

Before his retirement in 1992, Victor Peck worked for the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City, MO, for 23 years. He was head of the Dock, overseeing the inventory and shipments. After both Victors had retired, they turned to their passion for folk dancing, teaching Dutch and Italian folk dancing at local community centers for decades. They enjoyed collecting music (records, tapes, and CDs), sheet music, and dances.

“The Victors” both loved dance of all kinds, but especially international folk dance which they had done for over 40 years. They had a special interest in Schottisches from various countries. Victor P and Vic G participated (and sometimes founded) several groups in Kansas City, MO, involved with dance and culture. They were members of the International Folk Dancers of Kansas City, UNICO, the Ethnic Festival board, and Scuola Vita Nova (a charter school where all students were exposed to the cultures, languages, and arts of numerous countries).

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I Pupi Macrì Acireale (Puppet Theatre of Sicily)

Since 1629, when the French influenced almost all European art forms, the most spectacular puppet presentations told of the Paladins of France and the villainous Saracens during the Crusades – filled with chivalry, love, hate, and terrible battles. The puppets themselves almost come alive! Made of padded wood, they’re dressed in authentic period costumes, including family colors and crest. Knights are well-equipped: from the helmet on the head, and iron breastplate, the sword in the right hand … the shield on the left arm. Only the King, the Ladies, and the Pages are without armor.

The Puparo (or puppet speaker) sets the stage for his audience: a mortal struggle between those hated Saracens and the virtuous Paladins. Our play begins:


ACT 1, scene 1: Gano, the brother-in-law of Charlemagne (King of France and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) makes a pact with the Saracens to betray his fellow countrymen.

ACT I, scene 2: Gano returns to Charlemagne’s camp and tells of the Saracens’ wish to be baptized as Christians. Orlando, the strongest and cleverest of all Paladins, does not believe this surprising turn-about from his enemies. Yet, preferring a brave death to a cowardly life, he leads his men to Continue reading “I Pupi Macrì Acireale (Puppet Theatre of Sicily)”

Bomboniere Presentation and Workshop

Even if you were not able to attend the workshop during the 2015 conference, you can partially share the experience through this handout which participants received. Workshop attendees followed a PowerPoint presentation on the history and production of bomboniere and then used a variety of materials to create bomboniere of their own.
— Jackie Capurro, San Jose, CA

Locations Mentioned during the Presentation

  • Sulmona: a city and comune of the province of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region, east of Rome, the home of widely-known manufacturers of confetti
  • Museo dell’Arte e della Tecnologia Confettiere Pelino (Pelino Museum of Confetti Art and Technology) is located in the Pelino Factory in Sulmona and contains displays of the history and production of confetti.
    Website: <http://confettimariopelino.com/museo/>
  • Avola: a small town in Sicily, between Siracusa and Ragusa, known for growing high-quality almonds, perfectly shaped for confetti

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In Memoriam: Martha Trapani

Although Joe and Martha Trapani have not participated in IFAFA Conferences for a while, many of our members will remember this lovely couple from Amici Italiani in Rockford, IL. We’re sad to pass along the news that Martha passed away at the end of June, 2017.

Here is part of her obituary published in the Rockford Register Star from July 3 to July 6, 2017:

Martha Louise Trapani, 74, of Rockford passed away Thursday, June 29, 2017. She was born February 1, 1943, in Carbondale, IL, the daughter of Earl Tippy and Polly Ann Rogers. She spent her youth in both Central Illinois and Phoenix, AZ. She graduated from Sterling High School in 1960. After graduating from Cormer and Durand Beauty School, she moved to Continue reading “In Memoriam: Martha Trapani”


— by Carolyn Martino; Storyteller, Humorist, Educator, Inspirational Speaker

In Riccitello and Riccitella, the Italian version of Hansel and Gretel, the abandoned children find a cottage in the woods made, not of gingerbread (that’s German!), but one filled with sausages, ham, salami, bread, and cheese! That’s Italian!

That’s because folktales travel. The same tale is often found throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Far East. But it was in Italy that many of these oral tales were first written down. The earliest versions of Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and many others were first recorded in writing in Italy. But, as the Tuscans say, A tale is not beautiful unless something is added to it,” and Italian tales are definitely Italian! Continue reading “HAVE TALES . . . WILL TRAVEL”

An American Learns to Understand Italians … and Italy

— by Dan Calkins, as posted on the FB page of Italian Community Center of Milwaukee Cultural Group

Phil Vassar (born May 28, 1964 in Lynchburg, Virginia) is an American country music artist. In 1999, he was named by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as Country Songwriter of the Year.

I know this because I looked him up on Wikipedia this morning. Why the interest? His name was stamped on the back of my left hand, a remnant of our yearly summer commitment, Festa Italiana. Rain preempted our plans to make it back to the festival grounds to catch his show, but we did attend the mass and procession in the morning, and, let’s face it, that’s really what Festa is all about for the Italians, at least the ones I know. I overheard a gal at the service say in mild disgust, “It’s the same thing every year.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

Flashback, 1992, some sort of Italian get together: I was still dating my wife-to-be; trying to fit in with the Italians was still a major challenge for me. It was mostly older folks at this get together and conversation was predominantly in Sicilian. I say “predominantly” and not “exclusively” only because the Italians Continue reading “An American Learns to Understand Italians … and Italy”

IFAFA Face Book Page

If you use Face Book, be sure to find IFAFA’s FB page and follow it. We post information about our members’ activities, folk events in both the U.S. and Italy, and other items of cultural or folkloric interest. Once you receive our posts regularly, please interact with us! Please visit frequently and boost the ratings by liking and commenting often on the posts.

It “boosts our ratings” the more people like and comment on the postings. Just looking at the page but not participating is not as helpful. We would also like to receive more news from IFAFA troupes and individuals that we can post. Even Continue reading “IFAFA Face Book Page”