Celebrating Chestnuts: l’Albero di Pane

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— 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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Sicily’s storytelling traditions

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— 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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I Pupi Macrì Acireale (Puppet Theatre of Sicily)

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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 Leggi tutto “I Pupi Macrì Acireale (Puppet Theatre of Sicily)”

Bomboniere Presentation and Workshop

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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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— 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! Leggi tutto “HAVE TALES . . . WILL TRAVEL”

Frank H. DiCristina … and Gina

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Frank DiCristina (1920 – 2015) took great pride in being Italian and, especially, Sicilian. A man rich in character and personality, Frank was extremely proud of his family and their Sicilian heritage, his Catholic faith, andhismilitary service. His family was his most valued treasure, and he lived by the words “tutta la famiglia.” Frank grew up in Atlanta, GA, in the Catholic Italian community, and his love of heritage and faith followed him throughout his life. While living and working in Fayetteville, NC, he was very involved in the Sons of Italy and was recognized for numerous achievements. Although he passed away in 2015 at the age of 95, he once had a love in his life that he cherished as much as his family. She was a wooden donkey named Gina.

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Cuzzupa, a Traditional Easter Bread from Calabria

A classic Easter dessert in the region of Calabria, the cuzzupa is a lightly sweetened cake with eggs nestled into it. It is a tradition to make one cuzzupa for each member of the family, and the size of each cake may depend on age and “hierarchy” of the family member– the head of the family gets the biggest cake while the children get the smallest ones! Cuzzupe are a nice alternative to chocolate and other sweets that children receive at Easter time.

Cuzzupe can be made in many shapes. They’re molded by hand into braids, rings, hearts, nests, baskets, dolls, etc. A different shape may be used for each member of the family.

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August 1, 2012
Sorrento, Campania

Unfortunately we all know that the speed of modern life can make it difficult to appreciate and give proper due to the old traditions and know-how of cabinet makers, inlayers, embroiderers, upholsterers, restorers, ceramicists, and shoemakers, among others. Artisans, their traditional workshops, and thus a small piece of history are unfortunately slowly disappearing throughout Italy.

Well, rather than lament the state of affairs, our new friends at Botteghiamo (an untranslatable, made-up word; roughly meaning, “Let’s artisan workshop/ing”) have decided to do something about it. Their admirable goal is to foster an until-now non-existent link between the traditional artisans and the global community through the web, social technologies, and the increased awareness of this priceless and irreplaceable legacy. Their first project?

Together with the Unione Artigiani Intarsio Sorrentino (Sorrento’s inlayers association), Botteghiamo-Intarsio is a modern hands-on journey into the workshops, old traditions, and know-how of these incredible wood-working artisans.

Beginning in June 2012, Botteghiamo and the intarsiatori of Sorrento have set up shop, showroom, and workstations inside the ancient defense walls of the town. Work from each and every one of Sorrento’s intarsiatori is on display, and four artisans at any given time are on location all day creating their beautiful masterpieces right before the eyes of any and all friends (that’s us!) who are invited to stop by to witness firsthand the breathtaking art and technique of these maestri.

Botteghiamo has also done events with the artisans of Rome, and will be expanding there as well as in other cities throughout Italy that are centri di eccellenza artigianale (centers of artisanal excellence). Keep an eye out for copies of their city maps, (printed from a hand-painted original, obviously!), available at tourist information booths in Rome and Sorrento.

ItalianNotebook fully endorses Botteghiamo’s mission, and we look forward to more collaborative work with their team, proud to be an international mouthpiece and strong web presence by their side. Auguri!

Italian Needlework Treasures

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IFAFA Member Vima deMarchi Micheli, who has demonstrated and exhibited her beautiful lace creations at several IFAFA Conferences, has published a book entitled Italian Needlework Treasures. It is a guide for travelers interested in finding needlework in Italy, including embroiderers, lace-makers, collectors, antique dealers, and costume designers. The 146-page book contains over 84 colored photographs and 25 black and white photographs. The cost of the book is:

USA: $45 (including tax) + $5 shipping and handling.

Canada: $45 + $8 shipping and handling.

Europe: €30 + $15 shipping and handling

Homemade Wine: Great Memories

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My grandfather made homemade wine, and so did many Italian immigrants who came to the United States. It was a great tradition, and many people will tell you great stories about the annual fall event.

Those who sold grapes for wine would often deliver them, and they were often stacked in front of homes. The smell would fill the air, and even more so when it came time to crush the grapes. It was a painstaking process, starting with cleaning all the equipment and wooden barrels. Within a week or two, it was time to press the grapes and fill the five-gallon glass jugs with the wine. My grandfather kept his wine in barrels.

I was very young but was given a little glass, and it was no big deal. My grandparents had wine with meals, and I never saw anyone get drunk. Wine was part of the meal, and I still have a glass of wine with dinner.

Since the passing of my grandfather, no one in my extended family makes wine. The homemade wine tradition has stopped for most Italian-Americans. I have had wonderful homemade wine that was great, and some tasted like vinegar. Wine-making is an art and so much a part of our Italian heritage. Our ancestors knew the health values of wine, and we are told today that wine in moderation is good for you! Yes, homemade wine is almost gone, but not my memories!

— Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo