Easter in Italy: Parade of statues

If you visit Italy at Easter time, you don’t have to go to church to see the statues. A common feature of religious holidays in Italy is the procession through the streets with statues from the church. I’ve seen this a couple of times in Italy, but have never lived anywhere with this practice. Here are some photos, all from Wikimedia Commons, of Easter processions with statues. And some of them run with the statues!

Have you seen similar processions when traveling in Italy? Please share in the comments!

Easter procession in Ribera, Sicily.

Easter procession in Ribera, Sicily.

Residents crowd the balconies in Sulmona to watch the Madonna run through the streets.

Residents crowd the balconies in Sulmona to watch the Madonna run through the streets.

In Acquaro, Calabria, the Easter procession features John the Baptist running through town.

In Acquaro, Calabria, the Easter procession features John the Baptist running through town.

And here is a link to an article with a little history about one such procession, on the island of Ischia near Naples.

A visit to Segesta–secondhand.

I have yet to visit Sicily, though a couple of my favorite books about Italy take place there. (See the book reviews here and here.) Today I’m sharing another writer’s experience visiting one of Sicily’s premier ancient sites, the Greek temple at Segesta.

The ancient Greek temple at Segesta. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The ancient Greek temple at Segesta. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Honestly, I just read about Segesta in another book yesterday. I was reading aloud to my mother as we sat in the car, waiting in line for a ferry across Puget Sound.

Then I saw that the Sicilian Housewife has a guest post about a visit to Segesta, along with wonderful photos. The journey to Segesta is as entertaining as the photos. So sit back and enjoy a mini trip to Sicily today! Just click here.

Celebrating a famous Italian-American: My mom!

My mom, Win Perman, enjoying some steamed mussels in Sorrento ten years ago.

My mom, Win Perman, enjoying some steamed mussels in Sorrento ten years ago.

Today is my mother’s 80th birthday. She was born on Long Island to an Italian mother and English father, both born in the U.S. of immigrant parents. In 1945, their tribe of nine moved from New York to Moose Pass, Alaska. This was just the beginning of a lifetime of travels and adventures for her.

I’m taking the week off my usual blogging schedule to celebrate with lots of friends and family. Blessings on all of you!  Sandy

Book Review: The Love-Artist by Jane Alison

The-Love-Artist-201x300Last year I enrolled in a MOOC. What’s that?? A Massive Open Online Course, and there are thousands of them out there, taught by university professors, completely free, and just about any topic you can imagine. I chose a course on historical fiction, and one of the assigned readings was The Love Artist, featuring the Roman poet Ovid.

The subject intrigued me because Ovid was born in Sulmona, one of my favorite spots in Italy, and I wondered if his hometown played at all in the story. In that, I was disappointed.

I’m not much of a student of ancient Rome, so cannot judge the authenticity of Alison’s depiction of the setting. Her prose is lyrical and lovely, appropriate to the time in language, and evokes a mystical sense that works with the story, which re-imagines Ovid’s inspiration for his (now lost) tragic play Medea. Enchanted by Xenia, a mysterious woman he meets on the shores of the Black Sea, Ovid returns with her to Rome, where his writing career and personal life are bound up with Emperor Augustus and his family tumult.

Statue of Ovid in Sulmona, Italy, his birthplace. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Statue of Ovid in Sulmona, Italy, his birthplace. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The story itself is very slow-moving, and I’m not convinced that Alison took advantage of the natural drama in the story she tells. Not a book that would keep me up reading until two or three in the morning. Perhaps readers who thrive on stories of the Roman Empire would find it more engaging.

I’d be interested in the opinions of others who have read it, so please comment below!

A family history surprise in great-grandma’s will

Josephine Arcuri will pg 1My mother found a copy recently of a will made by my great-grandmother, Josephine (Gualtieri) Arcuri in August of 1927. At that time my grandmother, Mary Nancy (Arcuri) Sanders was twenty years old, already married with a six-month-old daughter. Josephine’s three eldest were also out on their own, and her youngest children, boys of 19, 17, and 12, all still lived at home.

Each of her children is named in the will, with each of the three daughters to receive vacant lots on Waverly Avenue in Patchogue, New York, located adjacent to their family home. All other property was to be divided “share and share alike” by her four sons.

Here’s the surprise: My grandmother is named as “Maria Rosa” in this document, and not Maria (or Mary) NANCY as she was known to us all our lives. My mother was as surprised to see this other name as I was.

Josephine with her husband Francesco Arcuri, about 1910.

Josephine with her husband Francesco Arcuri, about 1910.

From my mother’s descriptions of Josephine, I know that although she lived in the United States from 1900 to her death in 1947, she spoke little English, and she signed the document by her mark, suggesting she didn’t read or write. I wonder if her daughter’s name was an error made by whoever drew up the documents, and Josephine was unable to read for herself, or proofread, what she was signing.

So is this a mistake in the will, or a willful change of name on her daughter’s part? If the latter, it wouldn’t be the first time. Another daughter of Josephine and Francesco Arcuri, three years older than Maria, was named Elvira. Elvira hated her name–possibly because it had been the name of an older sister who died in infancy, or perhaps she just didn’t like the sound of it. When Elvira went to school at five or six years old, she told the teachers her name was Mary. I don’t know if her parents knew about it, but the name stuck. Three years later, when my grandma started school and told them her name was Mary, they didn’t believe her because they knew they already had a Mary from that family attending the school.

Later in life, in the 1970′s or ’80′s,  my grandma wanted to travel to Europe, and Mom helped her get a passport. This requires a birth certificate, which she didn’t have. None could be found in New York, or anywhere they tried. Finally Grandma’s brother prepared an affidavit of some kind, stating that she was his sister and attesting to her date of birth. It didn’t seem to matter that he was her younger brother–she was able to get a passport. I have still never seen any official birth record for her, nothing that would clarify whether her name at birth was Maria Nancy or Maria Rosa. To me and my generation of cousins, she was just Gram, and to my kids and the next generation who knew her, she was called “Great.” She fit the name, too–she was a great Gram, whatever her name was!

Ferragosto fun in the Sila

The western end of Lago Arvo.

The western end of Lago Arvo.

Six months ago I hoped to have most of my adventures from last August posted here–but that hasn’t happened. So today I am revisiting one of my favorite days in Calabria. The weekend after Ferragosto we drove up to the Sila, the mountains above Scigliano, to Lake Arvo. As we drove higher, the lowland tree cover gradually gave way to evergreens. We passed through a small town with some kind of dirt bike motocross gathering, and beside the road a stand was set up to sell local mushrooms. Sila motocross (1280x960)When we reached the lake, the town of Lorica had a street fair in progress. Sila bar (1280x935)After refreshments at a local bar, we wandered along the lake and through the stalls selling clothing, souvenirs, toys, and leather goods. What a crowd! Families were out for the holiday weekends, and kids took turns getting pony rides.Sila pony (1280x1066)

We decided to continue to the far end of the lake, and find a place to have some lunch. As the road wound through thick pines, traffic clogged to a crawl, with cars parked Italian style all along the road, wherever they would (almost) fit. It was easy to see the cause of the backup–a roadside grill sent smoke and a mouthwatering aroma into the air. We drove a bit further, and then turned back to try lunch at the grill.

The line at the grill caught our attention.

The line at the grill caught our attention.

We each had a grilled sausage on a bun with various toppings–sauteed greens, mushrooms, sauces–and beer was the ideal drink in the summer heat. The few tables were crowded, but we were able to join a couple at a larger table, and visited with them in my feeble Italian. They were enjoying their annual tradition of a summer day trip to the lake. The crowd was definitely Italian–we didn’t recognize any other foreign visitors. Our entertainment was the team manning the grill, with one guy warming the bread on a side grill, while two others grilled sausages as fast as they could, taking them from long ropes of sausage hung up above the smoking stove.

The grill team cranked out a lot of sandwiches!

The grill team cranked out a lot of sandwiches!

We returned to our rental in Malito with great memories of our day in the Sila.

I certainly enjoyed mine!

I certainly enjoyed mine!

Book review: Juliet: A Novel (and a good reading bonus)

Juliet book reviewI sometimes (ok, often) have insomnia, and last night when I woke up at three, I opened my Nook and continued reading a novel I have carried around a lot the past few days, snatching a few pages here and there. At about 5:15 a.m. I closed the Nook and breathed a great sigh of satisfaction, having finished the book. Juliet, by Anne Fortier.

Italian-born Julie Jacobs, orphaned with her twin sister at age three, and adopted by an aunt, wanders a bit aimlessly through life teaching Shakespeare workshops for kids. She’s 25 now, and on the unexpected death of Aunt Rose, she is further shocked by the news that Aunt Rose everything to her sister Janice. Their gardener and cook, Umberto, takes Julie aside to reveal that Aunt Rose has secretly left her an envelope containing a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, and clues to her shrouded past. Oh, and her real name: Giulietta Tolomei. The key is her connection to her parents who died in Italy, and a letter from Aunt Rose suggests that a great treasure which she should try to find.

Leaving behind her crass, gloating sister, Julie heads to Italy, becoming entwined in her own ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story while discovering family connections she could never have imagined. She’s not sure what the treasure is, but it’s clear that other people are interested in it, too, and the pursuit becomes a dangerous business.

The characters leapt off the page at me, and it’s not simply a re-hash of Romeo and Juliet, but a new and interesting story. There are lots of R & J references, though it doesn’t require great familiarity with Shakespeare’s version to enjoy it. I loved the back-and-forth play of the modern story with the historical, revealed as Julie discovers it. There seemed to be some minor issues of coordinating the passage of time in a couple of scenes, but overall, I enjoyed it a lot!

BONUS: Maybe you are more familiar with the Goodreads website than I am, but I recently discovered “Listopia” there. It’s under the “Explore” tab on the home page, and when I entered “Italy” in the Listopia search box, I got all kinds of great lists for books about Italy, set in Italy, by Italian authors, and so on. I will definitely use this resource for choosing books to review here, and very likely for other book searching too. Have you used Listopia? Found any great books there?

Carnevale time! Are you ready?

Masks hanging in a shop mimic the crowds at Carnevale.

Masks hanging in a shop mimic the crowds at Carnevale.

Carnival season is well under way in Venice.  Carnevale is widely celebrated around Italy, but in many places only for the day or so before Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 5 this year.

carnival costumes (960x1280)In Venice, however, their celebration begins almost three weeks beforehand. You can visit the official website to see some of the many events that encompass the famous Carnival of Venice.

Since I’m not from a family, culture, or religious tradition that celebrates Carnival, it was fun to be in Italy a few years ago, when the appearance of costumed children on the streets of Sorrento in February surprised me. Some of the adults dressed up too, and most memorable were a pair of Dalmatian dogs getting into a car along the main street and driving off.

Animal masks of all sorts!

Animal masks of all sorts!

Last summer , I saw just what a year-round event Carnevale is in Venice. We saw everything from simple white mask “blanks” you could paint yourself, selling for a Euro or so, to glorious extravaganzas from feathered head to pointed toe, costing thousands. Some of my photos will tell the story better! 

Did you grow up with a Carnival tradition? I’d love to hear some of your experiences. Please comment!

carnival clown (1280x720)

Some Carnival characters can be scary!

Some Carnival characters can be scary!

carnival whites (690x1280)

In the record breaking heat last August this girl dressed in her finery to entertain tourists along the waterfront.

In the record breaking heat last August this girl dressed in her finery to entertain tourists along the waterfront.

Agrigento’s Almond Blossom Festival

Blossoming Almonds by Hungarian painter Tividar  Kosztka Csontvary (1853-1919). Image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Blossoming Almonds by Hungarian painter Tividar Kosztka Csontvary (1853-1919). Image in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Do festivals appeal to you? Agrigento’s Almond Blossom Festival is relatively new in Italian terms–only about 70 years of celebration so far. Many Italian festivals have several hundred years of history.

But even though the festival is young, the almond has been in Italy hundreds of years, since its introduction by the Arabs (who brought many other delicious foods with them, too). And the almond trees around Agrigento accent the city’s ancient Greek temples.

Temple of Concordia in Agrigento. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Temple of Concordia in Agrigento. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Debra Santangelo ofSicilian Connections has a blog post with great photos of the festival just now concluding, and from earlier years.

Of course, almond based foods accompany the celebrations, and here’s another link to a recipe for cassata, a Sicilian cake–and what a beauty!–from Manu’s Menu, a blog by Manuella whose Sicilian heritage figures heavily in her blog. The visual archive of recipes will make your mouth water.

Tell me, readers, you have a wide range of interests. What would have more appeal to you in Agrigento–the almonds or the temples?