My friendly guide to Italian wines

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I am extremely proud to share with you my new book (my first e-book). It is in Italian, I tell stories of wonderful people making wonderful wines, in Abruzzo and other regions, and I explain a few technicalities on wine-making and wine-tasting.

Since October we organized several lessons, our Friendly wine-tastings to enjoy together all the flavours and hues I try to describe in the book, but you better taste yourself.

My motto is that life is too short to drink bad wine, and if you know how to “read” what a wine can tell you on how it was made, you can enjoy it better. Good wine, good company, good food and moderation  are my ideal recipe to enjoy life.

As soon (read: next year) as I can go back to our house in Abruzzo I am planning to get some work done on the family wine-museum my mom is dreaming about: with underground cellars on three levels and a natural cave in between, I am sure we can find the right space for all the vintage wine-making tools my great-grandparents used there.

Hope to see you there.

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Urban Knitting at L’ Aquila for the third anniversary of the earthquake

Animammersa is a cultural group started by a number of artists in L’ Aquila in order to communicate what’s going on in the city (you might not be aware of this, but there is a huge difference between the perception of people outside the city, informed by national media, and what is really going on. See also the recent visit of Prime Minister Monti, only after he saw with his very eyes what’s going, some regular media started talking about this).

Animammersa produced  theatre shows and a video, and now they came up with a brilliant idea. Mettiamoci una pezza is an urban knitting session for the third anniversary of the earthquake, as only in these circumstances there is a bit of attention to the historical centre were no reconstruction has taken place yet.

So they send out a call for “pezze”, knitted of crocheted squares they want to use to cheer a bit the centre. Without people, is their starting assumption, the whole city is grey. Let’s bring some colour back to it.

People inside and outside Abruzzo reacted enthusiastically. What you see above is a square made by my friend Bianca Mollicone, a passionate woman who onws the beatiful Locanda al Ponte in Balsorano. She is very dedicated to all things about Abruzzo and managed to bring to l’ Aquila the famous journalist Paolo Rumiz, who is know in Italy for travel-reportages on abandoned and forlorn places.

Other squares were collectively made by the ladies amployed at the State Archive. When a colleague asked them for rests of wool and other skeins, and they asked why and heard the story, the got so enthusiastic that they started to knit and made a beautiful patchwork.

I believe this is the whole point of the action. Involve people., give them a sense of doing something for theh city they love. The exact contrary is the mistake made after the earthquake: bringing people away, take all power of doing from their hands (a history of the laws made to stop you from doing anything to help reads like Kafka).

If you can and want to join the urban knitting at L’ Aquila, go there on the 6th of April, my guess is there will be someone in piazza Duomo able to give you further indications. And if you want to make beforehand some squares, the standard sizes are: 50×50 cm. or 20×20.

Credits: I took all pictures from the official website of Mettiamoci una pezza, exceot the red one Bianca made, I got it through her. The Virtual knitting art is made by Donatella Giagnacovo, an artist from L’ Aquila, please check her website for more about her work.

Heritage trip to l’ Aquila on 14 or 16 September 2012


Just a small introduction for those who do not know of our pic-nic on 15 September 2012. It started with the Ofenesi Google group. Or maybe with the Ofena and Carrufo genealogy that Ron posted on the net. Or maybe better, with the annual Abruzzo pic-nic in Vancouver.

Anyway, after a couple of years of discussing the idea, the decision was taken: next pic nic will be in Abruzzo. And so it will be at the end of this summer.

For many descendants of people from Ofena and Carrufo this will be their first Italy trip. Of course they want to see Rome and more famous places. But we thought they might also like to know and see with their very eyes whom we are, and were we come from. I designed this excursion exactly for this. Now, you might ask, how do I qualify for this all? Well, I grew up in Ofena, my Auntie Filomena della Pulita has been a teacher there for 50 years (chances are your (grand) parents were in her classes) and she brought me up with everything about Ofena, I studied at the University of L’ Aquila – then moved to the Netherlands), I wrote a book on the area around Highway 17 (more on this in a moment), I organized in the course of the years many trips and cooking courses for Dutchies in Abruzzo. I write regularly Italian culinary articles for a Dutch magazine specializing on Italy   (but shh, don’t tell them that either way I always end up talking of Abruzzo in those articles. Though, I think they sorta figured out in the course of the years).

(digression: That part on whom we are and where we came from, is from my publisher: when at the first anniversary of the earthquake in L’ Aquila I was being intervied for Fahrenheit, the largest radio-program on books in Italy, I had the strangest experiences. First of all it was the first time I dared to go back to L’ Aquila again after the earthquake only because as a starting author you don’ t say “no” to Farhenheit. even if you live in the Netherlands and have to fly back at your own cost in three days, because it is Easter and we are due to my mother in law.

Anyway, after the interview, during which I had to put on my sunglasses, as I was high on the stage, and telling of the time I used to live there, and then looked at all the buildings around the square all kept up by iron bars and it was just too much (I once brest fed my first-born behind one of these windows, that was it). As we were finished and I went off stage a gentlemen came to me and said just:

“I am from Villa”. Which is Villa Santa Lucia, a village above Ofena.

“And I am the daughter of Ennio Summa”  because we people of the villages around Highway 17 are a clan, don’t mistake us on this, or otherwise why so many people are making plans and arrangements to attend a pic-nic on the other side of the Ocean, so when we meet each other we start with genealogy.

“I know, he used to teach me at junior high”. And that was it.

“You met Luigi” told me a couple of years later Francesco “Barbone”, the plumber of Villa and a dear family friend. You know, the clan. They know whom you met and what you talked about.

Then an unknown lady came to me saying that her cousin in Rome loved my booked and wondered if I would mind talking to her on the phone. Sure. She gave me her phone, I introduced myself and the lady on the other side started crying. And then told me that after the earthquake she lost all sense of belonging, of home, and that reading my book was so wonderful to her because it brought all back to proportions. I heard that comment often about my book and I was truly intrigued.

Then I saw Maura, my publisher and  more than that. ” Maura, for heavens’ sake, what did I write in that book that makes people telling me those things?”

“You just reminded them whom they are and where they are from”.

Right. I guess I needed badly to remind myself in the first place. end digression)

This excursion has already been made and tried for you. In October 2011 it took us three days to cover the route I wanted to show you, but as I understand you might want to see Rome, and meet relatives and do tons of things and you might run short of time, I compressed it in one day. Don’t thank me for this, I am going to have you work for it:-)

So we will start here:

Then go to Popoli and have coffe there with a quick visit to the center. Then we move here:

then here, and afterwards to Navelli (saffron and chick-peas), and then via Castelvecchio Calvisio, Rocca Calascio, Campo Imperatore where we will eat arrosticini. we go down to Santo Stefano di Sessanio (of the lentils of Santo Stefano), maybe Bominaco, Paganica (of the hams af sausages according a medieval recipe of the De Paulis), Onna and L’ Aquila. on the way I will tell you everything, but really everything of what we see and why is this relevant for our sense of identity. I will tell you tales, historical and antropological information, proverbs, culinary products you don’ t want to miss. I will tell  you why this earthquake has destroyed more than buildings, and why we should not worry too much about this, because the clan is resilient and has been through all this already.

How much is this going to cost:

Last time we all went with own cars and spent some € 50 for lunch, dinner, coffee. This time I think I will rent one minibus, so if you let me know if you are interested and if you are coming by car or with a bus. Also we can sleep in L’ Aquila at a friendly price at the Spapizar Hotel. As soon as I know how many of you are interested, if the Friday is a better option than the Sunday after the picnic, I can get back to you with the complete price.

Mail me at: barbara@madrelingua.com

Oh, and in case you might still wondering where we all come from: we come from the sheep. And the sheperds. And their wifes living in the villages alone for 9 months per year while the men went with the flocks in Apulia. And then came home and brought jewels and clothing designs from the Middle East. Our forefathers and foremothers.