The current lockdown is testing for everyone, but we’re also managing to find some silver linings. One of them, for me, is more time to study Italian.
I am working with our wonderful teachers to put together a series of workshops, and the first one is about to launch.
Italian Literature with Francesca Ricciardelli
Dates & times:
Part 1: Wednesday, April 15th,
Part 2: Wednesday, April 22nd
Part 3: Wednesday, April 29th
At: 18.00 (European Summer Time) which is 17.00 (BST) / 10.00 (Pacific) / 12.00 (Central) / 13.00 (Eastern)
Francesca will post selected material a week prior to each session, but it’s preferable for you to read them in full prior to the start-date. There are links below to Kindle versions on US & UK Amazon websites, if you can’t get them in paper form.
15/04 – In Altre Parole, Jumpha Lahiri [Kindle Version: Amazon US | UK]
22/04 – Seta, Baricco [Kindle Version: Amazon US | UK]
29/04 – L’Invenzione Occasionale, Elena Ferrante [Kindle Version: Amazon US | UK]
The 6-hour workshop consists of 3 sessions of 2 hours (+ a 15-minute break) spread over 3 weeks.
Groups of 5–7 participants, of a similar level, connected via Zoom (Free Video Conferencing)*If you need help with Zoom please get in touch, it’s very easy to use*
Prior to registration, Francesca will ‘meet’ each applicant via Skype for a 1–1 chat.
Places are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. 3 session course fee = €90 payable via PayPal on acceptance to the course.
Francesca Ricciardelli is currently a PhD student in Language Sciences at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. She received her MA with honours in Italian Studies at California State University, Long Beach, where she was an Assistant Fellow in the Clorinda Donato Center of Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies.
Francesca’s first MA (2016) in Language Sciences is from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where she specialized in teaching Italian as a Foreign Language. Prior to that Francesca obtained a BA in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, in English and French (2014) at the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (IT). She has worked as an instructor of Italian and Italian literature with different Cultural Associations and as a Teaching Associate at California State University, Long Beach.
Maria Alice joined us from the US and fell in love with Agnone, as so many have done! She wrote this poem first in English and then worked on putting it into Italian.
This final version came to be with the kind help of Maria Alice’s teachers: Anna in Pennsylvania and Erminia in Isernia.
Here it is – Italian version only to give you some challenge!
Agnone, Città d’Arte Come ti troverò? Immersa quasi tra le nuvole Nella campagna italiana, La guglia di San Marco Un faro, un ponte, una speranza. Da quanto tempo cammino Per le tue antiche strade? I tuoi gradini scolpiti salgono Infinitamente su e intorno Attraverso strette vie tortuose. Case con tetti di tegole rosse Collegati tra loro Da centinaia d’anni. Fioriere illuminano facciate grigie, La biancheria fruscia nella brezza Dai balconi in ferro battuto, Gatti e gattini, grigi e neri, Prendono il sole in mezzo a te. Dove dovrei cercarti? Tutto intorno a te ci sono valli, Fattorie e colline lontane. L’aria così chiara che, Respirare è guarire. In lontananza, giacciono rovine Degli antichi sanniti che Commerciavano con la Grecia E costruivano grandi templi.
La tua gente, Agnone, Ha generato vita In cinque storici paesi, Paesi che si sono trasformati In una città - patrona delle arti. Ovunque c’è arte – La donna che cuoce il pane In un forno di duecento anni, L’uomo che alleva le api, I contadini con la vite, Con ulivi e fichi, La famiglia che fa il formaggio, L’artista che trasforma edifici E fotografie in arte, Il produttore di vino, Il fondatore della campana, Il fabbro, il confettaio, Il libraio, il macellaio, La nonna che fa la pasta, Insegnanti e guide, I venditori di frutta, I sacerdoti - ognuno Di questi lavora, cammina, crea, Ogni giorno una nuova pennellata Sulla tua tela dal vivo. Lontano da me adesso, Come ti troverò? Hai calmato la mia anima Con i tuoi modi semplici, Il tuo silenzioso legame Con la famiglia, con la gente, col passato. Come ti troverò mentre incontro Traffico e centri affollati? Ti troverò nel mio cuore,
Agnone, Pietrabbondante and the Sammnites - A territory rich in history.
One of the names given to the ancient town of Agnone is “L’Atene del Sannio”, Athens of Sannium. Athens - because of Agnone’s rich cultural heritage, and Sannium - because Agnone is located in the heart of the Samnite territories (Sannitico in Italian).
I’d never heard of the Samnites before I went to Agnone, but then, nor have most Italians. A pre-Roman tribe, the Samnites were sophisticated and cultured. Renowned for being fearless and proud warriors, they established a vast territory from which they travelled far and wide.
A very mobile people, they were receptive to other cultures; Etruscan bronze artefacts have been found in Samnite sanctuaries, Cicero recounted that a Samnite chief travelled to Taranto in Apuglia to discuss philosophy with Archita and Plato, they exported timber and livestock. Wine was imported for their sacred ceremonies from the Bosphorus and Agean Islands, and Samnite weapons and belts found in Tunisia (Ancient Carthage), Magna Grecia and other Greek cities, are evidence of their mercenary activity.
They spoke Oscan, an adaptation of Etruscan and Greek. The famous bronze tablet, la Tavola Osca, today in the British Museum, was Pentrian Samnite, and discovered by a shepherd in the fields outside Agnone (1840). It describes the internal organisation of the sanctuary of Ceres at Pietrabbondante, and the ceremonies that took place there. The sacred inscriptions on the tablet were fundamental in helping scholars to decipher the Oscan language. Excavations of the temples and amphitheatre at Pietrabbondante began in 1843, and by 1856 had aroused such interest that the site was granted government protection by the Bourbon King Ferdinand of Naples. Very rich in artefacts, excavations still continue today.
Identifying as one people divided into tribes, the Samnites formed an organised democratic republic encouraging freedom of expression. Totally different from the politics of Rome, which was influenced and led by patrician families, the Samnites favoured an equitable society, very advanced for the time. There were no powerful landowners, the land was free for everyone to use for grazing and farming. Nor did the Samnites keep slaves.
Their tribal structure made the territory difficult to penetrate, allowing them to control large parts of southern Italy for a long time. Their forms of settlement and land use can still be seen today in an impressive system of fortifications, forming a barrier that was very difficult for the Roman army to break through. It is said that the Samnites could have been masters of Italy had they formed a united or federal state, but unlike the Romans, they valued individual freedom much more than greatness or power, and more than the permanent preservation of their state.
Originally allied with Rome against the Gauls, the Samnites later became enemies of Rome, fighting a series of battles, known as the 3 Samnite Wars; in 343, 326 and 298BC. Despite early overwhelming victories, they were finally defeated, and so severe was their threat, that by 82BC the Roman dictator, Lucius Cornelius Sulla had subjected them to an ethnic cleansing campaign, after which the Samnites more or less disappeared from history.
They were predominantly shepherds and herders, a tradition that continued in the region long after the tribe had been destroyed. The tratturi, the wide grassy pathways that cut through Molise from the hills of Abruzzo to the plains of Puglia, were first established by the Samnites. Like the motorways of their time, these routes brought livestock to the southern plains for the winter and back to the mountains for summer grazing.
Many of the cultural traditions of Molise are rooted in Samnite history. It is a strong legacy of which the Molisani are very proud.
"The Romans' humiliation by the Samnites : Double-sided page [fol. LXXVIII, Do nun die Samnites ho[s?]teu / dal: Papirius"
Tap images for Full Size:
Contributors: Anonymous Printmaker Titus Livius Patavinus (Roman, 59 BCE-17 CE), Author Johann Schöffer (German, ca. 1468-1531), Publisher Bernhard Schöfferlin (German, ca. 1436-1501), Translator
Agnone welcomes the first group for a beautiful summer 2019 of Italian Language Holidays.
Saturday, June 15-29, 2019
Our drivers Fernando and Donatella brought guests to Agnone in 2 batches - from Canada, Australia, the US and UK.
Sunday, we went out to Marco’s, to hear about his honey and wine production.
Marco showing the group his honey
The pollen is extracted from wild fruits giving the honey strong medicinal properties.
Learning about wine production on Marco’s farm.
Some vines were planted recently, but many have been lovingly restored.
The day also gave the teachers a chance to meet everyone, and assess 1 – 1 before lessons on Monday.
Lunch was in the very cool stone cantina, with simple food from the garden. Different varieties of Marco’s fresh honey was drizzled over ricotta, we had a selection of other piatti tipici, and, of course, home made wine.
Lessons started Monday in Palazzo San Francesco, then for coffee to Letterario to get acquainted with the staff, and work out the many different ways to order coffee in Italy.
On an afternoon walk around the centro storico Walter’s group (surprisingly popular name in this region!) stopped by one of the most beautiful of the 16 churches. Before a chance encounter with a lady called Filomena, and Guido, il fabbro.
This led to hair appointments for Anne and Sally in the salon of Filomena’s daughter… funny how conversations segue, even in another language!
Cooking dinner with Maria is a good way to relax and unlock the tongue –
While Lucrezia and Francesca like to plan lessons together with a spritz, before joining the other small group dinner in famiglia with Rosaria and Leo.
Leo’s knowledge of history is extensive, and as natives of Naples, their love for Agnone comes with an outsider’s eye.
Before lessons a small group went to sample the focaccia, hot out of Mercedes’ forno alegno –
She told us about her daily work; the lievito madre, preparing the loaves, heating the oven, growing the grain, the stone grinding, old recipes passed down from her nonna.
And then, off we went down the mountain to her brother, Donato, making cheese, with milk from his 20 cows. The bocconcino he gave us to taste was warm.
A walk in the woods kept everyone shaded. Stefania pointed out wild flowers, and herbs and grasses used in local dishes.
Saturday evening we drove out to Sant’Onofrio for a talk about the ‘ndociatta festival; the origins and traditions, making of the torches, and careful processes of this ancient pageant. Dinner, a variety of local dishes, finishing with oven baked lamb and potatoes was prepared by Gino… and delicious vegetarian seasonal platters.
But we expired early; it’d been a full week, and this learning Italian every day is tiring – plus we had to get up early Sunday to get to Campobasso for la festa dei Misteri – a unique event with tableaus ( – real people) enacting the lives of the saints on Corpus Domini, 40 days after Easter.
A rooftop drink on the terrace at Tonina’s B&B – not 1, not 2, but 3 men in one session! Might be a first…. Welcome to the men!
At the little borgo of Marongoni, Nicola Mastronardi explained that the beautiful room into which we assembled was once animal stalls of the family small-holding.
His talk about the transumanza explored how profoundly this ‘migration’ has influenced the cultural life of the Molisani, before we gathered with all the family for a delicious meal.
PIetrabbondante is a site we never miss – even those who’ve been with us numerous times enjoy seeing it again and again; serene, majestic, and there’s always a mountain breeze which, this June, was most welcome.
Anna Maria had obtained black truffles from a local tartufaio, and the meal she prepared was a selection of local flavours. Describing the recipes of the simple dishes, she wove in stories about the land and harvests.
it was a packed 2 weeks with wonderful weather, if a little on the hot side - and the group left for Rome with a palpable sense of achievement. Tongues had definitely been loosened, and all had enjoyed meeting and engaging with this warm community.
Emerging young artist of the Marinelli family, Ettore shared his work with us at the Bell Foundry this summer
The tradition of metalworking in Molise goes began three thousand years, when the Samnite tribe, once Rome’s fiercest rivals, were casting statues for their temples, making weapons and armour, and creating tools and jewellery. Later, in the middle-ages, a small group of artisans was brought from Venice to perfect this art, making Agnone a centre of excellence for metalwork.
It is documented that in the latter part of the 12th century, one Nicodemus Marinelli, in the town of Agnone, began casting bells of great refinement. At one time there were 6 foundries, and the town became known for the casting of sacred bronzes and bells. Today, only the foundry of Nicodemus remains, where generations of Marinelli’s have passed experience and skill from father to son, making it the oldest bell foundry in the world.
Ettore, the youngest of this dynasty, and the 27th generation, was blessed with a unique and remarkable playground, and a precocious talent. Growing up in the foundry where methods have remained pretty much unchanged for centuries, he was encouraged to learn and explore. It takes 3 months to create a bell using artisan techniques, and no two bells are the same. The work requires enormous technical skill, and years of experience. So Ettore witnessed at first hand the application, discipline, and total dedication required for this artistic endeavour.
Interior of the foundry
Adept at portraiture, at a young age Ettore was already making his own contribution in the foundry, sculpting images and decorations, and producing his work using the ancient process of the ‘lost wax’ method. After a period of Erasmus study in Paris, he studied sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Napoli, receiving his degree at the very highest level.
Wax designs being applied
Today he continues to work at the Academy teaching modelling in stone, clay, and wax, using silicone and fibreglass, and experimenting with innovative casting techniques. He produces his own moulds and casts, using the ancient techniques used by his family for over a thousand years, and is always curious to experiment with new ones. He has produced work for hundreds of bells, and although still only 27, has been commissioned to create impressive works of sacred and civil art for town squares, churches, and businesses around the world. His bust of San Gennaro, for Boston Cathedral, and a very modern bronze crucifix, were blessed by Pope Francis at the Vatican this September before making their way to the United States.
Ettore with Papa Francesca, Roma July 2018, & Vittorio Sgarbi, Italian art critic and journalist, 2018
Marinelli has held exhibitions in Paris, New York, Valona, Rome, Naples, and in Abruzzo and Molise. He was chosen to present works at the 2017 Venice Biennale, sharing a platform with the Italian sculptor Nino Longobardi. The art Critic Vittorio Sgarbi visited his exhibition of fantastical animals “Metazoi’ last summer and was so impressed that he asked to meet Ettore personally, and spent time in his studio promoting his work for other exhibitions.
This summer Live and Learn Italian was lucky to catch him in the foundry in Agnone, and had a chance to hear about his influences and new projects. We got up-close to the beautiful collection of bronze animals, “Metozio”, and asked questions about his work. What a great Italian conversation class that one was!
Ettore, in front of the foundry with his father Armando Marinelli, Uncle Pasquale Marinelli, Mother Paola Patriarca and his brothers and cousins.
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On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…
It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though impossible to know that for sure. Hundreds of men and boys, belonging to 5 contrade (neighbourhoods), don heavy black woollen cloaks and wide brimmed hats and load onto their shoulders enormous torches made from silver fir.
Preparations start in early spring when fallen branches are collected and stacked for drying – amazingly no trees are cut down to supply the 1200 torches, and at the same time, it’s good forest management. The silver fir is cut into pieces and bound together with 5 ties to create a torch. Burning for well over an hour, and between 2 and 4 meters high, they weigh up to 7k, and are carried single, double, and upwards, in even numbers.
Some of the big ‘fans’ of torches are carried by 2 men together, but most are carried singly, including the enormous fan of 24 that I saw being prepared on the day. Dried broom, tied to the top, is set alight with petrol to start the flames. Days and days of preparation, and years of experience passed down generations are required to pull of this event – security and risk assessment being of considerable importance.
The festival’s origins are ancient. The Samnite tribe, who populated Molise prior to Roman domination, used lit torches during tribal shifts that occurred at night. Later, torches illuminated a path from the fields to town for midnight mass on the 24th, the fire and strong smell of burning resin also serving to scare off wild animals.
In honour of these ancient traditions, a festival came to be established on the 24th of December when at the end of the procession, the lit torches were piled on a bonfire symbolising the burning of rivalries and feuds. In medieval times, young men vied to make the most spectacular torch, offering it up for show under the window of a favoured girl. If she were minded to accept his advances, she’d look out appreciatively, or, if her father disapproved, he’d douse the flames (and the young man’s ardour) with a bucket of water!
In 1996 Pope Giovanni Paolo II invited the Agnonese to stage the event in St Peter’s square on the 8th of December, for la festa dell’immacolata, and la ‘ndocciata di Agnone became one of Italy’s 34 “Patrimoni d’Italia per la Tradizione”. Since then, it has been held annually in Agnone on December 8th, when thousands pile into town to witness it. On the 24th , a smaller, more intimate procession for the townspeople is still held, preceded by a presepe vivente (nativity play).
On the morning of the 8th, I joined the men of the Campamonte e Capaballe contrada as they prepared. The torches are kept carefully hidden from view until the last moment– each contrada aiming to have the biggest and best.
Porters are chosen at an early age; carrying a single unlit torch from as young as 5, moving onto a lit torch at around 9 or 10, and then progressing upwards, subject to strength and ability to remain focused and clear headed. The porters are not otherwise ‘trained’, those carrying the heaviest loads generally come from occupations whose daily toil prepares them well.
The contrada is made up of about 200, with half carrying torches, others organising and planning, and some joining the women and children as figuranti – dressed in traditional costume, carrying utensils and items from times gone by.
We all waited as it got dark and the porters assembled. Finally, at the sounding of the bell, the procession started with the smaller boys until all torches were lit and they paraded through the town, everyone lining the streets. They were really close and it got very hot – which was a blessing as we had been waiting in the cold for a fair while. The porters twirled and spun around, causing sparks to fly and whipping up excitement. The men of the contrada kept me near, which was fantastic, as I was able to follow along with the procession and end up with them as they loaded their torches onto the huge bonfire - il falò della fratellanza, symbolizing purification. Say goodbye to ‘le cose brutte’ among the community and celebrate the beginning of the New Year together. It’s impossible to convey just how special it was. I’d heard all about it, and of course knew I’d need see it one day – but I was not prepared for just how thrilling and moving it was.
A community bound by a powerful tradition, proud of its heritage, all coming together to put on a show requiring months of preparation, supreme dedication and care, and, not to mention, enormous shows of strength! When we all piled into one of the bars at the end to shared a beer, I knew I’d have to find a way to get back next year.
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