June 29, 2013

The Legacy of Pietro Montana

Victory With Peace by Pietro Montana
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

By Giovanni di Napoli
“My wish has been to send light into the darkness of men’s hearts, and to be the servant of a noble purpose . . . art is not a vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power, which must be directed toward the refinement and improvement of the human soul.”  — Pietro Montana, in an address before the Hudson Valley Association *
After stumbling upon Anthony de Francisci's Independence Flagstaff at Union Square, I was keen on discovering other monuments by Southern Italian artists in NYC. I did some digging and found several works. Unfortunately, for some of the artists I've been unable to obtain any biographical information except that they were Italian-Americans. 

I did, however, hit the jackpot at Freedom Triangle in Bushwick, Brooklyn. While taking a ride to Williamsburg with a friend we noticed an extraordinary statue of what appeared to be an angel. We pulled over to take a closer look. According to the plaque affixed to the fence protecting the monument from vandals the artist was Pietro Montana from Alcamo, Italy. "He's Sicilian," I told my friend as I started snapping pictures!

Called Victory With Peace, the bronze statue depicts the Greek goddess Nike (Victory) bearing an olive branch. Crowned with a laurel wreath and wearing a Greek chiton the winged deity cradles a sword in her right arm. She stands on a granite pedestal with an inscription carved around its base dedicated to the ninety-three neighborhood men who fought and died in the First World War. The 19th Assembly District Committee erected the monument in 1921. Continue reading

Masaniello and the Revolt of Naples, 1647-1648

Tommaso Aniello by Onofrio Palumbo
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Giovanni di Napoli
"The Revolution, like Saturn, devours it's children" – Georg Buchner
The Revolt of Naples was a popular uprising by the Neapolitan lazzaroni (lumpenproletariat) and disaffected bourgeoisie against Spanish tyranny and the complicit nobility. As the cost of financing Spain's role in the Thirty Years War became increasingly unbearable, tensions among those most burdened were simmering to a boil.

The insurrection began on July 7, 1647 when the fruit-vendors of Pozzuoli refused to pay an excessive tax on produce imposed by the crown. The rebels' leader was Tommaso Aniello d'Amalfi (nicknamed Masaniello), a poor fisherman from the slums of Vico Rotto al Mercato. During a mock battle between lazzaroni and “Saracens” at the Festa della Madonna del Carmine, Masaniello and his lieutenants (dressed in Muslim garb) instigated a riot among the participants. Crying, "Long live the king and down with bad government!” they set fire to the hated tax station in Piazza Mercato. Fed up with their oppressive overlords, other disgruntled tradesmen soon joined the revolt. Appeals were made to King Philip IV of Spain, but money was desperately needed for the war against France. The Spanish viceroy, Rodrigo Ponce de León (the Duke of Arcos) and his retinue took refuge in the Castel Nuovo.

Like a spark in a tinderbox the revolution quickly spread throughout the provinces. Reprisals were meted out to the most abusive lords. Amongst those targeted by the mob, was the reviled Don Giuseppe Carafa. Torn to pieces, his mutilated corpse was dragged through the streets. The violence was immortalized in a painting by renowned Neapolitan artist, Domenico Gargiulo, better known as Micco Spadaro (1609-1675). In fear of losing the colony the Duke of Arcos conceded to the Neapolitans' demands and abolished the tax. Masaniello was elected Capo del Popolo and the riots were momentarily quelled. Continue reading

June 28, 2013

An Author in Search of a Cause

Luigi Pirandello – the Instrument of Creation

Luigi Pirandello
By Niccolò Graffio
“Well, if you want to take away from me the possibility of representing the torment of my spirit which never gives me peace, you will be suppressing me: that's all. Every true man, sir, who is a little above the level of the beasts and plants does not live for the sake of living, without knowing how to live; but he lives so as to give a meaning and a value of his own to life.” – Luigi Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921.
It has often been said that tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, most comedies seem to arise out of tragedies. The late stand-up comedian Richard Pryor is an excellent example of this phenomenon. For years he regaled audiences, both black and white, with tales of his childhood in the slums of Peoria, Illinois. Audiences would regularly howl with laughter at his stories of living in bone-crunching poverty, abuse at the hands of his elders, substance abuse and trying to avoid falling into the “tender mercies” of street gangs. One has to wonder, though, how many people would think all this funny if it happened to them, or how many others laughed simply because it was better than crying.

Tragedy, therefore, while lamentable, can also be a source of inspiration for those fortunate enough to be born with the creative spark that allows them to put feelings into words and convey their meaning to others. This has been done not just with the genre of Comedy, but Drama as well (among others). The subject of this article is one such man. One who, in spite of the various tragedies that overshadowed his life, put pen in hand and gave the world some of its more memorable literature, as well as helping to reshape modern theater. Continue reading

June 24, 2013

Feast of San Giovanni Battista

Viva San Giovanni!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
June 24th is the Feast of San Giovanni Battista, or Saint John's Day. In Southern Italy, Saint John's Eve (June 23rd) is traditionally celebrated with bonfires known as Saint John's Fire. The bonfires were part of an ancient purification ritual connected with the June solstice. Sometimes called "Summer Christmas," the Feast is a celebration of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the herald of Jesus Christ. As my name day, the Feast has an additional special significance to me. Buon onomastico to my fellow Duesiciliani named Giovanni! To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer to Saint John the Baptist. The accompanying photo of the Battesimo di Cristo by Gerolamo Starace-Franchis (Napoli, notizie dal 1754 al 1783) was taken during my 2010 visit to the Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo in Napoli.

Prayer to Saint John the Baptist

O God, You raised up Saint John the Baptist to prepare a perfect person for Christ. We call upon Saint John's intercession to properly prepare us with a true sense of repentance to receive Your grace and salvation. Make us faithful to truth and justice, as You did Your servant, John the Baptist, herald of Your Son's birth and death. Lord, may You increase Your life within us. Amen.

June 23, 2013

The Neglected Genius: Giambattista Vico of Naples

Giambattista Vico 
b. June 23, 1668 — d. Jan. 22-23, 1744
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Niccolò Graffio
“I don’t believe in any science, but my imagination grows when I read Vico in a way that it doesn’t when I read Freud or Jeung.” – James Joyce (Ellman, Richard: James Joyce. 2nd ed. pg. 693, New York: Oxford UP, 1983)
The simplest definition of history is the branch of knowledge dealing with past events. Though it is admittedly an oversimplification, one could argue that human history is created by basically two types of people: doers and sayers. The doers could also be termed “people of action”; those who make their mark by engaging in activities that significantly alter the world, for better or worse. Examples of this sort include Alexander of Macedon, Christopher Columbus, the Wright brothers and Albert Einstein.

Sayers, on the other hand, are those who, through the printed and/or spoken word, seek to alter the world around them by impressing their thoughts on others. Examples of this sort include Kong Qiu (Confucius), Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Paine and Karl Marx. Continue reading

June 22, 2013

Feast of San Paolino di Nola

Viva San Paolino!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
June 22 is the Feast Day of San Paolino (Saint Paulinus), Bishop and Patron of Nola. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a Prayer to San Paolino. The accompanying photo was taken at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

Prayer to San Paolino

O Lord, You made Saint Paulinus renowned for his love of poverty and concern for his people. May we who celebrate his witness to the Gospel imitate his example of love for others. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Also see:

Death of Ruggero d'Altavilla (Roger I of Sicily)

Ruggiero il Normanno
The facade of the Palazzo Reale di Napoli
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Dextera Domini fecit virtutem. Dextera Domini exaltavit me. (The right hand of God gave me courage. The right hand of God raised me up) – The inscription on Roger's shield following his victory at Cerami (Quoted from The Normans in Sicilyby John Julius Norwich)
June 22, 1101 Marks the death of Ruggero d'Altavilla (Roger de Hauteville).
The Norman arrival in Southern Italy began in the eleventh century. According to tradition, in 1016 a group of pilgrims drove away a band of Moslem raiders plaguing the Lombard Principality of Salerno. Grateful and impressed with the Normans' martial prowess the Lombards invited them to stay. Word quickly spread through the halls of Normandy about the opportunities for soldiers-of-fortune and it wasn't long before the rival lords of Southern Italy were employing Norman freebooters in their wars. Continue reading

June 21, 2013

Happy Summer!

Apollo with lyre
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
In celebration of the summer solstice, or midsummer, I would like to share a poem by Vittorio Clemente from Dialect Poetry of Southern Italy: Texts and Criticism (A Trilingual Anthology) edited by Luigi Bonaffini, Legas, 1997, p.38.

The accompanying photo of Apollo was taken at The Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) during my 2010 visit to Napoli. In addition to being the god of music, poetry and prophecy, Apollo was, of course, the god of the sun.


Golden days of summer,
    facing the sun,
facing the sea, delighted, and content.
Days spent eavesdropping on the wind,
mindful of words whispered in secret.

Words I'd unravel; listening, alone, 
for the voice of the world, the nothing beyond,
alone, while my nimble heart took flight
for untold trysts and destinations.

Perhaps for the very edge of the world,
where Our Lady of the Mariners
trims white roses in the morning.

And to find myself here, again, eyes
like a boy's, quick and bright, seeing, upon
the lace of waves, roses ride to shore...

(Translated by Anthony Molino)

June 19, 2013

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino Return to North America

Photo courtesy of i-Italy
Upcoming concerts

25 June - New Haven, CT

27 June - New York City, NY
Joe's Pub - 7.30pm - $20

28 June - Baltimore, MD
Creative Alliance 8pm - Baltimore, MD

29 June - Pasadena, CA
Levitt Pavillion, Memorial Park - Pasadena, CA - 8pm

30 June - Los Angeles, CA
Los Globos - Los Angeles, CA 8pm

For more info visit canzonieregrecanicosalentino.net

Calabrian Cantautore Peppe Voltarelli Returns to Canada and New York City

• June 25 Toronto - Bata Shoe Museum (with Daniela Nardi)
• June 26 New York City - Chez André @ The Standard, East Village 
• July 3 Montreal  - Savoy du Metropolis  34° Montreal International Jazz Festival
• July 4 Montreal - Savoy du Metropolis  34° Montreal International Jazz Festival

For more info visit peppevoltarelli.it

Also see:

June 18, 2013

A Look at the 2013 Giglio di Sant'Antonio in the Bronx

Viva Sant'Antonio!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo 
The crowd makes way for the band during Saturday's celebration 
Before the lifting of the giglio, the Procession heads down Arthur Avenue
Blessing the "Tower of Faith" 
Marching the giglio down 187th Street
Keeping this wonderful Southern Italian tradition alive
"Dancing the giglio" outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
(Above and below) Faith, family and friendship on display 
Another look at the giglio
A feat of strength and devotion
Paranza from East Harlem, Long Island and Brooklyn joined forces in the Bronx
The obligatory sausage and peppers
The perfect ending to an amazing day: dessert at Palombo's

For more photos visit us on Pinterest

Also see:

Feast of San Calogero

Viva San Calò!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
June 18th is the liturgical Feast Day of San Calogero, the Calcedonian hermit and miracle-maker. Widely venerated throughout Sicily, he is one of the principal patrons of Sciacca, Torretta, San Salvatore di Fitalia and Agrigento, among others. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer in Honor of San Calogero. The accompanying photo was taken at Most Precious Blood Church, National Shrine of San Gennaro in New York City's Little Italy.

Prayer to San Calogero

O glorious San Calogero, turn your gaze to us and hear our prayer. You have been sent by God to radiate in Sicily the light of the Gospel. You served with penance to seek God in the solitude. You taught the way of salvation and virtue. All call upon thee miracle worker, because by your intercession God gave speech to the dumb, health to the sick, hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind. Save us from danger and grant the graces we ask of you. Amen

June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

In celebration of Father's Day I'm sharing a poem by Maria Terrone from The Bodies We Were Loaned, The Words Works Capital Collection, 2002, p. 91.


Dad sets down the scrabble board
and begins to play,
shaping words he sometimes scrambles aloud.
He doesn't talk
much lately, but he never was a raconteur.

Like a reader of Dickens, I longed for
installments to explain for me
the tumult of his life: orphanage years,
cleaning tables at West Point,
bandaging war wounds, winning then losing
a scholarship because nights
he ran an elevator and days slept through class.

It's my mind that wanders now, trying to excavate
the pieces of who he is
or was. Oh how I want to pluck
from this jumble between us a nugget:
hard, glittering, impervious
to decay and the garble
of tongue and memory.

We play in silence, but his young voice
carries far: I hear him read my storybooks aloud,
sing forties tunes around the house,
argue for the underdog. Back and forth
we place our letters, joining
one unspoken word to another
until nearly all of the spaces are filled.

June 15, 2013

Feast of San Vito Martire

Viva San Vito!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
June 15th is the Feast day of San Vito (St. Vitus), one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Widely venerated across Southern Italy, he is the patron saint of Mazara del Vallo, Ciminna, Forio, San Vito sullo Ionio, Regalbuto and Torella die Lombardi, among others. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer in Honor of Saint Vitus. The accompanying photo was taken at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.

Prayer in Honor of Saint Vitus

Grant us, O God, through the intercession of St. Vitus, a due estimation of the value of our soul and of its redemption by the precious blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ; so that, for its salvation, we bear all trials with fortitude. Give this Thy youthful servant and heroic martyr as a guide and protector to Christian youths, that following his example they may after a victorious combat receive the crown of justice in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

A Day to Remember

The Burning of the General Slocum
The PS General Slocum
By Niccolò Graffio

Anyone who’s been reading the articles I write for this blog knows that I am a Sicilian* and am quite proud of that fact. My people have a long and rich history filled with fascinating people and events that deserves to be retold and discussed. Though the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was invaded and destroyed by its enemies in 1861, its children, scattered across the globe, still contribute to this wonderful thing we call Western Civilization, even if we no longer have a homeland to call our own.

However, I am also an American, born and raised in the City of New York and am equally proud of both of those facts, as well. Why shouldn’t I be? America, economically and militarily, is still the preeminent power in the world. New York City is the economic hub of America. Just as the Christian theologian Saul Paulus of Tarsus (aka the Apostle Paul) was proud to call himself a Roman citizen, so am I proud to call myself an American one.

Some might accuse me of being a “hyphenated American” or worse, a dual loyalist, saying it is impossible to share love and loyalty with two homelands. I find such a sentiment laughable! Do we not as human beings share our love and loyalty with both our parents (if we’re lucky enough to have two parents, anyway)? I have always thought of i Due Sicilie as my fatherland, because the seed which produced me sprang from there. Likewise, I have always felt America was my motherland because I was raised and nurtured here. Continue reading

June 14, 2013

Acclaimed Neapolitan Singer-Songwriter Simona De Rosa Returns to the Italian American Museum

Photo courtesy of www.simonaderosa.com
Thursday, June 20th (6:30 PM)

Italian American Museum
155 Mulberry Street
(Corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10013 

Please join us for a special live performance by acclaimed Neapolitan jazz singer-songwriter Simona De Rosa. Simona will be accompanied by special guest musicians.

Suggested donation of $10 per person


To reserve a place for this event call the Italian American Museum at (212) 965-9000 or email: ItalianAmericanMuseum@gmail.com

Reprinted from the Italian American Museum press release

Announcing the 2013 Our Lady of Mount Carmel Bazaar, Denver, Colorado

Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
July 19—21 (5:00 PM-10:00 PM)

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
3549 Navajo St
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 455-0447

• Italian Country Store featuring salami, cheeses, imported items
• Italian Ceramics
• Fresh Palisades peaches
• Carnival Rides & games for kids
• Prize raffles, pull tabs & bingo

Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, July 21st at 11:00 AM. Procession to follow.

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more information visit the Our Lady of Mount Carmel website or find them on Facebook

June 13, 2013

Feast of Sant'Antonio di Padova

Viva Sant'Antonio!
June 13th is the Feast day of Sant'Antonio di Padova, the "Hammer of Heretics." He is the patron saint of lost objects and protector of Montefalcione, a small town in the province of Avellino. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua. The accompanying photo of the Saint was taken at Saint Leonard's Church in Boston's North End. The picture below of the Basilica of Sant'Antonio di Padova was taken during my 2007 visit to Padua.

Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua

O glorious St. Anthony, safe refuge of the afflicted and distressed, who by miraculous revelation has directed all those who seek aid to come to Thy altar with the promise that whosoever visits it for nine consecutive Tuesdays, and there piously invokes thee, will feel the power of the intercession. I, a poor sinner, encouraged by this promise, come to thee. O powerful Saint, and with a firm hope I implore thy aid, thy protection, thy counsel and thy blessing. Obtain for me, I beseech thee my request in this necessity. But if it should be opposed to the Will of God and the welfare of my soul, obtain for me such other graces as shall be conducive to my salvation. Through Christ our Lord.
Basilica of Sant'Antonio di Padova
Photos by New York Scugnizzo

June 11, 2013

A Look at the 2013 Festa di San Vito, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Viva San Vito!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo 
(Above and below) The procession makes its way through the neighborhood from the Congrega San Vito di Ciminna club on 18th Avenue
Little Antonio showing the older members that he has what it takes
The color guard beams with pride
Pausing outside Villabate Bakery
The staff at Villabate came out to show their support 
Arriving for Mass at Saint Domenic's RC Church
A look at the Society standard
Sophia and Antonio outside Saint Domenic's
Departing Saint Domenic's
Dom Quartara and the Society did an excellent job
Back at the club, the celebration continues
A close-up of San Vito
A replica of the famous Santissimo Crocifisso from Ciminna
is prominently displayed inside the club
For more photos visit us on Pinterest