January 25, 2015

Photo of the Week: “The First Pearl of the Amalfi”

A view of the Amalfi Coast from Vietri sul Mare, the “First Pearl of the Amalfi.” Photo by New York Scugnizzo

January 23, 2015

Hellenic Dawn: The Coming of the Greeks to Southern Italy

The Nike of Giardini Naxos by Carmelo Mendola
Located at the tip of Cape Schisò, in the Province of Messina, the monument was erected on November 27, 1965 to commemorate the twinning of Giardini Naxos with the Greek town of Halkida Evia. Dating back to 735 BC, Giardini Naxos was the site of the first Greek colony in Sicily (Photo by Niccolò Graffio)
By Niccolò Graffio
“Greek customs such as wine drinking were regarded as worthy of imitation by other cultures. So the ships that carried Greek wine were carrying Greek civilization, distributing it around the Mediterranean and beyond, one amphora at a time. Wine displaced beer to become the most civilized and sophisticated of drinks—a status it has maintained ever since, thanks to its association with the intellectual achievements of Ancient Greece.” – Tom Standage: “A History of the World in 6 Glasses”
Southern Italy from the dim past has been inhabited by Man. The fossil evidence for this fact is abundantly clear.  The earliest humans enjoyed the treasures of the Mediterranean when they weren’t helping themselves to flora and fauna that lived around the Apennines. 
Yet these early humans lacked something. Even when they began to live within the communities we today call town and villages there was something missing from their lives.  It was the high level of culture, science, government and industry that we call ‘civilization’.  Given enough time, one or more of the peoples’ native to the region would have undoubtedly initiated the spark that would later give rise to the polities known as city-states, but history dictated that spark would be introduced by another. These people, racial cousins of the natives, came from the land of the Peloponnesus and surrounding islands. Their arrival would have a most profound effect on the future of the region.
Civilization began many centuries earlier in the Aegean with the rise of the culture of the Minoans, a people who spoke a non-Indo-European language. The Minoan civilization was a thassalocracy centered on the islands of Crete and Thera. The Minoans were traders and artisans par excellence who established contacts with peoples as far flung as the Egyptians and the Canaanites. There is even evidence they influenced these cultures (and vice versa).
Terracotta statuette of a seated goddess
Sicilian, 2nd half of the 6th century B.C.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
By the 17th century BC they had also greatly influenced the culture of the Mycenaeans, the first Hellenic-speaking people to settle the Peloponnesus. Archaeological evidence from this time shows a great increase in the material culture of the Mycenaeans along with unmistakably Minoan artifacts.
Unfortunately for the sedentary Minoans, the Mycenaeans were a healthy semi-barbaric people who were looking to expand their holdings.  Sometimes around the middle of the 15th century BC there was a tremendous natural catastrophe (what exactly remains controversial) which greatly damaged Minoan civilization.  The Minoans might have recovered but for the fact their Mycenaean neighbors took advantage of this fact to invade the island of Crete.  Shortly after this the famed Minoan palaces on the island clearly show Mycenaean character.
The Mycenaeans were not as civilized as the people they conquered but they weren’t dumb brutes, either.  They appreciated the cultural and technological accomplishments of the Minoans and sought to perpetuate them wherever possible.  In addition, they adopted and adapted the political and economic infrastructures of the Minoans.  The Minoans themselves were ultimately merged with their Mycenaean conquerors.
For reasons that are still murky, a couple of centuries after this Mycenaean civilization itself collapsed.  Of all the hypotheses that have been advanced to explain this event the two that have gained the most widespread acceptance among archaeologists are a) internal discord brought about by wars between Mycenaean city-states and b) the arrival into the lower Peloponnesus of another Hellenic-speaking people from the north – the Dorians.
Asteas krater, mid-fourth century B.C.
Archaelogical Museum of Paestum
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
Whatever the truth, by the end of the 11th century BC Mycenaean culture had fragmented.  The following three centuries (1,100 – 800 BC) are remembered by archaeologists and historians as the Geometric or Homeric Age.  Some still call it the Greek Dark Ages.
During this time period the Peloponnesus and surrounding areas saw a marked reduction in material culture.  Cities, towns and even many villages were abandoned. The population of the region as a whole declined considerably.  Monumental stone buildings ceased to be built. Linear B, the script of the Mycenaeans, vanished.  Trade with the outside world effectively ceased.
This is not to say all aspects of higher culture vanished.  The smelting of iron, learned from Cypriots and Levantines, slowly became commonplace.  By the year 900 BC virtually all weapons found in grave goods were made of iron.  What did vanish were higher forms of government.  Monarchies were gone, probably replaced by independent areas ruled by kinship groups.  These kinship groups were led by chieftains who, according to archaeologists, enjoyed a standard of living not much higher than the people they ruled over.
Recovery was slow and uneven, with some areas (like Attica and central Crete) springing back faster than others.  What is known for certain is that by the beginning of the 8th century BC grave goods indicated the economic recovery of the Peloponnesus was well along. The number of graves and ruins also indicates the population was recovering as well.
Greek colonies of Magna Graecia (Map courtesy of napoliunplugged.com)
Even before the end of the 8th century BC Greeks began to expand outward into surrounding regions.  Overpopulation is considered too simplistic an explanation for this phenomenon. As the economy of the region recovered, many adventurous and entrepreneurial types ventured beyond the Aegean to find their fortune or simply to explore the unknown.  The Greeks did not limit themselves to one direction.  Greek settlers fanned out in numerous directions, and the fact many of the new areas were already inhabited did nothing to stop the settlers, either.
Neck amphora found in Capua depicting Europa
on the Bull. Attributed to the Edinburgh Painter,
ca. 500-490 B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
For obvious reasons, I shall concentrate on those who chose to travel in a westward direction.  According to all ancient writers, the first Greek settlement on the island of Sicily was the town of Naxos.  It was founded in 735 BC by settlers from the town of Chalcis on the Greek island of Euboea.  It was founded a year before settlers from the Greek cities Corinth and Tenea founded the colony of Syracuse, also in Sicily.  Residents of the modern commune of Giardini-Naxos, built over the site of the ancient city, have erected a monument on the lava beach outside the town to commemorate the arrival of the Hellenes.
The first Greek settlements on the mainland were in the area of modern Naples. These settlements were established sometime in the latter part of the 2nd millennium BC. The first bona fide colony was established in the 9th century BC and called Parthenope.   
The colonization of Southern Italy in earnest by Greek settlers occurred in two great waves.  The first occurred in the 8th century BC and was marked by the establishment of the previously named settlements plus other colonies at sites like Cumae (the first Greek colony on the Tyrrhenian Sea), Rhegion (modern Reggio), Kroton (Crotone), Taras (Taranto) and Zancie (Messina) et al.  In 720 BC Achaean and Troezenian settlers would found the city of Sybaris in the Gulf of Taranto.
Descendants of the original settlers in the Naples area plus new arrivals would eventually found another Greek town (Neapolis) on the plain near the Bay of Naples during the second wave of Greek settlement in the 6th century BC.
Bronze fragment of an inscription, Greek, Sicilian, ca. 490-480 B.C.
This is a rare example of Doric script found in Sicily. It concerns a grant of citizenship. Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
The second wave of Greek colonization brought with it the establishment of new centers of Greek life at Elea in what is now Campania, Italy.  Southern Italy saw a flourish of Greek settlement during this time, with new colonies being established at Poseidonia (Paestum) c. 600 BC by Achaean Greeks from Sybaris.  There were also colonies established at Lipara (modern Lipari), Akragas (Agrigento) and Kamarina, to name a few.
Due to the warm climate, volcanic fertility of the soil, the abundance of game animals and the mineral richness of the region, many of the new arrivals quickly established wealthy municipalities, especially at places like Sybaris and Syracuse.  The lushness of the region and the wealth of many of its Hellenic inhabitants spread throughout the Mediterranean world, including the Peloponnesus, whose inhabitants took to calling the area “Megale Hellas” (Gr: “Great Greece”)  
This wealth would later serve the nascent Greek city-states in the wars they would inevitably fight amongst themselves and the polities back in Hellas.  They would also soon find themselves fighting off other peoples who coveted that wealth, most notably the Etruscans and new arrivals from the coasts of North Africa – the Carthaginians.
Coming soon:  “War and Dominion: The Rise of Magna Graecia”
Further reading: L. Cerchiai, L. Janelli, F. Longo: The Greek Cities of Magna Graecia and Sicily; Getty Trust Publications, 2004

January 21, 2015

Research Project: "Furore D'una Banda"

The Tradition of the Italian Wind Band (Feast Band) in the US
The late Michael "Red Mike" Acampora, leader of the Red Mike Festival Band
Photo courtesy of www.redmikefestivalband.com
Many of us who grew up in Italian American enclaves have an attachment to certain types of music; such as the Neapolitan songs of Jimmy Roselli and Phil Brito, Lou Monte's novelty songs such as "Peppino the Italian Mouse," the tenor voice of Mario Lanza, the jazz great Mr. Louie Prima and many others.
Another type of music for which we have a great affection is the Italian wind band, or in Italian American laymen's terms "The Feast Band.” This music represents the heart and soul of our Italo American feast day celebrations.
Using brass and woodwind instruments, this type of band does not play and march as if in a football game halftime show or a Memorial Day parade. This type of band strolls slowly in processions behind the images of the Madonna and our beloved patron saints. They also play symphonic and operatic pieces on stage at evening concerts. So I can say the Italian feast band is also traditionally known as a concert band.
The Italian concert band has a long history in the United States going back to the turn of the twentieth century. Those were the days of the great "Creatore.” Contemporary and rival to the renowned John Philip Sousa, the celebrated Neapolitan band conductor Giuseppe Creatore wowed the American public across the country with his brilliance and flamboyant style.
The Saint Cono Bande of Inwood, Long Island
When playing at Italian religious Feast processions, the Italian concert bands would dress in their dignified military or nautical type uniforms and perform the type of music, which distinguishes them from the bands of other ethnic groups. They play what is called the Symphonic March (in Italiano "La Marcia Sinfonica"). This type of march bridges elements of popular march music with classical symphony. These "Marce Sinfoniche" belong to a lovely, melodic yet triumphant sounding genre of music. Many of the grander symphonic marches are also concert pieces. One called "Inglesina" or "Little English Girl," was written by Davide Delle Cese (a native of Pontecorvo, Italy), and is considered one of the top ten internationally known marches in the world.
In America the US Marine Corps and US Army bands play these types of marches when they perform, but only about twenty of this particular type of Italian band still exist in the United States today. They are concentrated mainly in the Northeast, from Boston to Chicago and about as far south as Maryland.
Researcher Mark Pezzano labels himself a “fanatic affectionato” of the feast band, and has done much research on the tradition as well as maintains a collection of recordings of historic bands such as Giuseppe Creatore’s band and Salvatore Minichini's Italian Royal Marine Band. Mr. Pezzano also has recordings on CD and cassette of some of the existing bands, such as the Caliendo Banda Napoletana from Chicago and the Banda Rossa from Utica, NY.
The P. Cosentino Italian Band of Omaha, Nebraska
Pezzano explains why it is important to collect information such as histories, photographs, live recordings and other types of memorabilia of past and existing bands. We want to make sure the legacy of this music is not lost. We also want it to be documented in the annals of Italian American history. He states that the greatest thing would be to bring about a renewed interest. Mr. Pezzano is trying to document as much as he can. He says, “At the close of this labor of love I would like to donate all info to respected academic institutions and libraries so this information will be available to present and future generations.”
Mr. Pezzano also plans on putting together a program consisting of a lecture and audio- visual presentation to be scheduled for academic institutions and Italian American organizations. We want to help in any way we can so we are reaching out to the community for material as well as any information that is available. If you have knowledge of Italian band music, have a story of an old feast band, had any relatives involved, or have memorabilia you would like to share (recordings, old programs, photos etc.), Mr. Pezzano ask that you contact him. He also needs information on existing bands, so if you lead or belong to an existing band please contact Mr. Pezzano so your band can be documented and known to future generations.
You can contact Mark Pezzano by Telephone at (516) 931–2016, or e-mail him at italo61@aol.com

January 18, 2015

Photo of the Week: Gamberale

Grazie mille Roberto di Nardo for sharing your wonderful photo of Gamberale, a beautiful village in the Province of Chieti, Abruzzo

January 16, 2015

The Farchie Festival of Fara Filiorum Petri, A Light Against the Darkness

The Farchie Festival of Fara Filiorum Petri, Chieti, Abruzzo 
Photo courtesy of Made in South Italy Today
By Lucian
Every year the various districts of Fara Filiorum Petri, a town in the Province of Chieti in the Region of Abruzzo, participate in the Farchie Festival, a famous fire ritual in honor of Saint Anthony the Abbot. The event commemorates the miracle that delivered the town from subjugation by the French army in 1799. At the time the town was surrounded by an oak forest. As the foreign soldiers advanced, the locals prayed to their patron Saint Anthony for deliverance. In answer to their prayers the saint appeared, and the oak trees that circled the town burst into flames and drove back the soldiers. In some versions the soldiers were trapped by the fire and consumed, in others the flaming trees actually fought back against the invading army, which fled in terror. 
On January 12th, each district begins their preparations for the festival. A heavy bundle of reeds called a farchia is construct-ed to venerate the Saint. The farchie (plural) can be up to 1 meter thick and 10 meters long, and are secured by flexible willow branches. The main procession takes place on January 16th, and after each neighborhood's religious service, they are all carried to the center town piazza near the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate. A few generations ago the torches were all carried on men’s shoulders. It was, in times past, considered a rite of passage for young men to carry their district’s farchia. Now many are carried by tractor, but a procession of singing devotees and live music still follows each. The farchie are later erected with ropes and long wooden sticks, and each is designed to be beautiful as well as engineered for a controlled burn. There is a competitive spirit among the neighborhoods. I have heard that part of the festivities include the praising of their farchia by each respective group, and the pointing out of the slightest imperfections in the others. However, all are gathered to respect the Saint and celebrate together, and it should come as no surprise that food is an important part of the feast. Ritual bread and traditional fare is served, including zeppole, or crispelle. Wine flows and people dance. The farchie are set alight at sunset and there are fireworks. On January 17th there is a solemn mass at the Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot, during which the spent farchie, domestic animals and the bread are blessed.
Chiesa di Sant'Antonio Abate, Fara Filiorum Petri
Photo courtesy of Made in South Italy Today 
Saint Anthony the Abbot has been patron of Fara Filiorum Petri for approximately a thousand years. The Benedictines, who controlled the area, supported the Saint’s veneration but he is said to have become the town’s patron after Antonian monks assisted the area’s sick during an epidemic around the year 1000 A.D.  There are many who believe that the Farchie Festival has its roots in local pre-Christian fertility and purification rituals, and in addition to its continuing Christian function of driving away evil spirits, also represented the natural cycle of death and rebirth. I’ve always found such connections to be fascinating and I try to be objective when they are debated. Each case is different; in some the evidence is strong, in others it is not.
There are many stories about Saint Anthony the Abbot and some specifically deal with his rejection of the old religion. In one story he is confronted by two demons in the form of a centaur and a satyr, figures specifically borrowed from pre-Christian beliefs; the two demons try to test Anthony’s faith but end up respecting him instead. In another story he refuses to debate two Greek philosophers, simply stating that if they wanted to understand Christianity then they should try to live as he did. Yet my favorite story of Saint Anthony deals with the gift of fire to mankind and parallels the pagan tale of the titan Prometheus.
Prometheus Bound by Peter Paul Rubens 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
The tale has Saint Anthony and his pet pig traveling to hell in an attempt to rescue souls entrapped there. When confronted by the devil and his demons, his pet pig became unruly and causes havoc. During the distraction Saint Anthony stole fire from hell and brought it back as a gift to mankind. In some versions it is Anthony that causes the distraction and the pig that actually steals the fire. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mortals, but was punished severely by Zeus for his act. He was chained to a rock for eternity. An eagle tore out his liver every day, only to have his immortality heal it overnight for his cycle of suffering to begin anew. In another story the hero/demigod Hercules, in a later age, slays the eagle and frees the titan. Saint Anthony sought martyrdom, but it was denied to him. It could also be said that Prometheus was to be martyred for his gift of fire to mankind.
Some might wonder why we care so much about a fire ritual in a small town in Europe and what it has to do with modern people. In response I say turn out all the lights, engines, and electricity in your town during the new moon. Anyone who has experienced a blackout in a major city will comprehend the connection I speak of. We have an instinctual reaction to the darkness, and for very good reasons. The light of the torches does more than drive away evil spirits; it illuminates our territory, exposes predators and enemies, and empowers us to defend ourselves and those we love. The torches symbolize our resistance to the darkness, and our refusal to submit to any threats within it.

January 13, 2015

Ponderable Quote From “Under The Southern Sun” by Paul Paolicelli

“My grandfathers were from Abruzzo and Basilicata. Southern Italy. A breed apart from the rest of the Italian peninsula. They knew of Dante, Machiavelli, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, of popes and of Garibaldi. They knew of the Renaissance, and of papal wars. But their parents would have thought of those names and events as being from another country—one that spoke a language similar to, yet different from, their own, and with a different form of government and society. My grandparents and the overwhelming majority of Italian immigrants to the United States during the great migration hadn’t been tanning in the Tuscan sun. They and their ancestors, since the fall of Rome, had been broiled by the Southern sun of il Mezzogiorno, the ‘high noon,’ ‘middle-of-the-day’ region of Italy; the South. The places that even now the tourists seldom find. 
“The concept of ‘Italy’ had only occurred in my great-grand-parents’ lifetimes. There was no ‘Italian’ nation prior to the middle of the nineteenth century. More important, the supposed unification of the Italian peninsula never included the South of Italy as an equal partner. Its inhabitants were from a different land that could be obscured and ignored from a distance and relative comfort of America. 
“And so it was.”
* Quoted from Under The Southern Sun by Paul Paolicelli, Thomas Dunne Books, 2003, p.xii

January 12, 2015

Photo of the Week: "Baptism of Christ" by Gerolamo Starace-Franchis

Battesimo di Cristo by Gerolamo Starace-Franchis (Napoli, notizie dal 1754 al 1783), Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo, Napoli. Photo by New York Scugnizzo

January 10, 2015

Eboli – A Hidden Gem in Southern Italy

Panoramic View of Eboli, Italy
Photos courtesy of Eboli della Storia
By Marc Reynolds
The City of Eboli is located in the in the Province of Salerno in the Campania Region of Italy.  Eboli is a name most recognized thanks to the book written by Carlo Levi titled, Christ Stopped at Eboli, even though the events of the book were not actually set in the town of Eboli. Levi’s story described the boundary between presumed civilization and the definite hardships of the distressed South. Today, the context surrounding the town in the plain of the Sele River certainly no longer resembles that stereotyped image. Of course there remains the fortunate geographical conditions which, for centuries, made Eboli an important crossroads of different civilizations and cultures with many traces of ancient settlements. The oldest of these settlements came to light at the locale Madonna della Catena, dating back to the ancient peoples of Lucania (1800-2500 B.C.).  Eboli does form a natural hinge between north and south in the middle of the hills and the sea with its location just a few kilometers from the coasts of Amalfi and Cilento.
Street of Historic City Center
Photo courtesy of Paolo Sgroia
Eboli has faced several hardships along the way.  In the recent past, it was heavily bombed in 1943 during Operation Avalanche in World War II when the allied troops moved in to take over German strongholds. It was also heavily damaged after the Irpinia earthquake on November 23, 1980, whose epicenter was only 40 kilometers away, where again several buildings were destroyed and some fatalities.
Today the town to the south of Salerno is as vibrant as it ever was. With the recovery of the historic town center, Eboli has countless traces of great artistic and cultural value. It showcases numerous symbols of religious and historical inspirations where every era, with its own style, has left its touch on Eboli each of which are clearly visible and recognizable. Today, the historical center can be discovered by visiting its greatest landmarks, some of which include:
Convent of San Pietro alli Marmi
Photo courtesy of Michele Nigro
The 11th century Convent of San Pietro alli Marmi, which contains the relics of St. Berniero (co-patron of Eboli) who was a Spanish nobleman in the 11th century, abandoned the comfortable life and went on pilgrimage across Europe until he stopped at Eboli, where he later died; Then there is 11th century Colonna Castle with its imposing wall structure; The Sanctuary and Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian which brings thousands of pilgrims  every year to pay homage to the doctor saints; The collegiate mother church of Eboli, Santa Maria della Pietà, was built in the 12th century. In it houses one of the statues of St. Vito, the patron saint of Eboli. 
Colonna Castle Tower
Photo courtesy of Paolo Sgroia
There is the Chapel of Santa Maria ad Intra which dates back to the year 977 and gets its name because of its location was within the walls of the city.  The Convent and Church of the Most Holy Trinity (also known as St. Anthony of Padua) is filled with many important and historic paintings and statues.  The Convent was built in the year 1490 next to the church which had already been a parish since the 12th century.  The church houses the miraculous statue of St. Anthony of Padua where it is still venerated today.  A museum dedicated to the World War II Operation Avalanche is also located adjacent to the church. One of the most visible structures towering over the city is the Church and monumental complex of San Francesco of Assisi.  It dates back to the year 1286 and is one of the first Franciscan settlements historically documented. Today, in addition to the church, it houses the Municipal Library, the Photographic Archives and the National Archaeological Museum of the Sele Valley.  
Sele River
Photo courtesy of Maria Conversano
While exploring Eboli, the Piazza della Repubblica invites visitors to stop and relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. There are also archeological zones of Eboli that contain many explorations and excavations of ancient tombs and furnaces which were used for cooking and as workshops to create terracotta statues, tiles and bricks.  
Eboli also offers many possibilities to explore some of Italy’s best natural resources. The territory of Eboli shares 8 km of coastline of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is located not too far from the historic city center. On the hillside you can hike along nature trails. The Sele River flows through the territory and provides much picturesque tranquility. The river, after meandering for 15 km around the Ebolitano territory, ends its journey in the mouth of the Sele where it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea. 
Magna Grecia Street
Photo courtesy of Vito Merola
Eboli overlooks the very large and extremely fertile plain that stretches all the way to the sea with citrus groves and farms that produce a wide variety of crops. Mozzarella di Bufala, mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk, is the queen of the Ebolitana table, produced by a number of artisan dairies in the municipal area. The major economic resource of Eboli is the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes, peppers, olives, eggplant, fennel, lettuce, strawberries, peaches and apricots. The agro-industrial production in Eboli is one of the most important in all of Europe.  It is perfectly situated where the territory gets moisture from the warm waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, from which it receives the beneficial effects of the cool summer breezes and fertile rainy spring and fall.  
Procession of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. Church of San Francesco towers above
Photo courtesy of Michelangelo Rosamilio
The close proximity of nearby attractions makes Eboli a perfect place to visit during your adventures to southern Italy.  Whether visiting Napoli, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Salerno, Paestum or the Cilento Coast, there is always enough time to stop at Eboli to enjoy the perpetually mild climate, rolling hills rich in history, areas of unspoiled nature with picturesque waterways, the rich fertile plains which produce such high-quality food products and the unending winding streets of historic architecture.  There truly is something for everyone to enjoy in Eboli. 
For those interested in learning more about Eboli or can trace their ancestors to Eboli, there is a Facebook page setup to share the history utilizing old and new photos and members stories. Please visit www.facebook.com/eboliinhistory or contact eboliinhistory@gmail.com for more information.
Church and Sanctuary of Sts. Cosmas and Damian
Photo courtesy of Antonello Stabile

January 9, 2015

Celebrating the Epiphany with New York City's Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group

Between courses, Vincent Titone spoke about the Epiphany
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

For the third year in a row, New York City's Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group celebrated the Epiphany at Cacio e Vino, one of Manhattan's top Sicilian restaurants. Those of us who braved the snow and bitter cold temperatures were greatly rewarded with a four-course meal replete with Sicilian specialties. Feast highlights included Sfincione, Arancine, Melanzane Ammuttunati and Anelletti alla Palermitana.
In addition to the great abbondanza of food and terrific company, partygoers were treated to a couple of short lectures by club president and organizer Vincent Titone, and the very talented Allison Scola, musician, photographer and editor of Experience Sicily, a website dedicated to all things Sicilian. Vincent spoke mostly about the religious meaning of the Epiphany and the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; while Allison recounted the amusing legend's of la Befana, a benevolent witch who rewards good little boys and girls with treats during the holiday.
Naturally, I was happy to see some old friends and delighted to make some new ones. It's always a pleasure to celebrate our culture and folkways together.

Great job Guisto, Alessandro and the rest of the hard working Cacio e Vino staff. Thank you for the warm hospitality, excellent service and, of course, delicious meal.

Special thanks to Vincent for organizing the event and, as always, I’m very grateful for your tireless efforts. Auguri per l'Epifania!
Allison Scola gave an enlightening talk about the Befana
Melanzane Ammuttunati
Rigatoni alla Norma and Anelletti alla Palermitana
Scalloppine di Pollo and Puntine di Maile con Salsiccia
Rum infused panettone with orange mascarpone & chocolate fondue

January 8, 2015

The Search for our Ancestry (VIII)

Beginning the Search – Census Information
By Angelo Coniglio
I have spent much time describing what I have called the first ‘key’ in finding our immigrant ancestry: how to determine an ancestor’s name as it may have been given in a variety of records. Having identified the name of an immigrant ancestor, you’re prepared to search for records that may contain other keys: his date of immigration and/or his place of birth and date of birth.  These may be contained in family records such as passports, marriage records, naturalization papers or membership documents of the mutual aid societies, the Società di Mutuo Soccorso that were so common in America for Italian and Sicilian immigrants.
If these records aren’t available in your family, but if you know the approximate date of the ancestor’s death, check your public library for archives of local newspapers to be searched for obituaries, death notices or articles of the period, which may give information about your ancestor.
If you know where the family first settled, visit the appropriate County Clerk’s office, and see if naturalization records exist there for your family member.  If not, the clerk may direct you a Federal District Court where such records may be available. Naturalization papers, especially the Petition for Naturalization, can have a wealth of information, including the immigrant’s name, birth date and place, date and ship of immigration, the address of the applicant and names and dates of birth of each family member.
Still no luck? Then it’s time to turn to US and/or state Census records. The first US Federal Census was in 1790, under Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. There have been 22 since then, taken at ten-year intervals. The last was in 2010.  Censuses from 1790 through 1940 are available in hard copy at many sources, including local libraries and genealogical societies, except for the 1890 census, most of which was destroyed by fire.  For privacy reasons, federal censuses are not released to the public until 72 years after they are made, making 1940 the most recent census available.  You need to know the community your family lived in during a given period, then search for the census or censuses, for that community, that fall into those dates.
The census questions varied over the years, from simple identification and place of residence in 1790, to much more detailed information in later versions.  Below is a list of questions from a typical US census, that of 1930, just after the peak of Italian immigration to America: 
Street, avenue, road, etc.; House number
Relationship of this person to the head of the family
Home owned or rented?; Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented
Does this family own a Radio set? A farm?
Color or race
Age at last birthday
Marital condition
Age at first marriage
Attended school or college any time since Sept. 1, 1929
Whether able to read or write
Place of birth__person, Place of birth__father, Place of birth__mother Native language of foreign born; Language spoken in home before coming to the United States
Year of immigration into the United States
Naturalization status: Na (Naturalized), Pa (Papers applied for), or al (alien). Whether able to speak English
Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done; Industry or business; Class of worker
If you find your ancestor listed in such a census, you’ll find his immigration date and nationality, and be able to estimate his birth year by subtracting his age from the year of the census.  Consider all dates approximate.  They were not backed by documentation, but simply by the statement of the interviewee. Most libraries with hard copies of censuses cover only the city or county where the library is located.  
If your ancestor settled elsewhere, before the advent of the internet, you would have had to go to that place to search the census, or pay a local researcher to do it for you.  Luckily, all US Federal Censuses through 1940 are now searchable and viewable on-line, and I’ll discuss how to do that next time.
Coniglio is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia), based on his genealogical research of Sicilian foundlings. Order the book in paperback or on Kindle at www.bit.ly/racalmuto. Visit his website, www.bit.ly/AFCGen, and write to him at genealogytips@aol.com.

January 5, 2015

Photo of the Week: The Gymnasium at Paestum

The ruins of a Roman gymnasium at Paestum, an ancient Greco-Roman city in the Province of Salerno. Photo by New York Scugnizzo

January 3, 2015

New Books

Some new and forthcoming titles that may be of interest to our readers. All are available at Amazon.com

Pindar and the Construction of Syracusan Monarchy in the Fifth Century B.C. by Kathryn A. Morgan

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: February 2, 2015
Hardcover: $72.25
Language: English
Pages: 480

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Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City by Joseph Sciorra

Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
Publication Date: February 27, 2015
Hardcover: $56.45
Language: English
Pages: 384

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Click here to see more books

January 2, 2015

Honoring Francesco II di Borbone in New York City

Portrait of HRH King Francesco II next to the altar
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
“May we never cease to emulate our heavenly patron with alacrity to follow in the footsteps of your only begotten Son, who is our alpha and our omega, our beginning and end.” — From the Prayer of the Constantinian Order of Saint George 
Sunday, December 28th, friends and members of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George gathered at Saint Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village, New York City to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the death of HRH Francesco II, the last King of the Two Sicilies. In solidarity with supporters and confrères across southern Italy and Rome, Mass was celebrated by Father John McGuire, who spoke glowingly of the late King and the Order.
The ceremony (the first of many more to come) ended with the Prayer of the Order and a brilliant rendition on the church organ of Inno al Re, the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies composed by Giovanni Paisiello. What a thrill it was for me to finally hear it performed live.
Afterward, participants were invited to join the Knights and Dames at a local watering hole for drinks and some lite fare. I met many friendly and interesting people, including several fellow travelers I knew previously through social media. It was a terrific opportunity to network and build camaraderie.

I want to thank Delegate John M. Viola, Mayor Pasquale Menna, Patrick O’Boyle and all the members of the Order for their hard work and generosity. They are a terrific group and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. Viva 'o Rre!
After Mass, the flag bearer led the congregation down the church aisle
The King's portrait is flanked by the Constantinian standard
and bandiera del Regno delle Due Sicilie
Celebrants pose by the altar
Inno al Re was played on this magnificent organ
A toast to the memory of the King, Viva 'o Rre!