Tuesday, November 21, 2023


The Journey Home Making a New Life in the Old Country

'You might say it is odd, to go off by yourself on the most family-oriented holiday of the year, and Angela Paolantonio, a Los Angeles photographers’ representative with a shock of black curls and a tendency to worry about other people’s feelings first and her own later, would agree.'

So begins the story, you might say a perfect nut graf, by a veteran journalist in the New York Times sixteen years ago -- published on Thursday, November 22, 2007. Thanksgiving DayNovember 22, 2007 was the 44th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Though I must admit I hadn't realized it at the time. 

This year, November 22 marks the 60th anniversary of that fateful day and we Americans, and the world still commemorate it as a national day of rememberance and mystery. 

Even Franco, zio Franco, fondly remembered by the reporter and featured in the same Thanksgiving Day article, understood the power of collective memory as he posed the not so unique question it seemed to me some years earlier late one November, as we sat in his darkend living room the very first day we met and that I recount in the first chapters of THE GHOSTS OF ITALY -- Tutto accade a novembre?

'Then Franco leaned in with an unexpected question. "Do you think the Mafia assassinated Kennedy?"

It caught me by surprise, yet I recognized his concern. Of being lumped in with the doings of nefarious members of his, our Southern Italian heritage. I was only four at the time but I remember everything that black day. The sorrow of others. Watching the funeral. The sober glow of my Aunt Rose's black-and-white television set in her darkened living room in East New York. .... Venerated, romanticized, the Mafia. Someone always wanted to know if you were in. I never understood why. My family, my childhood, was far from this kind of occlusion. We were a product of President Kennedy's Camelot. My Italian-American aunts and uncles had served in two wars, were blue collar earners with American hopes and dreams. The Mafia? We children never thought of it, or were shielded from it. And then, a scant three months after the assassination, the Beatles arrived, and with the release of "Please Please Me" everything changed. But Franco was waiting. 

I pulled out of my private reverie and shook my head no. "I don't think they" (we Italians) "had anything to do with it." 

He turned to light another cigarette and that concluded our discussion.' 

Sixty years after JFK's death (sixteen after zio Franco's) the Beatles are back in the charts and Italian news headlines read, 

Allora, tutto ancora accade a novembre. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Two-Room Stone House Designs

NEW L'Italiana Artigiana project has arrived!

Let's link to a throwback blogpost from September 2014 when, as an eager novice to Calitri's daily ways and byways, I started a collection of antique wine demijons then stored them for years in my grotto cantina... Yep, Grotto Cantina 👈link

Those hand-blown vintage wine demijohns once filled with Aglianico are now paired with hand-stenciled linen lampshades by Netherlands textile artist Pauline Greuell.

Hand selected, these are the first pairings and are in LIMITED EDITION.

I brainstormed these for years! So excited they are now realized, and with the beautiful contribution of another artist.

Designed as floor or table lamps, the vintage green glass varies in size shade and color with additional lampshade designs to come in later editions.

This is how we have fun in small town Alta IrpiniaWhich is your favorite?

L'Italiana Artigiana©

Thursday, December 01, 2022

"Not to a garden, but a cave. A girl cave."

“We go deeper in winter. Not to a garden, but a cave.”

The power of this place eluded me for a long while. Several levels below street level, dug deep into a natural hollow of volcanic tufa, with a wide side alcove tall enough to stand in, it is supported by two successive stone arches, one lower and older than the other, with square niches built in to hold transverse wood beams, three large cubby holes cut into the stone lined with mummu’l and brick and a well-packed earthen floor.


I didn’t know when I bought the house over the phone what or where the cave was, believing it some dark dank spider-web burrow to hold firewood rather than one of the best-preserved stone grottoes in this part of the village. It is the basement-level structural support of the centuries-old palazzo above it on via Concezione, the old pollaria, or poultry store. The quad-vaulted entrance is tucked up and out of view in a private vicolo void of inhabitants for years, but for my neighbor Antonietta. On the cantina’s stone facade, the blue-and-white porcelain Mussolini-mandated numero civico is still there: 14 vicolo Fontana. 



With its cantina engineering, the arch of the entrance faces due east and is positioned high enough to allow four to five hours of rising sun a day. It is also directly in line with the circle olive grove in the San Benedetto Valley, as the crow flies, over the rooftops of via Fontana, where the princess tomb lay.

Shape-shifting boundary dwellers, swirling myth cycles; a veiled energy encircled me the moment I stepped in. The cantina was filled with decades of junk left by zia Concetta and her family. Her husband, once a skilled bricklayer and stonemason left a hoard of rotting wood and long-outdated materials stashed in the cantina’s alcove, in what was once the family donkey stall. Atop the soppalco, the mezzanine level that doubled as a sleeping loft, were layers of dust and dung-covered rotting planks of chestnut wood, walnut, and oak, some over an inch thick, a pair of ancient rush chairs, and, deep in the back wall under the natural tufa formations, a mangiatoia, or animal feeding trough, covered with years of fallen tufa sand and other debris.

I never went near it.

Excerpt From:

STILL LIFE LIFE WITH SAINTS, Italian Adventures of Magical Spirit

Monday, August 22, 2022


GHOSTS & SAINTS  Website has a new graphic look!

• Click on the image to discover • 

book and website designer • Doug da Silva


Coming soon • Cibo & Vino (2024)