Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sorrento, Italy: learn while traveling

With great pleasure I shall be able to share a monthly feature from Sant'Anna Sorrento Lingue: Learn While Traveling

      I met the wonderful teachers and staff at Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue while on sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy.   They have stayed in touch with me over the years and always welcome my unannounced visits to the campus when I am Home to Italy.

     We will be posting wonderful photos of a magical place you will be sad to leave.   I asked many of the locals if they wanted to live anywhere else and the answer was always, perche? (why)  And I have to agree.  From the sea views, the nightly passaggiata in the center of town and the wonderful festivals I have not found another town to match Sorrento.    Be sure to sign up for new posts and welcome SASL to our stories on life in Italy.

"Paradise. Utopia.  These are words that you do not often use especially to explain a place you could choose to study.  But these are words that you will wisely choose to explain Sorrento and especially the study experience at Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue. 

The city of Sorrento is vibrant with the hustle of people, both the locals and tourists.  The smell of the oranges that grow on trees lining the streets mixes with the fresh salty air blowing off the Mediterranean.  It is truly a magical place.

The ability to study in such a place is, in itself, a gift.  When added in the experience that Sant’Anna contributes, it would seem daft to go anywhere else.  The professors, all native, are willing and enthusiastic to share their knowledge and to make all students practice the language, making the learning experience vibrant and captivating.
The staff at Sant’Anna make the time spent in the classroom well worth it, and then the excursions truly bring the experience together, letting you discover the surrounding area and the hidden treasures of the Peninsula."
written by a traveler who studied at Sant’Anna Institute in Summer 2014

On top of this are the locals. They are so open and excited to share their city and culture that it is difficult not to become fast friends and soon enough you will be introduced to things you didn’t know existed, such as a favorite swimming spot or the best place for a late night snack. Being such a small town, only in Sorrento you will be able to experience traditions and leave not as a tourist, because bigger locations like Salerno or Naples will not allow you to live the experience of a lifetime and become a Sorrentino!!

For example, only in Sorrento you can experience the harvesting of olives and grapes (in Sorrento they produce one of the best DOP olive oils of the country) and even Sant’Anna past students participated to the harvesting! The Grape Festival is organized in Sorrento every year at the beginning of October; but also, both in summer and in winter the Town Hall organizes “sagre contadine” , that would be festivals promoting the typical local products, to taste “zero kilometers” fruit and vegetables.

            Spending time in Sorrento will be the best decision that you could ever made.  As soon as you get back to your home town, you will notice that the sun is not as bright and the air not as sweet. You will be just looking forward to your next time in Sorrento.


Sorrento is a perfect destination for a language-study holiday, a vacation not as a tourist and for Italian Americans to experience the traditions of Southern Italy.    
Only Sorrento is capable of offering experiences close to Capri  and the Amalfi Coast.  less known to travelers, you can experience the harvesting of grapes and olives.   Few travelers know that Sorrento produces one of the best DOP olive oils in Italy.    And everyone knows about the famous 'lemons' in the area.  Come and enjoy the incredible foods and perhaps learn to prepare your favorite dishes.   
Contact SASL for opportunities to learn while traveling.
Explore being Italian! 
contact Olga Stinga at
Sant'Anna Institute
Italian courses:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Italian American In America

One Foot In America  One Foot in Italia

By Lee Laurino,

The viewpoint of an Italian American     

As an Italian American, do you feel that you have one foot in America and one foot in Italia?  

This is my Italian American dilemma…..  I have always thought of myself as Italian American, no less  an American but also an Italian.   

In New Jersey, where I grew up,  there was no Italian neighborhood  but we shopped at the Italian bakery, the Italian food store for cheese and meats that were part of every holiday or important Sunday dinner.     Stores were often identified by the owners last name:  Caputo’s or Fuggio’s.    Everyone knew where to find the  best pizza ‘pie’ and we all went to the same neighborhood church and even used a designated florist or funeral home.   This was just part of our daily life and we did not talk about being Italian.


In the USA I am rarely asked if I am of Italian heritage.  But while in Italy I am often asked if I have Italian “relatives”.       The concept of being Italian American is strange for most Italians I meet.   Once I establish where my grandfather was born,  there is a certain level of ‘acceptance’  but after years of returning Home to Italy I do not believe  Italians think I belong in Italy.   The few I have asked, do not understand an  interest to obtain dual citizenship and live part time in Italy.   Perhaps they prefer to keep their Italian heritage only for Italian born.


Tracing my Italian Roots:

On each visit I come closer to my Italian roots.     After several years of research  I was finally able to visit the village my grandfather emigrated from when he was 7 years old.     Driving up the narrow road to the top of the small mountain where Petina is located, I tried to think how difficult the ride to the port of Napoli was for this family.  The cart that took them and their limited possessions to a country they had never visited, could not speak the language and may have had only a few relatives or friends.  The steep road must have been packed dirt, the horse or mule pulling the wagon must have taken more than a day to make the hour(by car) drive to Napoli.    Even today the 
Bus only goes to the village once a day and does not always return the same day


Petina, Italy

My visit to this rural town was the reverse of my great grandfathers.  I had taken a ship to Italy and although I did not use a wagon, I approached the small village with some wonder.    The elderly village women were waiting on a bench when we arrived.  But not waiting for the daily bus.  They waited for the weekly visit from the fish monger.   Today he arrives in a refrigerated van.     The village was silent in the middle of the day.   Fortunately we arrived before the closing hour for the city hall.  Once I had requested the documents I needed to apply for Italian dual citizenship, the clerk was absent for a very long time.  Finally she returned with a large, old book.

 There were some 1980 desk top computers in the office, but the birth records are ALL kept in hand written ledgers.   They were beautiful.   You could trace the birth of everyone in the town and the house they were born in.   I began to feel more connected.    Unfortunately the village priest was out of town that day or we would have also found the baptismal record for Edwardo.    The kind clerk suggested we visit the next town to search for any relatives.   The next town was over the mountains through endless fields of chestnut trees.   After just mentioning a name the town hall clerk made a phone call and a short time later my second or third cousin arrived!     A lovely surprise.    Tracing your roots on a trip home to Italy is truly a moving experience.    Over the years I have found some wonderful locals who will help Italian Americans in the process.   

Life in an Italian Town

While on a sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy a few years ago I daily observed lifestyle trends that were Italian.   At the Tuesday market local housewives shopped with a vendor their mother may have used.  There was the daily passegiata where the entire town came out EVERY night and greeted neighbors, family and friends.   The main street was closed to turn an 8 block area into an ‘Italian living room’    It was explained to me by an Italian living in the USA that most apartments are very small and the entire family might live together.   So Italians spend time socializing in the piazza or main street of a town as well as over a meal in a cafĂ© or restaurant.      In the USA it would not have been unusual  to be invited to ‘stop by the house’ even by a casual acquaintance.  During one visit I was invited to lunch at a colleagues home.  It meant a great deal to me to be included with the family for a meal.

Death notices you will find in each town
Living in Italy vs spending a vacation in Italy allows time to try to understand  daily life in Italy.   I watched many weddings from the countless church fronts, saw fresh manifesto (death notices) posted on walls or announcement billboards, watched the entire town close shop doors during a funeral procession, Sundays spent visiting the immaculately tended graves of relatives, daily wash hung on balconies on every apartment building, visiting multiple stores daily to buy bread, vegetables or a housewares,  receiving a greeting from complete strangers on the streets.  All of this were charming events.   If I had to conduct business I may have had a different attitude:  the crowds for the post office and bank………no concept of a line, slow is the only speed on the street the opposite on a motorini, the men’s clubs that no women ever entered, the TV shows that even without a full understanding of Italian, were totally senseless, the  lack of a dishwasher or having all the lights go out if you plugged in too many appliances.        But I loved every minute of it and look forward to going Home to Italy.









Tuesday, September 9, 2014

American Expat Teaches Cooking from life in Umbria

              Today I add a new contributor, expat  
 Anne Robichaud

I hope to make Anne's posts a feature in our blog.   Anne gives us the perspective from Italy on daily life, cooking, food and my favorite the neighbors and friends she treasures. 

 Anne Robichaud - An Umbrian tour guide in Italy most of the year, Anne also teaches Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes in the U.S. in February and March lectures.
 Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970's and rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for Anne. She writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. S
ee for more on her tours, cooking classes, lectures – and her blog! Do see for news on the Assisi apartment she and Pino now rent out!

Pila, Umbria (see map) - According to some scholars, the late Etruscan life-sized bronze sculptural masterpiece, “the Orator” (now in the Museo Nazionale Arcaelogico di Firenze) was found near Tuoro on Lake Trasimeno. But the townspeople of Pila (near Perugia) know better: as you enter the Parco dell’Arringatore, a sign next to the wrought iron gate affirms that the Arringatore was found in 1566 by a farmer, Costanzo, while plowing the Mansuetti villa vineyards outside Pila. The Etruscan presence is confirmed in the village name, “Pila” from pilae, the Latin word for stone mounds, i.e., the shape of Etruscan burial sites. The Parco encompasses the lands and gardens surrounding Villa Umbra built on the ruins of a 14th-c castle and shaded by the towering Mediterranean pines, popularly called “umbrella pines.”


What a site for one of Umbria’s most delightful sagre, Picantissima, Festival del Peperoncino. While the other area sagre fete local Umbrian specialties, Pila’s festival showcases not only favorite Umbrian dishes but also those of southern Italian regions where peperoncino reigns, each region starring for two nights of the festival. Sicilian spicy dishes lead off for the first two nights, followed by Calabria, then Puglia with Basilicata next and Campania wrapping up.

We caught one of the two Campania nights with Pino opting for a mild dish – the famous mozzarella di buffala campana – while I chose fusilli tricolori di Amalfi all’ortolana con limone e pepperoncino. A buonissimo medley of summer vegetables, Amalfi coast lemons and peperoncino made this pasta dish a festival favorite.

At an adjacent table, a more “conservative” (culinarily speaking) Perugia couple opted for a local dish, stinco di maiale con patate (pork shank with roasted potatoes). Animated groups of families and chatting young couples filled the tables around us and a magician wandered about entertaining open-mouthed children (and their mystified parents).
As at any sagra, ballroom dancing draws diners towards the music of a live band after dinner. At this sagra, exhibitions from local dance schools preceded the dancing: first belly-dancers and then a hip-hop group. The local dancing teacher closed her students’ performances with a dance pertinent to the Picantissimo Festival: she writhed and leaped her way across the dance floor to the music of a pugliese folk dance, la pizzica (“the bite”) - a dance of the “tarantella” group – rooted in the therapeutic rituals for the cure of bites of scorpions or tarantulas.
And speaking of bites: at Pila, savor the bite of peperoncino in countless tasty dishes. Picantissimo!
- Image of the Orator kindly provided by Cornelia Graco, (Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0). Many thanks!
More great photos to today's note on the website!


See for more on her tours, cooking classes, lectures – and her blog! Do see for news on the Assisi apartment she and Pino now rent out!