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What's happening in Italy? (fwd (fwd)

Poster: "W. John Schiffermuller" <afn28851@afn.org>

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     "W. John Schiffermuller" <afn28851@afn.org>

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Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 20:46:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: "W. John Schiffermuller" <afn28851@afn.org>
To: afn28851@afn.org
Subject: What's happening in Italy? (fwd

LearnerTours, a non-profit education organization specializing in academic
tours abroad for college credit, has just completed its first SCA-oriented
program, "Crusade d'Italia: Castles to Crafts." Perhaps you have seen our
ads in your Kingdom publication, perhaps they did not reach you in time.

The program was designed to visit the great medieval castles and renaissance
palaces of Italy and, along the way, go to places where the medieval arts
and crafts are still practiced today. There the group members would have
demonstration classes in armor-making, sword-forging, paper-making, weaving,
herbalism, pottery and ceramics, illuminated manuscripts, medieval cookings,
costume design, and more. The program was designed and budgeted for a
maximum of 30 SCA members.

There were 12 SCA members in the group, which left April 26th and returned
May 10th.. Because it was so small and the program was budgeted for 30
people at the suggestion of local SCA members, they were given the choice of
either cancellation with a 100% refund, or paying a $250 Small group
Surcharge. They all chose the surcharge and no one dropped out.

Throughout the trip, our Italian Director, Dr. Renato Barbacane, kept
us up to date with emails on the group's actvities every few days. I would
like you to know how things went, so that I might impose upon you to help us
in any way you can to fill future SCA tours. Here's the comments (the
"Daniele" referred to was our staff member who traveled and lived with them
24 hours a day to help facilitate the whole thing):

April 29:
"The group is in Rome still. They toured the Castel D'San Angelo and stayed
over 3 hours on what was supposed to be a two hour visit. Then they saw some
Renaissance cathedrals. Daniele (He is the Courier with them 24 hours a day)
says they asked why they were not seeing ancient Rome, and he told them the
program had ordered medieval and Renaissance Rome. At their request, he put
in a full tour of ancient Rome, and paid the guide for it out of the
emergency fund. They loved it. Who said these people would not be interested
in ancient Rome?"

April 30:
"I just called Daniele to get an update (EVERYBODY in Italy carries a cell
phone, even shcool kids!). It's 4:00 p.m. and they are still in Orvieto!
Nobody wants to leave!!!! (They arrived at 10:00 for a two hour visit.) They
all fell in love with the town. Daniele had them buy an all-inclusive ticket
which included entrance to the museum, a guide, visiting three churches,
Orvieto underground, St. Patrick's well, the Etruscan City of the dead, etc.
They had lunch at a medieval inn. So everyone is ecstatic! They are praising
Danny for the excellent job he's doing! Daniele tells me that the drive from
Rome to Orvieto had everyone's noses stuck to the windows of the bus
admiring the little medieval mountain villages on the way. I think they are
about to leave fro Florence now and should arrive in afew hours. Dinner is
at 8:00 tonight so they don't care about going into Florence."

May 3:
"Oh, I heard from Daniele this morning. Things are going great. The group
decided not to all of the Lands of the Renaissance, just Vinci and the
Leonardo Museum. They wanted to come back to Florence and shop. That is just
what Daniele ordered the driver and guide to do, and the group was so
thankful. I'm getting the impression we are including too many sightseeing
things. These people want to have time to shop, and they're happy!! We are
having heavy rain so I will not drive to San Marino to meet them, but will
wait till they are in my home town of Penne."

May 5:
"The latest news about the SCA is that they had a ball in Gubbio yesterday.
Daniele tells me they saw many local artisan shops, some demonstrating
weapons and armor, other shops specializing in ceramic manufacture. They all
bought wine and cheese at the wine tasting and in local grocery stores and
had a picnic around the city. The day before, afetr San Marino, they headed
to Fabriano, but they had spent so much extra time in San Marino beyond what
was scheduled that the paper museum had closed at 5:30 when they got there.
They were not disappointed, though - I was!
"today they were in Civitella del Tronto. On the way, Daniele showed the
video cassette of Civitella on the bus. They were met by Mr. Martelli, who
did a splendid job of guiding them through Civitella (he's the mayor). They
voted not to go to Ascoli Piceno (that's where a major festival takes place
on the August tour), fearing they would not have neough time in Castelli for
the ceramics class. I told Daniele to take them to the ceramics museum, too,
in place of the paper museum. They should be there now. After that, they
will reach Penne and, as soon as I leave the university office, I will join
them for dinner this evening.
"Oh, the people involved in the Mastrogiurato Feast will be displaying
themselves in full costume in Chieti on Saturday morning and they asked the
SCA group to join them in the medieval parade there, wearing their own
costumes. I think the group will be delighted. The guide of Lanciano (next
stop) has talked to the organizer of the Mastrogiurato Feast and he has set
an appointment Friday afternoon to show the group the 400 costumes used in
the feast."

Late at night on May 5:
"I met the SCA last night inPenne. What a bunch of nuts! They were laughing
all the way. They told me that Gubbio was the most incredible town they have
ever been in. It is an absolute inclusion for any SCA tour. They found a
linen shop that makes linen on the loom. Well, they bought out that shop,
which had been closed for the day but Daniele had the owner re-open it for
the group. After selling so much fabrics, the lady owner kissed Daniele for
having brought them in.
"They did not talk too highly of San Gimignano. Strange! They said it was
too touristy for them. Siena was much appreciated because Daniele took them
to avery famous library, next to St. Catherine's church, The Piccolomini
Library, which houses the most amazing illuminated manuscripts and frescoes.
They all took pictures and drew the figures on the frescoes for their
costume ideas.
"They really enjoyed Civitella and Mr. Martelli. They said he was such a
gentleman. Castelli was great, but I think I made a mistake with the
ceramics factory - it was mostly modern technology, not what I asked for.
They really enjoyed the museum of ceramics there; glad I added it in. The
drive through the mountains excited them; they wer above the cloud line,
looking down on the clouds in the valleys.
"The hotel in Penne was a dream for them. They couldn't believe how
beautiful it was. The dinner last night was composed of 2 first dishes: home
made pasta with beans, and home made spaghetti (just like you and I had at
the du Parc in eraly April). The second dishes (2 of them) were pork chop, a
sausage, and a veal steak with baked potatos (that's one) and the 2nd dish
was roast lamb, followed by an incredible salad and fruit of the season, all
sprinkled with about 2 gallons of great Montepulciano wine, mineral water,
coffee, and grappa. This was all included at no extra charge. I am really
amazed at the hospitality the Hotel Vestini and the Du Parc have
demonstrated. They are truly wonderful.
"The group was stunned at Castlefusano in Rome! They expected a
"countryclub" the way an American would imagine it to be, very exclusive!
Boy, were they surprised. They did not like the idea of being housed next to
65 American 14 year olds on a middle school trip who were making noise all
the time, but that's the breaks of hotels. The food was also ordinary. But
since the other hotels kept getting better and better, it seems they thought
it was a ploy on our part set up by us to continually surprise and please
them. I thought it funny that one lasy actually asked me if it was. So they
did not mind it in the long run."

May 6:
"Just got the update on Penne for today. They saw the monestary this mroning
with Brother Bernardino. He took them on a tour of the places that no one in
Penne had ever seen before. He showed them some of the oldest printed
volumes in Italy. They date back to 1450. The participants were so moved by
his hospitality, two of the women started to cry!! One of the women thanked
him so much for the privilege of seeing those priceless pieces of art, Fra
Bernardino ansered, "No, it's me that thanks you for visiting. I have been
collecting books all my life, and it is my privilege to show them to you."
After, he took them below the monastery to see rooms that monks used
centuries ago. They went on to see the museum in the Duomo of Penne, and
again wereleft in awe. They admired the illuminated manuscripts and the
religious dress. In the afternoon, they were greeted by Professor
Evangelista, the gold artisan, who demonstarted lost way sliversmithing an
dgoldsmithing. They coined old Vesitni money themselves, and Prof.
Evangelista gave one to the participants. (I assume they each got one, not
one for the group.) Seemed to be a very positive day for them. And it is
getting better and better! Tomorrow should be the start of the highlights of
this tour. Daniele has planned a picnic on top of the mounatins near
Calascio, the ruined castle, which they will tour, where "Conan the
Barbarian" was filmed among other movies, and the highest fortification ion
Italy. He has called ahead to get a Jeep for one woman who can't walk up
there. I will keep you informed as events occur."

May 9:
"Well, last night must have been one of the most interesting and emotionally
moving experiences I have ever witnessed. I'm talking about the medieval
dinner. It couldn't have been better. Let me start by telling you that
yesterday's experience in Lanciano was delightful for the SCA members. They
were met at the Abbey of San Giovanni in Veneri by the local historian, Mr
Attilio Piccirilli, and my good friend, Tom Giordano. They took the group
through the Abbey and then into Lanciano for a marvelous tour which ended in
the Mastrogiurato clubhouse, where they saw more than 400 costumes, much to
the surprise of the the SCA members. The costumes were spectacular, all of
them costing hudreds of dollars, a few costing more than a thousand, and
every one of them meticulously researched and pain-stakingly authentic.
Actually, three of the SCA members did not bring their costumes for the
medival dinner. But guess what?? They were given the privilege to wear three
of the costumes, that were exhibited, for the evening dinner!! Of course the
members would not have been happy if Daniele was not dressed for the
occasion, so Daniele got a costume representing a "Console," a council
member from the 15th century! He was grand!! The dinner was set at 9:00 p.m.
I arrived with Bruno and the owner of the Hotel Du Parc, where you stayed in
early April (I had invited him to share the dinner with us as my guest
because of the tremendous hospitality he showed the Symposium group in early
April). Besides us, Mr. Piccirilli invited the Mayor of the city of
Lanciano, Mr. Giacomo de Crecchio (remember him - the Baron?) and his wife.
Altogether, we were 21 at table, everyone in their period dress.
Mr. Ucci, who had been preparing the elaborate meal, made his entrance and
greeted everyone. The table was set so beautifully, prepared with a
floral/fruit arrangement in the center, and many bottles of Pinot and
Cerascuolo wine. Ucci announced that he had prepared a special medieval menu
in honor of the "visiting delegation from the esteemed world-wide
organization of medieval and Renaissance scholars, the SCA."
[Do you think we laid it on a little thick about who the SCA was? Nah!!]
He explained each different dish as it was served, with a bit of history to
describe the period of medieval history from which these recipes were taken.
The menu had a title - At Table With History! - and a written explanation of
the seven (7) courses that were to be served; each members got to keep their
menu as a souvenir.
We started with fresh fruit glazed with cooked "must" (the first squeezing
of grapes before it ebcomes wine), sprinkled with powdered sugar, and
accompanied by sweet wine. The was used to "open the stomach" before the
main meal. The second serving was an herbal soup made from 4-5 different
herbs (nettle, and other wild herbs that I can't remember). It was made of
two different consumes (pork stock and beef stock) and honey was added at
the end of the cooking. John, it was just superb!!!
After the soup, we were served fermented lasagna (wide strips of paste left
fermenting, then boiled ofr just a few minutes, strained, then passed in a
pot with boiling milk to finish the cooking). Once finished, the pasta was
embellished with fresh Ricoota cheese and saffron to give it a golden color.
It had to be one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.
After that, Mr. Ucci started to serve the meat dishes. "Haricot di Castrato"
was served, which is sheep meat cooked in its own broth for 4 hours with the
addition of many different aromatic herbs: rosemary, thyme, juniper, etc.,
with a side dish of fresh wild salad. It wasn't over yet! The next dish to
appear was a rabit dish called "Civeri di Coniglio", Rabbit pieces with
about 10 different herbs and cooked in "must" wine, which gave the sauce a
deep brown color. The last meat dish - oh, yes, one more! - was "La Limonaia
di Pollo" - lemon chicken. Pieces of de-fatted chicken cooked in herbs and
lemons and oranges in a terracotta baking pan.
To top it off, the last dish was the dessert. It was composed of an almond
sweet, raisin bread, and something like a waffle with sweet apple preserve
on it, all served with a warm sweet cinnamon wine to end the meal.
John, I don't need to explain the temperament of the people from the SCA
last night. Between each serving, toasts were made by every component of the
group. Poetry was read out loud. Praises were being voiced by everyone. They
were in heaven, one woman said. To top it off, Mr Attilio Piccirilli, who is
a well-known writer of this area, also had his chance at giving a toast. He
had prepared an original poem just for this group, that he read out loud and
made a written translation of it in English for everyone. I will copy it for
you. You know in Italian the word "Vera" means "truth" but is also a woman's
name, as in English.
The title is "Vera - True." It is a praise to the perfect woman, a true
Vera - True
In her eyes,
    In her voice,
         In her smile!
Vera - True
As a spring dawn,
    As the waters of a warbling brook,
         As the voice of a newborn child,
              As a book that reads in a wink,
                   As a flower that blooms in the sun.
Vera - True
In her gait,
    In her gestures,
         In her greetings!
True as the wind,
    As the sunshine.
True in her heart,
    in her thoughts,
         in her feelings.
True on the outside,
    true on the inside,
         the mirror of her soul."

May 11:
"Well, Saturday at about 5:30 p.m., I got a call from Daniele saying
"Mission Accomplished." The SCA group had just gone through check-in and
Daniele was returning home. He said it was very difficult saying good-bye.
The last night, in Lanciano after the great dinner, many of the
participants went to Daniele's romm, sat on the balcony, and sipped Sambucca
until 2:30 a.m. The next morning, instead of leaving for Rome, they decided
to go to Lanciano to a material shop he had showed them in the town center,
where they sold embroidered strips to decorate costumes. They they proceeded
to Celano for a visit to the castle of Piccolomini, and finally to Rome and
the airport. Daniele told me that Ken Meese, the SCA group leader, asked him
to thank me very much for the organization, so I believe it was a nice
experience for him and the whole group. Actually, everyone in the group
seemed to be really nice. Mr. and Mrs. Ross had left their passports in
Senigallia the day before getting to Penne. Daniele called the hotel and had
them send them to the Hotel Vestini in Penne, but they did not manage to
arrive while the group was still there, so I drove to Penne the day after
the group left, when the passports finally arrived, and I took them with me
to the dinner in Lanciano. Boy, were the Rosses ever thankful and so nice.
So the first great experiment is over and the group has left for the USA.
Now it remains to be seen if we did as well as I think we did with the
itinerary and activities the two of us designed, John. I am distressed that,
so far, the August tour only has one enrollment, because I truly think that
tour is the better of the two."

So, my friends, don't you wish you were with them. And Barbacane tells me he
is sorry they are so happy with this - and won't see the August tour, which
he thinks is going to be even better. Antyhing you can do in your area to
help us fill the August tour will be greatly appreciated; I do not want to
charge extra again if there's any way to avoid it.

Buona sera. - John

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