Articles by: Alex Catti

  • Life & People

    MamApulia: Teaching Language, Culture, and Christopher Columbus

    It’s proven that the younger a child starts to learn a second language, the better he or she will actually learn that language. In modern society, technology is king, and it offers advantages to those studying world language. To help young students learn Italian is the organization MamApulia, and just in time for Columbus Day, MamApulia is launching a new "edugame" focused on the world-famous explorer Christopher Columbus. The game looks to teach both the Italian language and Italian culture to elementary-aged students.

    Educating Young Minds

    When teaching a foreign language, one of the most effective methodologies is to use the “target language” (the language to be learned) as the medium for instruction. A multimedia approach is also key in keeping students engaged, and it’s an easy way to obtain the latest content in the target language. MamApulia’s new “Columbus Game” does just that; it allows young students to learn in the Italian language about the Italian culture.

    The game begins with a brief introduction video in Italian about Christopher Columbus’s voyage. Following the video, the game consists of five short lessons and a brief quiz after each lesson. After all the lessons are completed, students are able to print their diplomas.

    The Brains Behind the Game

    The Columbus Game is part of a larger project called Italia in Gioco–The Beautiful Country Explained to Children. Italia in Gioco is a series of edugames aimed at teaching students from ages 5-7 about Italy’s vibrant culture. The games include lessons on Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and many more. Regarding the games, creator, curator, and art director Mirko M. Notarangelo believes that “through the use of new technologies, we can translate knowledge and skills in an eye-catching way for younger generations.”

    Notarangelo is also the president of the MamApulia Association, an organization that aspires to “represent the meeting point between different cultures by engaging in projects that aim to create and spread a culture inspired by the protection of human rights, promoting the values ​​of social solidarity, peace, multi-ethnic culture, hospitality and aggregation.” MamApulia additionally “aims to encourage the promotion and innovation of the Apulian local system, to represent the many excellences that abound in the region, not only tourism but also cultural, environmental, food, industrial and artisan, by promoting a better understanding of the success factors that characterize our region, ensuring the quality of its products and a high level of supply for the benefit of those who want to embark on a journey to know Apulia.”

    To play the game, click here. >>>

    To learn more about MamApulia, click here. >>>

  • Art & Culture

    Matera to Receive 400 Million as 2019 European Cultural Capital

    Every year, a different European city is chosen as the European Capital of Culture, and in 2019 Italy will be hosting the Capital of Culture. In 2014, following a competitive selection process, Matera, a city in the Basilicata region, was chosen as the 2019 host. This window of time affords Matera a chance to plan cultural events as well as to update the city’s infrastructure for increased tourism. In order to assist the city in preparing for the honor of Culture Capital, 400 million euro have been designated to assist upgrades and development across the city.

    A Unique City

    Matera has long been known for its “Sassi” cave dwellings, which have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has also been the shooting location of several films including Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. In order to ensure that Matera is ready not only to host its visitors but also to leave a lasting impression on them, a contract was signed among several entities including the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Culture, the City of Matera, the region of Basilicata, and Invitalia.

    The Significance of the Contract

    The Minister of the Agency for Territorial Cohesion, Claudio De Vincenti, spoke on the importance of this funding: “...these funds are completely covered [...] and will not create any debt [...] This is a historic, if not epic, day.” As De Vincenti stated, Matera and the region of Basilicata do not need to pay back any money as it is not loaned or borrowed. The mayor of Matera stated that this is a “not-to-be-missed development opportunity,” and the President of Basilicata, Marcello Pittella, says he sees this opportunity as a “responsibility,” both for the Region and for the south.

    Prospects for Development

    Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, stated that the contract “calls for different measures and projects as well as for decisions regarding environmental quality, life in the city, and transportation connections.” For example, the city is looking into creating a road connection with the A14 highway. The new contract may also allow for certain areas within the city to give special tax incentives for the development.

    The revitalization of this unique city in southern Italy could have a significant impact on more than just the city itself. Mayor De Ruggieri told ANSA that he believes “the government is starting to see, in Matera's designation as European Capital of Culture for 2019, a unique and strategic time to assert the dignity and credibility of Italy in the world.”

  • Life & People

    Italian Culture, Food, and Fun at Hofstra University

    The morning fog lifted, and the sun began to shine over Hofstra University’s 25h Annual “Italian Experience Festival.” On the top floor of the Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, the day began with a breakfast by the Association of the Italian American Educators (AIAE). After the breakfast, Italian culture was in full-swing in the heart of Hofstra's beautiful campus. The festivities were lead by Cav. Josephine Maietta, who is the President of AIAE, the host of WRHU 88.7's Sabato Italiano radio program, and also an Italian teacher.

    AIAE Breakfast 

    The AIAE breakfast was a chance for educators of Italian to come together in order to discuss the latest developments in the Italian and educational communities. A series of presentations was arranged for the guests including that of Dr. Salvatore Nicosia. Nicosia was chosen as this year's keynote speaker. He discussed the importance of teaching children to be politically active members of society, and he touched upon his own personal experiences as an Italian-American that lead him to where he is today and to the writing of his book Empowering Our Children To Be More Effective in the Political Process.

    Additionally, guests of the breakfast were treated to a video presented by Dr. Alessio Nesi from the Istituto Linguistico Mediterraneo (ILM). The video offered viewers a glimpse into the “Programma Ponte.” This program, organized by AIAE and ILM, brings young American students to Italy in order to immerse them in the language and culture.

    Traditional Italian Entertainment

    Following the breakfast, the outdoor festivities ensured. The National anthem was sung by Giovanni and Marco Vittozzi. Poet Laureate Roberto Savino recited his poem "No Distance Between Us"–"Nessuna Distanza Tra Noi." Next up, spectators were treated to traditional dress from Italy’s various regions. Members of the New York Grand Lodge Order Sons of Italy showed-off their traditional regional clothing onstage as they were introduced by Roberto Ferrito.

    Keeping with regional traditions, artistic director, founder, and lead performer of I Giullari di Piazza–Alessandra Belloni–wowed the audience with traditional southern Italian folk dances. The public was up and on their feet, dancing with the performers. The music didn’t end there though as Moreno Fruzzetti performed Italian music for the audience. Fruzzetti sang both well-known and lesser-known Italian selections. Fruzzetti was previously awarded the prestigious honor of “Ambassador of Italian Music to America.”

    Later in the afternoon, members of the Bronx Opera Company performed Italian vocal classics. Next, Tony De Nonno took children at the festival on a journey into the life and legacy of puppeteers Mike and Aida Manteo. The final performance of the day was then given by the Long Island Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra.

    Food and Fun

    In addition to the planned entertainment, plenty of vendors set up shop along the sidewalks of the campus green. Among the many items to be purchased were jewelry, gelato, t-shirts, and zeppole. Children could be seen at getting their faces painted and playing in the bounce house. 

    If this sounds like fun to you, a date has already been chosen for Hofstra’s 2018 Italian Festival, so be sure to be there on Sunday, September 16, 2018!

  • Art & Culture

    Stony Brook University Center for Italian Hosts Annual Concorso d'Eleganza

    The sun was shining and motors were revving on earlier this month at Stony Brook University. The Center for Italian Studies hosted its 12th annual Concorso d’Eleganza, an event that sees Italian automobiles of all years, makes, and models come together to show the beauty of Italian design.

    A Show of Italian Design

    This year’s car show saw approximately 80 Italian cars; this was the highest number of cars in the history of the show. The cars ranged from Fiats to Ferraris and everything in between. Owners chatted all about their Italian autos, discussing everything from where they purchased them to the work they put into them. A free breakfast was also provided for spectators and car owners alike.

    Attendees voted on their favorite cars present at the show. The top pick was a 1983 Lamborghini Countach, owned by Robert Daddino. The second pick was a 1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super owned by Gary Pezzella, and the third pick was a 1998 Ferrari 550 owned by Robert Della Salle. Car clubs represented at the show included the Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari clubs of Long Island.

    Promoting Italian Studies

    The event would not be possible without the organization of the University’s Center for Italian Studies. The Center was founded in 1985 by Dr. Mario B. Mignone with the goal to “provide cultural enrichment that reflected the cultural heritage of the Italian and Italian American community on Long Island.” Over the past 32 years, the center has acted as a bridge between the University and the community.

    The Center also prides itself on raising $1.5 million for an endowed chair. Dr. Mignone states, “with the presence of an endowed chair, it’s ensured that the Italian and the Italian-American experience will always be taught on our campus.” The center has also established a Visiting Fellows Program in order to bring international scholars to the University. An endowment established by Vito and Carolyn De Simone has allowed the Center to support a visiting lecturer every semester to teach a course on the “Italian American Experience Through Literature.”

    Additionally, the center organizes lectures and conferences on topics pertaining to Italy, Italians, and Italian Americans. Last year’s 3-day conference was on Italy as a Mediterranean Country. The center recently held conferences on Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Antonin Scalia and Italian judge Giovanni Falcone. These conferences attract prominent individuals such as the President of the Italian Senate, Pietro Grasso, and the Commissioner of the Chamber of Deputies, Stefano Dambruoso.

    To view more photos of the cars present that day, visit the Italian American Press's Photo Gallery, and for more information on Stony Brook University’s Center for Italian Studies and upcoming events, visit their official website.

  • Courtesy:
    Dining in & out

    Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape

    Italy is “in.” People go crazy for all things Italian, and wine is no exception. Italy’s wines are inextricably linked to the country’s history, gastronomy, landscape, and lifestyle. Although the Boot is a renowned wine producer, many people are not aware of the history and diversity behind the winemaking tradition. Here to help us better understand the world of Italian wine are two new resources: a book, Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape, and a podcast, the Italian Wine Podcast. Both projects began with individuals who are passionate about wine and who wanted to inform others about the evolution of Italy’s grapes.

    A Podcast Dedicated to Italian Wine

    If you enjoy storytelling, the Italian Wine Podcast is the podcast for you. Hosted by wine writer Monty Waldin, the program explores the tradition of winemaking with individuals in the industry. The goal of the podcast is to “inform, educate, and entertain about Italian wine through engaging conversations with producers, experts, and personalities of the Italian wine scene.” Waldin entered the world of wine as a teenager when he went to Bordeaux as a teenager to improve his French. He was surprised that there were not a lot of organic wines at that time, so he traveled to several different countries, including Italy, to find and work on organic and biodynamic vineyards.

    Why create a Podcast? Walden feels that it is an effective and enjoyable way to inform his audience. He stated, “The Italian Wine Podcast aims to make Italian wine fun and accessible to listeners of any age group or level of expertise, more a window into the lives and activities of those who are involved in Italian wine, and their tips on how to get the most out of the Italian wine–and food–experience in easy to digest bite-sized chunks.” Guests on Waldin’s show include, but are not limited to, wine producers, experts, writers, journalists. He recently hosted Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy and award-winning writer of Native Grape Varieties. The two spoke about the grape varietals Aglianico, Sangiovese, and Glera. Deborah Brenner, Founder and President of Women of the Vine and Spirits, also appeared on the program to speak about the achievements of women in the wine industry and the challenges they face. The program is now in its second series and releases two episodes per week. Be sure to check it out every Tuesday and Wednesday on SoundCloud, iTunes, or at

    An Italian Wine Study Guide

    If this sounds appealing to you, you’ll also want to pick up a copy of the new book Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape. Currently available as an ebook on Amazon, this unparalleled volume analyzes over 430 Italian native grape varieties. Best of all, you don’t have to be an expert to understand the information presented to you. The introductory chapters provide historical, cultural, geographical, and scientific information that will help you understand the various grapes and varieties. And there’s a lot to learn. Italy has 591 indigenous grape varieties, which is more than any country in the whole world! Don’t worry though–a series of flashcards, mind maps, photographs, and maps of Italian appellations will help you keep all of the information straight. The book has already received praise from personalities in the wine world. Adam Teeter, co-founder of Vine Pair states, “Italy is one of the most fascinating wine countries in the world, but many people, including top wine professionals, are still confused about the plethora of indigenous grapes that make Italian wine so special. Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape finally brings these grapes into the light in a way everyone can understand.”

    Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International, is the driving force behind Italian Wine Unplugged. Kim and Ian D’Agata have coordinated a team of authors and Italian wine educators to contribute to the book including Geralyn Brostrom, co-founder and education director at Italian Wine Central in Napa, California; Lingzi He, wine educator and journalist based in France and Hong Kong; and Michaela Morris, wine writer, educator, and presenter based in Vancouver, Canada. Some sections of the book were curated by Michele Longo, Italian wine writer, sommelier, and experienced wine-competition judge. The aforementioned mind maps are the contribution of JC Viens, Deputy Editor of Spirito di Vino Asia and WSET Educator. Finally, Monty Waldin from the Italian Wine Podcast wrote the preface.

    The ebook on Amazon is currently a pilot version of the book. After receiving feedback from the Italian wine community, a definitive version will be released in both electronic and paperback versions. According to Kim, the beta version of the book “aims to foster connections and intellectual exchange to improve its content.” For more information, visit the official website. >>>

  • Facts & Stories

    Columbus Circle Controversy

    Recently, State, City, and local governments across the United States have been debating whether or not to remove statues of prominent figures in American history. The case for removal stems from the fact that the individuals represented by these statues acted in immoral and divisive ways or perhaps even committed atrocities against certain populations. The case against removal states that although this may be true, history cannot be erased, and we must learn from the past.

    On Saturday, August 12, a protest took place in Charlottesville, Virginia as a response to local officials’ plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. A car plowed into protesters killing Heather D. Heyer of Charlottesville. Dozens of others were injured in the commotion that day. The events of Charlottesville have fuelled tension, putting pressure on politicians to take a stand on the monument issue one way or another. 

    Although most controversial monuments are in the south, there are some scheduled for review or removal up north as well, and New York is no exception. On Wednesday, August 16, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced via Twitter that New York City would be evaluating statues within the five boroughs. “After the violent events in Charlottesville, New York City will conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property,” de Blasio Tweeted. Hundreds of statues are scattered all across the city, including one of the controversial Christopher Columbus, which sits in the center of Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.

    However, it was not de Blasio who brought the Columbus Statue into question. The question arose when City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was advocating for the removal for another statue, that of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who conducted medical experiments on slaves. When asked about the Columbus statue, Viverito replied, “I would definitely encourage them to take a look at that one as well.” Many Americans view Christopher Columbus as a great explorer; others hold him responsible for the oppression and decline of America’s indigenous populations.

    Columbus, who was born in the Republic of Genoa, has become a symbol for the Italian-American community. Every year, Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12, the day Columbus arrived in the New World. As of recent, an increasing number of municipalities have been switching from celebrating Columbus to celebrating the Native American and indigenous peoples’ culture. The latest major city to make the switch is Los Angeles, California following the LA City Council’s vote on August 30. The President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, Angelo Vivolo, had this to say about the importance of Columbus: "[He] was an explorer, a renowned sailor, and later governor who certainly partook in actions over the course of his career that were deemed unjust. The Foundation believes that these actions and their long-term consequences deserve serious reflection and acknowledgement, but we cannot and will not deny the role this seafarer from Genoa had in the eventual shaping of the United States of America."

    This presents a difficult situation for de Blasio, who holds his Italian roots dear. “I’m an Italian American. I’m a very proud Italian American,” the Mayor remarked. Regarding the controversy surrounding the statue, he stated, “There are some things to be proud of [about Columbus], there are some things to not be proud of, but I understand [...] why so many people feel so deeply about it.” The Mayor intends to march in this year’s Columbus Day parade on 5th Avenue.

    Numerous critics are speaking out against the possible removal of the statue. One of whom is Joseph Guagliardo, chairman and CEO for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian-American Organizations. Guagliardo spoke on John Catsimatidis’s radio show on AM 970 called “The Cats Roundtable.” Regarding Viverito Guagliardo stated, “[She] suddenly just woke up one morning on the 21st, and decided that the statue of Christopher Columbus should come down also.” New York State governor Andrew Cuomo also commented on the possible statue removal. Governor Cuomo, who participated in the West Indian Parade on Monday, remarked, “The Christopher Columbus statue is really about honoring Italian Americans. I for one for obvious reasons happen to believe in the Italian-American heritage. I believe in the contribution Italian-Americans have made, just as I believe in celebrating the Caribbean and the Israel day parade.” Vivolo also offered his viewpoint on the removal of the statue: "As all nations do, we must continue to reevaluate our history as Americans, and whom we choose to honor. That being said, we will state for the record that we will not allow that reflection to come at the expense of a monument that has come to represent the many achievements that Italian Americans have accomplished."

    To further protect Columbus Day, The Order of Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) has created a petition calling on the White House to “rededicate the Presidency to both the holiday and to our community.” The group is also asking for the President to “host an official yearly signing ceremony in celebration of Columbus Day, the Italian American community and the importance of the immigrant experience in the making of our great nation." The petiton closes by reiterating what Columbus Day symbolizes: "Columbus Day represents not only the accomplishments and contributions of Italian Americans, but also the indelible spirit of risk, sacrifice and self- reliance of a great Italian icon that defines the United States of America.”

    Meanwhile, a group of scholars, authors, and artists of Italian and Italian American culture and history, circulated a petition articulating the opposite view. “Christopher Columbus,” the document states, “is not the hero who will help pay tribute to … the values of integration, compassion, and human solidarity, those noble parts of the Mediterranean matrix of our identity.” The petition goes on to call on all Italian American community leaders “to facilitate an open debate within  communities to explore new and more appropriate ways and figures through which to acknowledge the contributions of Italian Americans to this nation … [and] to stop opposing the replacement of Columbus Day by Indigenous Peoples Day anywhere in the United States."

    As for the fate of the statue in Manhattan's Columbus Circle, that remains to be seen. When speaking to the New York Post, de Blasio spokesperson Eric Phillips has said the city currently does not have plans for the its removal.

  • The Leopardi house
    Art & Culture

    Opening Silvia's House in the Leopardi Mansion

    Last year’s earthquakes devastated many towns in Central Italy, and Recanati in the Marche region was no exception. The town is famous for being the hometown of poet Giacomo Leopardi, and its newest attraction, "Silvia’s House," is now open to the public. Leopardi was a very influential 19th century poet and philosopher. He's considered Italy's greatest poet of the romantic age, and his writing is still popular today. His most well-known works include the Zibaldone, Operette Morali, and the Canti, which includes some of Leopardi's most significative poems such as L'infinito and A Silvia. A Silvia speaks about Leopardi's love interest Teresa Fattorini. Fattorini or "Silvia" was the daughter of the Leopardi family's coachman. "Silvia's House" was previously part of the Leopardi mansion’s stables, and it was eventually where Fattorini would come to live.

    Although the number of visitors to the town plummeted over the winter, the Leopardi family knew they needed to do something both symbolic and practical to help lift the town out of the difficult period. They decided to open Silvia’s House to the public. Vanni Leopardi, a descendent of Giacomo Leopardi, shared the reasoning behind the house’s opening: “Right after the earthquake, we promised that we would do something immediately to show that it’s important not to stop, but rather to go on.” The house was restored and furnished with period-appropriate furniture from Leopardi’s house. "Silvia’s House "opened to the public on July 16th, and for the first two months, admission will be free to all visitors. Visiting the house is a unique chance to see Giacomo Leopardi from Teresa Fattorini’s point of view, a departure from what is seen in Leopardi’s writing.

  • Bologna's Torre degli Asinelli

    Reopening Bologna's Torre degli Asinelli

    Bologna’s Torre degli Asinelli is the tallest leaning medieval tower in the world and the symbol of the city. The tower was constructed between 1109 and 1110; however, the reason for its construction remains unclear. A popular tourist attraction, the tower recently reopened following some upgrades to improve safety for its visitors.

    Torre degli Asinelli is 97.20 meters high (318.9 feet), and it takes 498 steps to climb to the top. No, there’s no elevator! Today, the tower leans 1.3 degrees off center. At the top, visitors are treated to spectacular views of the city of Bologna, which is one of the reasons it has gained popularity among visitors to the city.

    Restoration work included strengthening the staircase and railing as well as making the terrace more accessible to visitors and tourists. Work began on April 18th and concluded before the tower’s opening on July 14th. Visitors are able to visit the tower in 45 minute time slots, and a new online reservation system is now in place. If you would like to visit the tower, you must purchase your ticket through the website, as tickets are no longer being sold on site. Click here for the official website. >>>

  • Facts & Stories

    Gluten Sensitivity and Communion in the Catholic Church

    On Saturday, July 8th, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent a circular letter to bishops with the goal of reminding clergy of the acceptable standards for the Eucharist. Despite some initial reports, this letter does not create any new criteria for a standard communion host. Various media outlets got ahold of the document and began inciting worry among churchgoers. Headlines were popping up that Pope Francis doesn’t care about parishioners with Celiac Disease. However, these rumors turned out to be false.

    The Letter

    At the request of the Pope, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent a letter to bishops. The Catholic News Agency states that a reminder letter is usually issued “when someone, generally a bishop, has raised a question or has been alerted of a possible abuse of the norm.” Perhaps the motivation for this letter stemmed from the fact that there are now multiple sources for buying bread for the sacrament of communion, which wasn’t an option before. According to the letter, “Until recently it was certain religious communities who took care of baking the bread and making the wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. Today, however, these materials are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet. In order to remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist, this Dicastery suggests that Ordinaries should give guidance in this regard by, for example, guaranteeing the Eucharistic matter through special certification.”

    No mention of gluten so far. However, later on in the letter, the question of gluten arises: “Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread (A. 1-2).” Although parishioners may not have been familiar with this standard before the publication of the recent letter, this is not a new addition to Catholic Church’s standards.

    Why Gluten?

    The answer to this lies in history. Wheat bread and wine are what Christ originally used when he instituted the sacrament. Therefore, the bread needed to be made with a certain amount of gluten in order to be considered wheat bread. If any other substance was added in place of gluten, the “nature of bread” would then be altered, which would render it unfit for the sacrament. More on the wine later.

    What to Do in Case of Gluten Sensitivity

    There are a couple of options if you suffer from Celiac Disease or other gluten-related sensitivities. Father Joseph Faulker is a priest living with Celiac Disease. As a priest who celebrates multiple masses in one day, Fr. Faulker understands this issue very well. He states that a potential alternative could be to use low-gluten hosts, some of which are made by the the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. These wafers contain a gluten concentration of 20 parts per million, which is low enough to be approved by the Italian Celiac Association (AiC), an organization that places strict guidelines on acceptable foods for those with Gluten sensitivities. The AiC also states that individuals with Celiac Disease may consume a host with a gluten concentration of 100 parts per million without adverse health effects. The church’s official letter even states that a low-gluten host is acceptable: “The Ordinary is competent to give permission for an individual priest or layperson to use low-gluten hosts or mustum for the celebration of the Eucharist. Permission can be granted habitually, for as long as the situation continues which occasioned the granting of permission” (C. 1).”

    However, if an individual still feels skeptical about consuming a wafer, it’s also possible to receive communion solely through wine. Fr. Faulkner states, “the safest and most certain thing a person could do would be to ask to receive (the Precious Blood) from a chalice other than the chalice that the priest uses.” Fr. Faulker specifies the stipulation regarding the priest’s chalice because a small piece of the host is dropped in that chalice, and therefore, the wine is contaminated.

    No matter which way you choose to receive communion, be sure to communicate your needs to the pastor before the mass that way you ensure that your accommodations are met.

  • Facts & Stories

    Harlem's Giglio Feast: Raising a Five-Ton Tower

    Harlem is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in New York City; however, not many people think of Italians when they hear the neighborhood’s name. Harlem was once the largest Italian neighborhood in the entire nation. Despite today's diminished Italian population in Harlem, one of the city’s largest Italian festivals is actually still held annually there, and this festival is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Thanks to the East Harlem Giglio Society, it’s possible to watch men and women carry a massive tower, called a Giglio, on their backs in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua. The tower ranges anywhere between 75 to 85 feet in height and up to 5 tons! This year's event will be held on August 13 from 1pm-7pm at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine Church (456 East 116th Street, New York, NY 10029).

    Italian Roots

    As waves of immigrants left Italy at the turn of the 20th century, Harlem was one of the first places that Italians settled. A good number of these immigrants came from the town of Brusciano. They brought their traditions with them, and one of these traditions just happened to be the Dance of the Giglio, which honors Saint Anthony of Padua. The first festival occurred around 1908, and fairs continued being held until 1971. In 2000, the Dance of the Giglio returned as a Cooperative Feast with the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is on 115th Street between 1st Ave. and Pleasant Ave. In 2006, the feast was separated from the Dance of the Giglio, and the Dance is now held on the second Sunday of August.

    The Giglio

    The centerpiece of this dance is, of course, the Giglio tower. The word giglio in Italian translates to “lilly” in English. The towers were given this name because they are traditionally decorated with lilies. The structure is made from wood and the facade from papier-mâché. Giglios have their origins in Nola, Italy in the year 409 AD. Now, Giglios are danced in many cities around Naples, and, clearly, even here in New York. Each city or town has its own spin on the tradition. In Brusciano, the city whose Giglios inspired New York’s, six Giglios are made and danced in August in order to honor Saint Anthony. Above the Giglio’s base sits a multi-piece band along with singers. It takes 120 people to lift the whole structure and dance it through the streets.

    The Giglio Society of East Harlem

    In order to organize such a large event, a team of people is necessary. The Giglio Society of East Harlem grew as a result of that early 20th century Italian immigration, and today it is made of individuals who continue to honor Saint Anthony. The Society describes itself as “a diverse religious and cultural organization of Catholics of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine Church in East Harlem New York City. Under the auspices of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Conference, we are dedicated to honoring and encouraging devotion to our patron Saint Anthony of Padua by organizing and producing our annual Giglio and procession. In addition: our mission includes, in what was once the largest Italian neighborhood in the United States, preserving the Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and strengthening the older and current community. East Harlem is one of the most undeserved and poorest communities in New York City, by supporting, both morally and fiscally via the Catholic Church and our neighborhoods other non-profit institutions which seek to improve the lives of our neighbors and community members.”

    As with other Italian festivals, there will of course be street vendors and plenty of food. To find more information about the East Harlem Giglio Society and their events/outings, visit their official website. >>>