In My Kitchen, April 2019


, , , , , ,

The last few weeks, my kitchen table has been a multipurpose space, doubling as a greenhouse and an art studio.  For the 4th year in a row, I am participating in the ‘Leftovers’ printmaking exchange.  The idea is to use leftover paper and other materials to make an edition of small prints.  I need to send 15 hand pulled prints via Wingtip Press to the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force in Boise.  1 print will be reserved for silent auction to support hunger relief and 2 will be part of travelling exhibitions. Last year, my print went on a Grand Tour to China, Wales, Whangarei New Zealand, Reno Nevada and Boise!  The remaining 12 prints are exchanged with other participating printmakers. In a few months, I will receive my ‘leftovers’ package in the mail with 12 prints  from around the world!

I have a beautiful old aluminum scolapasta (colander) in my kitchen that just oozes character.  I worked on my sketches and carved the linoleum here, but will do the printmaking in my little studio space.  I have to post the prints by April 10th! Papà has pomodoro seedlings growing on my back porch.  They are covered in plastic as it has been sunny, but cold.  I was given more seeds by a friend, so 2 weeks ago, right after la luna piena –the full moon, I started growing them at the end of the kitchen table by the big window.  Piselli and pepperoncini are growing nicely too!I made ravioli with funghi-mushroom filling but I could not seem to decide what size or shape to make my ravioli/agnolotti/mezzalune!  Despite the lack of symmetry, they tasted good, although I prefer my usual ricotta filling.

Some time this month, I plan to invite my coworkers over for pizza, but 2 of them have Celiac, so I need to make gluten free dough.  Mannaggia!  My experience with gluten free dough is that it tastes like crap, with the consistency of styrofoam.  Potato, rice and corn flour all result in a dense blob of yuck, yuck and yuck!  Bleh!  My local family run generi alimentari Renzullo’s finally started selling Caputo Fioreglut.  This is a gluten free flour from Italia that I read about on both Paola‘s and Silvia‘s blogs.  They are both in Australia and raved about it, but it was not available here.

I bought a bag for $12.00 (!) and decided to try focaccia first.  That way, if it came out as a sticky, unpalatable blob of yuck at least I did not waste ingredients on it.  Fioreglut has some rice and corn flour, but the main ingredient is farina di grano saraceno-buckwheat flour!  I followed the recipe on the bag, since it was almost the same as my usual recipe.  Making gluten free dough is the opposite of making regular bread dough.  Usually you want to knead the dough as much as you can to make it light and airy.  Gluten free dough must be handled as little as possible to keep it together.  My white blob of dough looked questionable, but it did rise.  I dimpled it with my fingers and added rosemary, salt and parmigiano, made the sign of the cross and put it in the oven. I could not believe the results-it was actually delicious!  Just look at the photo!  Before inviting my friends over, I will try focaccia Pugliese, then pizza.

This ‘In my kitchen’ post is linked to the worldwide monthly get together of food bloggers hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings.  Click to read the other participating posts.  Buon appetito, Cristina

Spring Reading 2019


, , , , , , ,

My pile of books ‘to read’ has been growing for awhile.  Since I started writing this blog, I seem to have less time to read books.  I still read a lot, just not as many ‘real’ books. Lately I have had time to catch up on reading, so the pile is decreasing. Here are the Goodreads reviews for my latest reads:

The Caviar LadyThe Caviar Lady by Michele Marziani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Caviar Lady is an English translation of the Italian book ‘La Signora del Caviale’. The book takes place in a quiet fishing village on the Po, near Ferrara where prized caviar is harvested from the sturgeon. It is a simply written story told through the eyes of an innocent, Nellino, who is 12 years old at the start of the book. With the outbreak of WWII, things change in the village, including the disappearance of the caviar lady. The war becomes part of everyday life and the growing disillusionment of the once optimistic young Nellino.
This tragic story of family, friendship, disillusionment, disappearance and survival amid the horrors of war is a simply written one, yet the important details seem to lie in what is unwritten. The once thriving sturgeon fishing/caviar industry on the Po is a part of Italian cultural history I did not know about. Another victim of the war. I would definitely recommend The Caviar Lady, in fact, I plan to read it in Italian next.

Finding Rosa: A Mother with Alzheimer’s, a Daughter in Search of the PastFinding Rosa: A Mother with Alzheimer’s, a Daughter in Search of the Past by Caterina Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding Rosa is part memoir, part history lesson, part detective work, about the author’s years of caring for her mother with deteriorating Alzheimer’s, while trying to piece together the history of her mother’s life. Complicating things, Rosa’s homeland no longer exists. Istria is now mostly Croatian, but also belonged to Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia all in rapid succession.
The Istriani are described as the ‘forgotten Italians’, and the author learns of atrocities and ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees, and unknown numbers missing or murdered by being buried alive in ‘le foibe’ (deep sinkholes). She makes several trips to Trieste and her mother’s homeland to visit relatives and interview ‘i rimasti’ (the remaining ones) and finds public records have been destroyed to hide the evidence of missing persons.
Since I know a few Istriani, I knew about some of the things that happened in Istria’s history, but I did not know the extent of the horrors or the fact that displacement happened not once, but 3 times in the 20th Century.
Brutally honest, Finding Rosa pieces together Rosa’s life, as we slowly begin to understand her angry, hypercritical, dictatorial personality and also her fear and paranoia. It also explores the challenges of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, the effects of displacement on future generations and the importance of making the truth known. Ciao, Cristina (Note, Finding Rosa is being translated into Italiano)

I Heart Rome: Recipes & Stories from the Eternal CityI Heart Rome: Recipes & Stories from the Eternal City by Maria Pasquale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I was to express my love for Roma in words and images, this is pretty much what it would look like! Ciao, Cristina


The Pink House and Other StoriesThe Pink House and Other Stories by Licia Canton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Pink House and Other Stories is a collection of 15 short stories. Each of these stories stand on their own, but several of them are interconnected. 6 of the stories are about events surrounding a car accident after a Leonard Cohen concert and a writer experiencing a creative block post trauma. The stories are told from different perspectives; the victim, the driver, the passenger, making the connectedness less obvious at first, but apparent as you continue reading. 2 other stories center around an unlikely couple; a very pregnant woman and a man she meets in the library. I was left wanting to know more about them.
The other 7 stories are not related. Most feature multigenerational Italian Canadian characters and deal with family relationships, love, aging and tension between generations. I could identify with many of the characters and situations.
My favourite story in the book is about an octogenarian insistent on renewing his motorcycle license so that he can be ready at any time to drive anything and everything. This character reminds me of my own hard working father and other aging immigrants I know.
The stories in this collection are not overly verbose. The author states what is necessary, but leaves enough room for the reader to think about the issues discussed and read between the lines. Ciao, Cristina

Lost AriaLost Aria by Carmelo Militano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Lost Aria’ is a collection of 8 moody, sensual, smoke-filled stories, set in Winnipeg and several Italian cities. The stories delve into the topics of relationships, vulnerability, loss and grief. Poetry is the thread binding them together. Most of the characters are poets or writers, tortured and suffering for their art, trying to find or recreate themselves. Reading and poetry are presented as an escape and a coping mechanism. The prose in ‘Lost Aria’ presents like poetry, whether it is the sensual description of a woman’s body, the realization that a friend’s life had been ‘a prologue to nothing’, the regret over words not spoken to a mother before her death, or the description of poetry itself ‘poetry is a way of knowing we often ignore, or quickly allow to pass over us like a brief splash of water on the face before we return to the business of arriving safely home. Poetry, like sensuality, feels impermanent and unsustainable…’. I recommend reading ‘Lost Aria’ on a comfy couch by candlelight with an ample glass of wine!. Ciao, Cristina

I have already written a blog post about La Brigantessa, but I will include it here again in case you missed it!

La BrigantessaLa Brigantessa by Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

La Brigantessa is a novel of historical fiction which takes place following the Unification of Italy (1860’s), during a decade of turmoil. It was a time when law enforcement was often worse than the criminals and the law only applied to the wealthy.
The main character, Gabriella Falcone, is a young peasant girl whose family work for the parish priest in a small village in Calabria. Her love has volunteered to fight alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi. When Gabriella stabs a nobleman in self defense, she is forced to flee knowing that her version of the facts will not matter. La Brigantessa has everything a great read needs…love, honour, class struggles, jealousy, betrayal, bravery, suspense, and even a ‘modern’ Calabrese Robin Hood.
The story is told from the point of view of many characters, yet they are all so well-developed there is no confusion. Each character is given a detailed, credible backstory, revealing their individual struggles and motivations. I was emotionally invested in these characters-even the nasty ones! The attention to detail regarding life and customs in 19th Century Calabria transported me right there.
I have been waiting 2 years for La Brigantessa to come out, since I heard the author read excerpts from it at 2 conferences-and it did not disappoint! Pour yourself a glass of vino-red of course, sit back and enjoy. Ciao, Cristina

View all my reviews  

For more of my book reviews on this blog, search the category ‘Libri’.  Here are links to The Sicilian Wife, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, Cristo si è fermato a Eboli, and Italian Street Food.  My ratings are usually out of 5 peperoncini! I will leave you with Madame Gautreau toasting my smaller pile of books!

Buona lettura, Cristina

Zeppole di San Giuseppe


, , ,

Zeppole di San Giuseppe are a traditional pastry served in southern and central Italy on March 19th for la festa di San Giuseppe.  In Italia, March 19th is also La Festa del Papà -Father’s Day.  In North America, Father’s Day is the 3rd Sunday in June, but in Italia it is always on March 19th because San Giuseppe (St Joseph) was, of course, the papà of Jesus! He is also the patron saint of carpenters, the family, orphans and the homeless. March 19th is also a few days away from spring and the start of the agricultural year, in the fields and vineyards.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe are made with the same choux pastry as bignè di San Giuseppe, but the dough is piped out into ‘nests’ rather than spooned onto the baking sheet.  They can be baked or fried.  The hole in the center of the zeppola is filled with crema pasticcera, a creamy custard.  Finally, the signature detail of zeppole di San Giuseppe….they are topped with un amarena in sciroppo.  Amarene are dark, wild sour cherries and they are preserved in syrup.  Amarene in sciroppo are likely available at your local Italian market.  Note-the word zeppole, singular zeppola, is used in some regions, including Calabria, for a type of doughnut or fried dough.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe are not the easiest thing to make, especially if you are not a baker or used to a piping bag.  My first ones did not look beautiful, but they still tasted great. If you need a visual tutorial, there are quite a few good videos online, especially from Benedetta, and Zia Franca.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

  • 150g (175ml, ¾ cup) water
  • 125g (½ cup) butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g (285 ml, 1 cup + 2 tablespoons) 00 flour
  • 4 medium eggs

Heat the water on low heat and add butter and sugar.  Stir until melted and bring to a boil.  Add the flour ALL AT ONCE and stir quickly until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then add the eggs, 1 at a time.  A mixer at low speed can be used for this part, but I just used my wooden spoon-less stuff to wash!Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Put the dough in a pastry bag with a very large stella, star tip.  The tip needs to be at least 1 cm, preferably larger, or the zeppole will come out too small.  I was not able to find a bigger tip, so mine were actually zeppoline!  Pipe out circular nests with 2 rows of pastry onto carta forno –parchment paper.  Bake at 200ºC (400ºF) for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180ºC (350ºF) for 10 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave the door partially open to let them cool.

Baked zeppole have a delicate taste.  Frying gives them a more robust taste.  To fry them, cut the parchement paper into squares.  Drop the whole square upside down into hot oil.  Remove the paper and turn them.  Enrica from Chiarapassion says her Mamma’s secret is to  bake them, then fries them so they do not absorb as much oil!  Sounds like twice as much work to me though.Zeppole di San Giuseppe fritte

Dust with icing sugar, top with crema pasticcera and amarena with syrup.  I served mine with my homemade liquore di foglie di amarena.

Crema Pasticcera

  • 2 whole eggs + 2 yolks
  • 80g (6 tbsp, 1/3 cup +1 tbsp) sugar
  • 70g (165 ml, ½ cup) flour
  • ½ L (500 ml, 2 cups) whole milk
  • lemon peel
  • vanilla bean(optional)

Heat the milk in a pot with the lemon peel.  I use the entire peel.  Start at the top and cut it like a corkscrew so you end up with one long peel.  In a bowl, beat eggs and yolks, add sugar and whisk. When milk is hot, remove lemon peel and add vanilla bean, if desired. Add other ingredients, whisk and heat until thick.  When cool, refrigerate with plastic wrap touching the crema.  When ready to use, fill a pasty bag and pipe onto zeppole with a large star tip.

Auguri a tutti i Papà del mondo e Buon Onomastico a tutti i Giuseppe, Giuseppina, Giuseppa, Peppe, Joe, Pina, Josie e Giusy!  Ciao, Cristina

PS In my post La Festa del Papà, you can see my absolutely favourite photo of me and papà.  Have a look.  Cute-issimo, no?

Giornata della Donna~Franca Viola


, , ,

Auguri per la Festa della Donna! Today is la Giornata Internazionale della Donna or International Women’s Day-originally known as International Working Women’s Day. There is no one specific organization or event behind International Women’s Day, but it is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day to recognize the achievements of women and a call to action towards gender equality.  More about la festa della donna is in this post.

I thought today would be appropriate to write about an outstanding, courageous woman, and I have chosen Franca Viola.  In 1965 Franca was the first Italian woman to refuse to accept un matrimonio riparatore – a rehabilitating or reparative marriage. This was a situation where all charges of rape, sexual assault and/or abduction were dropped if the offender married his victim. This was legal! The assumption was that no one else would want the woman anyways, thus ‘restoring’ the family. Mannaggia! ‘Marry the rapist’ laws and practices were common in many parts of the world until the 1970s and unfortunately still exist in too many countries.

Franca was the daughter of contadini in Alcamo, Sicilia. In 1963, she was 15 and had a 23 year old boyfriend Filippo Melodia, the nephew a local mafioso. She broke off the relationship when he was arrested for theft. He left the country and returned in 1965, thinking he could just resume their relationship. Franca refused, in fact she had a new boyfriend, her future husband Giuseppe Ruisi.

Melodia was furious and threatened Franca, her family and Giuseppe. The evening of December 26 1965, he and a dozen others invaded the Viola house. They beat her mother and dragged Franca away. She was taken to a farmhouse and for 8 days Melodia repeatedly raped her, telling her she would have to marry him to avoid dishonouring her family and becoming una donna svergognata –a shameless woman. Her father worked with the carabinieri to organize a rescue. On January 2 1966, Franca was released and the kidnappers arrested.

As expected, Melodia offered un matrimonio riparatore, expecting the law support him. Contrary to Sicilian custom at the time, Franca publicly refused. With the support of her father, she took Melodia to court for kidnapping, rape and intimidation. Her family received threats and their barn and vineyard were burned down. The December 1966 trial received worldwide attention, including coverage by the New York Times.

Melodia’s defence claimed he was love sick and the feeling was mutual.   He claimed that Franca’s family did not approve of their marriage and that the kidnapping was a consentual elopement. Franca denied the claim, stating:

 Io non sono proprietà di nessuno, nessuno può costringermi ad amare una persona che non rispetto, l’onore lo perde chi le fa certe cose, non chi le subisce”. (I am the property of no one, no one can force me to love a person I do not respect. Honour is lost by the one who does certain things, not the one who is subjected to them).

Melodia was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was murdered in Modena 2 years after his release. 7 of his accomplices also received 4 year prison sentences.

Franca Viola became a symbol of freedom and dignity for all women who endured violence, and her example provided others with the courage to say ‘NO’. Her case led to the abolishment of Articolo 544, the article of law where a rapist/kidnapper avoided prosecution by marrying the victim. In December 1968, Franca married Giuseppe who supported her through the trial. They still live in Alcamo with their family.

On International Women’s Day 2014, Franca received the honour of ‘Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’. President Giorgio Napolitano awarded her with this for her courageous gesture in refusing the matrimonio riparatore, which signalled a fundamental change in the history of the emancipation of women in Italia.

Ciao, Cristina

Photo credits-Cover photo and portrait of Franca Viola-Wikimedia Commons, second photo of Franca from with graphics added by Cristina.

Grano Arso in print!


, , , , , ,

Italian Canadiana Vol 32 2018 Grano Arso Cristina Pepe www.unpodipepe.caMy presentation from the September 2017 ‘Italians in Canada: 150+ years’ 31st anniversary AICW conference at Laurentian University in Sudbury Ontario has been published!  The proceeds of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers Conference is a special edition of the University of Toronto journal Italian Canadiana (Vol 32 2018). This is not my first publication, but it is the first one that is not about diabetes!

Grano Arso is about a Pugliese gastronomic tradition that honours the resilience of our contadini ancestors. The conference proceedings are not available online, but if you have not already done so, read my 2015 post Grano Arso . It is not exactly the same as the publication, but contains similar information and photos.  There has been an increase in views of my post.  This may be due to the publication, or because there is not much written in English on the topic. I made some taralli di grano arso for my presentation and carried them with me on the plane to Ontario. Taralli di grano arso www.unpodipepe.caOther conference presentations included The evolution of the Italian grocery store, Representations of Italian Canadian Internment during WWII, Italianismi e pseudoitalianismi, and Documenting Italiese, which I will write more about in another post. Creative writing readings by Italocanadese authors included short stories, poetry and excerpts from books and a graphic novel. I reviewed one of the books here.

I don’t know if they have many copies left, but they can be ordered by contacting the Frank Iacobucci Center for Italian Canadian Studies c/o Dept of Italian Studies, University of Toronto 100 St. Joseph St.  Toronto, Ontario M5S 1J4 or contact

The next AICW conference will be in Italia in 2020.  Details will be available soon!

Ciao, Cristina

San Valentino ❤️


, ,

La festa degli innamorati, la festa di San Valentino….people either love Valentine’s Day or think it is just una festa consumista – a consumeristic ‘Hallmark Holiday’.  The festa has been around for a long time, but what do we know about San Valentino?

February 14th was declared St Valentine’s feast day in 496 AD by Pope Galerius, but the history and reason why is obscure.  The saint’s relics are apparently in churches all over Europe, including Terni, Vienna, Malta, Poland, Dublin, Madrid, Prague, Santa Maria in Cosmedin and Santa Prassede in Roma.  How is this possible?  I know some people are big boned, but how many bones did he have?

Well…. there are at least 11 Saints named Valentino, including one woman, Valentina of Palestine, and a Pope who lasted only 40 days.  That would explain all the bones!  There were so many of them that their stories got mixed together.  At least 2 of these ‘Valentini’ died on Feb 14th around the year 270 AD.  One was a priest in Roma and one was the Bishop of Terni in Umbria.  There are enough similarities between these 2 that they could have been the same person, moving from Terni to Roma.  They both died as a result of their faith near the Ponte Milvio and Via Flaminia, which coincidentally is the road that leads to Umbria!

San Valentino the priest of Roma was known for performing marriages. Emperor Claudius II needed soldiers to fight his many military pursuits. He believed that soldiers would perform better on the battlefield if they did not have spouses, so he banned marriage.  Another version is that Christians, who were persecuted at the time, were forbidden to marry.  Valentino secretly married soldiers and/or Christians.  This landed him in prison. He is also said to have cut hearts out of parchment to give to the couples he married to remind them of their vows.

The Bishop of Terni was arrested for evangelizing. The Roman judge Asterius decided to test him by asking that he restore his blind daughter’s vision.  Her sight was restored and Asterius released the Bishop from prison.  Valentino went right back to performing illegal marriages, and was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he left a note for Asterius’ daughter signed ‘from your Valentine’.

The bishop of Terni was also known for providing a dowry for a poor girl so that she could marry the man she loved. With this act, he came to be the protector of innamorati.

San Valentino became associated with being a champion for amore, young lovers, engaged couples and marriage and we can thank him for Valentine’s cards and flowers.  He is also the patron saint of epilepsy, beekeeping, the plague and travelling!  What an interesting combination! We do not know if these stories are fatto o finzione-fact or fiction, but like it or not, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated and associated with devotion and love since the 14th Century.Auguri per la festa di San Valentino.  Baci e abbracci, Cristina

This post is written as part of the dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine, Kelly and Kristie the 3rd Sunday of the month.  Click here to check out what the rest of the Dolce Vita bloggers have written on this month’s topic ‘Romance in Italy’.

Image credit:  Il Bacio, 1859 Francesco Hayez from Wikimedia Commons.


Pio Monte della Misericordia


, ,

Pio Monte della Misericordia (Pious mount of mercy) is a charitable organization founded in 1601 by seven young noblemen in Napoli.  Every Friday they met at the hospital to minister to the sick.  400 years later, the organization is still in operation, assisting minors at risk, those struggling with addiction, unaccompanied migrant minors, disadvantaged families, the homeless and the terminally ill.

In 1602, the founders commissioned a small octagonal church on Via dei Tribunali. They wanted artwork to express their sense of charitable mission, which was guided by le sette opere di misericordia, the seven corporal works of mercy.  These are a set of compassionate acts concerning the material needs of others, based on the bible passage ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me.  I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’ Matthew 25:35:36.  Bury the dead was added later and comes from another scripture.

They hired, who else but Caravaggio to paint one of the seven works of mercy for the altar of each of 7 chapels. Caravaggio was either in a big rush or feeling like a challenge, because he incorporated all 7 onto 1 canvas!  The capolavoro is one of the most important of his works, and of the 17th Century.  It still hangs in its original position above the high central altar! Seven local Caravaggio followers, including Luca Giordano, Fabrizio Santafede and Battistello Caracciolo provided paintings for the chapels.Caravaggio Sette opere di misericordia Pio Monte della misericordia

The composition is realistic, complex and dramatic. At the top of the painting, 2 angels are supporting the Madonna di Misericordia and child in the air.  The bottom half features figures carrying out the acts of mercy.  On the right, from the myth Roman Charity, Pero secretly breastfeeds her father, Cimon, after he is imprisoned and sentenced to death by starvation. (feed the hungry and visit the imprisoned).  Behind the wall of the prison, 2 men carry a shrouded body with the feet dangling out of the blanket (bury the dead). On the left, St Martin de Tours comforts the injured beggar in the foreground (comfort the sick).  He tears his cloak and gives half to the naked beggar (clothe the naked). In the background, a pilgrim with a shell in his hat asks an innkeeper for shelter (shelter the traveler) and behind them, Samson drinks from the jawbone of a donkey (give drink to the thirsty). All of this action is taking place in a dark, mysterious vicolo, an alley that could be just around the corner. Caravaggio uses his signature strong contrasts of light and dark chiaroscuro, the bright light acting as a metaphor for mercy.

Caravaggio came to Napoli with a price on his head, on the run from a murder charge. He was idolized and successful in Napoli, but he was desperate for a pardon, so after only a year, he left Napoli for Malta where he thought the Knights of St John could help him. This may explain his decision to incorporate all of the works of mercy into one painting!  As discussed in this post, it has also been confirmed that he had lead poisoning.  Caravaggio understood Napoli like no other painter and had a profound influence on the artistic scene in the city for the next few centuries.  He left behind a lot of followers-the Caravaggesque movement.

The €7 admission includes a visit to the Quadreria- Art Gallery, which contains 15th-18th Century paintings by Napoletani artists and also the original receipt for 400 ducats paid to Caravaggio.  Via dei Tribunali 253, Napoli. Open Mon-Sat 09-18, Sunday 09-14:30Pio Monte della Misericordia

Images:  Scan of Le Sette Opere di Misericordia taken from the Pio Monte della Misericordia brochure.  Photo of me with the painting taken by another visitor to the church.  He said I looked so excited he had to take my photo!

Cristo si è Fermato a Eboli


, , , , , ,

Christ Stopped at EboliCristo si è Fermato a Eboli’ /Christ Stopped at Eboli is Carlo Levi’s memoir about his year as a political prisoner in Basilicata in 1935-36. Levi (pronounced LEV∙ee) was a doctor, writer and artist from a wealthy Jewish family in Torino.  He was exiled to Aliano*, a small village in Basilicata for his Anti-fascist views and writing. Eboli is south of Napoli, where the road forks inland and the railway does not. The title is a local expression suggesting that even Christ didn’t make it as far as Basilicata so they are a God forsaken land beyond civilization and beyond hope. Obviously the Mussolini government agreed, since their strategy to silence outspoken critics was house arrest in the south! Levi comes into contact with profound poverty, distrust, class differences, spells and superstition in a remote, neglected part of Italia.

Levi graduated from medical school in 1924 and did 4 years of lab research, but had not actually practiced medicine on humans.  He was not keen on practicing, but reluctantly did so, since the 2 doctors in Aliano were incompetent and lacked any compassion. The people did not fully understand him or why he was there, often commenting ‘someone in Rome must have it in for you’.  Levi comes to empathize with the peasants, becoming a much loved member of the community.

Published in 1945 after the liberation of Italia, Cristo si è Fermato a Eboli was an immediate hit with both the public and critics. It gave the people a voice and brought attention to the region, including the socioeconomic problems and political neglect. 

Cristo si è Fermato a Eboli /Christ Stopped at Eboli is required reading before visiting Matera, the 2019 European Capital of Culture. Near the beginning of the book, Carlo’s sister Luisa, a practicing doctor, visits and brings medical supplies. She needs a form stamped at the police station in Matera before she is allowed to see him. Luisa describes the Sassi as:

a schoolboy’s idea of Dante’s Inferno’…….‘I felt, under the blinding sun as if I were in a city stricken by the plague. I have never in all my life seen such a picture of poverty. ..This is how 20,000 people live!

There was a 50% infant mortality rate, malaria, dysentery and trachoma. Carlo spends a few hours in Matera near the end of the book and says:

I had time to see the town and then I understood my sister’s horror, although at the same time I was struck by it’s tragic beauty’.

Matera’s situation continued on unnoticed- until the 1945 release of this book. If you have not read my Matera post, please click on ‘I Sassi di Matera’.

I have read this book in both english and italian. If I had to pick a favourite Italian book or book about Italy, this is it. It is very philosophical and it is obvious from Levi’s writing and paintings that this experience affected him profoundly. He writes with great sensitivity and his paintings from Basilicata show an unbelievable amount of emotion and humanity.  The paintings are on permanent display in the Museo di Arte Medievale e Moderna in Palazzo Lanfranchi, Matera and in the Museo della Civiltà Contadina in Aliano.  Levi fought for social justice and went on to become a Senator of the Italian Republic. He is buried in Aliano, where he had requested to be ‘between the peasants’ whose endurance he so greatly admired.

Have you read Cristo si è Fermato a Eboli? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Buona lettura, Cristina

This post is written as part of the dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine, Kelly and Kristie the 3rd Sunday of every month.  Click #dolcevitabloggers to read blog posts by other participants


-my 1996 English edition nonna cover

-detail from Lucania ’61 mural by Carlo Levi in Palazzo Lanfranchi, Matera, Wikimedia Commons

-my 1978 Italian edition book cover with the painting ‘Il figlio della parroccola’ Pricetag says £ 1.800!

*Note-Aliano is called Gagliano in the book, although no explanation is given

La Brigantessa~Book Review


, , , , , ,

La Brigantessa coverLa Brigantessa is a novel of historical fiction which takes place following the Unification of Italy (1860’s), during a decade of turmoil.  It was a time when law enforcement was often worse than the criminals and the law only protected the wealthy.

The main character, Gabriella Falcone, is a young peasant girl whose family work for the parish priest in a small village in Calabria.  Her inamorato, Tonino has volunteered to fight alongside Giuseppe Garibaldi. When Gabriella stabs a nobleman in self defense, she is forced to flee with the priest, knowing that her version of what happened will not be believed. La Brigantessa has everything a great read needs…love, honour, class struggles, jealousy, betrayal, bravery, suspense, and even a ‘modern’ Calabrese Robin Hood.

The story is told from the point of view of many characters, yet they are all so well-developed there is no confusion.  Each character is given a detailed, credible backstory, revealing their individual struggles and motivations.  I was emotionally invested in these characters, even the nasty ones!  The attention to detail regarding life and customs in 19th Century Calabria transported me there.

I have been waiting 2 years for this book to come out, since I listened to the author read excerpts from it at 2 conferences-and it did not disappoint. This is not one of those book reviews that gives away the whole book, so that is all I am going to say!  Pour yourself a glass of vino-red, of course, sit back and enjoy.  I can’t wait for the sequel and/or movie.

I give La Brigantessa 5 peperoncini out of 5 ! 🌶 🌶🌶🌶🌶

La Brigantessa is published by Inanna Publications, a Canadian Publisher based in Toronto, focusing on women’s writing.  The book is available from the publisher or from Amazon or Chapters.  Viva la Brigantessa!

Buona lettura, Cristina

Buon Anno 2019


, ,

un po' di pepe Instagram best nine photosBuon Anno a tutti i lettori di ‘Un po’ di pepe’, vicini e lontani!  Spero che 2018 porta buona salute e gioia a voi e ai vostri cari.

Happy New Year ‘Un po’ di pepe’ readers near and far.  I hope 2019 brings you and your loved ones good health and joy!

WordPress keeps end of year stats which I find so interesting I need to share them. In 2018, Un po’ di pepe had almost 10,000 views from 97 different countries!  I wish I could visit even a few of them! WordPress’ method of collecting stats is odd and I am not sure how much this changes the results.  For example, the newest post counts as a ‘Home page’ view until the next one is published, making it difficult for a post from the second half of the year to make the top posts. We will have to work with that.

Something very different about the list this year….7 out of 10 were written in 2018.  In other years, only 2-3 were new posts. I think this means more of you are reading the newer posts! Based on the number of views, the most read posts of 2018 are:

#9 A Perfect Day in Italia, describing my typical day in Orsara di Puglia.  This April post was my first time joining the Dolce Vita Bloggers monthly linkup group.#8 In My Kitchen, September 2018 was my first time joining the ‘In My Kitchen’ (IMK) monthly blog linkup.  It was fun, and I wanted to participate in December, but the deadline was too early in the month and all of the kitchen action started Dec 12th!  #7 I was so surprised and super excited to see La Trinità di Masaccio on this list!  Yipee!  When I first published this art history lesson, it did not get much love, but I guess there was a steady trickle of readers throughout the year!

My quick sketches of the vanishing point, perspective lines and triangular composition. The colour image is my entry ticket from 2004!

#6 is a tie.  #6a is the 2017 post Palazzo Massimo alle Terme one of my favourite museums in Roma. It was the inspiration for Hairstyling in Ancient Roma. Have you been to Palazzo Massimo?#6b is Your Favourite Recipe.  In September, for the second time, I prepared the wrong month’s topic for the Dolce Vita Bloggers linkup.  The topic was supposed to be my favourite recipe, but since I was short on time, I wrote about the most popular of my recipe posts- Torta Caprese all’Arancia.#5 Uffa, allora, purtroppo, magari……mannaggia! This was a fun post to write, another Dolce Vita Bloggers monthly roundup on the topic ‘5 Words/Cinque Parole’#4 Aria Pericolosa.  I absolutely loved writing this post while I was in Italia, and plan to write more on this topic or do something else with it.  I won’t say any more, but if you have not read it, click on the link! Read the comments too, and metti la giacca!#3 A recipe for the Olive Oil Limoncello Cake I was inspired to bake at Casa Berti in Lucca, while surrounded by olive trees, freshly pressed olive oil and limoncello.#2 is the same as last year. Grano Arso from April 2015 is about a Pugliese gastronomic tradition that honours the resilience of our contadini ancestors.  In September 2017, I did a reading about grano arso at the Association of Italian Canadian Writers Conference in Sudbury, Ontario.  This may be the reason for the increased views -or the fact there is not much written in English on the topic.

I received an early Christmas present.  The AICW conference presentations were recently published in a special issue of the University of Toronto Dept of Italian Studies journal- Italian Canadiana Volume 32. This is my first piece of published writing that is not about diabetes! Yipee! Italian Canadiana Vol 32 2018 Grano Arso Cristina Pepe

#1 by a long shot once again is Italiano per Ristoranti my handy Italian menu pronunciation guide.  If you google ‘Italian menu or food pronunciation’ it comes out as the 8th suggestion! This post is from 2014, updated in 2016 and is available on the post as a downloadable PDF.  I am still planning to expand on this post and make it into an ebook. Will I finally figure out how in 2019? Speriamo!

Bruschetta (broo.SKET.tah)

For 2019 my goals are simple….less stress, more exercise, more art and writing!  Soon I will be making a big change to my work life so that I can have more flexibility. In the spring I will be a ‘libero professionista’-a freelancer!

On the blog, I plan to write more on Caravaggio.  My 3 recent posts are not enough! I may be doing some type of collaborative post with Luca from Luca’s Italy.  We don’t know what this will look like yet, but it should be fun.  The Dolce Vita bloggers group is on a break but should resume soon.  I also have several book reviews to post and more published writing coming up in 2019.

I would love to hear which post was your favourite.  What would you like to read more about in 2019 on Un po’ di pepe?  Looking forward to writing more cose interresanti /interesting stuff in 2019.

Vi auguro un 2019 piena di gioia e buona salute!  Ciao, Cristina