Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Pilgrimage in Venosa

I subscribe to a daily email called "Italian Notebook" from The description for this site says, "the daily email from Italy for Italian lovers everywhere". This photo and the next accompanied the article from Italian Notebook. It reminded me of something funny that happened in Venosa.

" Here in Italy the local version of penny candy can found at fairs and markets all over the country. At the recent Sant'Antonio fair held each year in Vetralla on January 17th , among the hundreds of bancarelle (stalls) selling every conceivable merchandise, several belonged to vendors of dried fruit and sweets from Vallerano and Canepina... The colorful but nameless candies are displayed next to dried figs, chestnuts, and pepperoncino too! You might as well pick some up for the pasta while buying candies for junior. You'll also find imported spices and fruits; banana, pineapple, and even cranberries, an exclusively North American plant."

The above article on the italian version of penny candy reminded me of a funny thing that happened on a trip we took to the southern region of Basilicata in the late spring of 2007. The purpose of this trip was to visit Palazzo San Gervasio, a small hilltop town in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. This is the town where Daniele, Aria's boyfriend is from and where most of his family still reside. I will post a future story about our visit but getting back to the "candy" story...If you look at the map you will see Venosa. This is an interesting little hilltop town and like most of the towns of this area it is not frequented by many outsiders/tourists. It is very close to the town where Daniele lives. It is well described in an article I read in . The writer describes Venosa in this way: "Basilicata still lies outside the usual tourist orbit, which means that you should visit, you will have the towns pretty much to yourself. It also means that in the little town of Venosa, that you will draw an audience of curious onlookers, wondering why on earth anyone would have chosen to negotiate the steep roads leading to their hilltop town."

If you can imagine that few outsiders find themselves in these somewhat remote hilltop villages, then you can also imagine how my asian face may have caught more than a few glances.

In Venosa you find the candy stands just as described in the Italian Notebook article.

Lots of "dolce" (sweets) to choose from

Aria and Athena buys lots of candy for the children and for us

Here Daniele's brother, Luciano and his wife Rosa join in the festivities in Venosa by buying a colorful balloon for the children to enjoy.

This is a special day in town. It is a big Pilgrimage the townspeople make to the famous church in Venosa. People come from miles to pay homage. We joined in and walked to the church along the crowded, busy sidewalks with street vendors selling all kinds of goodies. As we were standing in line to enter the church my daughter started to laugh. I asked her why she was laughing. She said that some people that had just passed us remarked,

"You see how important this Pilgrimage is...even the "Chinese" have come!"

Here's an added little bit of history info. regarding this interesting town from the travel intelligence website:
"There are, as it happens, good reasons to travel to Venosa, especially if you have an interest in history. The town is famed for being the birthplace of the Roman poet Horace, who left it in about 50 B.C. (*one of the key well remembered quotes of Horace is "Carpe Diem"). He scarcely looked back at the rustic place then called Venusia, city of Venus, joined to Rome by the ancient via Appia, the traces of which can be seen in the fields north and west of town. After Horace’s time, wealthy Roman absentee landowners erected a sprawling bath and resort complex, complete with a large amphitheater, on a finger of plateau below the southern approach to the modern town. The ruins of this structure are among the best-preserved in the region, and they are now protected as an archaeological park. Adjoining them are the ruins of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, built by Benedictine monks in A.D. 1046 on the site of a Roman temple. Within the restored nave lies the tomb of the Norman crusader Robert Giscard, in which his remains were brought back to Venosa after his death on Cephalonia, as well as the tomb of his unfortunate half-brother Drogo, whose death, it is said, Robert arranged. Among the ruins are also bas-relief stones depicting menorahs and stars of David, in quiet acknowledgment of the long Jewish presence in the town. (Many Venosini, though their ancestors converted to Christianity generations ago, continue to observe Jewish customs and holidays.) Jewish and early Christian catacombs, which local legend holds stretch all the way to Rome, lie in limestone caves about two hundred feet south of the church."

*More on the visit to Palazzo San Gervasio in another post.


Annie said...

Wonderful post, I enjoyed reading this!

Chiocciola said...

How interesting! I learned something new, for sure, and enjoyed the photos as well. Mmmm candy...

Marcia said...

Another lovely story, Barb. Who ever knew penny candy would bring up such memories?

sandrac said...

Barb, what a wonderful story. And I love your photos! A great memory for you.

Lynda said...

Barb, I learn so much from you wonderful blogs.. I feel like I'm on a wonderful trip... Those pictures are beautiful.. You've found your calling. Love, Lynda

candi said...

Great story,Barb. I love penny candy!

Menehune said...

A wonderful mix of words, thoughts, humor, and photos. Enjoy reading your blog. Menehune

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