An East Hampton State of Mind

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | Category: Reflections, Travel Stories, Travel Tips


 And when my spirit wants no stimulus or nourishment save music, I know it is to be sought in cemeteries: the musicians hide in the tombs; from grave to grave flute trills, harp chords answer one another.  ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities 


My birthday happened to fall on the weekend that just past and we wanted to do something special, so we decided to take up a friend’s standing offer to visit him and his wife on the South Fork of Long Island. We have been out several times over the last 20+ years, but never to celebrate a birthday. The weather promised to be perfect and we knew that, for a variety of reasons, it would be our last chance to have a little vacation in the next few months because Tim is running for local office here in Salem, Massachusetts. But that is surely the subject for another post.

Birthday girl, happy at the beach!

Birthday girl, happy at the beach!

We bundled up the doggie and the bathing suits, a few bottles of fabulous Italian wine, and booked reservations on the Cross Island Ferry. We were going. And it was everything we hoped it would be: Beautful home. Gorgeous location in Springs, New York — just north of the Town of East Hampton. Fabulous dinner at The 1770 House. Magical beach day. Great home-cooked meal with friends. Figs, home-grown tomatoes and a panoply of herbs. And we finally got to spend some time with our friend’s new wife. Kind, gracious, caring . . . I couldn’t ask for anything more for my dear friend of 30 years, who has been through the mill health-wise lately.

But that brings me to one of my weekend highlights. Those of you who are regular readers know that I am kind of a nut for cemeteries. Springs has one that is certainly worth visiting, and if you know someone who is buried there (my friend’s late wife) it is even more fascinating.

Gate to the Green River Cemetery, Springs NY

Gate to the Green River Cemetery, Springs NY

There is no river in sight near the Green River Cemetery, so who knows where the name came from? Established in 1902, it was originally meant for the bonakers — local working class families who supported the mansions in the main village. In fact, many of the original bonaker families in Springs were among the earliest settlers of the town, having come from England in the 17th and 18th centuries.Today they survive as Millers, Bennets, Conklins, Strongs and Kings and the families have been interred in Green River for generations. But since 1956, the bonaker families have been somewhat pre-empted in their traditional final resting place.

That was the year that Jackson Pollack, local artist and Springs resident, died and was buried under

Jackson Pollack plaque

Jackson Pollack plaque

a 50-ton rock and put Green River on the map as an artists’ and writers’ cemetery, where even the headstones are works of art. The cemetery is small, somewhat unkempt and the farthest thing possible from grand. Still, it has become the Père Lachaise of the Hamptons, being elevated to a pilgrimage site.

Jackson, rear, and wife Lee Krasner, foreground

Jackson, rear, and wife Lee Krasner, foreground

Apparently, Green River is sold out, and having a plot there might just be the ultimate Hamptons status symbol. Also, apparently, there are finer resting places in the area, featuring the graves of Childe Hassam and Jospeh Heller, among others. But I hear that spots are filling up fast everywhere. Location, location, location!

Never mind. I wanted to see my friend’s grave again and get some photos of the arty and famous to show you. So here are some of my favorites.

Elaine de Kooming, wife of artist Willem

Elaine de Kooming, wife of artist Willem

Stan Vanderbeek, underground film maker

Stan Vanderbeek, underground film maker





A very subdued Charles Gwathmey, architect

A very subdued Charles Gwathmey, architect







New Yorker cartoonist J.B. Handelsman

New Yorker cartoonist J.B. Handelsman

Barbara Barnes Hale -- you know her better as the original Della Street

Barbara Barnes Hale — you know her better as the original Della Street








And finally, our friend, dear Micki:

"Loving companion, gifted therapist, loyal friend, ultimate hostess, ardent Democrat . .  Sally's daughter"

“Loving companion, gifted therapist, loyal friend, ultimate hostess, ardent Democrat . . . Sally’s daughter”











If you’re not a walker of cemeteries, I urge you to try it, especially when you travel. Italian cemeteries, for example, are stunning tributes to the interred. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, and we can all use a little serenity now and then. Grab it while you can.

Buon viaggio!

Tags: cemetery, Hamptons, Pollack

The 2015 Sweet Sulmona Tour: See what you’re missing?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Uncategorized


History, food, architecture, more food and cooking in the green heart of Europe

September 25 – October 4, 2015

Piazza Garibaldi: Sulmona among the mountains

Piazza Garibaldi: Sulmona among the mountains

It’s too late to join me on this small group adventure under the glorious skies of one of Italy’s most beautiful regions. But we’ll be going again in 2016. Hope you can come! Meanwhile, here’s what this trip will entail . . .

We will travel to several of Abruzzo’s medieval cities, among the most beautiful ancient villages in all of Italy; will eat and drink very well; will experience two cooking classes and a winery tour; and will still have plenty of time for exploring and relaxation.

This package includes eight nights away:

Fee includes accommodations, all breakfasts, six lunches and four dinners, two cooking classes, a winery tour and transportation to Scanno, Santo Stefano, and Rocca Calascio. Travel to and from Fiumicino airport included.

Get your hat, your sunscreen and some walking shoes — andiamo!

Just the Facts . . .

Price per person: $2,495

Package includes:

  • six nights in the Hotel Ovidius in the heart of Sulmona
  • two nights at Le Case Della Posta in the medieval town of Santo Stefano
  • all breakfasts
  • 6 lunches
  • 5 “aperitivi” happy hours
  • 4 dinners (including two cooking classes)
    • o cooking class at Hotel Ovidius, beginning with the weekly mercato
    • o cooking class led by Mamma Aida in Santo Stefano, for a look at regional home cooking at its best
  • vineyard tour and wine tasting at the oldest winery in Abruzzo
  • private guided walking tours of Sulmona, Scanno and Santo Stefano
  • guided walking tour of the Hermitage of San Onofrio
  • optional trips and restaurant guidance for times “off”
  • visit to the Pelino Confetti store and museum
  • ground transportation throughout your stay


Price quoted is per person, double-occupancy sharing a double bedroom. Packages are land packages only. Air travel is not included. Transfers to and from Fiumicino airport will be arranged once we know your flight times.


ovidius-5411.jpg-nggid015-ngg0dyn-100x75x100-00f0w010c011r110f110r010t010Accommodations are included in the package price. Guests will spend the first six nights at the Hotel Ovidius (right across the street from our apartment) in Sulmona. The modern hotel has a spa, lounges and outdoor garden areas for relaxing and taking in the stunning mountain views. For the last two nights, guests will stay at the incredible Le Case Della Posta, in Santo Stefano. Here, each two bedroom suite will share a bathroom — but by then you’ll all be such good friends, it won’t


All ground transportation to and from events and excursions is included. Airport transfers will be determined once we know flights arrival and departure times.


A non-refundable deposit of $ 500.00 per person is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due by August 15, 2015.

There is only room for 8 people on this tour, so please book early so as not to be disappointed!


(subject to slight changes, as weather & availabilities dictate)

 Friday, September 25

  • Fly from your home cities to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Dinner onboard flight.

Saturday, September 26

  • Arrive in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO) around 10:00 a.m.
  • Watch for details about where to meet the bus/car as we get closer to the date
  • We will make arrangements for your arrival at the hotel; unpack, relax or walk into town
  • Enjoy your first aperitivo with introductions at 6:00 at Casa Linda, our apartment across the street
  • Walk to Osteria del Tempo Perso for dinner to experience your first Sulmona pizza around 7:15 (early because we’re all jet-lagged!)

confettiSunday, September 27

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Walking tour of Sulmona begins at 10:00
  • Stop for lunch in Sulmona (Il Vecchio Muro)
  • Tour of Pellino confetti factory after lunch
  • Optional activity: farm visit in Anversa
  • Aperitivi around 7:00 at Hotel Ovidius
  • Dinner on your own (we’ll make recommendations)
  • Optional walk into Sulmona for gelato and the passeggiata

Monday, September 28

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Pick up at 10:00 for tour of the Hermitage San Onofrio
  • Back to Sulmona for lunch at Da Gino, one of the finest anywhere
  • Free time after lunch
  • Pick up at 4:00 for visit to Abruzzo’s oldest winery for tour and tasting
  • Back to Sulmona; dinner optional

Tuesday, September 29dirie

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Pick up at 9:30 for a tour of beautiful Scanno, including a visit to Armando DiRienzo for beautiful traditional filigree jewelry; hopefully we’ll see one of the 25 ladies who still wear the traditional Scanesse costume
  • Lunch together in Scanno
  • Perhaps an optional trip to one of the area’s finest pasta makers
  • Back to Sulmona for Aperitivi around 7:00 at Hotel Ovidius
  • Dinner on your own

Wednesday, September 30

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Meet at 10:00 at mercato to buy ingredients for your cooking class
  • Cooking class
  • Lunch will be what we cook
  • Free afternoon and evening

Thursday, October 1

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Pick up at 11:00 for trip to Palumbo cheese factory
  • Lunch on your own: go to Posta Pacentrano together or come back into town
  • Time for packing or exploring in the afternoon
  • Pick up at 6:30 for Aperitivi in nearby Marane with Carlo and Vittoria
  • Farewell dinner in the Marane

Friday, October 2

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00.
  • We bid arrividerci to Sulmona and drive to beautiful Santo Stefano di Sessanio
  • Settle into our rooms and then come down for lunch at your inn, Le Case Della Posta
  • After lunch, we will take a walking tour of Santo Stefano
  • Aperitivi in the garden outside Le Case Della Posta at 6:00
  • Dinner at a fabulous albergo and ristorante in Santo Stefano
View of Rocca Calascio

View of Rocca Calascio

Saturday, October 3

  • Breakfast served at the inn from 8:00 – 9:00
  • We will be picked up in an agribus for our ride out to the country
  • Our first stop is the incredible Rocca Calascio: a ruined fortress, and the highest one in Italy. We’ll walk up the last little bit to the top — a gentle hike of about 15 minutes — and take in the scenery and the octagonal church on the way
  • The agribus will then take us to our spot for a lunch of arrosticini, traditional small lamb skewers that melt in your mouth
  • We will return to Santo Stefano for our cooking class with our hosts Amalia and Mamma Aida, who will create a masterpiece with you including antipasto, lentils, pasta alla chitarra, lamb, special cakes, wines and digestivi — you’ll sleep well!
  • All you’ll we able to do after dinner is go up to your room and pack for your flights tomorrow.

Sunday, October 4

  • You’ll depart the inn in the morning as your flights require — we’ll get everybody out to meet the earliest flight
  • Memories begin . . .

Ci vediamo in Abruzzo!

This trip may be filled, but there will be TWO trips in 2016. Watch this space for announcements about dates and itineraries. Add your name to my mailing list!

Tags: Abruzzo, Sulmona, travel

Calling All Book Clubs!

Friday, July 24, 2015 | Category: Uncategorized


Just a reminder that I’m available to come to your book club or community group (especially Italian-oriented groups) to talk about my book and/or my experiences as a traveler and travel planner in Italy. Here’s the scoop:


Readings & Presentations

Linda Dini JenkinsI’d love to come to your book group or other organization to discuss and read from my book, Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband

I’m also available to make the following presentations to your group:

(1) The Art of Travel Poetry (a 90-minute workshop)

(2) The Art of Keeping a Travel Journal (a 90-minute workshop)

(3)   Around Abruzzo in Words & Pictures (a 45-minute presentation)

(4)   Around Umbria in Words & Pictures (a 45-minute presentation)


For more information about bringing me to your group, please contact me.


Buon viaggio!

LDJ_Reading_B&N_RichmondConnect With Linda:





Tags: Italy, speaker, travel

Campo 78 + Unbroken + A Box of Old Photos

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 | Category: Reflections, Uncategorized


I tried to be the perfect daughter, but my Daddy died anyway. — LDJ


That is a sentence that I have written before, but which has gone no place. I even tried it once in poetry:

To my Father in Fiji, 1942


Francesco Dini

Francesco Dini

In this picture you are twenty

The smallest in your unit by far

Certainly the only Italian

Wavy black hair and an eager smile

Odd for someone so young and in such a place

You are ready for anything

Tailored and wiry like a terrier


You waited 50 years to tell me about this mission,

About your work out there in the South Pacific


As a child I always imagined warm breezes and wacky sailors

Star-crossed lovers never letting each other go;

Flying overhead, keeping the islands Safe for Democracy

Or, if not that, for an endangered way of life


Instead, I find out how the government got you from New York

A photo I probably shouldn't even have

A photo I probably shouldn’t even have

To San Francisco to Hawaii, not yet a state, and how you had

To hitchhike from there to Australia on your own.

No protection, no cover, just get there son, and if you make it

We’ll tell you what to do next


I want to write about the madness of those open orders


I want to write about how you were an aerial gunner

Hanging off the belly of the plane


Daddy on the left

Daddy on the left

I want to write about how dangerous your missions were

How the very reason I have these pictures is because

You were gunning for a unit that did recon photography missions,

Going out to map the place by plane so Uncle Sam would know

Exactly where to drop the bombs


I want to write about the islanders in the pictures

Before they fade away completely

But you’ve told me so little, and the notes on the back

That you wrote to my mother provide very few clues


You told me you trapped fish in holes in the coral reefs

And ate coconut and chickens

You said the islanders were kind to you

You said that when you went to Australia for R&R

You got ration books that you traded for socks and toiletries

And that the MPs bought you liquor


I want to crawl inside these pictures and grab

All you beautiful young men by the shoulders and say

Thank You/Damn You/What the hell made you go on?



Dad's Navy Box

Dad’s Navy Box

That’s as far as I have ever gotten. There was never an answer to my “What did you do in the war (WWII), Daddy?” question. My father never talked about it. Not until I was about 50 years old and he and I were sitting together on his back porch in Florida years after my mother was gone. He said he needed to tell me something. It was about the war. It was about what he did. He pulled out a bunch of photographs. And then he gave me the metal box they came in – a box that he had to make in the Navy. Hard rivets, like on an airplane, made from airplane scraps. Everybody made one.

I don’t know if he ever killed anybody, but I doubt that you could have been an aerial

Daddy (third from left) in Fiji

Daddy (third from left) in Fiji

gunner in the war and not killed anybody. I only know that he survived and came home. He came home with a tropical infection that almost cost him his arm and an ulcer that cost him much of his stomach. Still, he held it all in. Daddy was like that. The important things stayed stuffed, while the little things caused explosions. I’d give anything for another explosion right now.

Tim and I read Unbroken when it first came out (listened to it on CD, actually). We were totally enthralled. Last Friday we watched it on TV and were terribly shaken. I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. What were these people made of? Both the courageous and the cruel. Who were they?

After writing about Campo 78 in Abruzzo and then finally seeing Unbroken, I felt compelled to tell this story, however incomplete it is. I’ll never know what really happened, but I’m grateful for what my father was able to share all those years later.


Buon viaggio











Tags: Fiji, Navy, WW II

There’s No Place Like Home Away From Home

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Writing


Italy will always have the best food. — Diane von Furstenberg

It started out so simply: Get a few friends together and talk about Abruzzo. Let’s show them pictures of our apartment in Sulmona. And then let’s wow them with some food and wine from the region.

Want to sell Sulmona? Use a shot like this one!

Want to sell Sulmona? Use a shot like this one!

Before you could say benvenuto, Vicky and I had a list of almost 70 people and a menu that would make Massimo feel like he wasn’t doing enough. We sent out an invitation featuring a wonderful shot of La Rotonda through the aqueduct and waited. But not for long. By the week of the event, we had more than 50 people coming.

We showed the “Happy in Sulmona” video. We showed the first episode of Tales from Sulmona, featuring that irascible couple, Tim and Linda Jenkins. And we showed a PowerPoint presentation that Vicky created from my photos. (I wish I could show it to you here, but it practically crashes my ancient computer!)

Who knew that 50 American grown-ups would sit in a room and watch

Our flags from Sulmona

Our flags from Sulmona

these things, transfixed? That so many of them would be charmed by Abruzzo and our tales of Sulmona? That so many have asked when the next trip will be? We were so pleased. One woman – a friend of a friend of ours – came from Raino, and was thrilled to see her region being marketed!

Some_FoodSo . . . there was prosecco and then montepulciano, cerasuolo and trebbiano from the Pietrantonj winery in Vittorito. There was an aperitivo spread that included cheeses, salumi, olives, artichokes, anchovies, crostini, pomodori and mozzarella and so much more that I can’t even remember. There was fusilli with ricotta and spinach and a cannelini dish. There was pasta e fagioli. There was a melanzane dish with anchovy and pepper sauce. Lots of sausages, both sweet and hot, with onions and peppers to accompany. And for dolci, a selection of cookies and tiramisu. And of course, lots of confetti! Afterward, there was limoncello and arancello, made by yours truly.

Linda and Vicky: Happy!

Linda and Vicky: Happy!



Happiness all around!

We may even do it again for the people who couldn’t come the first time. We never tire of talking about Sulmona, Abruzzo, and our amici . . . and our home away from home.


Buon viaggio!


Tags: Abruzzo, Italy, Sulmona

Campo PG 78

Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Category: Reflections, Travel Stories, Travel Writing


There was never a good war, or a bad peace. — Benjamin Franklin


SentryBoothIt was raining the day we went to visit Campo PG 78. The PG stands for prigioneri di guerra, prisoners of war. We were told that students from the liceo (high school) would be helping to lead the tour and that they might speak a little English. We brought our friends Novelia and Vittoria with us just in case, and it was a good thing.

Campo 78 is not usually open to the public, although it is visible from the abutting property, the remarkable Abbey of Santo Spirito al Morrone in Badia, just a stone’s throw from Sulmona in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The tour was sponsored by FAI, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, which is essentially the Italian National Trust, modeled after the National Trust in the U.K. Its purpose is two-fold: to promote a culture of respect for Italy’s natural heritage, art, history and traditions; and to protect the legacy that forms a fundamental part of the identity of the Italian people.

Hermitage of Sant Onofrio

Hermitage of Sant Onofrio halfway up the mountain

The cold March rain fell on us, on the poor students, and on the buildings for the duration of our visit. It caused an eerie mist to cloud over the hermitage of Saint Onofrio halfway up the mountain. It was an uncomfortable day in an uncomfortable place, to be sure. But it helped to partially solve one of the questions I had whenever I visited the region: Why are there so many British, Australian and New Zealand visitors to this region? How did they find this place? Why do they come?

It turns out that Campo 78 was first used as a prison camp during

Inside the barracks. Note the drawings on the walls.

Inside the barracks. Note the drawings on the walls.

World War I, when it housed Austrian prisoners who had been captured in the Isonzo and Trentino campaigns. Later, during World War II, it housed as many as 3,000 British and Commonwealth (ANZAC) officers, as well as some other ranks, all captured in North Africa. And it turns out that many descendants of these prisoners come to this region to see where their family members were held during the war. The South African writer and war correspondent Uys Krige was captured at Tobruk in North Africa in 1941 and sent to POW camps in Italy, Campo 78 among them. After two years he escaped and in 1946 wrote the memoir, The Way Out, describing his experiences. We were told that two famous English soccer players were also imprisoned here.

Example of regimental art

Example of regimental art

Prisoners were kept in a series of long brick barracks surrounded by a high wall. We were able to go inside one of the barracks, which, at the height of the camp’s occupation, housed as many as 100 prisoners at a time, apparently stacked three high in bunk beds along the walls. Even today, you can see the drawings on these walls that were done by the prisoners – battalion insignias and national crests and so on, making the experience jarringly real.

While we did not hear much about conditions during World War I, we were told that conditions in some Italian camps, including Campo 78, were pretty good, especially for the officers during World War II. Rations consisted of soup and bread, and the locals provided fresh fruits and cheese in season, augmented by deliveries from the Red Cross. The head docent showed us where the football (soccer) field was constructed and said the prisoners also enjoyed cricket and basketball. There was a small library, a theatre, a band, and even a newspaper produced by a group of prisoners.

By the fall of 1943, with the Italian government near collapse, there were

A guard tower

A guard tower

rumors that the Sulmona camp was about to be evacuated. Stunningly, one morning the prisoners awoke to find that their Italian guards had deserted them. By mid-September, German guards came in to take their place and escort them to camps in Germany, but by then hundreds of prisoners had already escaped into the surrounding hills and caves (including Uys Krige), where they were often assisted by the locals, at great risk to themselves and their families.

Campo 78 was not the only military operation in existence in this area during World War II. Smaller camps like Fontana d’Amore (which held British officers) and Villa Orsini (which held senior Allied officers) were very nearby. Today, you can see the camps behind barbed wire as well as a police and prison officers’ training camp, an active high-security prison and one abandoned prison and when you think about it, why not? This area, isolated and surrounded by high mountains on all sides, is nearly impregnable. A good spot for this kind of thing, I suppose.

ShrineWe walked in the rain past the sentry booth, the round guard towers, and the long barracks and glanced over at the long-deserted playing fields, all left in the past and all residing ghost-like behind barbed wire. Personal stories of interment are being collected now and can be found in resources like WW2 People’s War and accounts from former prisoners. I know I didn’t understand everything that was being said, but I know that this was a dark period in Italy’s history for a variety of reasons. I am struck by the families who come back to Italy (or come for the first time) and include Campo 78 in their itinerary.  On the way out, I stood before a small shrine to a local resistance fighter who was tortured and died in 1945, large artillery shells flanking the memorial tablet.

A moving, moody day and the irony of those shells was not lost on anybody.


Buon viaggio!






Why Sulmona?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Writing


For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery,  back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness. — D.H. Lawrence


We get asked that a lot — both stateside and even in Sulmona, from some long-time residents. Why Sulmona? I’m hoping this little video will help explain.

Tim and I are just back from two weeks in Abruzzo, getting the apartment ready for renters, visiting with our Italian family, learning more about the city and surrounding areas, and making new friends.

One such friend is Marco Malvestuto. Marco works for Onda TV, the local station in Sulmona. We had agreed to meet him while we were there to discuss a new project. But he’s a clever one . . . when we arrived at the designated spot at the designated time, there was a camera set up and a microphone on the table and an interview about to begin. With us.

Welcome to the first episode of Tales from Sulmona! Yes, this is an interview with Tim and Linda Jenkins and it goes on for about 25 minutes. Don’t worry, it’s in English. Go grab a caffe or a digestivo and sit back for a while and venture into the magical world of Sulmona in south-central Italy. It’s a whole lot more than confetti!


Grazie a Marco!


Buon viaggio!

Will Fly for Cheese

Friday, March 13, 2015 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Writing


Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures. — M.F.K. Fisher


I’m off to bella italia soon and one of the things I’ve been thinking about — especially since I just wrote a guest blog post about Sulmona and food for L’Esperta — is cacio e pepe. It’s a local Abruzzese pasta dish with only three ingredients: pasta, black pepper and pecorino romano cheese. No oil, no butter, no milk, no nothing. Just those three ingredients. Macaroni and cheese for grown-ups.

The amazing cacio e pepe!

The amazing cacio e pepe!

I had read about it long before I tried it last fall at Ristorante Il Vecchio Muro in the centro storico di Sulmona. They add a little twist to it by serving it in a fried cheese “bird’s nest.” I’m a firm believer that you can’t have too much cheese. Well, actually, I’m no longer very firm and maybe that’s why.

The wine that Ms. Fisher talks about will also be consumed in some quantity: the noble Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the crisp Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, the rosy Cerasuolo and the miraculous Pecorino (the wine, not the cheese, although I can imagine consuming both at the same time).



Once we hit forty, women only have about four taste buds left: one for vodka, one for wine, one for cheese, and one for chocolate. — Gina Barreca


I have no idea who Gina Barecca is, but I love this quote. It used to be totally true for me, but I’ve since given up on the vodka, so now I concentrate on the wine, cheese and chocolate. I’m so glad that the Pelino people in Sulmona have used a bit of chocolate in some of their marvelous confetti. I’m looking forward to that, too!

Confetti has been a tradition in Sulmona for more than 500 years and you can’t walk

Candy coated almond flowers spring up everywhere!

Candy coated almond flowers spring up everywhere!

down the main corso without practically tripping over displays of candy flowers. What a way to go!


The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. — Gilbert K. Chesterton


I’ll try to work on that while I’m over there, assuming I don’t OD on cheese, chocolate or wine! And, people: try to make spring happen while I’m away . . .grazie mille!



Buon viaggio!

Tags: Abruzzo, confetti, food, Italy, Sulmona


Friday, February 20, 2015 | Category: Salem Stories, Travel Tips


This amazing collection shows the dynamic nature of contemporary wood art. The pieces are at times difficult to reconcile with our expectations about the look and feel of wood. — Dean Lahikainen, the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art


Hal Metlitzky, Double Helix, 2012 (6,500 pieces of wood). The Montalto Boheln Collaction. c. 2014, PEM. Photo by Walter Silver, PEM.

Hal Metlitzky, Double Helix, 2012 (6,500 pieces of wood). The Montalto Boheln Collaction. c. 2014, PEM. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.

Brad Sells, Whirl, 2003, cherry. PEM, Gift of Lillian Montalto Bohlen c. 2014, Photo by Walter Silver, PEM

Brad Sells, Whirl, 2003, cherry. PEM, Gift of Lillian Montalto Bohlen c. 2014, Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

Forget everything you think you know about wood turning and what “art made of wood” should — or even could — look like. With the opening on February 21 of Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood from the Montalto Bohlen Collection, Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum is once again proving to be on the cutting edge of an art movement whose history has yet to be written. With this exhibit, what was once considered “craft” is now uncompromisingly introduced as “art.”

This extraordinary exhibition of 108 works in wood showcases the work of 86 different artists using 126 types of wood (both familiar and exotic) in ways that stagger the imagination. One piece contains more than 6,500 pieces of wood; another boasts 13,400. On view through June 21, the collection of bowls, vessels and vases mingles perfectly yet surprisingly with its completely abstract counterparts.

David Ellsworth, Intersphere, 1991, burned ash and pigment. PEM, Gift of Lillian Montalto Bohlen. Photo by Terry Martin.

David Ellsworth, Intersphere, 1991, burned ash and pigment. PEM, Gift of Lillian Montalto Bohlen. Photo by Terry Martin.

You’ll see wood that has been worked on by lathes, turned, carved, painted — even subjected to blowtorches and chainsaws by artists who push the boundaries of the medium, ever mindful of the unique characteristics of wood grain, color and texture. Selected woods include quilted maple, ponderosa pine, blue mahoe, Honduran rosewood, tulipwood, buckeye burl, locust and pistachio root. Many of the artists have exclusively used downed and damaged trees and some of the pieces include foreign materials like pigment, inlay, gilding and even ground-up comic books and deer antler.

The exhibit itself comprises six thematic sections: Perfected Form, Casting Shadows, Natural Edge, Going to Pieces, Enhancing the Surface and Echoes of Place. Each section explores complex forms and techniques while highlighting how the artists use their gifts to develop technically sophisticated compositions and even integrate narrative and storytelling into their work.

Ron Gerton, A Tree Runs Through It , 1998, spalted maple burl, bronze. The Montalto Bohlen Collection. c. 2014 PEM. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.

Ron Gerton, A Tree Runs Through It , 1998, spalted maple burl, bronze. The Montalto Bohlen Collection. c. 2014 PEM. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.

Massachusetts residents Bob and Lillian Montalto Bohlen donated 47 works from their personal collection to the #PEM. They have been tireless collectors of contemporary wood art for more than two decades and are at the forefront of promoting artistic woodworking as a fine art. Over the years, they have directly supported nearly two dozen wood artists, providing them with the freedom to take creative risks and deeply explore their practice.

I urge you not to miss this incredible exhibit. You will be charmed by the familiar, mystified by the abstract and blown away by the overall effect. Quilting in wood? The rare Squatopotomus? Story pieces by a Vietnamese artist who, as a child, saw the last helicopters pull out of Saigon without him? It’s all here. It’s audacious. Go.


Buon viaggio!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015 | Category: Travel Stories



“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” — Carl Reiner


What Tim's been doing for 2 weeks

What Tim’s been doing for 2 weeks

Sometimes travel is difficult. Like in New England over the past two weeks. Two or three days of snow, followed by a clear day or two when everybody goes out to do what needs to be done, then two or three more days of snow. Even people who well remember the Blizzard of ’78 say this is worse in many ways. Traveling is often done on foot (thank God we’re in a city) because the side roads where most of the houses are seem to be largely impassable by cars, despite all the hard work of round-the-clock plowing.


The City of Boston is virtually shut down, with the MBTA stopping

After the first storm, Juno
After the first storm, Juno

service today and all but non-essential employees told to stay off the roads. Schools have been closed for at least 8 days, with likely more to come. Because Thursday and Sunday we’re supposed to get even more snow. And absolutely no one knows where they’re going to put more snow.

Now, I myself am guilty of having dreamed of an occasional White Christmas. But I usually hoped it would go away by New Year’s Eve. I never envisioned living in a world with a 70+” snowfall and drifts that are often far above my head. It’s pretty in a Ray Bradbury it-hasn’t-stopped-raining-for-60-days kind of way, but we’re all feeling a tad claustrophobic at this point.

Thee's a table and chairs and some benches under there, I swear!

There’s a table and chairs and some benches under there, I swear!

Tim and I got out for lunch today and it was good to see other people, even though we also saw the beginning of slush and deep water and wonder where the heck THAT is going to go when this all starts to melt en masse. We’ll see. Such is the Winter of 2015. More to come. But here are a few photos to help you visualize what you might be seeing briefly on the Weather Channel.

Ladies and gentlemen . . . I give you Salem, Massachusetts!

Looking out the window . . .

Looking out the window . . .



Done! (for now)



Buon viaggio!