I was searching for Italian covers of popular International songs for the fun of it, and I couldn’t believe what I found. In the 60′s and early 70′s there was a huge trend for covers. Some are absolutely fantastic, while others are… well, they should have been left alone. I found everything from “I’m a Believer” to “California Dreamin”. From “Crimson and Clover to” “Sugar Sugar”, and from “House of the Rising Sun” to “Summer Lovin” from Grease! A few of them are even by the original artist! Look for Diana Ross singing in Italian, and well as David Bowie performing an Italian version of “Space Oddity”. So I created a playlist of everything I found on Youtube, and here it is. I hope you have as much fun as I did!
7 months, 17 tours, 56 cooking classes, 144 guests and over 35,000 miles of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio are behind us. That was the 2008 season for us at Culture Discovery. As with last year, after coming back to the US, I have gone into video mode. Here is the first video I have made since coming back, which essentially sums up the season:
What a wild ride it was. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work…. but always very rewarding. Most of all, we made a ton of new friends and had the opportunity to share something we love with so many new people.
Some new stuff in 2008…
We started the year unexpectedly using our ‘old’ kitchen down at the villa. We had started construction in September 2007 on a new 700 square foot kitchen, where the barn had once stood. Our old kitchen was too small for us to comfortably do classes for more than 6 people at a time, so the new kitchen was a matter of urgency. The new kitchen was supposed to be finished in April, but of course, we are in Italy. So in April we had a structure and nothing more. It wasn’t finished until late July, so we had quite a few groups crowd into the old kitchen for a while.
The new kitchen, which Paola and I designed ourselves, came out even more beautiful than we imagined. All of the counters are travertine marble, the sink is a solid carved block of travertine, all of the tiles are hand-painted, and the masonry for the separating wall and fireplace came out breathtakingly beautiful. The large lighting fixtures and our 90-bottle wine rack (which we found ourselves restocking every 2 weeks) were all hand-crafted in iron; and everything was finished by local artisans. What a pleasure it was to begin using it!
Besides the kitchen, this year we got sick of renting vans, and decided to buy a new one. We headed to Germany and got a perfect 9-passenger Opel Vivaro that soon became lovingly known as ‘Shultz’. When we have 8 or fewer people in a week, Shultz is always there to take care of us.
We started the season with five homes for our guests: La Campana, Vecchio Forno, Ponticello, Chiosco, and Trinita. By the end of the year, we added two new places, called ‘Caminetto’ and ‘Santa Maria’. Santa Maria is perfect for our guests that don’t do well with hills, as it is just a few steps from Soriano’s Piazza. It just went through a complete remodel, and makes for a beautiful place for up to four people. Caminetto became available in August, so a good number of our 2008 guests had the opportunity to stay here. It is the largest of the homes we offer, and boasts the largest terrace we have, with an amazing view out toward the Tiber Valley.
2008 also fostered some new relationships in Italy for our future guests. During the season we began to take guests to a winery and olive mill near Orvieto called Madonna delle Macchie, which has proven to be so popular that we have built it into every week we offer in the future. Moving into 2009, we will be offering our future guests the ability to actually rent part of the vineyard or olive orchard for their own personal wine and olive oil!
In April we met the incredibly gracious Prince Riccardo Nobile-Vitteleschi in the town of Labro, Umbria. He lives in the 1,000 year old castle of his ancestors, and has personally taken our guests on tours of his ‘home’. This has been so popular, that it is a staple for our 2009 itineraries now.
During the year, our travels through Tuscany and Umbria have brought us to new wineries, new monasteries, new restaurants, new towns… all of the more popular ones are in for next year, while the less popular are out. So as I look at the 2009 calendar, I can honestly say I am VERY excited!
So to those of you reading this that were with us this season: Thank you so much, it was a blast! To those of you reading this that are still looking forward to your time with us, know this: I’m looking forward to it as much as you are! We’re going to have a fantastic time.
You know, there is a really, really good reason that you don’t see any Italian groups on the International rap scene. What could that reason be, you may ask… just click above and remember that Italians make great food and wine, ok?
Oh yeah, and promise you will keep watching it at least until you see the Michael-Jackson-esque moonwalk. Trust me, it is worth the wait.
Things got quite busy since my last post. We had a wave of guests come to Soriano, and the annual chestnut festival ( Sagra delle Castagne ) began, which really kept me running, camera in hand.
The folks in Soriano’s tourism office were kind enough to issue me an all-access press pass for all of the events, so I have tons of content (both video and photo) from the last few weeks that will take form in blog articles over the next few weeks.
So now that I am back in the US and getting over my jet lag, I’ll begin…
Soriano is, for the most part, divided into four districts (Contrade). When the chestnut festival begins, these districts compete in many events (Archers, Cavaliers, Parades, Medieval dinners, etc.). Additionally, each district brings a distinct group with a specific talent. For example, Soriano’s swordsmen are from the ‘Rocca’ district. The ‘Trinita’ district brings a group of heavily trained Flag Throwers.
To be completely honest, they never impressed me in the past. I always thought it was a total non-event. I mean, big deal, right? But I hadn’t seen the Flag Throwers from Soriano in years, and I was covering the festival, so I really should check it out. In fact, I actually considered if I wanted to waste my camera’s battery life on the event for fear that I might end up missing something interesting later into the evening.
The event was about to begin, and I took my place in the Piazza… thinking there must be something better to do. Then I heard the drums coming from Via Santa Maria (Trinita’s home street). Suddenly I saw a massive group of drummers, trumpeters, and flag throwers march into Piazza behind the Trinita Flag Carrier. Their costumes were breathtaking! Their choreography was mesmerizing! Even the drums were absolutely stunning! When the row of trumpets began to play, my jaw dropped in utter awe.
This was not the Flag Throwing group I remembered. In the past it was a small group of guys that put on a nice, but largely unspectacular performance. Wow, have they changed. Someone with great skill and vision has clearly taken over in this group. I would argue that it was the most spectacular event I saw during the festival. Maybe because my expectations were so low going in, or maybe they are just that great now.
Unfortunately, the video that accompanies this article doesn’t do them justice. It doesn’t even come close to capturing the grandeur of the group, nor does it reproduce even a fraction of the awesome sound they produce. Not knowing what to expect, my camera missed many of the best moments of the performance.
Next time I have an opportunity to film them, I will try to better convey how truly awesome this group was.
The festival was not at all what I had expected. I honestly thought that it would be a cute little festival with a few nights of music, headed by some local Italian jazz musicians. Instead, it turned out to be a major International event.
Roughly 1,400 musicians from across the globe appeared in a series of concerts every night for nearly a full month. Some were young musicians that came to learn in the workshops or participate in competition for the Jimmy Woode prize, and some were seasoned jazz musicians that saw this as a truly international event. Some of the bigger names included Jimmy Woode’s daughter, Shawnn Monteiro, Benny Golson, Joey De Francesco, Jimmy Cobb, Buster Williams, George Cables, Bobby Durham, Jesse Davis, Giorgio Rosciglione, Gegè Munari, Eddy Palermo, Piero Odorici, Massimo Faraò and John Kinnison.
Aside from the nightly concerts, every night after midnight, Soriano’s Rotezzia Pub, a large pub that is made from a series of connecting grottos and caverns, would host the nightly jam sessions. Here, artists would get up and perform at random until daybreak every night.
In all, it is said that 70,000 spectators came to Soriano for the concerts. In fact, Soriano reached critical mass by the second week, when there were no more rooms available and people were renting spare bedrooms out of desperation. Word to the wise: Reserve early if you plan to attend in 2008.
The festival built up to a single ‘main event’ night one Saturday, when Soriano hosted its ‘Notte Bianca’ (White Night). On this night, all stores were open until 5:00 AM, street vendors were out all night, several outdoor taverns were erected to serve grilled sausages, pasta, etc., and six stages were setup all over town to host an all-night event with 40 concerts.
All in all, this was by far the most impressive event I have ever seen in Soriano. I’m already counting the days till next year’s festival…. It was a huge success, and will be here for at least the next five years.