Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Isernia, Italy - a 3rd Century BC city 65 km from Rome

Street in Isernia, Italy on which my grandfather was born and lived.

Portal to the home where my grandfather was born and grew up.  Now my cousin;s architecture business.

Isernia, Italy

One of the most beautiful, small Italian cities to visit on your trip to Italy is Isernia, the birthplace of my grandfather, Eduoardo Guglielmi.  Born in 1900, my grandfather grew up and played here on this street and in front of this door.   This old section of Isernia has been around since the 12th and 13th centuries and the buildings were literally built during this time.  Through this portal has gone so many generations of the Guglielmi family.  Our family still owns this home and today it is the location of my cousin, Cosmo Guglielmi's architecture business he runs with this wife, Adrianna, and a friend of his. 

Isernia is nestled at the base of the Appennine Mountains 65 km east of Rome which is the heartland of Italy.  Isernia was founded 300 years before the birth of Christ by the Samnites, a fierce warrior tribe of original Italians.  This tribe ruled the Abruzzi-Molise region of Italy, until the Romans ruled Rome.  Then, they were conquered by the Romans and made the slaves of Rome and the Romans.  However, the Samnites were not just warriors, they were a tribe of highly intelligent people.  They were not about to remain slaves of the Romans, and, therefore, negotiated legally and judicially free Roman citizenship for their tribe.  The Samnites became free citizens of Rome on the same level as the Romans and enjoyed all the individual rights and freedoms the Romans did.  Therefore, Isernia is not only the birthplace of my grandfather, but the birthplace of individual rights and freedoms the Italians enjoy today.

My grandfather lived in Isernia and was educated there in stone masonry and then went on to higher education in Florence, Italy, eventually becoming and architect.  In 1920 he came to America to visit an aunt of his living in Philadelphia, PA.  He met my grandmother, also Italian, married her, remained here, and eventually became a U.S. citizen.   But, the ties to his family in Italy were never broken.  He kept in touch which his brothers and sisters in Italy and traveled back there to visit many times during his lifetime.  Two of his brothers, Alfonso and Tonino, eventually came to America, got jobs and remained here, also becoming U.S. citizens.  Two sisters and a brother remained in Italy all their lives and so, I have many cousins living in Italy today.

Several times during my life, I have visited the relatives in Isernia and it is wonderful to have been able to meet my grandfather's family there.  I have visited his actual birthplace many times, most recently in 2010.  My cousin, Cosmo Guglielmi, has remodeled the inside of the home to use as his architectural offices.  These homes are most like the townhouses we have in the U.S. today.  They are narrow and usually three or four stories high.  Each story has a room or two on each level and usually a steep set of marble stairs, without railings or banisters, up to each floor.  The marble stairs are hard on the knees and ankles, but the Italians navigate them with no problem.  They dash up and down these stairs from each floor to another a few dozen times a day.

As I mentioned before, Isernia is in the heartland of Italy.  This region of Italy is best known for the dairy products it produces and they are all delicious.  The fresh cheeses produced in this region of Italy are outstanding.  Here you will find the fresh mozzarella, riccotta and scamortz cheeses of Italy.  To walk in the small grocery stores and dairy specialty shops and see these three fresh cheeses is enough to make me salivate.

Italians shop daily for the fresh meats, fish, and vegetable and dairy products for their meals.  Food stores open at seven or eight o'clock each morning and my cousins make the round of the stores for the food for their daily meals.  If we ate fresh food everyday like the Italians eat, we would not have the weight and obesity problems we have in the U.S. today.   I know we don't have the culture here in the U.S. to shop daily for our food, so we rely heavily on processed foods and fast foods, but we would all be much healthier if we ate the amount of fresh food the Italians do.   The stereotype of the fat Italian is just not true.

Isernia is a typical small city in Isernia and a great place to visit off the beaten track in Italy.  When in Rome, talk a day or two and visit this heartland Italian city.  Here is where you will meet the true Italians, so friendly to Americans and other foreigners.   You can rent a car in Rome and drive east about an hour to get there, or take the train from Rome right into Isernia's train station in the old section of the city.  The train ride takes about an hour and a half.  From the station you can walk all over Isernia.  Walk into the piazzas and the narrow streets and explore the city.  You will enjoy the fresh food markets and stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, kitchen stores, pasta stores etc.  Stop in any of the cafes and have an expresso, cappucino or a glass of regional wine and a dish of pasta.

For a small city of 20-25.000 people there is a lot of history, art, and architecture to see here.  One of Rome's popes, Pope Celestino V, was born here in Isernia.  It has a university in the town with a library for research on this city, founded three centuries before Christ.  It has part of the original wall from those ancient times that surrounded the city.  The city's original church, St. Cosmo & St. Domiano, built centuries ago,  also can be viewed.  And, in the spring and summertime you can attend the various fests and festivals they celebrate in honor of important past saints and citizens of Isernia.

So when in Rome, do as the Romans do:  visit the heartland of Italy, Isernia, and sample the history, culture, food, art, and architecture of a typical Italian city.  Viva Italia!

The fabulous fresh cheeses sold in Isernia produced locally in the Molise region of Italy.

Fresh meat sold in the butcher shops in Isernia, Italy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Egret - a Native Bird of Florida

One of Florida's native birds -- the egret.

The Egret

One still egret, standing silent as a statue cemented to the ground in the still air.
Looks right; looks left,
Pokes and pecks the ground.
Extends one long, lovely leg, then the other.
Folds one long, lovely leg beneath its body,
Stands silent, one-legged in the shade of the bush looking straight ahead.
Not a feather ruffles
Gazing straight ahead, knowing where it is going.
The leg drops and it prances forward.
Neck long and elegant in a curve.
A slight breeze carries the palm leaves to one side.
The bush sways and the egret soars.
Willowy, white wings extend across the blue sky.
A white beacon to those left behind.

Florida egret in flight.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dolphins of Florida

Florida dolphin helping the U.S. military.

I have just recently seen the film, Dolphin Tale, and I highly recommend it to people of all ages.  It is truly an inspiring story of a dolphin named Winter, who is found injured and caught in a fisherman's trap and rope on a Clearwater, Florida beach by a young boy.  Winter, the dolphin, is so seriously injured that her tail has to be amputated to save her life.  She is coaxed back to life by the boy who found her and they have a special bond and connection and they become "family forever."

This is a heartwarming story of a boy who is struggling in school and life and becomes completely engaged in helping this dolphin to live.  One of its many themes is that the disabled dolphin can also inspire and bring comfort to those humans who are disabled and missing a body part as well. 

We witness in the movie the intelligence of dolphins as Winter "talks" to and communicates with her rescuer, the boy, by the clicking and whistling sounds she makes.  We also see the playful attitudes of dolphins as we watch Winter and the boy frolic and swim in the pool at the marine biology rescue station and hospital.

This is a heartwarming story on many levels as we watch the boy's cousin, injured in the Middle East war, slowly identify with the tailless dolphin.  As prosthetic limbs are made for our soldiers, so is a prosthetic tail made for Winter.  She can finally swim without injuring her spine with the new prosthetic tail made for her.

We are "family forever" with all those injured and "repaired" as well as with Winter the "repaired" dolphin.  We are all in this life and on this planet together, even with the injured animals around us.

See Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail,at the Clearwater Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida or view her on her web-site:  http://www.seewinter.com/

Florida Dolphins

Dolphins are marine mammals closely related to whales and porpoises, and they are found worldwide in the shallow seas of the continental shelves.  They are carnivores and eat mostly squid or other fish.  They belong to the Delphinidae Family and are the largest beings in the cetaceans order.  They are found in abundance in the Gulf of Mexico here in Florida.

Dolphins have a streamlined fusiform body, adapted for fast swimming.  They have a tail fin, called the fluke, and it is used to propel them through the water.  Their pectoral fins, along with the tail, are used to control their direction.  The dorial fin provides stability for the dolphin while swimming.

The head of the dolphin contains a melon, a round organ used for echolocation, which is a sonar sound system the dolphins have for locating food and navigating when submerged in the water.  They breathe through a blowhole on top of their head.  And, their brains are large and highly complex.

Both in and out of water, dolphins have acute eyesight.  They have extraordinary hearing and can hear frequencies ten times or more than adult human hearing.  Surprisingly, most of their hearing is done with their lower jaw.  The jaw is used to conduct sound to the middle ear via a fat-filled cavity in the lower jaw bone.  And, the dophins' teeth act as an antennae to receive incoming sound and pinpoint exact location of an object.

Dolphins are very social and live in pods up to a dozen individual dolphins.  They can temporarily merge into superpods of 1000 or more when swimming in the Gulf.   Dolphins are capable of establishing very strong social bonds and will stay with injured dolphins or ill individuals, helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface of the water if needed.  They will protect human swimmers from sharks by swimming circles around the swimmers and they will charge sharks to shoo them away  from swimmers.

They are the most intelligent of animals  with a friendly appearance and their playful attitude has made them popular to humans.  They are capable of making a broad range of sounds when communicating with each other or humans:

  • frequency-modulated whistles
  • burst-pulsed sounds
  • clicks that are directional and for echolocation

Dolphins will occasionally leap above the water surface and perform acrobatic flips and twists  Play is an important part of their culture, they enjoy riding the waves, and the will playfully interact with human swimmers.

One of our friends of the sea, dolphins are enchanting and entertaining.  They will perform great leaps and jumps to entertain those watching from the beach.  They are one of the most athletic fish in the sea and their intelligence has amazed scientists and researchers for years.  They are capable of close bonds with humans and we have used them to help the U.S. military and fisherman at sea.