How to Create the Experience of Italian “Sagra”

Courtesy: NTR24 “Castelpagano”

Throughout Italy, especially during the summer and fall months, it is common to happen upon a local “sagra”. A sagra is usually an entire weekend event created around the celebration of the earth’s abundance– highlighting what is locally made or grown. Wine made from a grape unique to that region, for example, or  a typical seafood catch from a coastal town, or a particular mushroom, like the porcino that grows copiously in Castelpagano (BN) where our relatives live. Entire villages prepare for the sagra festivals  for months prior to the actual occasion. The anticipation of fun and excitement coming to a normally quite village  is a big deal. There is a chance to exchange a few words with new people, the opportunity to dance, laugh, make purchses, display the products of one’s own talents,  and above all, acknowledge the affirmation of life and abundance.

To make it worth everyone’s while, this allegria, is accented with the addition of entertainment, music, artisan wares, and hundreds  of homemade dishes that incorporate the food or beverage that is being heralded. People are drawn from near and afar to join into the celebration of the sagra.

This warm weather leaves you with no excuse not to go to your local Italian festivale. Check your local listings for summer happenings, usually sponsored by churches or Italian clubs. That is one way to enjoy some of the sagra experience wherever you may live.

Another way is to locate your favorite public picnic area, invent a theme (eg, “locally grown zucchini”and send an e-vite to your circle of family and friends, asking them to come to your zucchine “sagra” and bring a dish made with that ingredient. Find out who, among your network sings (perhaps with a karaoke machine or portable keyboard), and let people know they can bring their special crafts to sell or exchange amongst each other. You can make this as large a gathering as you wish (within the limits of the area), and  enjoy a bit of Italian-style allegria of your own.

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—Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.
Personal Development Educator
BLOG:  http://raeleenmautner.com  (Check out my EVENTS  and EBOOKS sections for lots of great opportunities)
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AUTHOR: “Living la Dolce Vita”  (Amazon, B & N, and wherever books are sold)– and the upcoming: “Lemons into Limoncello” (HCI)

 

Rain, Crops and Your Own Personal Growth

In southern Italy, where my father’s people live,  rain translates into new growth for the crops. From the earth they get work, food, leaves for baskets, material for local produce fairs, community gatherings, religious celebrations of gratitude. All that from rain? Yes, we can look at rain as God’s gift, and a chance to wash away the old and bring on new growth, new life, new positivity.

If it is raining where you are today, think of how it might symbolize your own personal growth.  What would you like to change about yourself or your life? More family time?  Better eating habits? Starting to save and plan for that  trip you always wanted to take? Today is your opportunity to take one step in that direction. Let today’s rain wash away the old obstacles that kept holding you back–until now. Go for it!

Who is Looking at YOU Through the Eyes of Unconditional Love?

Photo Courtesy: Moschino

 

According to Italian contemporary philosopher Piero Ferrucci, author of  What we May Be,  “We should find out what shape our channels of communication are in if we want to see how easily love flows through them”.  Ferrucci  believes we should be more visually sensitive to our relational patterns, much as we are to light waves . Then we would be able to see the people we interact with more clearly, and in a different way. Some of them might give off an energy that makes them seem more like sea urchins covered with quills. Some might have obvious warm hands that fill you up when they take hold of yours; other people, may appear like onions that have cold layers covering them up.

What are the people that you regularly interact with really like? And more important, what are you learning from each of the players in your life’s story?

Being observant about the energy of our interactions with others  beyond just the conversations, helps us to understand the real energy exchange that is going on.  I love it when I am delightfully surprised to find that someone is looking back at  me through the  same eyes of unconditional love with which I look at them.

How to Re-Create The Communal Table Experience

Photo Courtesy: San Francisco Chronicle

In Italy-and increasingly in other parts of the world–it is common to enter an eaterie and be seated at a long communal dining table. You know no one, and they don’t know you, but in the course of the eating experience you find yourself making delicious small talk with new acquantances, perhaps trying out each other’s wine choice, discussing their menu selections and in some cases even exchanging business cards after the final espresso, with the promise of future connections. My most recent experience at the communal tavola all’ italiana was in the beautiful city of Firenze. I was alone in my quest for a great bistecca, but by the end of my meal, I was even more satisfied with the feeling of having just broken bread with potential new  friends.

My “Lemons into Limoncello”  living-well philosophy centers around two main concepts: Stengthening your inner resilience for life’s unexpected challenges , and filling in the between times with mandatory, life-affirming joy. The communal table is one pocket of joy that truly makes life worth living. Many restaurants in the US are now offering communal dining experiences, but I’d like to encourage you to create your own. Here is how.

Choose a public park or facility that has outdoor picnic areas. You may have to reserve them in advance. Send out impromptu invitations to at least 10-15 people whom you know, and make two requests:

1. Bring a potluck covered dish (or beverage, paper products, etc) , and

2) Bring a friend or family member.

Put the picnic tables together or bring portable chairs that you can set together, and make sure everyone is seated next to at least one person they don’t know.  By the end of the event, you will have increased your social network, staved off some of that loneliness that many are prone to from time to time, and increased self-confidence, in your ability to socialize by making new acquaintences.

Eventually you can also hold Communal Table Event Themes–such as all single (and all bring a friend), or all Mets Fans, or an Italian Recipe Exchange Table. The possibilities are endless, as will be the happy feeling in your heart.

Please don’t let the summer go by without holding one of these fun community dining experiences. Be the organizer of joy, Italian-style!

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Announcement Regarding October, Italian-Heritage Month!

To My Dear Readers,
Every October I deliver presentations at no charge, on Italian Heritage Themes ( October is Italian Heritage Month). Transportation costs may apply if outside of Connecticut, but if you have an organization looking for a speaker on this topic (or a radio guest to interview), I have already started filling up the October calendar, so please inquire now: raeleenmautner@gmail.com
Also…, for the month of October, my Monday morning radio show will be: “The ITALIAN Art of Living Well”, to honor my passion and this important theme of how we can stay connected to the wisdom of our heritage and let it guide us through tough times as well as remind us to make time for “allegria”! Lots of wisdom, great self-help tips, recipes, Italian interview themes, music, and much much more–please mark your calendars!

Strisce Rosa–Parking Spaces to Honor “Famiglia”? Yes, and Here is Why

Strisce Rosa in Italy

 

There is a new movement springing up throughout Italy, initiated by the joint forces of Fiat and an organization called quimamme. It is really a statement about civility, manifested in the designation of certain parking spaces for pregnant mothers, and/or mothers with young children. Designed to make walking  into the supermarket, pre-school, pediatrician’s office, or other common young famiglia destinations safer and easier, the spaces are reserved with pink paint as either a stripe around the space, a filled in pink area, or a sign with an image of a pregnant mother and small child in hand. Of course, in a country whose parking spaces are already few and far between, not everyone, as you can imagine is for it. Yet the movement goes forward, because,  in the end, Italy’s values have historically centered around “famiglia”, and true values are forever.

How long has it been since you have taken stock of your guiding values, and then stood by them? I am referring to the  principles that should honor YOUR life and what you are about? If you haven’t taken the time to reflect on what  deeply motivates you (or what you wish your motivators to be), here is how to do it. Tonight, write down the 5 most important principles that you’d like your behaviors–and your life– to reflect. For instance, if one of your top values is “famiglia/family”, then think of ways to have more statisfying family relationships. Then put values into action. Can you throw a pot luck this weekend for extended family members? Pay a visit to an elderly relative for whom you baked some biscotti? You get the idea. As always, I would love to hear how this exercise turns out, for those brave enough to take the challenge. raeleenmautner@gmail.com   Write to me!

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If you love my articles, I invite you to subscribe to this blog, like, share, or email it to your friends. As you know, I am a strong believer in great self-help strategies to get us through our everyday challenges. Check out my e-book store on this site, for ideas that may help or inspire YOU. Also, you can tune in or stream live to my self-help radio show every Monday 7AM on 88.7 FM or www.wnhu.net   Till next time—mille grazie for visiting!

The Art of Exchanging Pleasantries

Congeniality . I’ve witnessed it everywhere in Italy; on every cobblestone road, on city buses and train cars, in outdoor café’s, in the village piazzas, at the local barber shop and in the corner apothecary.  But it really struck  me one day when I was shopping for a simple cartridge pen in a little stationary store in Parma, off of Via Garibaldi. I was greeted by a woman who was passionate about stationary, pens, ink, and the sfumature (subtleties) of the fine art of hand writing. She asked me what I would be using the pen for and before long we were engaged in  an entire conversation on the joys of using cartridge pens. She brought out a little cup of caffe’, and transformed my shopping experience into joyful oretta of lively chatter and laughter. I left that store with more than just a pen. I left with a heart that was light and full of possibility.

It is time to turn back the hands of time in our individual lives. We must stop our crazy “busy-ness” and make the time to scambiarsi convenevoli—exchange pleasantries with our neighbors, be congenial to those on the elevator who press the buttons to our floor destination, make small talk with our local shopkeeper, and leave others who are in line in front or back of us at the grocery check-out  feeling good  about having crossed our path today.  I guarantee it will be time well spent!

The art of congeniality seems to be going the way of the hand-written letter, in lieu of quicker, faster-paced, multi-tasking lifestyles.  How did we  ever get to the point where we give hurriedness a place of such great importance in our life? And where are we hurrying to, that we cannot take a few moments to acknowledge the human need for social interaction?

Of course, use good judgment in who you talk to when you don’t know someone. But what harm is there in making a positive comment to the waiter/waitress who serves you, or  the person who delivers your mail? You can really make someone’s day, just with your smile as you walk your dog and pass by the person who needs it. Yes, you have the power to spread wonder wherever you go. Use it today and see what happens.

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Need some encouragement to get through the bumps?  By popular demand I have added a new advice column to this blog,  so if you are so inclined, you may send your question in to me: raeleenmautner@gmail.com , and  I will post it on my consigli/advice page . I do not use real names, and will change the names you have written in your questions. Looking forward to helping to guide you through your glitches , as I continue to get through mine! Love to hear from my readers!