The latest episode of Gomorrah focused on family life. But it’s not what you’re thinking. Again, the writers had viewers pondering the personal lives of mobsters. Despite their callousness, they sometimes show glimmers of humanity. We’ve caught glimpses of that in the last few episodes. Also, some important pivotal happenings took place. All this is setting us up for a riveting season finale (to air June 21 on Sundance TV at 11 p.m. ET). Here’s what you need to know:
Gennaro and Ciro Have Another Meeting
These two are like magnets. Or the writers keep creating scenes with both of them because they know that’s what the audience wants. But they just give you a taste. The reunion is never more than a couple minutes. This time they meet in the streets, on the steps of some building. Gennaro wants Ciro to wish him well as he sets off to get married and anticipates the arrival of his baby. Gennaro adds that his father Don Pietro’s antics are only hurting Ciro. He says that he doesn’t care about what happens in Naples and that he is capable of selling his “stuff,” which refers to drugs, without the Alliance or his father.
Ciro tells him that this situation is eating him up inside and that Gennaro is the one with the most to lose. He explains that if Don Pietro ends up losing, everyone will say it’s Gennaro’s fault for screwing everything up while dad was in jail. If Don Pietro loses, Gennaro will be left with nothing. Ciro has a point. The last thing Ciro says to Gennaro, however, is what stings the most. “You’re just like me, Gennaro. You’re just like me.”
Gennaro Gets Married
A mob wedding always lives up to the hype. The bride is gorgeous in a stunning dress that perfectly shows off her baby bump. The groom is going full Napoletano with his suit. Anyone who has been to a Neapolitan wedding (or had one like me) knows what I mean. But the wedding was more for Gennaro’s father-in-law. In fact, the couple joked that they didn’t know anyone coming to their nuptials. So, they took off after the ceremony to have dinner just the two of them. While they were away from the reception, the police showed up. They arrested the father of the bride.
Uh oh! It seems Ciro had a point that things might not work out as Gennaro expected. The father had been linked to a murder, a slip up that Gennaro had offered to clean up earlier in the episode. The father-in-law didn’t think it was necessary. After talking to the lawyer, Gennaro walks into the room with all the wedding gifts. He’s alone. He opens a painting of him, his late mother, and his father, Don Pietro. He punches his own portrait in the face. You get the sense the self loathing is real. And Ciro is right that this situation is eating him inside out.
The Alliance Goes Down
The episode began with Mulatto, one of the members of his alliance getting killed by his own security guards. Scianel was sent to prison the episode before. And we learn there’s virtually no one left in Ciro’s Alliance. Don Pietro is systematically ridding of them. He’s using the Alley kids to help him. Ciro’s closest allies want him to leave his home and go into hiding. At first, he says no. The Gypsy changes sides. Don Pietro says he’ll accept him only if he brings Ciro to him. He fails because Ciro figures out what he’s up to. Don Pietro has Malamore kill the Gypsy. By episode’s end, the tables have turned. Ciro is in hiding, and Don Pietro is back in his old house.
Crazy Love Or Something Like That
I made a grave mistake in writing about last episode. I suggested that Don Pietro thought of Patrizia as a daughter. Not exactly. In this episode, she is helping him reorganize the house that has been closed up for some time now. He makes a remark that it feels as though nothing has changed. Indeed, she replies that she should probably stop working with him because he doesn’t need information from her anymore. Her siblings want her at home more. And they are angry with her for getting involved with these dangerous criminals. But Don Pietro responds that he’s wrong. Everything has changed, he says. He tells her he wants her to move in with him. When she does (as if she had a choice), he comes into her room and puts his hands on our shoulders in a way that says she’s replacing his late dutiful wife. Well, well.
Mob marriage has been a subject of analysis for years now. At first, viewers might not have noticed love as a subplot in Gomorrah. But episode 9 throws it in your face. Anyone who thought this was going to be about the other deadly sin, lust, should think again. Once you see the storyline in episode 9, you realize that this conversation about love and marriage has been going on all along.
A Look Back, A Look Forward
What has been fascinating to me is that the Sopranos showed how most of the mobsters had a wife and a girlfriend. People are always assuming Europeans and particularly Italians have affairs. But none of the mob bosses in Gomorrah are cheating on spouses or longtime girlfriends. I’m not sure if that’s the reality in the real-life Camorra. But that’s the depiction.
Our first encounter with mob marriage is Don Pietro and his wife Imma. They are clearly in love. She wholeheartedly supports her husband’s criminal lifestyle. She takes over when he goes to jail. She does everything to turn their son Gennaro into a hardened criminal. Then, she makes the ultimate sacrifice. She gives her life to the cause. She knows full well Ciro is going to have her killed. She lets it happen to protect her son and support her husband. When Don Pietro breaks out of jail, we see him visit her gravesite. He is moved. And he wants their son to have Ciro eliminated as revenge. There’s a rift between them when Gennaro refuses.
Gennaro and His Baby Mamma
Gennaro and his girlfriend, with whom he lives, seem to be mirroring Imma and Don Pietro. She too is a child of a mob boss, but they are in Rome. Her father approves of Gennaro; he considers him the future of the family business, in fact. Now, Gennaro and this woman are expecting a baby. Gennaro seems committed to her and the baby.
She is from a different culture, though. This was brought up in an episode in which she throws him a birthday party in Rome. His friends from Naples come and rob someone there. It doesn’t go over well. But it depicted the distinct division between those from the south and those from further north, beginning with Rome.
The most profound moment was when Gennaro needed to go home to Naples. His girlfriend did not want him to go. He held her close and said:
You are my life. But never come between my family and me.
Ciro Kills Love
One of the most profoundly disturbing parts of season 2 was when Ciro killed his wife Debora. We learn in later episodes that they were childhood sweethearts. He cries as he is strangling her on the beach, what should have been a romantic setting. He is emotional when he cares for their mourning daughter. And he tells Gennaro to kill him because he murdered the mother of his child.
The point of this was to show that no one is immune in this sick world. Death is all around these people. And ambition in this business could literally kill you or your loved ones. It drove Ciro to murder his only love, after all.
Marinela Sets the Record Straight on Love
Early in season 2 we get to know Marinela. She is female mob boss Scianel’s daughter-in-law. Her husband, Scianel’s son Lelluccio, is in jail. While he’s away Marinela is her mother-in-law’s slave. The relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in southern Italy has long been an issue. Men live at home for far longer than they do in the United States. Their mothers can be overbearing. They never think young women are good enough for their sons. They also always believe the women have ulterior motives. Some of this goes on in every culture. But it’s exaggerated because many extended families live together in southern Italy.
Often, MILs mistreat their daughter-in-law. They might slight them. They criticize their housework and cooking. They might suggest they are unattractive or don’t dress well. Well, Scianel takes this abuse to a whole new level. She literally keeps her daughter-in-law under lock and key. She also “teaches” her how to cook. She tells her to be more like Patrizia, Marinela’s friend who no one knows is Don Pietro’s informant. Those are little snubs. She is also threatening and makes Marinela serve her constantly. She rarely leaves her alone.
A Passionate Affair
Marinela only really gets to see one other person on a regular basis. Mario, Scianel’s driver, is also with them often. A few episodes ago, viewers saw Mario and Marinela making love in the backseat of the car. Scianel was off on one of her nefarious errands. They express their love for one another. End scene. Scianel doesn’t appear to suspect.
In episode 9, however, she catches on. She overhears Marinela on the phone with Mario and realizes her daughter-in-law is cheating. She starts to notice the way the two look at each other. Scianel purposely gets another driver to take her to see Ciro and tells Mario to take Marinela home. Then, she follows them and sees them making love in the car. Marinela tells Mario that it’s over because Lelluccio is getting out of jail. But it’s too late.
The Stench of Death Lingers
Scianel has Mario killed. She has the killer shoot him in the privates while Scianel looks on. She makes sure Marinela finds out. Lelluccio returns and is furious to learn about his cheating wife. He puts his hands on Marinela’s throat and threatens her. Meanwhile, Scianel and the others celebrate his return. Marinela tells him what seems to be true for everyone in this show:
You want to kill me? Kill me. Go ahead. I’m already dead.
In fact, she also tells him that making love to Mario was the only beautiful thing she did in her life. Lelluccio has sex with a stranger, whose legs viewers see as she gets dressed. He calls Marinela and tells her that sex with someone else wasn’t good. He wants to see her. Scianel wants to kill her. But Lelluccio tells her to mind her business.
Now that the prince is dead, everyone wants to take over the building where he was selling drugs. Scianel goes to Ciro and bids for her son. Ciro agrees Lelluccio will get the building. Trak and the “Alley kids” are angry. They beat up Lelluccio on the night he gets out of jail. The police stop them and take in Lelluccio for the night, which saves his life. It also enrages Scianel. She brutally murders Trak by having someone repeatedly dunk his head in a pool of his own blood and dirty water.
Marinela is trapped. Her mother-in-law wants her dead. Her husband wants her sex. She is in a cycle of abuse and sees no way of getting out. Patrizia is still working at the clothing store, where Scianel shops. She and Marinela remain friends. Patrizia sees an opportunity to get Marinela out of this life and help Don Pietro. He is still trying to make those in Ciro’s alliance turn against one another. So far, it’s working.
So, Patrizia tells Marinela to call this phone number to gain her freedom. Marinela eats dinner with Scianel. Scianel tells her,
Women can’t have freedom unless they never marry…Once I got used to the beating, I gave in. I became a good wife and a good mother.
Then, Lelluccio calls his mother. He tells her he is coming over. He wants to see Marinela. That’s when Marinela calls the number Patrizia slipped her. The men tell Marinela to bring Lelluccio downstairs. Just as she is taking him out for a walk, she says she forgot her purse and to meet her downstairs. She takes two steps and they hear gunshots. She runs down and sees someone else is dead. She flees for her own life. Scianel tells her son they have to lay low until they figure out what this “disgusting whore” is up to. Marinela walks into the police station.
The End Is the Beginning
The end of episode 9 brings viewers back to the start of the series. Back then, Ciro and Gennaro were not at war. Ciro was Gennaro’s mentor. They seemed to genuinely care for one another. Or at least as much as anyone in the mob could care for anyone else. Ciro shows up at the airport where Gennaro is arriving to see his family – the girlfriend and her father. Ciro tells Gennaro that he knows about his deal with the prince, who is now dead. He also reminds him that they were once friends. He says, “Together, we could have turned this world upside down.” He points out that if they get Gennaro’s father out of their way, they still can. He asks Gennaro to think about it. I think we’ll all be thinking about it until the next episode.
Criminal Catholicism refers to how mafia, such as the Camorra in Naples, defiles religion. In season 2 of Gomorrah the subject of how mob bosses and their loyalists relate to the Catholic Church is jaw dropping. Already in season 1, viewers observed Don Salvatore’s devotion. He would go to church, pray, and indulge his mamma’s religious pursuits. Yet, he was a vicious mob boss, who murdered anyone who crossed him, including a young boy. He often invoked Jesus, even when intimidating and threatening fellow mobsters.
The Boiling Point
In season 2, the writers of Gomorrah put Don Salvatore’s bizarre religious rituals into focus. At the start of a pivotal episode, he serves as the godfather to the son of a henchman. During this time viewers learn something that the other characters never find out. Don Salvatore is gay. Or at least he is attracted to a transgender woman. He seems to have a real affection for her. But criminal Catholicism and society make him hide his true feelings in public. At the baptism, for instance, he turns away when his transgender partner is performing a song at the party. Later, he brings the transgender partner’s sister to his own birthday party and introduces her as his girlfriend. He sometimes kisses her in the street to show others he’s with a woman.
Things Get Interesting
Don Salvatore’s mother gets word her son is seeing a woman in the “blue houses” and asks to meet his special someone. He tells her they will meet when he is sure it’s a serious relationship. We learn from the transgender woman that Don Salvatore does not drink alcohol, do drugs, or have sex when she jokes about it with her family. We also see a scene in which the transgender woman tries to entice him to make love by taking off her shirt. He says she’s driving him crazy, but he can’t. They sweetly part. But he takes her sister outside to make others believe that is her real girlfriend.
When the transgender partner shows up to sing at Don Salvatore’s birthday party, one of the henchman makes many loud, vulgar jokes about the transgender woman’s “pesce” or “fish.” The transgender woman and her sister posing as the girlfriend run out in tears. When the cake comes out, Don Salvatore takes the knife and coldly stabs the hand of the comedian henchman. Don Salvatore later explains he did it because the transgender woman was the sister of his girlfriend, and it was disrespectful. The henchman begs for forgiveness. But Don Salvatore takes away the henchman’s drug-selling piazza as a punishment.
Bringing on the Traitors
Despite a large transgender and gay population in Naples, homophobia is largely accepted. Part of the problem is the church’s criticism of the gay lifestyle. Don Salvatore prays and prays. He’s constantly making the sign of the cross. He has his henchmen hide drugs in religious statues that are his cover business. They smash Madonna statues numerous times in this episode. Indeed, the symbolism could not be more obvious.
But stabbing that guy over the homophobic barbs would prove Don Salvatore’s fatal mistake. Ciro and Don Salvatore don’t like to share and it becomes clear one of them is going to take the other out. Ciro moves in to talk to the stabbed henchman and his best friend to get them to turn on Don Salvatore.
The End Is Near for Someone
The criminal Catholicism is never more obvious as it is at the end of episode 3. Don Salvatore is present when the two henchmen declare to Ciro on the phone that they want to kill their boss. Don Salvatore restores the stabbed henchman’s drug selling post to thank him for his loyalty. Viewers are left to believe that Ciro is going to sleep with the fishes. The men had invited him to off Don Salvatore after a religious ceremony in his mother’s town in which he participates every year.
This is where stuff gets weird. The ceremony has Don Salvatore’s mother helping to dress him in white sheets (including a hood reminiscent of the KKK, which was meaningful to an American like me who related it to the maltreatment of gay and transgender people). He also carried a sponge with pricks in it that the men marching in the procession would use to slam their own chest. Don Salvatore kissed his mother, participated in the procession, cleaned himself of the blood from pricking and turned to his men.
Ciro and the two others watched him. Then, the men held Ciro down on his knees while Don Salvatore told him of his oncoming demise. Finally, Don Salvatore commands the stabbed henchman to slit Ciro’s throat. Just as he is about to do it, he refrains and moves the knife up to Don Salvatore’s throat and quickly slashes it. Ironically, Don Salvatore dies with a pool of blood around him on the altar of the church.
Dead or Alive?
Don Salvatore’s death revives other mobsters. Don Pietro of the Savastano clan sees this death as his moment to make a comeback. He returns to Naples with the help of his henchman Malamore. First, Don Pietro tells his son Genny of his plans. But he is still distrusting of his boy. The tension between them is more than palpable. We also see Don Pietro visit the grave of his wife, who Ciro had killed. He promises her he will never leave her again. This kept up the theme of mutated love that we’ve been witnessing in season 2.
Malamore brings his innocent niece, Patrizia, into the business by having her become an informant to Don Pietro, and they are holed up in an apartment of a retired couple, who were left with no choice but to take them in. What’s noteworthy about this is that the girl has a lion tattoo because her father, who was dead, had called her a lioness. Don Pietro tells her the tattoo would be unnecessary if she really was a lioness. So, she burns and mutilates her arm to remove the tattoo. This wins the trust of Don Pietro.
Viewers also get insight into Scianel, the only woman participating in Ciro’s newly formed family. She’s particularly cruel and heartless with her daughter-in-law. While Scianel’s son is in jail, his wife is servant to his mother, who treats her like garbage. The girl is having an affair with one of the other henchmen and calls her MIL a witch behind her back.
By episode’s end, Ciro has arranged to meet with the Savastano family to devise a peace accord and avoid total war again. Much to Don Pietro’s surprise, Patrizia informs him that Ciro has asked for Genny and not him.
Gomorrah is the No. 1 TV drama in Italy, and it airs with English subtitles on Sundance TV every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Alitalia filed for bankruptcy for the third time. The news is causing shockwaves in Italy. The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad had come to the rescue in 2014, and before that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a number of Italian companies had bailed out the national carrier in 2008, according to The New York Times. These efforts all failed. Now, Etihad has announced it has no plans to continue its investment, according to CNN.
How Italy Is Taking the News
Scouring Twitter amid news of the filing, you saw that Italians are sick and tired of bailouts. In fact, La Repubblica reported the results of a survey in which 77 percent of Italians were against helping.
One headline in La Repubblica read “Alitalia, un pasticciaccio tutto italiano,” which means, “Alitalia, a big, all-Italian mess.” In that story, Massimo Giannini compares happenings in the European Union to kick off the subject. “In Paris, you are voting to save Europe,” he writes. “In Italy, you are voting to kill Alitalia.”
What This Means for Alitalia Travelers
While Alitalia has suffered from an inability to compete with discount airlines, Ryanair and easyJet, for domestic passengers, it was still the go-to for many Italian Americans. Or at least many of the ones I know use it. Recently, many of my Italian friends and family visited the United States and traveled with Alitalia. Indeed, a few people I know have flights coming up in the next few weeks. So, what are Alitalia travelers to do? Discover the steps to take starting now:
Call Your Travel Agent
Many Italians I know still use a travel agent. Or you prefer an online agency, such as Expedia or Orbitz. Get in touch with your contacts or customer service to find out if they have any information. This is helpful even if they don’t have any news for you because you will be on their radar.
Call Alitalia Directly
If you don’t have an agent or simply prefer your independence, you can call the airline yourself. To reach support from the United States, call 800 223 5730. To reach it from Italy, call 892010. You can also call Italian support for the airline from abroad by dialing +39 06 65649. (Remember the + sign is the prefix you must dial from your point of origin, so you will need to look that up if you don’t have it.)
Keep Tabs on the Headlines
Should Alitalia flights be grounded, you will hear about it in the news. With so much going on in the United States and other places these days, you might have to look for the headlines yourself. Set up Google alerts, so any story about Alitalia is emailed to you. Scan the stories to learn what’s happening with flights and passengers. At the Alitalia website, you should also sign up for the newsletter. There’s a chance the staff will share information about canceled or grounded flights. That’s not a guarantee, of course, because some companies use newsletters just for promotion.
Have a Plan B
Recognize that travel with Alitalia is not the most secure at this point. So, be prepared for the worst. Alert family, friends, or chauffeurs who are going to pick you up at the airport that things might change in light of the bankruptcy. Brace yourself for some inconveniences. If you have kids, prepare them as well. Bring along extra snacks and distractions in case there are major delays.
Also, figure out if there are other travel options for you. Do not purchase a new ticket unless you are certain your flight is canceled and the airline won’t be doing anything to rectify the situation for you. One would like to believe they would protect consumers during this challenging time, but you never know in these circumstances. As they say in Italia, “In bocc’ al lupo,” or “In the mouth of the wolf.” It just means good luck. Really. But it seems perfectly suited to this scenario.
Gomorrah season 1 recap is my gift to those who are just tuning into Italy’s No. 1 TV drama. In it, you will find links to the descriptive recaps I wrote after each and every episode of the first season. The show is based on the critically acclaimed book Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano. It has been captivating Italians since 2014. Recently, Sundance TV introduced Americans to the show about the Camorra, the mafia ring that began in Naples but has infiltrated many parts of the world.
While the show and the book have unearthed the seediest elements of Naples, Italy, and mankind, I still recommend both. These are works of fiction based on fact. Indeed, much of what is portrayed on screen happened in real life. The book and show help consumers understand the back story of corruption. What leads people to this life? Why the desperation? Astute viewers will make connections between this world and the economic woes facing Italy. You might even better comprehend the division between north and south in the Boot.
Gomorrah Season 1 Changed the World
I’m down with the Italian culture. My parents tuned into RAI my entire life. Now, I married a native of Italy, so I know a bit more than your average American about pop culture Italian style. I’ve never seen a phenomenon quite like the popularity of Gomorrah. All my Italian friends and family could talk about was this show when it first aired. This was especially true on social media. Viewing Gomorrah is like a cult. It is more than must-see TV. It is TV that reflects the reality of their nation and their world in Naples. I think that’s what makes the violence and immorality so difficult for me to see. Truly, this struggle is real.
The First Episodes
Gomorrah, the TV show, was applauded Stateside, too. The New York Times named it among the best international shows in 2016. Fans of the Sopranos, frankly, won’t want to miss it. This show gets at the underbelly of the mafia in a way even Sopranos could not. Indeed, there’s nothing glamorous about the life of a gangster anymore, if there ever was. If you are ready to join the other viewers, here’s to catching up on Gomorrah season 1.
May 1, known as Primo Maggio, is a holiday in Italy and many other parts of the world. This public holiday, which literally translates to May 1, is recognized as Labor Day. Some refer to this day as International Worker’s Day, but Americans continue to celebrate workers on the first Monday in September.
How to Celebrate May 1
In any event, in Italy, Primo Maggio is considered a great excuse for a three-day weekend. Where my family is from in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, many tourists head to the beach. And the natives celebrate by continuing to work because these long weekends are money makers for them. Others in Italy flee to the mountains. Whether at the beach or the mountains, they picnic like it’s 1999. Cookouts and barbecues are common. I have eaten some sausage from the grill myself on Primo Maggio.
Not everyone feels the need to get away. Staycations or quiet time spent at home are highly popular, too. The kids are off from school. The parents are home from work. The family gets to be together without all the responsibility of the other days. Sometimes, that’s enough of a celebration.
A Holiday to Get Behind
The few times I’ve been in Italy for Primo Maggio I have been working for American outlets that don’t recognize the day as a holiday. Just another work day for we Americans. But I observed my Italian friends and family celebrating. The feast reminded me of a combination of America’s Memorial Day and Labor Day. It is like Memorial Day because it’s an unofficial launch to summer. Being in southern Italy, where it is a warmer climate, I am not surprised that summer starts sooner over there. It is like our Labor Day because, well, it’s a celebration of laborers. What is clear is that working people are the ones keeping the world moving, so we should celebrate them every day. If grilling meats or lying in the sun is a way to honor them, then count me in.
I must preface this by explaining Italian American interior decorating is not for everyone. Anyone who came here thinking that this was going to be about sophisticated European interior design out of Italy is sadly mistaken. The others who came to this story believing they could learn about Jersey Shore-esq decorating can move on now.
This is about real Italian Americans, who are right off the boat right now. This is about my family, who arrived in New Jersey in 1960 and still hasn’t fully emerged from the boat to step onto U.S. soil. One of my guilty pleasures is reading interior design publications while soaking in a hot bath. I know I will never afford such homes – or even most of the accessories, but I still love to look at all the pretty. But I also find myself constantly saying, “Well, that would never work for my Italians.” So, I decided to just write a guide to Italian American interior decorating:
Shades of White
One of the biggest trends for many years now has been a call to infuse color into the home. I’ve seen pictures of walls of magenta, indigo, and even black. Gray has been hugely popular of late. Such dark hues would never go over well with my people. It would be akin to wearing all black before grandpa died; it’s as if you’re summoning the demons to take him sooner. Of course, if it ain’t white, it ain’t bright for these people. They criticize sky blue and powder pink in nurseries. I’m not sure what the reason is here. But I know white seems clean to them, and that’s pretty important. Also, when my cousin was getting married, my mom was putting flowers in the colors of her bridesmaid’s dresses on the wishing well, and my aunt tore them down. She said it indicated her daughter might not be a virgin and therefore could not be used. So, there’s that, too.
A Tale of 2 Kitchens
Real Italians – again, not the Jersey shore variety most of whom are Italian by association with someone who may or may not have had a great great great grandparent born in Italy – will appreciate this. But the fact is that off-the-boat Italians will only buy homes with two kitchens in them. If there aren’t two, they will install a second one. For starters, they need two refrigerators to store all those sauces they make. Many have a large freezer to keep those pre-made lasagne in case company comes over unexpectedly. Most importantly, the two kitchens allow one to be more for show with beautiful accessories and a tidy appearance. And the other one gets to be the workhorse, where Nonna and Mamma whip up biscotti at the holidays and fresh pasta for Sunday funday. Most importantly the workhorse kitchen is the one where everyone gathers to prepare the conserva in late August. That’s when you’re funneling tomatoes and jarring them for off-season pasta sauces.
Accessories of Faith
No authentic Italian American house would be complete without pictures of the latest Pope and Frank Sinatra. Also, the marital bed is required to have a Madonnina – preferably with child – above it. After one of the spouses dies, the crucifix will suffice. This rule of accessorizing goes beyond the home. When my son was born, I was surprised to learn that Italians (in Italy mind you) offer silver medallions with religious figures – usually the Madonna and child – to pin or hang on the baby’s stroller. Of course, hanging Rosary beads on walls or bed posts is another fine touch. This way, Nonna always has a Rosary to clutch and a reminder to pray.
Chicken Coup and Other Livestock
True story. My relatives used to raise rabbits (for our dinner) in the backyard in a suburb of Manhattan. They would feed and care for the rabbits and then kill them pretty much all in the same place. The neighbors – if they ever figured it out – were not fans. We don’t do that anymore. But hardcore Italian Americans still do. They were the original organics. They want to know from where their food has come. So, many a backyard has a chicken coup for all the egg-laying hens. A few raise other animals like we did. I must admit one of our paesani neighbors led us to have Tom the Turkey over to our house unexpectedly.
Gold and Plastic Galore
Finally, no Italian American home would be complete without touches of gold (think Trump’s Taj Mahal) and plastic covering the furniture. That stereotype is true and lives on, baby. I’m fine with it.
St. Joseph’s Day, which is known as the festa di San Giuseppe, is actually Father’s Day in Italy. In a country where the overwhelming majority of the population is Catholic (and the Pope is your neighbor), saints are a big deal. This is, of course, especially true in southern Italy. San Giuseppe is celebrated March 19. Like all other feast days honoring saints, this one recognizes everyone named Giuseppe (Joseph) and Giuseppina (Josephine).
How St. Joseph’s Day Is Celebrated in Italy
But some feast days include other celebrations. They sometimes associate the day as a way to honor whatever the saint is said to oversee. Saint Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, so on that feast day (June 29) in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, the fisherman fry up fresh fish at the porto and give it away for free. Since Joseph served as Jesus’ dad on Earth, he is associated with fathers. So, Italians consider March 19 the festa dei papa (feast of fathers), too. And June doesn’t even register for them.
Indeed, today Italians are offering up handmade cards, recited poems, little gifts, and good food to their fathers. Many are shouting, “Auguri” to the fathers they see in the piazza or at the pranzo (lunch) table. I’m about to make homemade gnocchi and a promise for a dinner out to my husband, the father of our son. The meal would be incomplete without dolci, some sweets. On this day the cream adorned zeppoles that either fried or baked are the traditional dessert.
The Takeaway for Italians Abroad
The message here is to be kind to your fathers on this feast day, which happens to fall on Sunday Funday this year. You don’t need fresh pasta or even a gift. A hug and a kiss will likely suffice. And a St. Joseph’s Day zeppole like the ones in the photo above wouldn’t hurt. C’mon, who could resist?