Pitigliano & The Bonfire of St Joseph

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Pitigliano & The Bonfire of St Joseph

Italy’s Father’s Day March 19th

The traditional Torciata di San Giuseppe (the Bonfire of St. Joseph) in the inland of Tuscany Maremma on the night of Saint Joseph recalls an ancient pagan ceremony where an auspicious purifying bonfire marks the arrival of the new season.
This ancient Etruscan ritual was later Christianized and connected to the feast of Saint Joseph. Religious traditions and folklore are intertwined, creating a moment of joy and happiness in the streets of the village of Pitigliano, culminating on March 19 with the big bonfire.
The village come to life with historic reenactments, illuminated by torches and candles: three trumpets kick off the march of forty “torciatori”, racing in the dark of night. The yellow stone buildings and the arches of the Medici Aqueduct are illuminated by the flames. Flag wavers perform in Piazza del Comune with the ” invernacciu “, a large stick snowman lit on fire symbolizing the death of winter. St. Joseph is invoked to protect the land. The coals from the fire are collected by the women and kept in the homes as a good omen.
Pitigliano is a stunning medieval town in the Maremma of Tuscany, dramatically perched atop a tufa ridge of Etruscan origin. The town is also known as Piccola Gerusalemme, or Little Jerusalem. This part of Tuscany sees far fewer tourists than central Tuscan hill towns and should not be missed. For several hundred years Pitigliano was a frontier town between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States. For this reason, the town was home to a flourishing and long-lived Jewish community, mostly made up by people fleeing from Rome during the Counter-reformation persecutions. Jews of the town used one of the Etruscan caves for their ritual Passover matzoh bakery. The beautiful  Synagogue built in 1598 still officiates from time to time and was restored in 1995.
A must see in Tuscany!

Dr Keys – An American -Father of the Mediterranean Diet

Ancel Keys, the inventor of the Mediterranean Diet

Bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables,  extra-virgin olive oil, fish and very little meat. Here are the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, a UNESCO “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. The reason of the award is the positive impact that the Mediterranean diet has to health. But you know who was the first to demonstrate its effectiveness in a scientific way? An Italian? No, the American Ancel Keys.

Born in 1904 in Colorado Springs, he was a biologist, physiologist and nutritionist at the University of Minnesota. Sent to follow the troops during the Second World War he was responsible for the nutritional and ration program for the US Defense Department.

During the early 1950s he participated in the first “Conference on Nutrition” held in Rome with top international experts. Dr. Keys was fascinated by the low incidence of cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders of the inhabitants of the Campania region and the island of Crete.

He thought it was a correlation that must somehow be explained scientifically. For this reason he was the promoter of the first pilot study to clarify the mystery.

In 1962, he moved to Pioppi, a village in the municipality of Pollica, Cilento –a hidden treasure and considered the other AMALFI COAST became the headquarters of his studies. After decades he concluded that the supply of bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, fish and very little meat was responsible for the extraordinary beneficial effect on the local population.

This type of power was called “Mediterranean Diet”, the Mediterranean Diet precisely. All the results of his studies were translated, in popular form, in the famous book “Eat Well and Stay Well”   a revolution from the United States, his home country.

Dr. Keys lived  in Pioppi for over 20 years. He died in the USA in 2004 at the age of 100 years!