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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Proud to be Italian!

Dear friends,

Today I want to share with you a special day in my recent life!! Last Sunday, February 21st, it was a day I will remember for years to come. The OSIA New York State Commission Social Justice (OSIA CSJ) honored me for having distinguished myself by my contribution to the Italian and Italian American Community by fighting bias, bigotry, and discrimination against all Italian and Italian Americans. For being a positive good role model for the Italians and the Italian-Americans and, as the beautiful glass engraved Award said “To Giada Valenti in recognition of the outstanding contribution you have made to all mankind through your gift of music”.
I was honored together with Anthony J. Izzo, Chief Organized Crime Control Bureau of the NYPD, one of the greatest and bravest men I have ever met.

I have received in my life all kind of Awards, always related to my musical talent, which I always say is a gift and a blessing from God!!
In 2008 I was also awarded "Woman of The Year" by the Italian Charities of America.
Even though I felt then like I had just started to do things in this world, I was humble to receive that one and when I was asked to receive this one, well I was so proud.
Both of those Awards were given to me for my behavior, for something I’ve learned from my family: to be the best that I can be, to be respectful of everybody, to love the others and myself and to be proud to be what I Am.
My grand father Ruggero will be so proud of me: he’s the one who always told me "People see what you show to them!“ Be the best that you can possibly be and people will see it!”
Such great acknowledgments will give me even more strength and motivation to be the best that I can possibly be for the rest of my life, as a human being and a musician.

I was asked to receive this Award last year in October, a few days after I had performed for the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in Manhattan at the St. John University. That day Tina Haemmerle, a wonderful woman that I had learned to know a few years ago, introduced me to Stella Grillo, the present President of the CSJ. Tina, who’s also immediate past President of the CSJ, she’s a wonderful woman, loved by everybody for her charisma and wonderful personality. She is involved in many organizations but she’s also a fantastic teacher in Long Island. A few years ago, I was asked to meet the kids of a school in Long Island where my friend Annamaria Izzo teaches, and to talk to them about my music and being Italian! It was a fantastic day and to talk to the kids and hear them sing was just a special day. Children are the future of the world and to get them involved with any kind of positive activity is something very important and, in a matter of fact, something I’m planning to do even more actively in the near future. Tina was also there too that day, since some of the kids where from her class! Tina loved the fact that I had found the time to go to Long Island to do this for the school and had never forgot that. So that day in October she introduced me to the President of the CSJ, Stella Grillo. A few days later Stella called me and asked me if I would accept the Award at their Annual Gala Dinner Dance. Of course I was honored to accept it.

The New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) is a wonderful organization that was this year also celebrating their 30th-year of existence. The New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) is the anti-defamation branch of the, Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), Grand Lodge NYS.  The CSJ is an Italian American group designed to specifically to engage in the work of combating defamation of Italian Americans and other groups.  The CSJ’s parent group, OSIA, is the oldest and largest Italian fraternal organization of men and women in the United States and Canada. Its two primary goals are to fight bias, bigotry and defamation of Italian Americans and other groups, and to promote a positive image of Americans of Italian decent through their Positive Image Program. This program offers posters, bookmarks, book covers, and their Telly Award winning video-documentary, “Italian American Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
The CSJ has worked in the last 30 year on various projects and with numerous organizations to ensure a positive image of Italian Americans and other ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds. The CSJ aggressively promotes the study of the Italian language, history and culture. The CSJ also supports with positive image materials Italian Clubs on college campuses, high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. The CSJ was instrumental in reestablishing the College Board Examination in Italian.  This achievement test in Italian, which was used by students as their foreign language requirement for entrance into college, was discontinued in 1973.  The cancellation resulted in a decline in the study of Italian.  The NY CSJ began a campaign to have the College Board reinstate the test. Negotiations took many years and finally in 1988, the College Board agreed to reestablish the examination and was finally reintroduced in June 1990.
NYS CSJ has also a media monitoring program entitled, MEDIA (Media Evaluation, Decision, Intelligence, Action) that has been active and successful.  It has monitored newspaper articles as well as TV and radio broadcasts.  When discriminatory remarks directed at Italian Americans have been made, they have been addressed.
And every year they honor two Italians or Italian Americans for their contribution, and last Sunday, it was my turn to be honored by such a great organization.
The Event was held in a very nice catering hall called Russo at the Bay in Howard Beach, NY. I didn’t know what to aspect exactly. I knew that there to support me there would have been some of my best friends here in the USA. Angelina and Alfonso Izzo, that I call my “American family” with one her two their daughters AnnaMaria and her husband Angelo, their her two little girls, Adriana and Anna Clelia, who I love to death, and my friends Angela Toscano, Lissa Pericolosi, Lisa Kayola and Susan Korwin. All dear friends, all of them, great friends that I met thanks to my music.  I was so happy to know they were there with me and for me.
I got at Russo at the Bay on perfect time, thanks to Jack and Anna who were my ride, other two fantastic people I met through my music. Jack is a fantastic tailor and he had adjusted many of my stage dresses, and Anna is his wonderful wife!!
As soon as I walked in at Russo at The Bay, the National President of the OSIA, Joseph J. DiTrapani, welcomed me and congratulate me. That was such a great honor. And from that moment on it was even clearer to me of the entity of this Award.
More than 200 guests were there and they all were congratulating me. And one by one, I started to spot so many friends that where there to surprise me and honor me with their presence. I was so emotional and happy!! I was so happy to see John and Jan Vigiano, President and first lady of the Brumidi Lodge of the OSIA, and also two of the greatest people in the world. John is former Marine and retired FDNY Captain, the most decorated firefighter in America, and together with his wife Jan my heroes. They lost their only two sons on 9-11, one a FDNY and one a NYPD. My friendship with John and Jan has enriched my life on so many levels: they are two of the most loving, giving and strong people I’ve ever met. Another blessing that music has brought into my life.
But there was also Nancy DiFiore Queen, past President of the Grand Lodge of New York State, John Fratta, former President of the Petrosino Lodge in NYC and his brother Joey, current President of the Petrosino Lodge in NYC. And so many new wonderful people who knew me from my Concerts, and that I’ve never met before. I got to meet some of my Facebook’s friends like Domenico Cutrone, who was there with so many friends and family member for me, and the wonderful Teresa Formato who I had met in Queens a few months back after one of my Concerts.
From noon till 2PM was time for talks and food at a fantastic open buffet where, as in the tradition of the Italian, great food was served. I used the time to eat of course and to chat with my friends, Angela, Lissa, Lisa and Susan.  People were constantly coming to my table to congratulate me with my Award and to tell us that we were a table with very good-looking women. The table of the “models” as they were all saying while taking pictures of us! We had so much fun!! I’m always so busy with my music that I don’t get to spend real time with my girlfriends, so it was nice to finally be there with them in such a joyful event!! Thank you girls!!
And then it was time to get into the room for the Award Ceremony. Well the protocol was that the people were getting into the room first, and then the distinguish guests and the people of the Commissions would follow with the Honorees, Chief Anthony Izzo and me.
I was accompanied in the room by Richard Haemmerle, a fantastic man and also Financial Secretary of the CSJ. Everybody was standing up and was applauding as the distinguish guests and honorees names where pronounced. When it was my turn to walk in I was so touched to see all of them standing up to show me their love and respect. I get a lot of standing ovations and applauses, but I can only tell you that the emotions of it, it’s something I can never get used to it: it’s wonderful and I’m so grateful to God for each and every of it! And in this occasion my heart was beating even extra fast!! I never felt so honored and I was, honestly, quiet emotional.
We took seat at the honorees table that was placed at the end of the big room facing the rest of the guests. What a view. It was great to see so many wonderful people of Italian heritage!! So many smiling faces, so much joy, pride and love in the room.
The Ceremony started with what it has been my honor to do so many times in so many Official Ceremony: the National Anthems of America and Italy. This time to sing them a lovely young soprano, Danielle Reed, from which I have received a very sweet e-mail the day after the Ceremony, where she was thanking me for having inspired her to be proud of her self and also for my kind look after she sang. So sweet of her. And she did a great job.
And then it was time for the speeches. The fantastic Vice President Josephine Morici Cohen started introducing all the honorable guests sitting at the Honorees table and of course the Honorees, Chief Anthony Izzo and me. Then the President of the CFJ, Stella Grillo, took the stand and after acknowledging and congratulating Chief Izzo and myself, made a short speech about the work of the Commission of Social Justice of the last 30 years!! Impressive!!

I felt incredible honored when the National President of the OSIA Joseph DiTrapani took the stand and, referring to me, said that my appearance at the last year NELA Gala in Washington was the “highlights of the night”. I will never get used to receive compliments and to get this from him was very special to me. An event the Nela Gala that was already so special for me since I had the honor to perform and meet the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden and the great actor Joe Mantegna.
And then it was time for the Awards. Chief Izzo was the first to receive it. The President of the NYPD Columbia Association Anthony Cesarano introduced him. To hear all the accomplishment of Chief Anthony Izzo was very impressive. What a great man he is and so humble and such a nice person. Chief Izzo was feeling just like me. He was also smiling with his face and his soul too when he stood up to receive the Award and the beautiful flowers! I could feel that!! A great moment for a fantastic man that I’m so honored to call my friend.
It was now time for my Award. To introduce me was supposed to be my dear friends, famous movie producer, Sonny Grosso. But due to medical problems, it couldn’t be there. So to introduce me was my own JJ, who, even if he knows me better than everybody else in the world, had a kind of speech to read!! I had no idea what he was planning to say, so it was fantastic to hear him listing, with his usual pride and love, all my accomplishments, so far. Everybody loved the fact that he was so emotional himself and so full of pride for me.

And then, there I was standing up to receive the Award and the flowers with all the guests looking at me and applauding. What a moment!!! I had 2 minutes to thank everybody and to say something, and I didn’t have written down a single note. But while there looking at the room and the guests, I got my speech: directly from my heart to my mouth!! The beauty of that moment, the view of so many wonderful people of Italian heritage gathering together to celebrate, all my wonderful friends at my table and around the room ...suddenly I knew what to say. Something that my grandfather had told many times as a child, and that now, more than ever, I was seeing happening just in front of me.
I told them what I was seeing right there in front of me and what I had experienced since the first day I came, 5 years earlier, in this country: the Italian American are a huge group of honest, wonderful people, successful people in their own different businesses, people that share like me the wonderful values of family, friends, and the deep love and pride for their Italian heritage. They may not captivate the attention of the media that often since the bad people seems to get more “eyes on them” that the good ones.

But I said these are the Italian Americans that I know and I have learned to love since the first day I landed in this county. And I said a beautiful saying my grandfather was saying to me as child: “A BEAUTIFUL FOREST THAT GROWS, MAKE LESS NOISE THAN A TREE THAT FALL”” and that was what I was seeing in front of me: a beautiful “forest” flourishing and growing and ready to show their beauty to the world!!

The applause was huge and later I got to hear from everybody how touching and beautiful my speech was. And it was at that moments that I decided for myself to continue my journey to promote the beauty of Italian Culture and Language even louder and stronger so to try to make the beautiful “forest” noticed by the world!!

I always wondered if we tend to react with interests to the bad news and the bad actions of bad people because we like that or if we do that only because good actions of good people are never praised and never make first page on the newspapers and are seldom on TV.
I don’t know what you think, but I’m convinced actually that we listen to bad news and bad actions by bad people, including some very bad reality shows, just because those are the only things we get to hear, see and to read about it. We are kind of used to it.
I wonder if we would start to praise good people and their good actions and totally ignore those who are bad, will the “good” at a certain point exceed the “bad”?

I love to meet people who inspire me, who makes me feel happy and save, I’m always so happy to hear about the success story of friends and family so I wonder why not also on TV and on the news also from other people around the world?

I wonder if it would work like it happens in fashion and in the music business a lot: at time we don’t like right away something that the fashion industry creates, but then when we start to see that fashion item over and over all around us… a certain point we start to like it. For me it was the case of the boots Hugs…I thought they were horrible….now, after two years of having seen them at the feet of almost everybody, I kind of like them and I own a pair myself!!

The same principle is used by the music industry, without us even knowing that! We may not like a song right away. But if we keep hearing that tune over and over at the radio, at a certain point we find our self-singing it and there we go…we kind of like it!!

So if we only get to see and hear great things and cheer for the good news, will we at a certain point dislike to hear depressing bad news of ugly bad-acting people anymore?

I wish we could try that!
I kind of do that in my life and I must say that my world is a great place to live in. At time of course some bad people cross my way, but I let them go, I don’t look at them….and doing so all I keep into my life, and all that matter  is a beautiful group of fantastic people. All of you dear friends, fans and supporters!! A beautiful forest that grows everyday!! Could that work for everybody? I wonder….

Going back to the Ceremony, Chief Izzo and I also got a wonderful proclamation from Edward P. Magnano, County Executive of Nassau County. And then it was asked if the guests were having something to say or to give to the honorees, that was their time. And with my great surprise Teresa Formato stood up and she had two wonderful presents for me and Chief Izzo. Mine was a bag full of incredible fantastic beauty professional product from her Company, all product made in Italy. And Teresa also said a few sweet and unforgettable words of recognizing for Chief Izzo and me!! This was another confirmation that there are so many wonderful people in the world!!!   Thank you Teresa!!

It was then picture time, kissing time and dinnertime. Yes, more wonderful food, this time served at the tables. You know what we say in Italy: we say that people eat to survive/live. We Italian, we survive/live to eat!!

I really didn’t had that much time to eat that night, since I took the time to go through the tables and say hello to all the fantastic people that were there for me, and to sing their Ceremony books!! And to enjoy the company of all my friends and the little Anna Clelia, that didn't wanted to leave my arms. More pictures and kisses everywhere and then was cake time: a wonderful cake made especially in honor of Chief Izzo and me!!  I’ve never felt that proud!!!! I was overwhelms with so many joyful emotions, as you can imagine!

There was so much joy in the room and music…my CD was playing alternating with some dancing songs too…you know us Italian we love to dance…and so we all did!! What a day of joy!!

There was also a "Souvenir Journal"  for all the guests  full of Congratulations adds for Chief Izzo and me: thank you to all the people who express their love and support in it!  A special thanks to Frank Valanzola, VP Wealth Management of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney  for his love and support always and to Gina and Salvatore of Alloro Resaturant in NYC.

Time flew away fast and before I knew it was time to go home!! One extra surprise was there for me: my wonderful friend Lissa Pericolosi surprised me also with a late present for my last month birthday: a wonderful   Yankee candle and a beautiful Candle cover set and a very touching card …I’m so lucky to have found thanks to my music so many wonderful friends!! And since “friends are the family we choose from our self”, I can say that I have chosen the best friends in the world for myself!! Thank you Lissa!!

Thank you also to all the other friends that weren’t there that day since you all live in different places of the planet: I love you all and I cherish your friendship and support immensely!! Everyday of my life I can feel your love and support true your letters, messages and e-mails. I love you all!! You are the beautiful forest where I feel so blessed and save to fly, to live and to dream. Grazie di cuore Vi voglio bene,
Than you also to Natale Mannino for all the pictures of this wonderful event.

Love always and stay tune for my next Monday blog on “March 8; Woman’s Day”!!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The "Costiera Amalfitana": a dream place!!

Dear friends,

Today I want to take you to one of the most beautiful places in the world: a dreamlike landscape, with so many and truly breathtaking views: the Amalfi Coast.
I’ve been there several times to spend my family vacations and I can’t wait to go there again, hopefully this summer.
The Amalfi Coast, or Costiera Amalfitana ‘in italiano”, is undoubtedly one of the most stunning stretches of the Italian coastline. For 50kms the "Costiera” goes from Positano, in the west, to Vietri sul Mare, in the east, through a dramatically beautiful landscape characterized by great cliffs diving down in to a magnificent blue sea, clusters of white cottages clinging to the rock face and terraces brimming with brightly colored flowers. You can smell the lemon trees and the at night blooming jasmine in the air, you will feel a warm breeze caressing you and everywhere around you will see the most colorful breathtaking panorama you’ve ever seen. And you will never forget the magic of this place.
To drive along the panoramic SS163 highway, which links all of the towns situated along the Amalfi Coast, is the best way to see the Costiera. Also known as the “Nastro Azzurro” or “Blue Ribbon”, the road is much loved by motorcyclists who revel in the chance to experience the thrill of its succession of hairpin bends. I love to see the many tourists getting kind of nervous when the bus drives on the edge of it to allow the cars to pass by.
First stop should be Positano, arguably one of most enchanting and romantic places in the world, and a famous tourist destination since Roman times.
Positano has all the typical characteristics of the towns of the Amalfi Coast: the historic center being located in the higher part of the town, linked to the harbor and the beaches by a great series of steps and steep winding roads. The town's main beaches are those of Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo, both accessible by foot.
But there are also the wonderful beaches of La Porta, Arienzo and San Pietro Laurito but you will need to take a boat ride. But you won’t regret it!! They are wonderful.
Positano was a port of the Amalfi Republic in medieval times, and prospered in the 16th and 17th centuries. But by the mid-19th century, the town had fallen on hard times. More than half the population immigrated, mostly to Australia.
Positano was a relatively poor fishing village during the first half of the 20th century. It began to attract large numbers of tourists in the 1950s, especially after John Steinbeck published his essay about Positano in Harper’s Bazaar in May, 1953: "Positano bites deep", Steinbeck wrote. "It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone."

Even though the panorama will take you away from everything else around, there is also wonderful church worth a visit : Santa Maria Assunta. The Church features a 13th Byzantine century icon of a black Madonna, that according to a local legend, the icon had been stolen from Byzantium and was being transported by pirates across the Mediterranean. A terrible storm had blown up in the waters opposite Positano and the frightened sailors heard a voice on board saying "Posa, posa!" ("Put down! Put down!"). The precious icon was unloaded and carried to the fishing village and the storm abated.

During the middle ages numerous watchtowers were built in the area so as to guard against attack by the Saracens''', frequent perpetrators of violent assaults on the coastal populations. One such tower is just outside the town of Positano, in Punta Campanella. If you can get there, go: you will be blown away by the view!!
Positano is not only an International tourist destination but also an important center for fashion design. Indeed, one of the town's major attractions is its vast array of boutiques, lining the narrow lanes and alleyways with their displays of colorful garments, typical of the town.
I stayed at the Hotel Il San Pietro Di Positano and I can tell you, that was one of the most beautiful Hotels I’ve ever been. The view from my room was impressive; you just can’t sleep and get enough of it!
When you are ready to leave Positano, nineteen kilometers from it, lies the town of Praiano. It may be less famous than its neighbor, but Praiano, which hosts a series of important traditional festivals and cultural events each year, is just as beautiful. Praiano is one of these small towns, a fishing village immersed in a peaceful landscape, once the resort chosen by the Doge of Venice in past centuries.
Traditional crafts still flourish in Praiano, from the production of silk garments to the embroidered pieces worked by the women of the village. It’s tiny area of land characterized by a dramatic scenery.
A procession of attractive little white houses lines the road leading from Praiano to the small towns of Furore and Conca dei Marini. Those are kind of  hidden villages that you won’t see unless you go deliberately there. Furore was a great discovery for me. Hidden away in the mountains, Furore is particularly striking because of its unique urban structure. The town is completely bereft of squares and open spaces, and is a maze of alleyways and flights of steps, which clings to the hillside.
It was built on terraces carved into the rock face. The town is divided into an internal part, where the village can be found, and a crevasse, which plummets into the sea known, as the "Fiord of Furore". The village is known as a small center of popular culture, characterized by legends and linguistic inventions ("nicknames"), and for being chosen as the set for films such as "Il Miracolo", "Paisà", "La Macchina Ammazzacattivi", and "Viaggio in Italia". These films brought personalities such as Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini and Anna Magnani to Furore. It is a town, which lives among the memories of the past and a love for cinema, within a landscape, which is itself a natural film set.
And if you like film setting place make a stop also to Majori. In the mid-20th century, Roberto Rosellini filmed some of his films here: "Il Miracolo" ("The Miracle"), the second episode of the movie L’Amore (Ways of Love, 1948) and Il viaggio in Italia ( Journey to Italy, 1953).
A film festival is held every November at which the Premio Internazionale Roberto Rossellini is awarded. The town is known for its cuisine which uses the local tomatoes, olive oil, potatoes and mountain herbs. Just stop there for lunch: oh boy what a delight!!
Just beyond Furore, there is also Conca dei Marini, a fishing village known above all for the Grotta dello Smeraldo. This Karst cave, partially submerged in the sea, is characterized by a 24 meter high ceiling and owes its name to the emerald tone assumed by the water which enters the cavity. The cave offers an impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites, which, in certain places join so as to form columns as many as ten meters high. The Grotta can be reached by boat or accessed via the SS163 highway from where a flight of steps, but also a lift, leads to the entrance of the cave. Well I took the stairs….and that was a great exercise and what a view!!
Traveling onwards along the “Nastro Azzuro”, after just a few kilometers you will arrive to the historic town of Amalfi which, in 1997, was awarded the status of World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Legend has it that Hercules fell in love with a nymph called Amalfi, a love, which was cruelly ended by her death. The nymph was then buried in this, the most beautiful place in the world, and the city, which was built here was named after her. It is not by chance that Amalfi, an ancient maritime Republic, is the heart of this stretch of coast and an International tourist destination, attracting those lured by its uniquely colored sea. In the 1920s and 1930s, Amalfi was a popular holiday destination for the British upper class and aristocracy. Amalfi is what I like to call, a piece of Paradise!!
Worth a visit are the Church of St Antonio, the Convent of St Francesco, the Paper Museum, the Chapel of St. Giuseppe del Castrista and the sumptuous Amalfi Cathedral. And of course you can’t miss at the top of a staircase in the heart of Amalfi the Duomo, Saint Andrew’s Cathedral .

The Amalfi coast is famed for its production of Limoncello liqueur and the area is a known cultivator of lemons. The correct name is “sfusato amalfitano”, and they are typically long and at least double the size of other lemons, with a thick and wrinkled skin and a sweet and juicy flesh without many pips. It is common to see lemons growing in the terraced gardens along the entire Amalfi coast between February and October.
Amalfi is also a known maker of a hand-made thick paper, which is called “bambagina”. It is exported to many European countries and to America and has been used throughout Italy for wedding invitations, visiting cards and elegant writing paper.
Three traditional events draw numerous visitors to Amalfi. First are the feast days of Saint Andrew (25-27 of June, and 30 November), celebrating the city's patron saint. Then there is "Byzantine New Year's Eve" (31 August) celebrating the beginning of the New Year according to the old civil calendar of the Byzantine Empire. And the third event is the Ancient Regata (first Sunday in June), a traditional rowing competition among the four main Italian historical maritime republics: Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and my own Venice.  This event is hosted at every year by a different city, so it comes to Amalfi once every four years. I’ve seen it Venice many time: what a wonderful colorful and joyful day!! Spectacular views and boats!!

From Amalfi up a supremely panoramic narrow road, which twists up from the coast towards the mountains you will arrive to the spectacular and world famous Ravello, Its dominating position on the hill top offers a spectacular view over the whole of the Amalfi Coast.
Breathtaking views of the Gulf of Salerno can be admired from the terraces of the elegant villas for which the town is famous, villas once chosen as preferred residence of many a famous personage, from J.F.Kennedy to Roberto Rosellini, from Federico Fellini to Winston Chruchill. Richard Wagner was another great man to be seduced by the charm of Ravello, and it was here that he found the inspiration for much of his music.
Every year in the summer months, the "Ravello Festival” takes place. It began in 1953 in honor of Richard Wagner indeed.
Although the original emphasis during the festival was on Wagner's music, the event has grown into an almost two-month-long presentation of a wide variety of music featuring large orchestras, chamber groups, jazz, art shows, dance, photographic exhibits, discussion groups and a chance to meet and talk with the featured artists, many of whom are of world renown. All in a breath taking setting! If I ever will get to sing there…you will have to look at my back cause I will be also watching the panorama!!
I hope you can see it once. Just magical!!

Ravello is a popular tourist destination and quit busy nowadays.
But the tranquility of the town greatly appealed in the past to poets and writers and international jet set. The wealth of art works in Ravello is preserved in numerous ecclesiastical buildings such as the Cathedral of St Pantaleone, Patron saint of the town, a building which is striking because of its marble work; the adjacent bell tower, the Church of St Martino, the Church of St Angelo and the Church of St Giovanni del Toro.
The heart of Ravello is the Piazza Vescovado, with the Castle ruins, the Cathedral and Palazzo Rufolo. Villa Rufolo should not be missed, a building, which is home to much of the art of Ravello and surrounded by splendid gardens, where numerous musical and cultural events are held and from the beautiful garden you can have a spectacular view of the Costiera. Villa Cimbrone is also well worth a visit.

If you are in Ravello and you are looking to have a unforgettable experience   and fun Mamma Agata is  the place  to go: : you can  learn how to cook authentic Amalfi Coast cuisine. I went there 1995, when she just started this adventure, with my mom and dad and some of their friends and it was nice to see my mom, a great cook herself, learning something new about cooking: the traditional southern food!!
A beautiful kitchen on a terrace in Ravello is one of the pearls of the Amalfi Coast where you can have a unique experience: a Mediterranean cooking lesson with Mamma Agata.
Agata's began at the tender age of thirteen to cook, when she went to work for a wealthy American lady who, struck by the young girl's culinary talent, put her in charge of preparing banquets for the starts like Fred Astaire, Anita Eckberg, Jacqueline Kennedy, Elisabeth Taylor and a stream of other celebrities including Humphrey Bogart, who gave her the nick name Baby Agata.
Today Mamma Agata shares her culinary expertise with all those wishing to learn about the traditional cuisine of the Amalfi Coast. Lessons start with a trip to the organic kitchen garden situated beneath the terrace, occasion in which Agata's husband Salvatore, teaches students about the seasonal fruits and vegetables grown here. The whole family of Agata is around!!
During the cooking lesson, Agata shows how to prepare appetizers, bread, pasta, vegetable side dishes, second courses and delicious desserts, including her legendary Lemon Cake, to die for.
And at the end the best part of the day: all the delicacies prepared during the lessons are then served, accompanied by the excellent wines of the Amalfi Coast and, of course, a glass of Limoncello, which I wasn’t aloud to drink by then. But I will next time, since I want to go back and take the lesson myself!! Do you want to join me?

While there I stayed several times at the HoteL Caruso Belvedere: what can I tell you…everytime I’m there I have problems to leave!! Look at those picture…how could you leave this place?
The last town of the Amalfi Coast, while driving the “Nastro Azzurro” is Vietri sul Mare, built in one of the most sheltered areas of the gulf of Salerno, is a town of Etruscan origin. A popular seaside holiday destination, Vietri sul Mare is perhaps most famous for its ceramics, displayed in the numerous workshops which line the streets of the town.
Overlooking the sea, Vietri Sul Mare is sheltered from behind by the Mount St Liberatore and Mount Falerio. The town is internationally famous for the production of antique ceramics which dates back to Medieval times and is still of prime importance to its economic prosperity.
Today the Ceramics of Vietri have their own protected brand name. Vietri is also a popular tourist destination with its beaches and the Saracen Tower. Other areas are Molina, Albori, Raito and, inland, Benincasa and Dragonea, from here one can take mountain paths which are much loved by nature enthusiasts, and by me.
The mountain paths of the Amalfi Coast are a journey, on foot, through the mountains of the Amalfi Coast and arejust amazing. The views are out of this world.
There are many paths, the only one I walked so far is The Sentiero dei Dei, the Path of the gods. It is the best known of the mountain paths, a route, which offers spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast and owes its name to the numerous temples, which, in the Roman era, were built here. Very tiring but worth the fatigue!!
Other location I have visited and I really liked where the village of Scala. This little village is located on a rocky hill c. 400 m over the sea level. This little town is famous for its cultivation of chestnuts. Every year, at the end of October, for two consecutive weekends, they have “La Sagra delle Castagne” (a chestnut festival) is their main square. I’ve never been to this one, but I’ve been told that it’s quit beautiful. And at night you will have trouble to fall asleep: the Costiera will be so beautiful and quiet and romantic like a dream!!

So dear friends all I can say is: when shell we go to the Amalfi Coast? I can’t wait to there again this summer hopefully!! 
Stay tune for my next week blog to hear about my unforgettable day and the great honor of receiving an Award from the Commission Of Social Justice of the OSIA .

Love always,


Thursday, February 11, 2010

A very special night!

Dear friends,

Last Tuesday, February 9,  I had the honor to perform with my musicians at the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the “Accademia Italiana Della Cucina“ Delegation of New York, at the beautiful and super exclusive Metropolitan Club in Manhattan.

The “Accademia Italiana Della Cucina” was born on the 29th of July of 1953 founded by Orio Vergani, with the task of safeguarding, together with the traditions of Italian cuisine, the culture of the civilization of the table, lively and active expression of the entire Nation.
He was motivated by passion, by experience, and by a profound faith in the cultural, historical and human values on which a country's civilization of the table and gastronomical culture are based. And from then on, the activity and history of the Accademia have never ceased to pursue the principles. Today, at a distance of fifty years, the Accademia is more solid, active, vigorous and important than ever.

In 2003, the Minister for Cultural Affairs even recognized the well documented cultural merits of the Accademia by granting it the denomination, “Cultural Institution”, thus placing it amongst the largest and most important Italian cultural organizations, working intensively for the valorization, research and broadening of knowledge about the Italian gastronomical culture.

The Accademia is organized in territorial Delegations - up to today 205 in Italy and 67 abroad, counting approximately 7.000 associates altogether.

And I’m proud to say that I’m a member of this Italian Cultural Institution since 2001.

Admission to the Accademia is subordinated to a period of attendance. Admission is decided, upon proposal of the competent Delegate of the correspondent region, by the President of the Accademia, following an attentive scrutiny of the moral and personal requisites of the candidate.

For me the Accademia has been a perfect way to meet so many wonderful friends and to engage friendship with fellow “Accademici” around the world. When an Accademico moves to another Country or City, will move from one Delegation to another. I became a member in the Delegation of Utrecht, in Holland, then I was transferred to the one in London when I moved there and since 4 year I belong to the Delegation on New York.

Being a member of the Accademia is an incredible great honor as you can imagine, and has brought into my life so many great people who like me share the loves for the Italian Culture. Even if I promote Italian Culture around the world with my music, I’m convinced that cooking  is in fact one of the most profound forms of expression of a nation's culture: it is the fruit of the history and life of its inhabitants, a history which differs from region to region, from city to city, and from village to village.

Every month the members of each Delegation around the world gather together for a dinner, called Symposium. It is the task of the Symposiarch, chosen each time by the Academicians of each Delegation, to organize the Symposium. The Symposium, basically a dinner,  represents an occasion for the investigation and supervision of the condition of public catering and Italian Restaurants. In fact, the Symposiarch chooses a restaurant in the territory of his own Delegation, proposing and agreeing with the chef on a menu, chosen with extreme care and according to very precise criteria.
By means of a detailed evaluation form, the participants to the Symposium will express their judgment regarding the chef's capacity of interpreting the menu, the quality of the products used and the combinations with the wine, the hospitality and reception of the restaurant and regarding the ratio between price and quality.
A report of the “Symposium” will be published on the Accademia monthly Magazine “Civita’ della Tavola”, where each Accademico around the world can read about the Accademia's activity, but also of topics of a cultural and gastronomical nature are regularly discussed. Each Accademico get this publication every month.

The Accademia published also every year a Restaurant Guide entitled "I Ristoranti dell'Accademia". The guide, which is unique in its kind, highlights and grades the best Italian Restaurants around the world.
So no matter when I go I can always find the best authentic Italian Food!!

When the Contessa Francesca Baldeschi Balleani, the Delegate of the New York Delegation, who’s become a dear friends and a great supporter of my music, invited me to perform at the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Accademia of New York and to sing for my fellow Accademici, I was of course very much thrilled.

The black tie event was very nice and cozy and the food was, as usual, above expectations. The chef, who cooked for 150 guests, was the famous chef Lucio Pompili, from the Restaurant Symposium from Serraungarinam of the province of Pesaro and Urbino. He and his staff brought all the ingredients from the region Marche, who was the sponsor Region for this special celebration.

I had the honor to be guest of the Metropolitan Club for the celebration. So I got there early in the morning, to a beautiful huge suite with view on Central Park on the 5th floor of the beautiful Metropolitan Club building. After lunch I went to Federico Salon to do my hair. Around 4 Pm I did the sound check with my musicians and around 6Pm I met with my make up artist Piera in my suite.
Around 7Pm it was time to wear my gown and  the fantastic jewels from Alex Harris, A. Harris Jewelers Since 1851.

At 7:30Pm was time to get down to the first  floor to the fantastic reception where we could taste so many fantastic appetizers and mingle with all the rest of the distinguish guests.
At 8:00Pm was time to move into the dinner room so elegant and beautiful with a view to Central Park from those big windows.
The Celebration started with the National Anthems: first the American sung wonderfully by famous baritone Marc Watson and then the Italian sung by me. Always-such a great honor and such an emotional moment.

And then was dinner time.
On the menu:
Parmantier con uovo fritto al tartufo nero d’Inverno (a delicious little cake of potatoes with eggs and black truffle)
Pasta Artgianale marchigiana con beccaccino pettinata di caffe’ e cacao riduzione a goccia di lacrima di Morro d’Alba (a very tasty home made pasta from the Marche’s region with snipe made with cacao and coffees cream from Morro d”Alba…the pasta came in a glass single jar and each guests had to shaker the pasta and the sauce together and purr it on the plate….it was fun!!)
Tagliata di Lombo di Toro Marchigiano con Olio al rosmarino- Bandiera di Verdure- Tortino di Patate e cipolla Bianca (cut of loin of bull of Marche, with oil and rosemary – vegetables- and cake of potatoes and white onions).

After the “Secondo“ was served it was my time to perform with my musicians: show time with 5 songs : Love Story- Io che Non Vivo Senza Te- Tell Me When- La Vie En Rose- and Caruso.
Since among the guests many where “Accademici” and dignitaries from Italy. My talks were mix of English and Italian. So much fun!!

And then Dessert:
Carota sottoterra – dolce-salato dedicato a Francesca (this was my favorite dish: a sweet marzipan carrots with chocolate truffle dedicated to Francesca, the Delegate of the Delegation of New York the Contessa Francesca Baldeschi Balleani, who had put together such an impressive event ).

After the Desserts was served was time for the honorees to receive their Accademic awards: to receive the awards where some outstanding Italians Restaurant of New York: Barbetta 1906, Falai, Gino 1945, Le Cirque and Il Gattopardo, great journalists Pamela Fiori, Mimmi Sheraton, and Luisanna Messeri. writer Giuliano Bugalli and grocer Lou Di Palo.

Around midnight the fantastic Celebrations where almost over. What a great night of Celebration of the Italian Culture and Food!! I got to meet so many new interesting people and old friends. The President of The Region Marche has officially invited me to be his guest this summer at the beautiful “Sferisterio” during the Opera season!! Can’t wait for that!!

It was time to go to my beautiful room while the snow was starting to slow coming down. I woke up in the morning and the vision was incredible: New York’s Central Park was completely white!! I went to the 6th floor for a fantastic breakfast on the restaurant, which has a breathtaking view on Central Park and the City! What a fantastic beginning of my day!!

And then my car arrived and was time to go back home with so many new wonderful memories.

My great friends and great photographer Alex Kroke was the official photographer of the night! Thank you Alex for this great pictures!! 

Stay tune for my next week blog when I will take you to the beautiful Amalfi Coast and share with you memories and tips of this wonderful place of Italy.

Un abbraccio a tutti,