Archive for the ‘Lazio’ Tag

Comment: Montefiascone and the Bishop   Leave a comment

There is a well known ‘food myth’ about Montefiascone wine and a German bishop. The following account is taken from Edward R. Emerson, Story of the Vine (Knickerbocker Press 1902). It would be interesting to see how much older the tale is.

As the story goes… a German bishop named Defoucris, who travelled a great deal, and had acquired in his many journeys a discriminating fondness for wine. His valet bibulous bishop. was also an excellent judge, and the bishop, in order to ascertain the quality of the wine at the places where he was to stop, would send the valet on ahead that he might test it and write under the bush the word ‘est’ if it was good, and ‘est est’ if it was fine. On the other hand, if it was poor the valet was to leave a blank under the bush; at such places the bishop refused to drink.

The bush is a bunch of evergreen hung over the doorway to tell travellers ‘here wine is sold’. It has been used from time immemorial, and it is from its use that the saying ‘Good wine needs no bush’ has arisen, several of our noted authorities notwithstanding. At last the valet, arriving at Monte Fiascone, found there a place where he could write ‘est est’. In due time the bishop arrived, and was so pleased with the wine that he immediately proceeded to get drunk on it, and remained in that condition until he died.

The legend was either given in an incomplete form or it has since developed. This is extracted from the Italian Wikipedia inDecember 2010.

Il nome di questo vino deriva da una leggenda. Nell’anno 1111 Enrico V di Germania stava raggiungendo Roma con il suo esercito per ricevere dal papa Pasquale II la corona di Imperatore del Sacro Romano Impero. Al suo seguito si trovava anche un vescovo, Johannes Defuk, intenditore di vini. Per soddisfare questa sua passione alla scoperta di nuovi sapori, il vescovo mandava il suo coppiere Martino in avanscoperta, con l’incarico di precederlo lungo la via per Roma, per assaggiare e scegliere i vini migliori. I due avevano concordato un segnale in codice: qualora Martino avesse trovato del buon vino, avrebbe dovuto scrivere est, ovvero ‘c’è’ vicino alla porta della locanda, e, se il vino era molto buono, doveva scrivere est est. Il servo, una volta giunto a Montefiascone e assaggiato il vino locale, non poté in altro modo comunicare la qualità eccezionale di quel vino, decise di ripetere per tre volte il segnale convenuto e di rafforzare il messaggio con ben sei punti esclamativi: Est! Est!! Est!!! Il vescovo, arrivato in paese, condivise il giudizio del suo coppiere e prolungò la sua permanenza a Montefiascone per tre giorni. Addirittura, al termine della missione imperiale vi tornò, fermandosi fino al giorno della sua morte (avvenuta, pare, per un eccesso di bevute). Venne sepolto nella chiesa di San Flaviano, dove ancora si può leggere, sulla lapide in peperino grigio, l’iscrizione: ‘Per il troppo EST! qui giace morto il mio signore Johannes Defuk’. In riconoscenza dell’ospitalità il vescovo lasciò alla cittadinanza di Montefiascone un’eredità di 24.000 scudi, a condizione che ad ogni anniversario della sua morte una botticella di vino venisse versata sul sepolcro, tradizione che venne ripetuta per diversi secoli. Al vescovo è ancora dedicato un corteo storico con personaggi in costume d’epoca, che fanno rivivere questa leggenda.


Posted December 27, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Source: A communist farmer speaks about agriculture   Leave a comment

In 1966 Belden Paulson published The Searchers: Conflict and Communism in an Italian Town. In writing the book Paulson interviewed representative citizens from the small Lazio town of Castelfuoco of all social classes and all political groups. The following is from an interview with the young Communist Mario Libertini and is one of several passages in the book that give insights into agricultural relations in the dopo guerra.

It is not true that Italy has made giant steps since the war, as the Christian Democrats, would have us believe. Other countries, much more damaged – Germany, for example – have done a lot more than Italy. I do not know whether this depends on the people or the government; anyway, millions and billions have been spent, but double or triple could have been done. Take the crisis that has hit the farmers; our group should have been helped the most. After all, at the end of the war this was most of the population. Instead, it has been treated the worst. The young farmers are abandoning the land, and the must marry late because they have no money. The government has given us no help to form a cooperative, even though the farmer getsonly 35 or 40 lire for a liter of wine, while the prince in Rome is 160 to 200 lire. The pensione of the small farmer is 10,000 lire a month – real poverty. Can you imagine anyone living on that, even Cristoforo Sereni in his straw hut? So eighty year-old farmers must continue to work the fields. The farmer, after paying expenses, is lucky to earn 250 lire a day. And the government still wants us to do all the work with the hoe. They pass a law to get us machinery, but Bonomi, as ex fascist, controls the Federconsorzi which sells the tractors and machines. It is a big monopoly that charges high prices, gets the little farmer in debt, and finally ruins us. But most schifose [disgusting] of all are the enfiteusi, which are obligations set up in medieval times when the Colonna feudo was formed and today are still with us. Maybe once they made sense; Colonna at least gave his farmers protection in return for their feudal dues. But now it is plain injustice, benefiting only the signori. My father, for example, bought his several hectares when he returned from America; he paid the full price to the agrari at the time of the sale fifty years ago, yet the contract stipulated that he must continue to pay corrisposte, a part of his product to the original owner. Over half the land in Castelfuoco still suffers from the ridiculous arrangement. It all began when the feudal owners first ‘conceded’ land to the small farmers who were forced to kneel at the agrarians’ feet and accept humiliating conditions. The only way to get out of paying the corriposte now is to pay the old owner hundreds of thousands of lire. This is impossible for a farmer, given his tiny return from the land. I remember when I was little: each year at harvest time Tramonta would send out his guardiano who rode his horse through the land ordering everyone to give a percentage of the harvest. If we did not pay he would call the carabinieri, who worked for the agrarians anyway. Now these signori are a bit more moderate. Prince Colonna has forfeited some of his dues, for they are not worth the trouble to collect. Most of the farmers have agreed to pay so much each year, without the humiliation of the guardiano coming on your land. But it is always a heavy burden, because if I have a bad year and make only four quintali of grapes, I must give the same percentage. There are rumours that these absurd obligations are about to end; I think the problem has been taken to parliament. So far it is only a hope. If anything is changing today it is because we have a strong Communist party opposing these injustices. Otherwise the medieval system would always be with us. Everything I owe to the party. Through it I oriented myself – in the party, in the Federterra, in the Unione Contadini, in protest demonstrations. Who come into my field to talk with me – apart from election day – except my party? When bad weather wrecked my crop and I was desperate, the government did nothing – no one cared. But some of us in the party went as a delegation to the ministry in Rome. We were given only 150 lire apiece – just enough to pay our bus fare – but we have fought anyway.

Posted September 10, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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