• September/October 2023

    The 2023 Ferragosto Picnic: Fun, Food, Friendship, & Bocce

    By Maria D’Andrea-Yothers

    The annual AMHS Ferragosto Picnic was celebrated on Sunday, August 13, at Fort Ward Park in Alexandria, Virginia, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Approximately 40 AMHS members, friends, and family came together to celebrate a day of fun, food, friendship, and bocce. As in years past, there was an abundance of food, from antipasti, grilled kielbasa, pasta salads, potato salads, fresh fruit, and desserts, to be shared and enjoyed by all. Of course, no picnic celebrating Italy and its traditions would be complete without vino (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose); and birra (Peroni). Special thanks to Lucio D’Andrea for sharing his homemade limoncello, and to Maria D’Andrea-Yothers for sharing a bottle of Ole Smoky margarita-flavored moonshine which was acquired during a recent vacation in Tennessee. 

    While the sun shined brightly, there was ample shade covering and pop-up canopies to keep attendees cool. Many thanks to all those who were able to join in a day of celebration. Special thanks to everyone who helped with set-up and tear-down. Fort Ward Park was once again the perfect setting for a day of celebration.

    To find out more about the origins of Ferragosto, celebrated every year on August 15, and how it is celebrated, see 15th of August: origins and facts about the Italian Tradition of the “Ferragosto” | Visititaly.eu

    September/October 2023

  • September/October 2023

    A Message from the President

    Dear members and friends:

    I hope that this message finds you in good health and enjoying the waning days of summer. Over the course of the past two months, we have had some interesting programs, and we plan to offer at least one more before the fall. On July 9th, we organized a self-guided tour of the exhibition “Going through Hell: The Divine Dante” at the National Gallery of Art. The group of approximately 15 members and friends learned a great deal about the impact of Dante through the ages and discussed some of their insights afterwards at the Cascade Café. You can read more about it in Maria D’Andrea’s article. Later in the month, on July 30th, we offered a virtual presentation by Michael Markowitz on the evolution of Roman coinage during the period from about 300 BC to 476 AD. His lecture and slides provided a fascinating glimpse into how Roman coins reflected the events of Roman history and how, in one particularly interesting case, a Roman coin led to the assassination of Julius Caesar. Nancy DeSanti’s article on the talk contains additional details and commentary.

    On August 13th, we held our annual Ferragosto picnic at Ft. Ward Park in Alexandria, Virginia. One of our most popular events of the year, the picnic provided an opportunity for members and friends to enjoy a barbecue, many homemade dishes, wine and beer, desserts, music, bocce, and good fellowship — all against the backdrop of a beautiful day. One week later, on August 20th, we organized a self-guided tour of the exhibition “Imagining the future – Leonardo da Vinci: In the mind of an Italian genius”. The tour, which took place at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Washington, D.C., featured an exhibition of twelve volumes of the sketches, musings, and drawings of Leonardo, including twelve original drawings from the “Codex Atlanticus.” Participants enjoyed a lunch following the tour. 

    Going forward, we will close out our summer programs with a general meeting at the Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center (CISC) on September 10th at 1:30 p.m. Our guest speaker will be Carmine Vittoria who will discuss his book “Hidden in Plain Sight: WWII, Mussolini, and the Plight of Internment Camps in Southern Italy.” Vittoria’s book shines a light on the situation of Jewish internees and townspeople caught in the crossfire of warring armies. Dr. Vittoria was a featured speaker at a previous AMHS event in 2019 and his presentation was very well received. 

    Our Society will sponsor a special musical event in the fall, which should be of interest to our members, friends, and the broader Italian-American community in the Washington D.C. area. The Ensemble Sangineto, a trio from northern Italy, will perform at CISC on October 29th at 1:30. The well-known Italian folk music group incorporates musical strands from throughout Europe in its repertoire — classical music, Celtic music, Gregorian chants, musical theater, modern pop, and jazz. We can also expect selections of traditional Italian music with fresh interpretations of folk tunes from each of Italy’s regions. The concert should be an exciting and enjoyable event that is worth marking on your calendar. Stay tuned for additional details, including the opening date for ticket sales, ticket prices, and information about how to purchase them.

    The Society’s officers will be rotating out of their positions at the end of this year. If the thought of helping to steer our organization over the next two years by providing your ideas and insights is one that appeals to you, please get in touch with me or anyone on our Executive Committee. There is also an opportunity to serve a term on the Executive Committee, as three of its members will conclude their terms at the end of this year. As you can imagine, this is an important moment for the AMHS as it looks to remain vibrant in the years ahead. The chance to help prepare our organization for the future is here now! Please think about grabbing it!

    Finally, keep in mind that our online shop remains stocked with many gifts that display our AMHS logo. If you have not checked it out recently, now would be a good time: Abruzzo & Molise Heritage Society Merchandise (cafepress.com)

    Thanks for reading and enjoy the arrival of fall.

    Ray LaVerghetta

    September/October 2023

  • September/October 2023

    Professor Carmine Vittoria Returns to Discuss Two New Books

    By Nancy DeSanti, 1st Vice President-Programs

    Professor Carmine Vittoria 
    Credit: Courtesy of Carmine Victoria

    AMHS is pleased to present Professor Carmine Vittoria as the speaker at our next luncheon program at Casa Italiana on Sunday, September 10, 2023, at 1:30 p.m. 

    AMHS members may recall that Professor Vittoria gave us a talk in June 2019, just after he had finished his took “Bitter Chicory and Sweet Espresso,” his own story of hardship and survival as a boy growing up in the small town of Avella near Napoli before, during, and shortly after World War II. 

    He spent two years writing the book, whose title is a metaphor for the hard times and better times during the period 1940-1949. He told this human and military story from the point of view of what a young boy saw and heard then in the town of Avella. His own family endured many hardships, but he likes to quote the Neapolitan credo “ci arrangiamo” (we manage by ourselves).

    More recently, during his retirement in Florida, Professor Vittoria has written two historical fiction books, which he will discuss in his talk. 

    The first book, “Once Upon a Hill,” fuses historical facts with personal stories. It is a story of corruption and camaraderie in Boston’s predominantly Italian-American North End, where Professor Vittoria lived for many years. He tells the story of two Italian immigrants from the Naples area. They follow two distinct paths at a time when mob ties were commonplace and immigrants struggled to acclimate to a new country.

    With one entering academia and the other entering the Mafia, the two individuals in the book eventually find their way back to each other through the most unconventional circumstances. 

    The lives of the main characters are intertwined with a corrupt political and social landscape. In a tumultuous period of American history, the book describes the struggle to provide and survive. The struggle was one that many immigrants faced daily as they attempted to navigate their newfound surroundings.

    The second book, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” is a gripping tale of survival and resilience, shining a light on the plight of Jewish and other internees and their relations with townspeople in remote areas of Calabria and elsewhere in southern Italy. They were caught in the crossfire of warring armies during World War II. The book describes how, despite the turmoil and chaos of war, a special kind of empathetic connection emerged between these two communities, and how their lives became entangled in unexpected ways. 

    After the war, Professor Vittoria himself left his home in Avella to come to the United States. Eventually, he taught applied physics for 32 years at Northeastern University in Boston where he established a world-class research laboratory in the development of new microwave films. He also worked at the Naval Research Lab for 20 years on projects involving microwave magnetic materials and Stealth bomber technology. While working on this technology, he obtained a patent which remains secret to this day, for which he was paid $50 by the U.S. Government. 

    Professor Emeritus Vittoria received his Ph.D. in applied quantum physics from Yale University in 1970. He is the author of four scientific books and over 500 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals. He has been granted over 25 patents which have been cited more than 10,000 times. His four scientific books have been distributed worldwide in universities and libraries. He also wrote a book on soccer. For over 25 years, he has been a champion bocce player. In his retirement, he plants fig trees and runs a bridge club.

    His story is a remarkable one and Professor Vittoria will share some of it with us.

    September/October 2023

  • September/October 2023

    Scholarship Winners Express Their Gratitude

    By Ray LaVerghetta, President and Scholarship Committee Chair

    As announced in the previous edition of our Notiziario, we have six scholarship winners for the 2023-2024 academic year: one AMHS scholarship winner, Sofia DeLuca, and five winners of the Angela Lastrico Raish scholarship: Giorgio Consolati, Lauren Barchi, Sonia Fortezza, Amanda Murro, and Javera Chaudhry. 

    Sofia is a rising senior at George Washington University, where she is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Italian Language and Literature and Peace Studies. She is from New York and her family has roots in Campania and Veneto. Giorgio is a student in the Doctoral Program in Music at The Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where he is majoring in flute. He is a native of Milano and his family has roots in Lombardy and Campania. Lauren is a Doctoral Program of Musical Arts student at Rutgers University, majoring in voice performance. She is from New Jersey and her family has roots in Campania, Basilicata, and Piedmont. Sonia is a Masters student at Montclair State University. She is from New Jersey and her family has its roots in Sicily and Puglia. Amanda is a graduate student at Montclair State University, majoring in music education and saxophone. She is from New York with family roots in Sicily and Campania. Javera is a rising senior at the Mason Gross School of the Arts in Rutgers University, where she majors in music education with a concentration in voice. She is from New Jersey and her family has roots in Tuscany and Sicily. 

    Below we present the written expressions of gratitude from this year’s winners as well as, for the music scholarship recipients, a link to a performance video.

    Sofia DeLuca

    To all members of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society:

    Wow! My name is Sofia DeLuca, and I am honored to have been selected as a 2023-2024 AMHS scholarship recipient. I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Society who made this possible. I am truly grateful for this recognition. As an Italian American, studying Italian at George Washington University has given me the chance to connect with my Italian ancestry like never before. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity that this scholarship gives me to continue to pursue my passion of studying the Italian language and culture. I am also excited to continue my studies abroad next semester in Florence, Italy, where I will be able to put my language skills to the test and visit my family in Italy. Again, thank you all for making this possible!


    Giorgio Consolati

    Dear Donors of the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society: 

    I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to you for choosing me as a recipient of the 2023 Angela Lastrico Raish Scholarship. It is a great honor to receive your generous grant which will help fund my educational expenses. I am most grateful for your belief and support.

    I am currently pursuing a Doctoral Program in Music at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, majoring in flute. I am excited to be part of this institution and to be able to keep pursuing my musical studies while performing. I am also very glad that my Italian heritage allowed me to connect with all of you in the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society, and I am proud to be representing Italy and its culture at my school, on stage, and beyond.

    Thank you again for your very important financial assistance. Receiving this scholarship will allow me to continue chasing my dreams!

    Giorgio Consolati

    Sonia Fortezza

    Dear Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society: 

    I wholeheartedly and graciously accept the Angela Lastrico Raish scholarship for the 2023-2024 academic year. I am honored by the generosity you have shown me and so proud of my Italian heritage.

    A career in the arts has always been a passion of mine, but unfortunately it is quite the gamble. This scholarship is a testament to that passion, as well as to my culture and to what makes me unique as a performer. A huge weight has been lifted for the upcoming academic year and I truly could not be more grateful. It is an honor to be recognized for my musical talents, and for that honor to come from fellow Italians is even more special. 

    My operatic pursuits have always been closely followed by my family. Along with being an only child, I am also an only grandchild on my father’s side. To be able to pursue such a passionate and sentimental art form means everything to my Nonna and Nonno. It is their version of the American dream, so to speak, and it was made possible by their sacrifices and continued support. My Nonno, Vito, often laments that his father, Giovanni Fortezza, passed away from colon cancer the year before I was born. My great grandfather was a huge opera fanatic who never missed a show at the piazza in their hometown, Palo del Colle, in the province of Bari, and my Nonno says how incredibly proud of me his father would have been. To know that his great granddaughter is pursuing her dream of being an accomplished opera singer would have been his greatest pride. 

    I look forward to a successful career singing the music of some of our greatest ancestors, including Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini, to name just a few. I have an amazing support system at home and at school and have been complimented on the Italianate quality of my voice and timbre. My wonderful teacher, Beth Roberts, tells me that is what will set me apart from my competitors. Due to that quality of sound, my voice is best suited to the Bel Canto repertoire, which will allow me to pursue my studies in the Italian language and culture, while fully immersing myself in the world of beautiful, Italian music. 

    I am excited to announce that, due to the generosity of this scholarship, I will be studying in Toscana this summer with the Lunigiana International Music Festival! I hope that the members of this community will follow my career, and I hope to one day meet all of you and to offer my thanks in person.

    Volevo ringraziarvi dal profondo del mio cuore per questa borsa di studio. Grazie per aver reso i miei sogni una realtà. Grazie, grazie, grazie. 

    Sonia Fortezza

    Lauren Barchi

    Dear members of the AMHS and the Angela Lastrico Raish team: 

    I want to express my sincere gratitude for being selected as a recipient of the 2023-2024 Angela Lastrico Raish scholarship. This award will help me continue my doctoral studies at Rutgers University. My Italian heritage comes from both my maternal and paternal sides. My grandmother on my mother’s side immigrated to the United States from Teggiano in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of Italy. My grandfather’s family on my father’s side is from the city of Torino which is the capital city of the Piedmont region. My Italian heritage made me appreciate family traditions. I grew up having antipasto, homemade manicotti, and zeppole at family gatherings. For Christmas Eve, we have the feast of seven fishes, and for Easter, my mother makes pastiera napoletana and pizzagaina. 

    Music was an important part of my childhood. I was fortunate to start voice lessons when I was around thirteen years old. It was my first real introduction to the Italian language since many of the pieces I learned were Italian. The instant connection I felt to the language and music inspired me to continue my studies in singing and opera. My goal has always been to pursue a career in performance and teaching. I am currently working on my Doctorate of Musical Arts at Rutgers University. While in school, I have performed in two solo recitals, two operas, and was the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah. At the beginning of this year, I performed the role of Mimì in La bohème. One of my recitals was music written by women and included four Italian composers: Claudia Sessa, Francesca Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, and Marianne Martinez. Currently, I am an adjunct professor at Long Island University and the music director at the Professional Youth Theatre. I love to share what I have learned from my studies with a new generation of students. After graduating, I want to obtain a tenure track voice professorship and to continue performing.

    With the help of the Angela Lastrico Raish scholarship and the support of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society, I will advance in my doctoral studies and be a step closer to achieving my goals. I am proud of my Italian heritage and honored to be recognized as an Italian-American opera singer.

    Grazie di cuore,
    Lauren Barchi

    Javera Chaudhry

    Dear Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society and the Angela Lastrico Raish team:

     I want to say “thank you” for awarding me the Angela Lastrico Raish Scholarship for the 2023-2024 school year. I am very grateful to receive this award because I feel that, with being stuck at home my freshman year of college due to Covid-19, all my hard work during this time has paid off. As a Music Education major with a vocal concentration, I had to take Diction for Singers, Music History, and I even took the elective, Italian for Music, when I was at home. My ethnicity is Pakistani, Polish, and Italian. With my Italian heritage, I feel that, with all the Italian songs I am singing in my voice lessons, I am learning more about this part of my heritage. I am always trying to improve on areas that I struggle with in my major, and I feel that, with this scholarship, I can continue to absorb more knowledge in Diction, Music History, Vocal Pedagogy, and Performance. For my career, I want to be able to use this knowledge when I am directing a choir because I believe that the students should learn about what they are singing, instead of just learning the music alone. Thank you all very much for granting me this award. 

    Javera Chaudhry


    Amanda Murro

    Dear Members of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society:

    I am extremely honored to be chosen for the 2023-2024 Angela Lastrico Raish Scholarship Award. I want to express my gratitude for this contribution that will be aiding me to continue my education at Montclair State University. This scholarship represents how my Italian heritage has had a direct impact on my love and passion for music and education. My love and passion for music was sparked by my Nonno Salvatore who immigrated to the United States in 1967 from Sicily, Italy. My Nonno was a tailor and moved here for a better life for my mom and his family. In Sicily, my Nonno Salvatore played the tenor saxophone in the Italian Army band. When he moved here, he played in wedding bands every weekend to help support his family and to pay the bills. My Nonno always played his saxophone when my family was together and he is the reason that I chose to play the alto saxophone in the 4th grade. This connection with him has brought me a great sense of pride in the Italian language, culture, and music. I was accustomed at a young age to hear and see how music brought our entire family together through high and low moments. In 2012, my Nonna Emanuela was diagnosed with dementia and she began to lose her memory rapidly. My Nonna would forget who I was, forget my name, forget where she was living, and what she did that morning. Despite these lapses, my Nonna never forgot the music which she grew up listening to. Her sense of joy that was brought about when my Nonno and I played our saxophones was indescribable. Although my Nonna’s memory was deteriorating, the music she listened to was always alive inside her. It was evident that listening to music which she enjoyed throughout her life had sparked her memory and in those moments it did not seem as if she was suffering from dementia. These moments were pivotal in understanding the importance of music in my life and sharing it with those around me. After experiencing these moments with my Nonna and her progressing dementia, I knew that I wanted to create, teach, and share music for the rest of my life. I currently teach music and band to grades K-8 in New Jersey. As a music educator, it is vital for me and for my students to continue always learning and growing. Through the Angela Lastrico Raish Scholarship, I am being supported in furthering my education and I am extremely thankful to the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society for choosing me for this award! 

    Best Regards, 
    Amanda Murro

    September/October 2023

  • September/October 2023

    Popular Italian Folk Group to Perform on October 29, 2023

    By Nancy DeSanti, 1st Vice President-Programs

    The popular Italian folk music group, Ensemble Sangineto, is coming to Casa Italiana on October 29, 2023, at 1:30 p.m., to perform some of their unique traditional songs of the 20 regions of Italy.

    This trio from northern Italy blends Italian folk influences and others from throughout Europe — including Irish, Breton, and French traditions — with classical music, early music, Celtic music, Gregorian chants, musical theater, modern pop, and jazz influences.

    Ensemble Sangineto
    Credit: Alessandro Erbetta

    Ensemble Sangineto was co-founded by Adriano and Caterina Sangineto, who are twins. The group consists of Adriano on Celtic harp, stomp box and vocals; Caterina on bowed psaltery, flute, percussion, and vocals; and Jacopo Ventura on acoustic guitar, bouzouki, and vocals. 

    The twins’ father, Michele, was a noted instrument maker in Monza, a city just north of Milano. Growing up, Adriano and Caterina had the opportunity to play instruments built by their father as well as other instruments that he had either collected or bought elsewhere. They attended music academies in Monza and neighboring Villasanta, then went to the Conservatorio di Milano where Adriano learned clarinet and Caterina learned flute. Both also play the harp and a bowed psaltery which is a harp-like instrument that probably originated in the Middle East.

    Last year, the group began “Grand Tour Vol. 1,” marking the first installment of a two-part project paying tribute to traditional Italian music with fresh renditions of folk songs from each of the 20 regions of Italy. This project gave rise to the concert “Le Grand Tour — Songs and Enchantments from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea.” 

    Adriano recently told an interviewer: “When you create a tune or a song, you prepare yourself to be the center of a universe full of feelings, words, and beauty. That magic force will be shared by the listeners and by any other person who wants to live and discover your soul. That is pure magic, isn’t it?”

    September/October 2023