The trulli are limestone houses found in the region of Puglia, which are beautiful examples of the ancient techniques of drywall construction that is still used today for houses in the region. The trulli are built from rough limestone rocks and boulders, usually domed or in a pyramid shape, which have been collected from nearby fields. The traditional Apulian stone houses or store rooms often have cone shaped roofs and this style of home is typical not only to Alberobelo, but also nearby towns. In the past these traditional structures were built without mortar or cement in order to avoid taxes and this style of building was so popular it is even reflected in the walls that surround the region and its countryside.

Construction of a Trullo

The roofs of a trullo house is constructed in two layers to ensure the structure is watertight. The inner layer is made from limestone boulders and it is capped by keystone, while the outer layer is made from limestone slab. The houses were often built directly into the ground in earlier times, however, the majority of the ancient structures that survive today were built on perimeter walls.

Trulli Pinnacle
Trulli Pinnacle

In the town of Alberobello there is usually a pinnacle on top of the cone roof of a trullo. This might have been one of several design chosen for ancient symbolic value and the cone also may have had symbols painted on it. Such symbols are believed to have included crosses, hearts, planetary symbols or the evil eyes. The walls of such houses are usually very thick so keep the inside cool during the summer and warm during the winter. In most cases these houses have one room under every conical roof. In houses where there are multiple rooms there are also multiple cones, one for each room. Children would generally sleep in an alcove built into the walls and covered with curtains. It isn’t clear how the trullo design first originated. One of the popular theory is that the idea of dry walls may have been developed to avoid high levels of taxation on the property. Two of the most famous trulli in Alberobello are the Trullo Sovrano and the Trullo Siamesi.

Trulli Siamesi
Trulli Siamesi – Picture courtesy of Marcok/Wikimedia
Alberobello – Trulli
Alberobello – Trulli


The stereotyped image of the large and traditional Italian family, with more than six children, is just an old memory. In fact, in the last thirty years the structure of the Italian family has dramatically changed from the traditional model we were used to see in old movies. In the past, Italian families, especially those of the South, were made up of a lot of children and they were patriarchal units where women usually didn’t work. In the past 100 years, the evolution of their country from an agricultural system into an industrial system brought many changes to the culture, mentality, and habits of Italian society—and families have change as a result. However, heirlooms of the traditional model of family can still be found in the modern system.

Through Italian families tend to be smaller now, they continue to spend a lot of time together and their members typically try to gather to eat together at least one meal each day where they share their days’ events. Moreover, there are still strong ties among family members even when they create new family units or if they live far from their original families, and most still join their parents or relatives during festivities like Christmas or Easter.

Italian families today

The average Italian family today is made up on or two children. Typically due to different cultural concepts of lifestyle and values, families in the South will have more children than those of the North of the country, often more than two. Surveys and statistics carried out by ISTAT (Italy’s National Statistics Institute) show that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of average members per family. This is due to some important factors: a reduction in the number of new births (which led to an increase in the number of couples without children): a decrease in the number of marriages; and a rise in the number of single-parent families. Additionally, another type of family is now widespread all over Italy, the so-called reconstituted family, where a member of the family is a commuter or lives for some period in other parts of the country because of work. All this contributes to a re-conceptualization of the roles that the individuals play in different stages of life, both inside and outside their families.

The problem of aging

In the last few years there has been a considerable rise in the number of old couples, causing and imbalance between generations because the births of babies do not counterbalance the process of aging. In fact, the rate of aging in Italy is booming; it is the fastest in growth worldwide. The number of couples aged 74-85 has increased steadily in the last few years, and this phenomenon is demanding more measures in the field of welfare services.
The birth rate, though lower than it would need to be to balance the aging process, continues to receive a large boos from foreign couples as the birth of babies born from parents coming from other countries has risen, from 6% in 1995 up to 12% in 2004.

New family models

Italy has gone through an important revolution in the types of family models due to a number of factors, above all the changing role of women-the social revolution has resulted in more women being independent and focused on their careers. In addition—and in large part as a result of women’s changing status—the concept of the family and itself has changed from a hierarchical model, to one of more equality within the family itself. This has resulted in new types of families, families made up of singles, couples (not married), couples without children, and single –parent families. Also in the Italian family it is common to find sons who live with their parents up to the point at which they marry, and even then some of them go on living under the same roof of their parents and they depend economically on them.
The most common reasons people decide to marry later or not to marry at all are education and expenses linked to attending university, lack of economic independence, and lack of a steady job. From all these data it emerges that it is not possible to classify the Italian family under a single category any longer. Next to the traditional model of family, which has dominated for ages, there now coexist new models of families that express the economic and social changes Italy has gone through it its recent history. As the world and norms continue to change, the family structures are likely to change with them, and new models of families will continue to emerge.

Italian Easter Bread


3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 pkg active dry yeast
2/3 warm milk
2 tbs butter softened
7 eggs
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup blanched almond chopped
Vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add milk and butter, beat for 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs and the rest of flour. Stir in raisins, almond, mix well to form a soft dough. On the floured table knead until smooth. Let rise in the bowl, cover with a cloth for 1 hour. Dye remaining eggs (leave uncooked) light rub with oil. Divide the dough in ropes, place on a greased sheet and form into a ring. Punch together and tuck the eggs. Cover and let rise until double about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, remove from pan, cool on wire rack.

Buona Pasqua – Happy Easter


“Natale con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” as the Italian proverb goes: ”Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whomever you want.’

Tradition and ritual play a strong role in Italian culture, especially during celebration before Easter and at Easter. On Venerdi Santo (Good Friday) there are procession through the center of the Italian cities to commemorate la Via della Croce, Christ’s carrying of the Cross. After the pause of Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday) where you take the Easter food to church to be blessed. The celebration begins con la Domenica di Pasqua ( Easter Sunday) includes Mass with everyone dressed in the best dresses, bonnets, suit and ties, a visit to the cemetery and traditional daylong banquet. Food plays a key part in the celebration, lamb, eggs are found on the tables around the country along the seasonal vegetables and salads, and followed by the traditional dolci, la Colomba di Pasqua ( a dove shaped sweet bread), and Easter sweet bread braided in a shaped wreath and hard boiled eggs baked in the center. A special treat for the children is the Uova di Pasqua, a large decorative chocolate egg wrapped with colorful paper that comes with a surprise inside. The day after Easter is the official holiday called Pasquetta, which is celebrated with family and friends picnic style in the countryside.

Click Here for a great Easter Bread Recipe!

IHSI 2019 Spring Bocce League

Bocce ComicThe Italian Heritage Society of Indiana Bocce Committee invites you to enter a team for an 8-week bocce ball schedule. League play begins April 1/2 through May 20/21. Games will be held in Lacy Park, at Greer & McCarty Streets.

  • Please provide a second night preference, if applicable. 
  • If your requested evening is filled, we will look to your 2ndchoice. 
  • Substitute players are welcome and encouraged, however each team is responsible for providing their sub.  
  • Unscheduled substitutions at court-side will be considered a team forfeit.
  • Please be responsible for your scheduled time – your absence affects 15 other teams!

The cost is $65 per TEAM of 2, $55 for IHSI members



By Carol Faenzi
Just before Christmas, I went to New York City with my Italian cousins, Monica and Carlotta. They live in Rome and we are related through grandfathers who were brothers: Ottavio (mine) and Francesco (theirs).

Ottavio followed his sister to America in 1913 to pursue a life out of poverty. Francesco took his family to Rome for the same reason-as both were born on a remote farm in southern Tuscany-their mother who was either widowed or abandoned (family mystery) with a brood of eleven children. Desperately poor, like so many in Italy at that time.

The link between Ottavio and Francesco was never completely broken, despite world war and raising families-but it wasn’t until the 1960s, when Ottavio retired his career as a chef and my grandmother Olga prodded him, the surviving family members met in Italy-some were still on the old farm, but Francesco’s family was growing in Rome.

That reunion cemented the link, after that, gifts, letters and visits flowed back and forth between Rome and Indianapolis through the decades, making the same journey over the Atlantic Ocean as our immigrant family had-only by plane instead of ship.

My first encounter with my Roman cousins was in 1978 when my wise grandparents took me with them to Italy. A big door opened very wide form, setting the stage to continue the bonds.

And we have.

Francesco granddaughters, Monica and Carlotta have been more like sisters in me than my own. Rossella’s daughter, Carlotta made her first trip here just this past December and met her cousins for the first time.

And so, it continues with the generation after mine. This makes me extraordinarily happy.

You can imagine how much it meant for us to board a ferry from Battery Park, NY, take it to the Statue of Liberty, the first sighting Ottavio would have had of America and then on to Ellis Island where a big door opened for him.

We spent several hours at Ellis Island, Carlotta enthralled as she learned first hand the journey so long ago that led to this strong family bond between Italy and America.

While Carlotta listened to the stories on the Italian audio device, Monica and I were in tears. So many stories, so many faces, so many lives, so many American families that began in this place.

Our family name Giovannoni-Faenzi is on the Wall of Honor, a tiny line engraved among thousands.

Sitting on one of the original benches in the registry room, I felt sure we were sitting in the spot where Ottavio, just sixteen years old, had been waiting his turn to be registered, examined, tested. What was he thinking as gazed out of this window, as I was doing, the Statue of Liberty a benevolent and powerful symbol that must have felt intimidating, overwhelming? Did he miss his mother, his brothers yet? Was he scared? Was he afraid he would be turned away? I can’t imagine how he could feel any other way. But also excited, dreaming of what could be. A little more than one hundred years later, here we are, Ottavio!

We are here for you. And for Francesco. And for us. And for those who come after us. We will not forget you.

To learn more about Carol Faenzi and her Italian culture endeavors check out her site here:


Spaghetti di pesto di noci e ricotta

6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 cup packed fresh basil
1 cup packet fresh parsley
1/2 cup walnut halves
2 garlic cloves crushed and peeled
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated grana padano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Pulse the
spinach, basil, parsley, walnuts, garlic and salt in a food processor to a
coarse paste. Pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
Process to make a smooth paste, stopping occasionally to scrape down
the sides of the bowl.
Add the spaghetti to the boiling water, and cook until al dente. Scrape
the pesto into a serving bowl and stir in the ricotta.
Season with salt/pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to
loosen the sauce.
Remove the spaghetti with tongs directly to the sauce, add the grated
cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat the pasta with the
sauce, adding more pasta water if it seems dry.

Recipe by: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Check out more of her recipes here:

Our 2018 Christmas Party

This year’s Christmas party was full of good food, stories, and fun. After a wonderful meal, we enjoyed a fun traditional Italian story complete with San Nicolo’ and La Befana in costume. The night continued on with song and dance into the evening. Please check out some of the great photos taken by members at the event.

La Befana

La Befana is an old lady who brings toys to children in part of Italy on Epiphany night. The Epiphany is when the Three Kings brought gift to baby Jesus. The legend is that on their way to deliver presents to Jesus, The Three King came across La Befana. They asked her to come  with them, but she refused, saying she had too much housework to do. She later realized it had been wrong not to go with. So she ran off with her broom in search of the Kings, bearing her own presents for the baby Jesus. But she never caught up with them. It’s said that La Befana is still searching for the baby Jesus.

In the weeks preceding the Epiphany, the children of Italy are busy writing to La Befana, telling her the presents they would most like to receive. They are on their best behavior because they know that La Befana will leave a lump of coal, instead of sweet and toys, for ill behaved children.

On Epiphany night, January 6, Befana goes around leaving presents for children, in imitation of  the Three Wise men bring gifts to Jesus. Befana looks like a friendly witch, with a mole on her face and tattered clothes. She flies on a broom and goes down chimney to deliver toys for girls and boys. There is a little poem:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito da romana
Viva viva la Befana!

The Befana comes at night
In worn out shoes
Dressed like a Roman
Long live the Befana!

Natale in Italia – Christmas in Italy

Christmas in Italy is rich in traditions that have, for the most part a religious history, with the celebration centered on the nativity scenes in churches and home. Italian customs and traditions add so much to the beautiful celebration of Christmas in America for families of Italian heritage and help teach the younger family members about the value of their Italian heritage. The Christmas season in Italy includes Festa di San Nicolo’ which is celebrated on December 6th and la Festa di Santa Lucia, Also known as “the Festival of Lights” which is celebrated on December 13th.

Il presepio is the nativity scene featuring the Holy Family, i pastori (shepherds), Re Magi (the Three Kings), and angels that are seen in the homes and churches in Italy during Christmas time. St. Francis of Assisi created the first Presepio.

Presepio vivente: On Christmas Eve many small towns of Italy celebrate with the tradition of a live nativity scene to act out the birth of Jesus just as St. Francis of Assisi did in 123 A.D. complete with live animals, children play the roles of the Holy Family with a newborn baby Jesus. Christmas carols originate in Italy with St. Francis of Assisi. The classic Christmas carol of Italy include Tu scendi dalle stelle, and Caro Gesu’ Bambino.

I zampognari are the shepherds who live in the mountains and come to town at Christmas time to play their traditional bagpipes and sing characteristic shepherd song. They dress in traditional vests, legging and leather trousers.

The meal of la Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve) is customarily meatless, popularly known as the meal of seven fishes (for the seven sacraments), it typically consists of fish and seafood, and may include eel, scungilli, calamari (squid), vongole,(clams) and baccala’ (salt cod).

Ceppo is an old Italian Tradition known as the ‘Tree of Lights” also known as the Italian Christmas Pyramid, the ceppo is decorated with candles and holds a small manger, decorations, candy, fruit and greenery.

The Urn of Fate is an old tradition where people in Italy pick out gifts to family members from large Ornamental clay jar.

Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) is welcomed with optimism for the future and aspiration of prosperity and good health. Lentils are traditionally eaten on New Year’s day in Italy as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

La Befana is the benevolent old woman with magical powers who brings gifts to the children of Italy on the eve of Epiphany on January 6th, to commemorate the visit of the Three Kings. La befana has been known to visit children of Italian heritage in America and around the world.

These are a few customs of Christmas in Italy. We hope you enjoyed reading about them and perhaps will celebrate this special event in your family with Italian style.