Grazie a tutti Sant' Agata De' Goti

Sant' Agata De' Goti 
A few years ago, while searching for a place to stay in Sant' Agata dei Goti, an ancient town built on a rock cliff above a river in the interior of the Campania region of Southern Italy, I found Sentieri Luminosi, a bed and breakfast whose owners are likely anticipating, along with the rest of the town, the arrival of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

de Blasio's grandfather, Giovanni, was born here. The new mayor visits often, and city officials have named him an honorary citizen, with sponge cake, filled with hazelnut and white chocolate, named in his honor. About 100 people gathered in a former movie theater to watch a broadcast of de Blasio on election night, staying awake into the wee hours to hear his victory speech live. The room erupted in applause when he mentioned the town, thanking its residents with the words, “Grazie a tutti."

Old theater in Sant' Agata De' Goti         
de Blasio is scheduled to July 18 on a 10-day trip to Italy where he and his family will visit Sant' Agata along with making stops in Rome, Naples and Venice. Some have urged Hizzonor to postpone his trip in the even to of a New York rail strike, a decision that would certainly disappoint the people of Sant' Agata. 

It sounds like a cliché to call this the "real Italy," but it's true if that defines a part of the country so far untouched by mass tourism.  My own grandfather, Nicolas Pucci, was born in the town of Greci which is nearby. If you are in Naples and get a chance to take a side trip into the countryside, Sant' Agata and the towns surrounding it are definitely worth a visit.

Our hosts were Loredana Fusaro, a cook at a local restaurant and Shiatsu massage therapist, and her husband, Enrico Pofi, a photographer. They moved here from Naples with their daughter, Osmana,  a few years ago, and bought a 19th-century stone building on a bluff overlooking the town. They live on the top and rent out a spacious bottom-floor apartment to overnight guests.

Sentieri Luminosi
From their garden planted with fig, orange and olive trees, we looked down on the town and the steep green mountains that surround it. Enrico sported a bushy, silver ponytail. Loredana, was a ball of energy. She arrived home from her restaurant job some days at midnight, then got up the next morning to prepare a gourmet breakfast of homemade turnovers filled with apples and dates, scrambled eggs, olives, cheese and fresh fennel from the garden.

Both spoke a little English, and since we were their first non-Italian guests, they were anxious to get to know us. When they found out we were acquainted with a couple in Sant' Agata who run a small tour company, they suggested we invite them over for coffee.

They came around 9 p.m., after Loredana got home from work. We gathered around the dining-room table, sipped espresso, talked and listened to classical music. It was one of those moments that we all hope for when we travel, a time when we no longer feel like tourists, but friends.

We had many of what I call "Italian moments" driving around exploring the little towns around Sant' Agata. In San Lorenzello, a town known for its ceramics workshops, sheep surrounded our car on both sides as we turned into a parking lot. 

We drove into another little town, and smelled tomato sauce cooking. The village men were preparing for a community dinner later that evening, Of course, we were invited.

The whole area is called the Sannio. You won't find it mentioned in many guidebooks,  but if you're interested in exploring, there's a delightful American/Italian couple living in Sant' Agata who run a tour company called Savour the Sannio

Contact Barbara Goldfield, who moved to Rome with her family in 1961 at the age of 5. Her parents opened the Economy Book Center. She grew up in Italy, and worked for many years as a dancer, teacher and choreographer when she met her husband,  Federico who was working as a lighting technician. They offer cooking classes and visits to wine, oil and cheese producers as well as excursions to historical sites.

Some residents are planning trips to New York to see Bill de Blasio inaugurated on Jan. 1, the Times reports.

“He made the American dream come true,” Carmine Valentino, the town’s mayor, said. “But he didn’t forget his roots. It’s a message of hope for us all.”

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