26 May 2011

AUNTI PASTA: Very Berry Semifreddo

SARONNO, Italy – My project for this sunny Sunday afternoon in May is to make strawberry semifreddo. Semifreddo is a type of frozen mousse that is a lot like ice cream, but eaten slightly softened. Not soft like Mr. Softee, but softer than ice cream. 
 Hope mine looks a little like this one
So far I have cleaned, cut and cooked about a cup and a half of fresh sliced strawberries in a plain sugar syrup to which I added a drop of almond flavoring. After the berries cooked, I let them drain into a small bowl to reserve the syrup. In the meantime I whipped a pint of heavy cream in a cold bowl, and set that aside.

When the sliced and cooked berries were cool, I beat the the strawberry sugar syrup into 250 grams of marcapone cheese, added the whipped cream and the berry slices and mixed it all together.  Then I tasted it. It was very berry.  
 Torrone Semifreddo

The idea of flavoring the marscapone with strawberry syrup came from a YouTube video of Amelia Chiarla, Chef at the Hotel Al Cardinal Mazzarino, in Cherasco, in the province of Piedmont. The Hotel is a former Carmelite convent with a newly added 35 seat restaurant headed by Chef Chiarla. She is a disciple of the Slow Food movement, which got its start in a town nearby, which guarantees all of the ingredients she uses are local, fresh and seasonal.   

Her YouTube recipe was semifreddo with torrone, the almond nougat candy you find in Italy during the Christmas holidays. http://www.cookingvideo.org/italian-cooking/italian-dessert-mascarpone-semifreddo-al-recipe-ac.html  She was the only chef I found that used marscapone.  Most of the others used an egg yolk custard which takes forever to make, except one young, cute Italian chef who used whipped egg whites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7FakIcP93s&NR=1&feature=fvwp
Peaches and nut crumble Semifreddo
The egg whites are a rather bland choice, but her flavor ingredient was Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut cream devised by the calorie devil, that literally makes me swoon. But whether you use custard, marscapone or egg whites, they all get blended with a flavor agent and whipped cream.

But to get back to my semifreddo project, when the marscapone, berries and whipped cream were completely blended I put the mixture into an empty plastic ice cream container that I had previously lined with clear plastic wrap. I sliced some berries and put them on top of the semifreddo for decoration, wrapped it up and put it in the freezer. Now all I had to do was wait. 

The plastic wrap is an ingenious idea that serves two important purposes. First of all, the trick is to use enough so that there you end up with about three or four inches of overhang so that after the semifreddo is frozen, you can lift it out of the container easily and peel it off.  Secondly, if your container doesn’t have a cover, wrapping the plastic wrap over the semifreddo will protect it from developing unpleasant ice crystals as it freezes.   

Any size or shape container will do
I’d spent about 20 minutes the other day looking for a metal bread pan that I wanted to use as a mold for the semifreddo. I was convinced I had one, but I couldn’t find it.  I must have had it in another house, or maybe another life, I’m not sure. Anyway, that’s what happens when you move around a lot. After considering other possibilities, it dawned on me that I could use the plastic ice cream containers that I always save.  That was easy.
Mmmmm, chocolate
After waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the semifreddo to freeze, it was finally ready.  Ahh, Taste No. 1.   It was good, actually quite good, but during the freezing process it lost some of its strawberry taste.   So I took the whole strawberries that were left over, the ones I was going to use for decoration, and cooked them in a simple sugar syrup until the syrup reduced to half. Then I let it cool and crossed my fingers that it would thicken up. It did. 

 My Strawberry Semifreddo
Then I cut another slice of the semifreddo and topped it with the cooled strawberry sauce. Taste No. 2 was definitely better, much berrier, which made me very happy. Truth be told it was down right delicious.

So now I know that by increasing the amount of cooked berries and syrup that I mix into the marscapone and whipped cream, I can increase the flavor of the semifreddo, but I would still make  strawberry syrup to put on top. Not only does it look nice, but it tastes sooo good. I’d give this one five stars. 

What I learned from my little experiment is that it is possible to put together almost any combination of flavors and textures you want and still get a great tasting semifreddo. Let's see, coffee with a chocolate crumble hazelnut base might work, or how about fresh cherry and amaretto cookies? Hmmmm, looks like I've got my summer cut out for me.

22 May 2011

LIFE: Move On Dot Italy

SARONNO, Italy - New people are moving in on the 5th floor of my apartment building. I can hear the workmen chipping up the marble floors and tapping off the tile in the kitchen and the bathroom.  All must be torn up and redone. It’s part of the complicated process of moving, and one of the reasons why Italians never move if they can help it.
Moving Day
The truck that will haul the rubbish away is now in place down on the street next to the building. I can hear them starting up the motor that runs the pulley system. Any minute now workmen will start lowering the buckets they filled with chipped out tiles and marble down to the truck where other workmen will empty them  and   then send the bucket back up to be filled. It’s going to take a while, it’s a big apartment. 

Once all of the old wall tiles have been taken out of the kitchen and the bathroom, new tiles will be cut to fit and put in place. The bathroom fixtures will be pulled up and tossed out, in anticipation of new “sanitari”, i.e. toilet, tub, sink and bidet.  The walls will be painted, the ceiling and woodwork and doors a different color than the walls. New floors will be installed, new kitchen cabinets and appliances, which, along with the new sanitari, will be connected.  While the plumbers are plumbing, the electricians will install the new lighting fixtures on the ceilings throughout the apartment.
Complicated Equiptment
Apartment hunting really isn’t a fun thing to do here. In fact, it’s kind of spooky. If the apartment is unfurnished you are greeted with empty cavernous rooms with wires hanging down from the ceilings where fixtures used to be, and more wires poking out of holes in the walls where who knows what used to be. The kitchens are even spookier. They are stripped clean of counters and cabinets. Everything is gone, including the kitchen sink, and left in its place are a couple of pipes sticking out from the wall. 

Andrea, who bought an apartment last year, was talking about that the other day. He was saying he’s sorry he didn’t offer the seller more money for the kitchen that was already in his   apartment when he bought it. Apparently buying a new kitchen has put a bigger dent in his budget than he anticipated.

 Hold Your Breath
The other side of the problem is that in all the apartments the kitchen cabinets and appliances have to be custom fitted. So what do you do with your old kitchen cabinets when you move, you ask? Good question.

In Andrea’s case, the woman he bought the apartment from was getting married and moving in with her new husband who lives in Milan.  Since she and Andrea could not come to an agreement, her old kitchen, and it wasn’t old at all, is probably now languishing in a dark basement somewhere, abandoned and totally useless.
 The Poor Neighbors
But, back to the apartment on the 5th floor. Once all the debris is removed and the apartment is thoroughly cleaned, painted and all the light fixtures and appliances are installed, the process of moving in will begin.

One of the condominum rules is that passenger elevators can only be used for passengers, not things. And with no service elevator the the new owners will have to hire a truck fitted with a special crane with an attached platform; a sort of elevator al fresco, without sides. From the truck, their furniture will be loaded on to the platform, hoisted into the air and passed into the apartment by going up over the balcony and through the balcony doors.
No Joke
It seems like a very complicated, difficult and yes, even a dangerous way of doing things, at least from my point of view, but maybe it is the way things are done all over Europe and in other parts of the world. My world-wide moving experience is limited.

It’s also expensive to hire all of the necessary equipment, not to mention the manpower to run it.  And forget about trying to do-it-yourself, unless you can find some guys dumb enough to carry sofas and washing machines up six flights of stairs - the ground floor isn't counted, but you knew that, right? 

I’m thinking about all of this today because I’ve been thinking about moving. But thinking about it is as far as I get. The process seems daunting, especially at this early hour of the morning. 

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Auntie Pasta Preview- Thursday: The secrets of great Semifreddo.

19 May 2011


SARONNO, Italy – It’s five o’clock on a warm, spring Saturday afternoon in Saronno. The sidewalk cafes are crowded with young mothers fashionably dressed in the latest Dolce and Gabbana, spoon feeding gelato to their cooing, round-faced babies. 

The older kids, juggling their own ice cream cones, are gathered around the dads who are clutching handfuls of wrinkled paper napkins and ice cream cones of their own. The dads are doing their best to keep the kids from getting gelato all over themselves, but it doesn’t always work. The gelato always wins.
 Tre Gusti
If you have ever been to Italy you know that the gelato shops, gelaterie, are a force of nature. With showcases filled with tub after tub of creamy gelato in more colors and flavors than any one human could possible come up with. First they lure you in for a better look, and once in - you are hooked. Then you have to make some decisions: cup or cone? Two scoops or three? And what flavors do you want. Ahhh yes, which flavors. Now that’s the hard part. 

In a town like Saronno, where tourists are as rare as ghost orchids, the clerks are used to customers knowing what they want on their three scoop cones. Everyone has their favorites, and even before kids reach teenage-hood, they are masters of combining flavors that complement each other. I’m not so good at that, and often feel intimidated when some 12 year old steps up and orders coconut, chocolate and pistachio faster than I can say, “just crema please.” 
 Which one do I want? Which one do I want?
I remember a large group of American students in Santa Margherita Ligure who had a clever plan. They each bought a different flavor of gelato in a cup, and then they passed the cups around so everyone got a taste of all the flavors. Their goal was to taste every flavor of gelato in that gelateria before they went home. It was going to take a few days, but no one seemed to mind.

Here are 42 of the more common gelato flavors that you will  find in any good gelateria. It is by no means a complete list for every area has its own specialty flavors, and those may vary throughout the summer.  If you are planning a trip to Italy this summer, you just might want to print this list out and put it in your suitcase.

The Flavors

cioccolato fondente (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn-DEN-teh) – Dark chocolate.
cioccolato al latte (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn den-teh) Milk chocolate
cioccolato bianco (cho-koh-LAH-toh BEE-ahn-koh) White Chocolate
bacio (BAH-cho) – hazelnut and chocolate. Named for the famous chocolate candies from Perugia
gianduja or gianduia (jahn-DOO-yah) –Milk chocolate and hazelnuts. Named for the famous chocolate candies from Turin  
cioccolato all’arancia (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl-ah-RAHN-cha) – chocolate orange with either an orange flavor or candied bits of orange peel
Nutella (nu-TELL-ah) named for that fabulous Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread  

pistacchio (pee-STAHK-yoh) – Pistachio  
mandorla (MAHN-door-lah) – Almond
nocciola (noh-CHO-lah) – Hazelnut with no chocolate
fior di latte (fyor dee LAH-tay) – Literally milk’s flower. Kind of like cream, kind of like vanilla, but not either one 
crema (KREH-mah) –  Sweet cream,  vanilla
zabaione (zah-bah-YOH-nay) – Frozen version of zabaglione
caffè (kah-FAY) –  Coffee
crem caramel (crem-CARA-mel) cream with swirls of caramel
panna cotta – (pah-nah-KAW-tah) – literally cooked cream – frozen version of Italian dessert
Yogurt (sometimes spelled jogurt) – yogurt

cocco (KOH-koh) – Coconut
amarena (ah-mah-RAY-nah) –  Cherries in fior di latte 
fragola (FRAH-go-lah) – Strawberry  
lampone (lahm-POH-nay) – Raspberry  
limone (lee-MOH-nay) – Lemon  
mandarino (mahn-dah-REE-noh) – Mandarin orange
melone (meh-LOH-nay) – Melon (usually cantaloupe)
albicocca (al-bee-KOH-kah) – Apricot
anguria –(an GUR-ri-ah) watermelon
fico (FEE-koh) – Fig
frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) –  “forest fruits” like blueberries and blackberries.
mela (MEH-lah) – Apple (also look for mela verde (MEH-lah VEHR-day), or green apple)
pera (PEH-rah) – Pear
pesca (PEHS-kah) – Peach
kiwi – same as in English
menta – (men-TAH) mint

zuppa inglese (TSOO-pah een-GLAY-zay)  “English soup,” frozen version of English trifle 
tiramisu – (TEE- rah-mee sue) Frozen version of famous Italian dessert
cassata – (kah-SAH-tah) Frozen version of famous Sicilian dessert
riso (REE-zoh) – Rice, kind of like rice pudding  
malaga (MAH-lah-gah) – Rum raisin
stracciatella (strah-cha-TEL-lah) – Fior di latte with chocolate bits 
liquirizia (lee-kwee-REE-tzee-ah) – Licorice 
cannella (kah-NEL-lah) – Cinnamon
maron glace’ (mah-rhon GLA-say) – cream with candied chestnuts
puffo (POOF-foh) – Literally “Smurf” – blue ice cream that may taste like licorice or bubble gum, depending on the shop 

The words: Produzione Propria, Nostra Produzione, mean homemade and Produzione Artigianale means “not mass produced in a big factory”.

Cono – (Koh-noh – plural coni - Koh-nee) cone
Coppa –(KOH-pah) cup
Gusto – (GOO-stoh – (plural – GOO-stee) – scoop or flavor
Panna – (PAH–nah) whipped cream

Granite (grah-NEE-teh, flavored iced), Frappe (frahp-PEH, a type of milkshake) and Semifreddo (semi-FRAY-doh - soft ice cream) may also be on the menu.

From an Italian ad for gelato

  A Word of Warning – Before you buy check the price list that by law must be posted in all Italian gelaterie and ice cream stands on the street. Some unsuspecting tourists recently paid $38 for two regular size ice cream cones at a stand on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The prices were listed, it was all legal.

Auntie Pasta Preview- Next Week: The secrets of making Semifreddo at home.
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15 May 2011

LIFE: Lovely Lugano

SARONNO, Italy –  One of the advantages of living in Saronno is the easy access to parts north, specifically Lugano, Switzerland. Friends of mine from my Genova days keep an apartment there and when they are in town, like they are now, I try to go to see them. And when friends and/or relatives from the States come to visit, going to Switzerland for lunch is always an adventure - even if it only takes a little more than an hour by train to get there. 

 Lake Lugano
Lugano is in the Italian speaking Canton of Ticino, the part of Switzerland that borders Italy.  At different times I’ve tried to find out how and why Switzerland came to be divided into three cantons, each speaking a different language, German, French and Italian, but their history is as full of holes as their cheese. There are references to Napoleon Bonaparte, the Duke of Milan and Austrian mercenary troops, treaties and agreements, wars won and wars lost, and frankly it is a bit too complicated for me.  

There are not a lot of “touristy” things to see in Lugano. There are a lot of banks and other types of financial institutions which are not particularly interesting to look at, but the center of town is picturesque and pretty, with a special charm that is totally Swiss. Last weekend the center was dressed in its springtime best, with flowers blooming everywhere, in all the parks, along the lake and in giant flower pots that added a touch of whimsy to this othewise serious financial center.  There was an outdoor auto show which brought in thousands of visitors just for the chance to see the latest Mercedes, Ferraris and BMW's, and there may have even been a Bently or two. 

Red is my favorite color
In the past couple of years they have re-beautified the narrow winding streets of the old center. Some outdoor shops have gone indoor, but it still feels like Old Europe. The fruit and vegetable stands are still out on the street, and they add their bit of color with bins of yellow and red peppers, beautiful heads of pale green lettuce flecked with burgundy, bulby artichokes and silky dark green strands of barba di frate. And even though the Swiss don’t like to admit it, Lugano is very, but very Italian.

Love these giant flowerpots
During the summer music festivals are held in Piazza Riforma, the town’s main square. The Lugano Festival is dedicated to classical music and runs during April and May. World renowned orchestras and soloists perform at the dozen or so concerts. The Estival Jazz arrives in July and everyone from Miles Davis to Dizzy Gillespie has played at this important Swiss event. In August and early September, the town rocks with the Blues to Bop Festival. These free open-air summer concerts draw thousands to this little town. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

There is also a museum of modern art, the Museo d’Arte Moderna of the City of Lugano, that regularly offers interesting and varied exhibits. Two other museums worth mentioning are the Alprose Chocolate Museum, which tells the story of the Swiss chocolate making and, the Hermann Hesse Museum, which is  just  south of Lugano in Montagnola  where the Noble Prize winning author lived half of his life.

But to tell you the truth, I have never been to the museums, but I have been to a couple of the concerts and if you plan to go, take my advice and get there early as seating is limited.  My favorite thing to do in Lugano is just hang out with my friends. We go for coffee, we take walks, we do a little shopping, but mostly we talk.

 Piazza Riforma
Saturday night we walked into the center of town and had dinner at my favorite Swiss pizzeria, the Argentino, on the edge of Piazza Riforma. Mr. A and I had pizza. He ordered the large, since he is large, and they brought him a yard long pizza on a wooden cutting board. Mine was regular size and that is big enough. I love their pizza, it’s thin and crispy just like the pizza in Saronno. Mr. and Mrs. T opted instead for the spaghetti alla carbonara.  

The next night we had a most splendid dinner at a lakeside restaurant that I had never been to before. The restaurant is called Antico Ristorante dell Porto, and it is right on the lake, near the harbor and the Lugano Yacht Club. Tables are set out under enormous umbrellas that just clear the branches of the giant chestnut trees that are like a mini-forest in front of the restaurant. There’s a great view of the lake, the boats in the harbor and the hills beyond. It’s a spectacular setting and I’m hoping to get back there at least once more before they go back to the States.

The food is basically Italian, and the night we were there they were offering a special “spring” menu, featuring all the traditional springtime foods like lamb, asparagus, baby carrots, zucchini and tiny new potatoes. 

Boats at the Lugano Yacht Club
We all ordered risotto with zucchini that were no bigger than your little finger.   As a second course Mr. A ordered the lamb chops and I ordered veal scallopine in a mushroom sauce.  Our dinners came with tiny carrots, zucchini and the smallest roasted potatoes I’ve ever seen.  Mr. and Mrs. T both started with a cream of asparagus soup and after their risotto, they quit. I’d never enter them in a food eating contest, I can tell you that. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. With a soft and warm springtime breeze coming in off the lake, and us making ‘oh this is so yummy’ sounds, as the sun slowly set behind us.

Back at the apartment, the lights of the villages that sit on the slopes of the mountains were a sparkling background to the lights of the city, and behind them  the smoky dark outline of the mountains that embrace the town.

Auntie Pasta is back! Look for new food news and views post this Thursday May 19th. Oh Yeah!

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08 May 2011

LIFE: The Sweets

SARONNO, Italy - When Antonella’s 46 year old husband Robbie unexpectedly died last year, the men in her life stepped up and did what guys do best.They took care of her.
Up until the week before he died, Robbie ran the stationary store across the street from my apartment. His death was so unexpected and happened so fast, that everyone, me included, was in shock. The store was Robbie’s love, and he treated everyone who walked through the door like they were a long lost friend that he was just delighted to see. 

With Antonella left alone to run the business, her father and her father-in-law turned into Roman Centurions, lending comfort and support to the young widow. One would come in the morning and stay until lunch time, the other would show up just as the doors opened after lunch and stay until closing. 

Luca and Marco, the two young guys who work in the store, became their Tribunes, the foot soldiers. They did all the heavy lifting – in every sense of the word.  The four of them surrounded Antonella like a protective moat, keeping her safe, keeping her steady through those difficult days.

Robbie and Antonella were probably the first people I met when I moved to Saronno. If there is anything a writer needs it is paper, ink for the printer and all the assorted bits and pieces that hold everything together. So how lucky was I to have a stationary store right across the street. But it was more than ink and paper that brought me into the store, and it wasn't long before Robbie became my go-to guy. When I needed a new printer, I went to Robbie. He didn’t sell printers but he could get one for me – and at a good price. When I needed a scanner, he gave me one. It was a present, he said, for having helped him search out motorcycle internet sites in English. 
The Buffetti Store
When I was having a problem hooking up the high speed telephone line to my computer, he sent Luca over to help me. Poor Luca. He diligently ploughed through all the tiny print of the instructions trying to find the key step that would active the hook-up. He finally figured out that they had somehow forgotten to include that information in the instructions, but he managed to get me connected anyway. 

Probably the best favor Robbie ever did for me was to introduce me to the computer fixer guy who has a little workshop in the basement of the store. That guy has saved my life, I cannot tell you how many times.   

In addition to all the favors and advice, Robbie always insisted on giving me a discount on everything I bought, even the smallest thing, like a dozen photocopies. If Luca or Marco, waited on me, they would never tell me how much I owed until they talked to Robbie. Even Antonella insists on giving me a discount, or sometimes she doesn’t charge me at all.  I know they still making money off me, but still. 

I’m not sure how I got into the habit of bringing them cookies and cakes. It probably started when I was having one of those days when I just wanted to bake something, but not necessarily eat it. Anyway, the first thing I brought them was a tray of brownies. Real, rich, chocolaty American brownies, and they absolutely loved them. They had never seen, or heard of, brownies before. “This is American?” they asked.  

Then I brought them a rolled chocolate cake filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream. Yum. They licked their lips, the forks and practically the dishes too. "We thought American food was all hamburgers and hotdogs," they said.
Hrumph, I thought, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

And so it began. I soon learned that Antonella loves apple strudel, Robbie preferred anything with chocolate in it. As for Luca and Marco, well they love everything. And when the computer fixer guy is in the store, he seems to love everything too. What is it with guys, anyway? 

As I stand mixing and stirring and melting chocolate and whipping up cream, it is such a pleasure to have them there, a pleasure to see those similes when I walk through the door and hear Antonella say, “ragazzi, la Filis ha portato la merenda,” “hey guys, Phyllis brought us a snack.”

But after Robbie died I found that I had lost the will to bake. Too many people I cared about died last year, and Robbie's death was just one too many. The losses were piling up and becoming unbearable and I felt myself retreating into myself. So months, many months went by with nary an inkling of desire to whip up something sweet and walk it across the street. 

 Mine kind of looked like this, but different
The long, gray days of winter passed very slowly this year, but then the sun began to shine, the weather started to warm up and the world righted itself. Then one day  the stands in the outdoor market were piled high with rubber banded bundles of fresh asparagus and boxes of bright red strawberries wrapped in cellophane. It was officially Spring, and without my realizing it, the baking bug was back.

When I walked through their door a week or so ago with a fresh strawberry, whipped cream and marscapone tart the mile wide smiles on their faces almost brought tears to my eyes, and it was then that I realized a very simple truth:  it was time to put the past where it belongs and get back to the business of taking care of the now.

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01 May 2011

LIFE: Miracle at Sant’Anna

SARONNO, Italy - It takes Andrea about 10 minutes to drive from his family’s summer home in the posh Tuscan resort of Forte dei Marmi up a hilly road to Sant’Anna di Stazzema. Not that he has family in Sant'Anna any more, they have all moved on, far beyond the boundaries of the tiny hill town. But on those languid days of summer when the temperatures soar, the family gathers together here in the large villa built by Andrea’s great-grandfather. 

 Sant'Anna di Stazzem
There is no one left in his family who remembers the old man. He died a long time ago. He was one of the victims of the World War II Sant’ Anna massacre, shot to death by the Nazis for no other reason than he was there.   

The story of that terrible event became the subject of a novel by James McBride, and then a film by Spike Lee. The film tells the fictionalized story of what happened in Sant’ Anna in the weeks before the Allies liberated Italy. 

In the film the heroes are the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, the 92nd Division of African-Americans who served on the Italian front during the Second World War. But in reality the Buffalo Soldiers were never anywhere near Sant’ Anna. Maybe if they had been the story would have had a happier ending.

In a soft voice, Andrea starts to tell me what really happened in Sant’Anna that day. It gave me goose bumps just listening to him.

“The massacre of Sant’Anna di Stazzema was one of the most brutal war crimes committed by German soldiers and SS troops during the Nazi occupation of Italy,” he tells me.  “Over the course of a few hours, 560 men, women and children were murdered by the 16th tank division Reichsführer SS.”  
Buffalo Soldiers from film
Official military records show that the German army had ordered the evacuation of the city of Sant’ Anna a week before the SS troops arrived, but only part of the town’s population left. And then, shortly after the initial evacuation, many women and children returned home. They had nowhere else to go. The war was all around them. There were severe shortages of food and clean water, Italy was crumbling before their eyes and the danger of being caught in an Allied bombing raid was omnipresent. 

What they didn’t know was that the German Army and SS troops were moving in four columns towards Sant’Anna, massacring people along the way. German military historian Gerhard Schreiber describes what happened: “In Sant’ Anna, Himmler’s tank grenadiers forced the residents and refugees into a walled-in area in front of the church. The people found themselves in a trap, since there was only a single exit. 

 German tank
The executioners began their work, and soon there was a mountain of corpses - the remains of 132 men, women and children.  In order to eradicate the victim’s identities, flame-throwers were used to cremate the entire site. In nearby Vaccareccia, the troops had trapped 70 captured people in a stable, decimated them with hand grenades and machine guns, and finished them up with flame-throwers too. They then repeated their performance in the villages of Franchi and Pero. Whoever crossed their path was butchered. When the SS unit finally moved on into the valley beyond, they left 560 victims behind. 

Andrea tells the story as if it happened to someone elses family, and in a way it did. But on those sultry August nights, when the breezes come across from the mountains to cool those sleeping peacefully in Sant’Anna, the memories of what happened on that night remain.

 Enrico Pieri
 And the miracle? The miracle of Sant’Anna was that one little boy did survive. His name is Enrico Pieri. He’s an old man now, but he still remembers every minute of that terrible day. 

“We knew the Germans were coming,” he says, “but no one thought they would harm women and children. But when they arrived they rounded some of us up and began burning down our houses. Then they made us go into the house of a neighbor. As we entered the kitchen they began shooting.  I was only saved because the owner of the house dragged me under the stairs in the basement and protected me with her body.”

For Signor Pieri and the families of all of the victims, April 25 had another meaning this year besides being Easter Sunday. It is the day the Allies liberated Italy from the Germans.

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