Entry 10 Citta di Castello in Umbria

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The Town Hall as evening approaches

Luke and Dawn Mann

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 015I am writing this entry from the third row on the right side of the 8:20 bus to Arezzo. It has been a long complicated series of rides from Ancona to Citta. Citta is a city of approximately 30,000 on the edge of Umbria and Tuscana. I had to take three different trains and de-board each time in progressively smaller villages where I would board smaller and smaller trains.

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Luke with his unique urban mountain bike

Arriving and seeing Luke running alongside my car shouting my name and then desperately popping on to the train to quickly pull me off (there were two stops at Citta and I was about to take the second and the wrong one).

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Has Dawn earned the emotional right to be called an Italian?

In case you’re wondering about why Dawn is so animated, she is just explaining her most recent visit in an attempt to get permission to stay on in the country for even another six months. Nothing is easy. Everything is exasperating. Cynical Italian government officials pride themselves in their ability to make life complicated for someone else.  They are perfected kill-joys. Bring the papers and they will want different and more the next time.

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In spite of the chaos she made this simple Tuscan favorite

Luke and Dawn have no car, actually Luke and Dawn have pretty much nothing except a few books and clothes along with their only transportation a perfectly elaborate urban, mountain bike. Luke is recognized in the entire region as a top bike mechanic and has landed work in a popular bike shop as their principle bike builder and mechanic. There was virtually no place we went that  he and Dawn were not recognized then immediately and rather lavishly greeted.

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Stopping to chat, AGAIN!

As we later walked through the streets we were met with “Buona sera’s!”  at almost every stride.  

Those going into missionary service often ask me, “What will I do?” Very little of this is about “doing” at all. In fact, for the longest time, those entering other cultures will not be able to “do” very much. We are occasionally able to do something but for the most part, we are called to ”Be” not “Do.” We are called through “ the love of God spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”  to express  light and life.

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The giardino at the apartment where I slept.

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 I was put up in a loaner. There is a couple from Florida (Peter and Marsha) who own a cute little two bedroom apartment and since they only come for four months a year, they make it available to Luke and Dawn for guests to stay in. I am one of the lucky recipients of this generousity. There may be only one draw back. It is situated opposite the Baci court where old, baggy panted men gather for the entire day, drinking beer and yelling obscenities and objections. By the time evening rolls around they are all quit lit and contrary, calling for the measuring tape even when the outcome is obvious. Still this sort of thing does present to the occasional visitor an authentic, rustic, provencial charm. 

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Luke Mann

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Dawn Mann






Two people could not be more common than Luke and Dawn. They have nothing by which to impress people except their cheery greetings, warm smiles and focused listening. The words will come later. But these are veterans. These are people who have, throughout most of their married lives tromped through a wide variety of cultures and circumstances, Asian, Latin and   European. They are the real deal.

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Luke at work building a bike.

 I can usually tell if people are having an impact. When we are on the street or in a coffee shop and people see the Mann’s walking by, people will heartily wave or shout “Come vai!” from their doorways and  windows or even when seated  in a coffee shop as we were this morning , those passing by will turn about and come into the shop for hug.  There is an undeniable magnetism that could only be the power and presence of God working through a supernatural love of God for the people and natural affection for the culture they call home.

Entry 9 I Know Train Stations

Okay, I am not expert at everything Italian but I am so familiar with many of the train stations that I could find my way around blind. Here’s a new lobby for me. This one is Arezzo, Italy. Buses and Trains 10 30 09 003                                                                                           

Buses and Trains 10 30 09 001And here I am on the bus from Citta di Castello to Arezzo. Lot’s of buses too. This something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to “Take the bus and leave the driving to us.”  What an absolutely dreamy life I lead.


Entry 8 Pescara, Italy

Monday Afternoon

October 30, 2009 (I think)


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Finalemente, io sono in Pescara dopo sette ore di viaggio su il treno. 

Finally, I am Pescara after seven hours of travel by train.

I am here in Pescara (with Beto, Rachael and, their daughter Nikki Tavares and later Elia and Virginia Viola, plus their five children), after seven hours of travel by train.

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Beto and his wife have just, four months ago, come to Italy from Brazil to assist the YWAM base in Pescara. Beto is the founder of YWAM’s Praise Village in Brazil.

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The Viola’s formerly worked with YWAM in Catania and I remembered Elia from my visit there in 2005. At the last minute I was made room for. Thanks to Sandra for giving up her room to a stranger!

It’s a small world as Beto and Rachael worked in Brazil with Bethany and good friends with our friends in Minneapolis, former missionaries to Brazil, George and Dolly Foster. Never underestimate the power of connections as these will provide one with free food pretty much anywhere in the world.

Mario and Sheila 10 29 09 002

On the map I am down the Adriatic coast toward the boot (Puglia).

Mario and Sheila 10 29 09 003

I have just had a fairly good night of rest and will wait in an empty house until M and S ( I preached in his church in Sassuolo on several occasions ) will come to meet me at about eleven this morning. In the meantime, I will write this account and then take a shower. Hopefully by tonight, or perhaps tomorrow, I will be in Citta di Castello with my friends Luke and Dawn Mann. Citta is in Umbria near Perugia at the edge of Tuscana. 

Entry 7 Bologna to Pescara

Girl Art Cropped

Luiza calls to tell her friend.

Here, I demonstrate how I capture the attention of Italians as well as attempt to gain their favor. These are two young people that I drew and then chatted with. I have found that this almost always works best when I am in a small six person compartimenti.

Man Art Cropped

Everyone perks up to what I am saying and doing. I don’t always get to share my faith but occasionally I do.

Entry 6 Parma to Bologna

In route to Pescara

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pescara Trip Oct 26 2009 001

Francesca reading "How to have Peace with God"

I suppose you won’t believe me if I tell you that her name is Francesca? Is every girl in Italy a Francesca? As I waited on my train I saw this young lady reading what appeared to me to be a Jehovah’s Witness publication. It was identical in size and formatted with typography identical to Watchtower materials that cover Italy from the top to the toe. I looked over her shoulder and saw a heading, “Why Pray to Mary?” Now I was certain, so I politely told her that the magazine she was reading was false doctrine that was when she made me to know that it was a Catholic booklet. I could see what they have done. There are so many going over to or being taught by the JW’s the Roman Catholics have come back at them tit for tat. Well, nothing was improved by her reading a Catholic publication over a JW so I engaged her by explaining that I was an  Protestant and believe only Jesus, only scripture, only grace, only by faith, inviting her to church, then handing her the one tract that I had left, Come avere pace con Dio (How to have peace with God).” She took it and began to read it. So, you may think, BIG Deal! It is a BIG DEAL when we manage to get an Italian to even consider the gospel.

Entry 5 “Mama Mia”, The Wedding!Parma, Italy

Daniel and Michelle Araujo Lana

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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Exchanging their vows.

Daniel is a Brazilian and his new wife, Michelle is from the Dominican Republic.  The photos should explain more of the story than I can tell in words. This ranks close to something like the longest day of my life. It did not help in the least that the clocks turned back giving us an extra hour.

I waited most of the day until the scheduled church service and wedding at 3:30. It was terrific seeing scores of friends who greeted me upon arrival. For a moment, I felt like the bride. It does feel good to be appreciated by so many who search for words that will communicate affection in a way that this foreigner will understand. If H1N1 is active in Italy then, with all of the kissing from cheek to cheek, I should, within less than a week, come down with the flu.

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Only a portion of the enormous crowd gathered for this popular couple.


After about a half a hour or so the Teatro Toscanini was filled with nearly three hundred people as the bride made her way down the aisle.


Tony Hedrick at Parma's Gruppo Latino Church

Blessing the Marriage

My job was simple enough as I was assigned to, at the end of the whole business, pray a blessing on the new couple.

There was worship, dance, a sermon by Victor ( the youth pastor) and then the vows, but surprisingly all of this part took only an hour and a half.    Michelle's Worship in Dance Team Perform







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Daniel and Michelle on their way out.

The real problem was trying to get people to leave after the event was over. I was still there in the crowd at 6:30 waiting to go to the reception to be hosted in a restaurant up in the mountains south of the city. I was told that it would be a “small and simple” affair. I was tired and hoping for small and simple. After all, not everyone could come.


A Simple Reception in the Country

 Of course, this description was all a bold faced lie. Finally we left, cars all going different directions with Italian drivers, one trying to out-smart the other, not caring that the idea was to drive in a procession, honking our horns as we went. No, they thought it a race and something like a scavenger hunt.

Dan and Mich wedding October 25 063Dan and Mich wedding October 25 037Dan and Mich wedding October 25 053




The hotel was a difficult place to find (cell phones are a must in the Italian countryside) as we traveled around through small villages and the many diversioni (detours). Anyhow, there were enough of these to make a person cuss. Driving while cell phoning directional advice, over narrow roads, in the fog and cliffs to the left and right, made this an even greater challenge.

Anyhow, once there, the place was a packed and it took two dining rooms to manage the crowd of, at least, one hundred fifty people in attendance. I will not describe everything that went on except to say that we went through nine courses of plates (yes, I lie not). In front of each person were three plates, one stacked neatly on top of the next. This should have provided a clue about what was to come.

After two hours of eating, everyone was so full they almost begged not to see another thing but the owner is famous for over feeding his guests the finest of local cuisine. As we approached midnight and completely staggered by the various and sundry food items, we swallowed down our toasts to the happy couple and chomped through our sliver of cake, happy to be finished!

Here is what we attempted to consume. First, a parmigiana panini which I have never liked but folks from these parts absolutely adore. It is a hard roll and as dry on the inside as it is hard on the outside. In order to get one down I have to coat it with olive oil and drink a liter of water. If you can imagine, eating one of these is like choking down a stack of twenty saltines or one hundred communion wafers.

However the situation brightened up considerably when the anti-pasta tray arrived laden with prochiutto, cotta and salumi’s with lots of pickled things that I don’t have the energy to describe except to say that some looked like onions, others like funghi (mushrooms) and peppers of one kind or another. I am proud to say that we did well at this first round and once pulled away we moved on to a kind of rotini dressed in tomato sauce quickly followed by a tagliatelli covered with mushrooms, then came veletto (veal) and lettuce salad, then another round with wild boar and roasted potatoes ( I kid you not).

Fatima CroppedA former Nigerian Muslim (Fatima) sat next to me happily declaring that she did not eat pork and declining all obvious pork items but later devouring the wild boar while thinking that it was goat or beef.



I said, “Fatima, this is good, isn’t it?”

 “Oh, yes”, she replied, “I like it very much.”

“Fatima,” having a little fun, I went on, “what kind of meat do you think this is?”

A look of curiosity came across her face, “I don’t know, do you?”

 “Certo, Fatima, “It’s wild boar.”

“What is boar?” she inquired.

My answer was short. “Pig.”

By now my head was swimming so when the next two plates came out of the kitchen I didn’t even attempt to participate. I was offered what appeared to be a steak item of some sort along with the restaurants’ renowned polenta. Finally, everyone was anxious for a change and threw themselves into a refreshing fruit salad made of kiwi, pear and apple. I was told that all of this was only 23 Euro a plate. Half of everything made was thrown out or perhaps, as Aldo suggested, it will appear the next day on the plates of the local crowd.

We finally pulled out of the parking lot at a quarter to twelve and drove thirty minutes to Parma getting lost one more time. I blogged, packed and got into bed at 1:30 to arise at seven for my trip to the south. Obviously, the night was a bloated and uncomfortable mess for the entire Cerasino household. 

Don’t think that we didn’t have fun. It was a great and noisy night but the indulgent socializing, extravagant eating, lateness of the evening and trying to physically process 2,500 calories, left me completely buzzed out. My wife, Jeanne, an introvert, modest and simple, would have been overwhelmed by the frenzied affair. There was absolutely no tranquil place to hide.

Entry 4 Parma, Italy

Sunday Morning

October 25, 2009

Corcagnano, Italy

The house is filled with the smell of olive oil and garlic as Mariela, singing to a Christian music by Nicola Battaglia while in the kitchen cooking us something great!  We will go at 2:30 for a service which includes the wedding of Daniel (Brazil) and Michelle (DR) so it appears to be a full day until midnight when the festivities end.

I’ll tell more about all of this next week after I return from my visit with YWAM, Village of Praise leader, Beto Tavares, a Brazilian. I will return to Parma by way of Citta di Castello where Luke and Dawn Mann, missionary friends from Vermont have been living.

Leslie Narraway Brune and Lauren Carrion of Ottawa, Canada
Leslie Narraway Brune and Lauren Carrion of Ottawa, Canada

Yesterday was terrific with Lauren Carrion (ACCI Canada Director) and Leslie Brune of Ottawa, Canada arriving from Cinque Terra where they have stayed for a few days before going to Florence and then out to Turkey and finally England returning home to Canada. They have already been to Uganda, Zambia and Dubai.

They arrived in Piazza Garibaldi exactly at 1PM when I met them. The others would show up later, around 1:30 so we had some time to talk and secure a reservation for nine people at La Duchessa in the city center. After taking our table, others arrived.  

Rebecca and Aldo Cerasino, Tony Hedrick, Leslie Brune, Lauren Carrion, Julio, Francesco and Francesca Abortivi.
Rebecca and Aldo Cerasino, Tony Hedrick, Leslie Brune, Lauren Carrion, Julio, Francesco and Francesca Abortivi.

In all there was ACCI missionary Francesco Abortivi, his wife Alessia with son, Julio and daughter Francesca. Francesco is the Director of Progetto Archippo, our Missionary Training and Church Planting School in Parma.  Then also with us was ACCI missionary Pastor Aldo Cerasino (Gruppo Latino Americano Cristiano) and his daughter Rebecca.

Strolling Parma at Passagiata

Strolling Parma at Passagiata


We had lunch and then walked Via Cavour with gelato in hand. At four we all split up and I went with Lauren and Leslie to the train.

Ilaria and Andrea

Ilaria and Andrea

Later in the evening, around seven, I was picked up to go out to a village for super at the home of Juliana and Andrea. Juliana always sets a splendid table of local meats and homemade pickled and hot items not found in the regular market.

I was surprised by a brief visit from Andrea and Juliana’s daughter Iliaria and her new husband (also Andrea) and proposed to get together sometime next week when Jevin and Ashley Maltais of Ottawa, Canada arrive to join me here in the Parma area.

I’m finally back to the Cerasino’s and in bed by midnight.

PRAYER REQUEST:  I am having a terrible time with pain in my shoulder and not sleeping well at all. This has gone on for over two years with only one six month cortisone break. There is not a pill in the world that will give me relief.