ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise
Intangible Cultural Heritage
 “As a driving force of cultural diversity, living heritage is very fragile. In recent years, it has received international recognition and its safeguarding has become one of the priorities of international cooperation thanks to UNESCO's leading role in the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.”
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UNESCO website

LA TAVOLA MOLISANA, a Layman's Musings...         

There is much more to our cultural heritage than buildings, artifacts and other tangible things that can be touched, photographed or put into museums.  We derive our sense of identity from the collective memories, knowledge and oral traditions that reflect the spirit of our people and communities.  This, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has termed living or intangible cultural heritage.   

        Opulent buffet symbolizes the Tavola Molisana

The Molise presents a movable feast of intangible cultural heritage that I’d like to express as “La Tavola Molisana.”  And, although food—producing, cooking and enjoying it—is an integral part of Molise life, this article is NOT about food.  It is about the overall cultural richness and generosity I have been blessed to experience, and invite you to share.  

But my musings did start with lunch: A business visit with a carpenter was running late and local restaurants had stopped serving lunch.  Recognizing our situation, the carpenter invited our group of four to lunch at his home. He and his (working) wife served a fabulous meal of home-cured meats, cheese, pasta, wine and more--simple but "squisito."  A good deal of the table conversation centered on our appreciation of the spontaneous generosity of these (virtual) strangers and our amazement at our hosts’ ability to produce so much.  Friend and co-director Luigi Pece explained, it is “la tavola molisana,” which I've come to see as a deeply seated part of the Molise culture.  

Since that lunch, I’ve seen "la tavola molisana" in many new experiences as I venture into the intangible cultural heritage of the Molise:

Castropignano winemaker in his cellar
 It’s the Castropignano winemaker who shared with us his excellent but most unusual wine of wild grapes.  But more importantly, it’s his story-telling, including his discovery of Samnite (opens Samnite history) warrior tombs while clearing the old vineyard. 

                                          Castropignano Winemaker

                         Family and guest make cavatelli at agriturismo                                

And it’s in learning how to make cavatelli in Campodipietra, but more so the camaraderie of feeling like part of the family… 





  Tenuta Colle San Pietro, Campodipietra 

Olives watching the press of olives you’ve just picked in Bonefro (opens Bonefro Overview) and enjoying dinner in the pressing room, because you understand the tradition from the days when olive producers ate communally while awaiting their turn at the press... 

 Curator demonstrating traditonal crafts

... and artisans at work with antique hand tools and skills handed down for hundreds of years. 

"Museo," Castropignano

It’s an evening in a house built 300-400 years ago, with a rush ceiling between the original smoke-covered beams, heated only by the fireplace (which is also used to cook dinner)...

...watching in fascination as the flames are fanned by blowing through a reshaped rifle barrel (instead of a bellows); fascinated not only by the “technology” but also by the fact that the locals still know how to use it! 

But it was the graciousness of my Molisani hosts and companions, for whom story-telling, wit and laughter come most naturally, that provided the true warmth on that winter evening.


These treasured experiences are more valuable than just a photograph or even a memory, and I believe they will last much longer.  They change and enrich our lives, and because of that, will change and enrich the lives of our descendants.  Perhaps in this way our intangible cultural heritage will long outlast the tangible. 


We at ECHO Molise invite and encourage you to partake of “la tavola molisana,” of this movable feast of intangible cultural heritage, during your heritage visits to the Molise. 

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