BRISTOL BOROUGH >> Save the date! Saturday July 21 for Food, Drink, Community.

Ride the “River Runner! The tram will begin full shuttle service on July 21. Raindate: July 22.

The highlight of the year in Itri, Italy is a festival dedicated to the patron of the town, La Madonna della Cività with the celebration held over the span of three days in July, the 20th, 21st and 22nd.

But WHO is La Madonna della Cività?

After 54 days of floating on the sea, the Madonna della Cività icon escaped the iconoclastic destructions of the 8th century in the Byzantine Empire. The sacred image’s journey ended when she was washed ashore on the coast of Sicily, in the county of Messina. The icon was venerated there in Messina for a while, until one day she mysteriously disappeared only to reappear miraculously on Mt. Cività.

A poor, 8th century deaf-mute herdsman lost a cow, searched for it, and when found the cow was kneeling at the base of a great holm-oak tree, a rather large evergreen oak, with its eyes fixed on the sacred icon which had appeared in the branches. When the cowherd looked up at the tree, he saw a painting of Our Lady who seemed to smile at him from high in the tree. The boy fell to his knees and prayed. He regained his speech and ran down the hill to relate his vision, with tears in his eyes and a voice that trembled. The boy miraculously was able to hear and speak for the first time in his life.

That site became a venerated shrine. A celebration ensued. For centuries.

The townspeople were astounded. They retrieved the picture from the tree and carried it to the principal church of the village in a procession but the very next day the picture could not be found. No one had moved it from the church, but again it was found between the branches of the holm-oak on the Cività hill.

The church authorities and the Itrani townspeople began to understand that it was the Virgin’s wish to be honored in the place where she had first appeared. They erected a chapel there and in 1492 the Bishop of Gaeta consecrated the first church that was to become the great Sanctuary of Cività.

The sacred painting of the Madonna and Child is said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III had ordered religious persecutions and outlawed sacred images. On the base of the icon, the three letters L.M.P. can be deciphered, even though badly faded. Some people say those initials stand for “Lucas me pinxit,” which is Latin for “Luke painted me.”

The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Cività is situated on the peak of Monte Fusco, up on top of Mount Cività where the mountain air is clean and fresh, in the town of Itri in the province of Latina in the region of Lazio. The Sanctuary is one of the oldest in all of Italy. The tale of the Sanctuary originated from a document that had been preserved in the archives of the parish.

Gregory Thomas Pezza, Bristol High School Class of 1996, also an East ward Borough councilman, has a deep appreciation and a sense of pride for his heritage instilled by his parents who taught him the values and traditions associated with being Italian. Greg’s grandfather, the late Ernesto Victor Pezza Sr. was born in Itri in South Lazio Italy, a beautiful historic town picturesquely situated at the foothills of the Aurunci Mountains that were named for the Aurunci tribe. Pezza is a common family surname from that town.

Ernesto immigrated to America in 1928 through New York and he brought tradition with himself.

And you don’t mess with tradition.

Almost nine decades later, Greg and his wife, Dana Nicole, named their ITRI Wood Fired Pizza Bar after Grandfather Ernesto’s birthplace.

Itri is pronounced “It-Tree”, and it is perfect for their signature, cutting edge EATERY!

P.S. Itri is well known for the cultivation of olives and for the production of a fine olive oil.

Just WHERE is Itri, Italy?

Itri is located midway between Rome and Naples. It was struck by numerous enemy air raids in WWII but endured with a proud and fearless spirit and was awarded the Medaglia di Bronzo al Valor Civile. The name Itri is derived from the Latin word iter, meaning “route” or “way”. The old town is a maze of narrow little streets and alleyways.

Appropriately, the original 230 mile Via Appia Antica route was built through Itri in 312 AD using polygonal blocks of fine-grained basalt that rested on a base of small stones and gravel and mortar. The slabs of hard volcanic rock have become shiny and polished with wear. A significant amount of work was carried out to maintain the road in the Bourbon era [1734-1860]. Charles Dickens called it a “noble mountain pass”.

History class dismissed….Now for the FUN CELEBRATION.....

The one-year anniversary of the ITRI Wood Fired Pizza Bar Grand Opening last July 21st coincides with the Festa Madonna della Cività, the highlight of the year festival dedicated to Itri’s patron. There are religious processions throughout the local towns and villages with the resplendent silver statue of the Madonna and Child, their sacred icon, carried aloft, accompanied by food, celebrations and a musical concert. The silver statue, funded by the generous donations of the townspeople, is securely housed in the chapel of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Annunziata.

During the festivities, Itri’s streets are illuminated by an array of multi-colored lights. Via Farnese is lined with many stalls with vendors selling their array of items including peanuts, corn, lupini beans, nougat and sweets; guanciale, an Italian cured meat product and porchetta, a savory, boneless pork roast, and flavorful crespelles, the Italian version of crêpes.

The last night of the Festa culminates with a grand finale, spectacular firework display at the beautifully restored Castle of Itri that had been badly damaged in the WWII aerial bombings. It dates back to the ninth century with the first stage built in 882 AD on a strategic position high on the hill of Sant’Angelo.

Now for the FUN on MILL STREET ... Join your neighbors and meet new friends!

Greg and Dana plan to duplicate the Madonna della Cività festival, but on a much more modest scale right on Mill Street. They are hosting the 304-308-310 and 312 Mill Street sidewalk festival on July 21 from 3 until 11 p.m., generously lining the walkway with tables of food, live entertainment, face painting and more.

ITRI will provide some eclectic selections of Italian street foods, Italian wines and beers, and craft and local beers and special Italian style sangria. While sangria is of Spanish origin, many argue that the Italians perfected the recipe. There will be outstanding culinary experiences with everything so cool and refreshing on a hot summer day!

Expanded Itri rear deck is now open. Traditional fare Kids’ menus are available.

Porchetta sandwiches are perfect, offering a local flare as well as an Itri, Italy accent.

At Liscio’s bakery, they think it all starts with the bread but ITRI knows how to make it the perfect sandwich, serving succulent hand cut roast pork carefully layered with broccoli rabe “rapini”, a virtual vitamin superfood, and aged Italian provolone cheese on that Liscio baguette!

So how many would you like?

ITRI is ALWAYS celebrating the rich Italian American culture of Bristol with a touch of 3rd generation irreverence!

Mark your calendar and come hungry! Mangiare!

ITRI’s Mill Street Madonna della Cività celebration is easily accessible by boat, car, or on foot.

Parallel parking is available on the street; plus additional ample parking in the Mill Street Parking lot.

The new day slips at Bristol Lions’ Riverfront Park provide boat mooring.

ITRI Wood Fired

Pizza Bar

310 Mill Street

Bristol Borough, PA 19007

215.458.8419

www.itriwoodfired.com

Recommend a “Spotlight”! E-mail vjmrun@yahoo.com

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