Monte Capanno 2004: A letter from a new friend


Webmasters' introduction: In November 2004, Lisa Aiello of Toronto, Canada wrote us the following messages.  Included were accounts and pictures of her trip to Monte Capanno in 2004.  Her updated information includes details about the death of La Contessa, damage to the Castle in a recent earthquake, and greetings from the current Count of Monte Capanno, La Contessa's son, Bepi:

My adventure began when I decided to attend a one-month intense Italian language course at “Universita per Stranieri Perugia”.  Prior to my departure, a mutual friend in Toronto, Canada referred me to “il Conte” otherwise known as Count Giuseppe “Bepi” Vicarelli, whom, I did not realize at the time, would be a major influence in my life.  It came into play in learning to comprehend and conform to the Italian culture in its natural splendor – a completely different culture I had thought Italy to be - of fine cuisine, Renaissance art, fancy chandeliers, opera, and fashion.  I was raised in the suburbs outside of Toronto, just as Perugia is outside of the main city of Rome.  I was not raised in an Italian community and was educated on the “dark” side of the Italian culture because of my parents’ upbringing.  You can well imagine what life was like living in the South of Italy where poverty played a major role and the opportunities economically where next to nil.  Let me tell you, I was not open to experiencing the small village activities and living by the countryside after what I had heard!  Did I ever have a life-changing experience after sharing my time with a Count whose family dates back to the 1500s.  Somehow I expected the man to be a very pompous and rather cold gentlemen being a Count.  Was I in for a completely different opinion!  Bepi turned out to be a very kind, good-hearted, and hospitable gentleman.  Let’s not make him out to be a perfect “Count in shining armor” - yes, as Italian men enjoy beauty, he was quite attracted to women and they in turn, enjoyed his company.  This man has an amazing sense of humor and is as sharp as a blade!

Bepi diligently had me get to know Perugia and it’s historical background, the delectable Italian dishes, and some of his family and friends.  I also received lessons in Italian culture which would have been more subtler had I obeyed on how a woman is to behave in an Italian country – quite different than our North American upbringing.  It took some embarrassing moments, but I finally surrendered to the saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

photo above (click on photo to view larger version, then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page): Count Giulio Giovanni Vicarelli, Lisa Aiello, Count Giuseppe “Bepi” Vicarelli

Present-Day information regarding “Castello di Monte Capanno” and its inhabitants:

Count Giuseppe “Bepi” Vicarelli has just celebrated his 66th birthday and is residing in the small farmhouse with 3 main rooms, adjacent to the castle – a far cry from living in a castle containing 38 rooms!  His misfortune occurred approximately 2 years ago when it was devastated by an earthquake.  The castle is presently under restoration and expected to be completed by August 2005.

Re: photos above: click on photo to view larger version, then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page

The Count lives with his son’s pony “Pipo” and 8 cats, an owl, 2 falcons and the rest of nature which roams the countryside.  Bepi has a 13-year-old son by the name of Giulio Giovanni Vicarelli, “a half Count” as his father puts it, whom replicates his father’s character.  He is just as charming – look out girls! 

Re: photos above: Conte Giulio Giovanni Vicarelli & friends/cousins (click on photo to view larger version, then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page)

It felt so peaceful when I would enjoy the view at Monte Capanno; a feeling I long to relive.  Quite a different view in comparison to Toronto’s downtown core.

His lake (above), as you noted on your website, still is stocked with fish and as you see by the photo (below), Count Giuseppe, Count Ranieri (whom you also mentioned in your website and is now 45 years of age), Count Giulio, relatives and friends are enjoying its peaceful grace. (Webmasters' note: in all likelihood, it was the father of the current Count Ranieri whom the students of the MC-70 group met).

Re: photos above: Pilot Fabio Sbarra (left), Conte Giuseppe Vicarelli (center & right photo), Conte Ranieri Degli Oddi (Right) (click on photo to view larger version, then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page)

Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of meeting La Contessa Luisa Alpina Manzoni Vicarelli.  She passed on 3 years ago.  It would have been my greatest honor to have personally expressed my utmost compliment on the upbringing of her son, “Bepi”.  She must have been a very elegantly gracious and extraordinary woman endowed with great wisdom.  I also did not meet Bepi’s brother, Count Andrea Vicarelli (“Noni” as you referred to him).  It would have been interesting to see the contrast of these two brothers.

The hired cook "Methalda" is now replaced by our beautiful friend Maria - she's a fabulous cook.  Maria is shown in this photo (above) seated in a 1954 antique Mercedes Benz . (Webmasters' note: La Contessa and family were served in 1970 by Pierina and Virgilio, who lived then in the farmhouse which seems now to be Bepi's residence; Methalda, who lived nearby on a different farm, worked as a cook for our group of students, only).

Photo above: La Baronessa Rita Castigli Angeloni (far left), Conte Ranieri Degli Oddi (left), Fabio Sbarra (right), Conte Giuseppe Vicarelli (far right) – enjoying an Earl Grey. (click on photo to view larger version, then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page)

There were many backyard summer events eating cantaloupe, prosciutto and vino rosso and enjoying each other’s conversation with extraordinary “regal” company whose behavior humbled me.  It was amongst these experiences that I realized the beauty of simple naturalism and I am counting the days when I return to the castle to share those warm, sunny times not just in weather but in those whom opened their homes (…oops castles) and hearts.  Perhaps my return will entail an invited reunion of sorts in the beautifully restored “Castello di Monte Capanno” in medieval costume – I await my “Cinderella” dream.

Written November 2004 by:

Lisa Aiello

Timeless Enterprises

194 Merton Street, Suite 305

Toronto, Ontario

M4S 1A1

Tel:  (416) 509-5480

Fax:  (416) 488-9483

E-mail:  timeless.enterprises@rogers.com

Later in November 2004, the webmasters wrote back to Lisa, asking several questions, to which Ms. Aiello replied:

Webmasters: May we use your information on our website? 

Lisa Aiello: Firstly Gordon, I would be very pleased if you shared my e-mail and information as well as the photos to you and your friends and placed them on your website. Count Giuseppe Vicarelli has offered his approval as well. 

Webmasters: How did you come to be in Umbria?  How did you become interested in Monte Capanno?  

Lisa Aiello: As per your question regarding how I arrived at Monte Cappano and got to know Count Bepi, I was referred by the Italian Trade Commisioner in Toronto, Angelo Infusino whom lived and worked in the ITC in Perugia for 3 years. The reason for my attendance at the University for Foreigners in Perugia is that I had heard from friends within the Italian community that it is the best university to attend. It was a fabulous experience and within one month, I was speaking simple Italian (with many grammatical mistakes)! I'm sure I sounded terrible but everyone there is so well natured and understanding, they complimented me instead. Unfortunately, I did not meet La Contessa Luisa but I have seen photos of her and she was beautiful. A few people remember her fondly. During this summer, I was invited to some of Bepi's outdoor events and I must say; yes, the castle is beautiful but it was just as beautiful to be in the simplicity of his estate - the roaming hills of the countryside! I also enjoyed sitting by the little lake while everyone fished as long as I was with good company - and I was. 

Webmasters: Are you of Italian heritage?  Aren't most Italian North Americans from Sicilia or Reggio di Calabria?  (Go here for a map of the provinces of Italy)  

Lisa Aiello: Yes they are. In Toronto alone our Italian community totals 700,000 in which approximately 1/3 (200,000) are from Calabria.  With respect to the "South", my parents came from Calabria, Catanzaro but I have yet to visit. I plan to do so next year. 

With respect to your question regarding the Roman quote, I was referring to how the women are a bit subordinate - men prevail in Italy - they're still so "macho", if you will. It was refereshing; however, that the Italian men weren't shy to tell you how they felt (sincere or not) but they did so as gentlemen - at least during 2004! 

Webmasters: Are you in the tourism industry?  

Lisa Aiello: I do not run a tourism agency but I have taken courses in incentive travel programs and have acquired networks in the hospitality & tourism industry. I am a consultant in fundraising in charitable, political and corporate realms. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to combine my education, experience and networks to help market Perugia as one of my "timely affairs" with the inclusion of Monte Capanno in it's medieval splendour or simply, manage an event there! 

Lisa also included pictures of some sumptuous meals. Webmasters recalled a luncheon in Ripa, a fast drive there in an Alfa Romeo with Bepi's brother Andre, and asked if these pictures were from Ripa:

Lisa Aiello: Gordon, you are quite perceptive. Yes, Bepi, Giulio and I went to the restaurant at Ripa Relais. I did not arrive in an Alfa Romeo (I presume it was red in colour?) but in an older Nissan Pathfinder but was just as honoured to dine with them. Let me know if you would like to contact Bepi and I will provide you with his contact details. He would be pleased to hear from you. If not, I am a phone call or e-mail away. 

Lisa Aiello

E-mail:  timeless.enterprises@rogers.com


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This webpage last updated on November 10, 2004

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