New Years 2024: A Trip to Bountiful

Greetings friends – Good to be back in blog land!

Three years ago I gave blogging a shot.

This fall I took a long break for travel and to get caught up to myself!  I continue to be pleasantly surprised to hear from people in emails, on my website, and even Christmas cards how much you appreciate my creative musings and art. I am overflowing with ideas and stories to tell as I envision a new book of reflections and writing a first play.

My trip to Italy in November to return to my roots felt like a  Trip to Bountiful,  a favorite movie of mine with Geraldine Page.

Indoor Pruning 

Sometimes life can get too heavy with carrying around the past. I had a mother who was part minimalist, (she never drove a car, took the trolley to work) even with her cooking (her Italian dishes were perfectly prepared – simple but elegant). However, when it came to beauty she loved her home that she lived in for 60 years, flowers my florist brother Anthony created, the music my record sales brother Johnny brought home, and fine clothes. Her warm woolen coats still keep me warm in winter. Yesterday would have been her 110th birthday. She made it to almost 102.

My cousin Marilyn, a real estate agent, remarked one day that we three children were “collectors”. Over the past several weeks I have been slowly “pruning” my collections while listening to my CD collection of 1000+. This morning Judy and I pruned carry bags many from past conferences: American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Writing Institutes at Curry College and Rutgers, Academy of Dream Conference. “Through the Years” was a CD I inherited from my brother. The cover shows a picture of a happy couple cutting the cake from the 50’s – a gift from their son who sang all their classics. Then the books! At least 10 on organizing including the one I am ready to toss: “Putting your House on a Diet.” A prerequisite to a real diet – jury is still out.

My PT just called; PCP referred me in early December with my left shoulder. Lately, it is the right shoulder but the worst is the hip after climbing every day in Italy. I trust Karen will know just what is needed.




Dolce wishes you all a Happy New Year!

She recently met a new friend who helps her grandmother with pet sitting.


Two weeks in Italy was meraviglioso (marvelous)… the food, history, the natural beauty from the Southern Adriatic coast to the mountains, and finding family.
All one’s senses come alive in Italy. As a painter I love to see a broader brighter view of color, contrasts between light and dark, the mountains and the towns, the blues of the Adriatic. The warm terracotta colors on the homes and buildings: pink, oranges, yellows, reds and the shapes and textures of the Travertine tiles we walked on.

Naturally, I began a group of “Italian paintings.”

Vita 2023 – A. Ierardi

The country in the South is especially marvelous. The food! Fabrizio wanted us to taste all the offerings of the region. It was not unusual to have five dishes in front of us in one course. It was not unusual for me to savor the first heavenly bite of a new dish over and over again. Sipping wines and liqueurs with appetizers and dolce.

Wine Tasting in Puglia


Italia, Sweet Italia

Fabrizio is the owner of “Italia, Sweet Italia.”   He hails from the same province as my mother’s family, Abruzzo which is two hours east of Rome. Our 10 day tour began in the town of Sulmona, where my mother’s parents were born. My mother and Judy’s mother came with us in the nineties. It was my mother’s first time in Italy; she spoke immediately in the Abruzzese dialect (even though she hadn’t spoken it in years) when we got in the cab in Rome. The driver was also Abruzzese!

Sulmona – home of my maternal grandparents

Mother’s Mother, Conchetta Marinucci Verrochi

Sulmona is home to Confetti candy and to the poet Ovid. It is surrounded by a Roman aqueduct with a backdrop of the Apennine mountains.












Fabrizio drove us to his scenic home town of Vasto. On the way we stopped at a lakeside shrine.  We were astonished to see several deer come down the mountain on the road. The day we left the Cape a deer came into our yard and stayed which is very unusual for us to see here. Judy had prayed to Mary to help an endangered deer a few years ago; this time she prayed for a safe trip and was reassured by the coming of this precious animal.

Fabrizio’s mother and cousin gave us a cooking lesson at their farm house and then we feasted and what a feast!

After five beautiful days along the coastal towns of Puglia we went to the ancient city of Matera. It had a mythical quality. How could it be built into the mountain? We hiked up the many steps to explore with some assistant from Katia, our guide. I wished I had a donkey, you know the ones with colorful hats?


A Town where Ierardi’s are Infinito!

Who could have imagined a tour that started in my maternal grandparents region and then took us south to the small town of Armento where my paternal grandparents were born!

The minute we arrived Guiseppe welcomed us to his B & B carrying our luggage  three flights up the moutain. In the main square,  a woman came out of a café with a sign that said “Bar Madame.” Madame who spoke French and Italian welcomed us to her bar where we would have our morning cappuccino. A wooden round table had cards spread out. “Scopa!” My father’s mother, Anna Rosina, who we called MaMa taught me to play when I was 5 years old. Madame Vittorina said sit down and the three of us played as she explained the moves I had forgotten. The cards are colorful modeled on Medieval Tarot decks.

“MaMA” with my brother Anthony

“I am looking for Ierardis related to my Uncle Nick who is the only one of my grandfather’s 7 siblings who returned to Armento. The town clerk said to us – “you have to be more specific. Ierardi’s ‘in this town are Infinito!”


Miracles of Miracles!

Indeed half of the population of Armento are Ierardis and that’s how it became a miracle.

The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always. -Willa Cather

Peppino Ierardi and his family hosted us for lunch at his beautiful restaurant a few miles out of town. He invited me into his family whether or not it was the correct genealogical one.

And Tonino Ierardi, café owner, did the same.

At Bar Madame, Armento

Meeting Family at Bar Madame

On the third and last day in Armento Piero found us at Bar Madame. He showed me the house where Uncle Nick lived; their families were close. Together we filled in our family tree of five generations going back to the 1600’s.

Since we didn’t have a car we had no access to a restaurant in town but no worries. Rocchina made us dinner every night – fresh pasta, veal cutlets, and the most delicious pizza ever! Every night at 7:30 she climbed up to our B&B.


Compared to Cape Cod Armento is simpler. Yet as Willa Cather says one notices more surrounded by the essentials, living from the bounties of the earth, the awesome view of the mountains, the sunset and the unbelievable kindness of strangers becoming family…

Returning home took a long time to adjust being holiday season and needing time to discern what is yet to come. Within the past four years many people started copying my name down beginning with an L instead of an I. Why?  Some times I wonder is this country losing its mind ad infinitum!

In December after 30 years of incorporation as a non profit I did all the paperwork to close the corporation of my nonprofit Healthsigns. I no longer needed an organization to engage in my callings. though I miss the many ways that Healthsigns brought life in its fullness to me and to others. However I would not miss the yearly paperwork and organizing.

In the midst of many losses and changes during the pandemic I fortunately immersed myself in art, writing, music, and astrology.

April in Paris Healthsigns fundraiser


Leonard Bernstein in the new film “Maestro” expressed his push and pull  between engaging in relationships and the solitary life required of an artist. I too have wrestled with this dynamic…in many ways it made integration possible.

Healthsigns Center, Inc.  engaged my creative skills and   my relating by the depth and breadth of people I met through  pastoral counseling, Artist’s Way, Taize, Monastery of the Heart groups.  I connected  to caring colleagues in ministry and ecumenical opportunities to preach and work towards openness for LGBTQ folks in Cape Cod congregations.

Alas, another pruning but who knows what will be coming down the mountain next? Even the astrological skies are “evolving” this weekend with Pluto entering Aquarius for the next 20 years.

I put a call in to one of my original board members from the 1980’s, Dr. Jo-Ann Stone, for discernment.  She responded,

“Look, your blog is your sermon!”

So be it.

Wine Tasting in Puglia
Gran Sasso – Sulmona


Wishing you many miracles in 2024.



  • Jane

    What a joy, Anne, to experience your return to blogging. Even the photos remind me of Trip to Bountiful”. A favorite of mine also. The photo that invites me most ( sorry, Dulce) is all of the cooks around the table in Fabrizio’s kitchen. Kudos to you and Judy in making this journey.
    And kudos also, by the way, in your closing of Healthsigns! I am grateful for its mission and for the opportunity to be part of it.

    • Ierardi

      Thanks Jane. Glad you also loved Trip to Bountiful. It came out in 1985, the year I found Old Cambridge Baptist Church… so moved whenever we sang “Softly and Tenderly” – no wonder i joined the Baptist!
      Cooking was so much fun; we even got Sweet Italia aprons to keep.
      Did you notice who was in the background of the photo from April in Paris – your presence at Healthsigns was so nourishing to our mission and the joy through many events and board meetings!

  • Priscilla W McCormick

    Welcome home after your “Trip to Bountiful,” although you could also say Italy is your true ancestral home. What an inspiring journey to nourish the body and spirit. Now you’ll have to have an art exhibit featuring your 2023 painting series from your time spent in Abruzzo and Armento.

    Your trip reminds me of how someday I dream of visiting the homeland of my maternal grandfather in Aibonitos, Puerto Rico, where I imagine my brother, sister, and I have a large number of distant relatives.

    But the biggest news is that my birth mother and I reconnected right before Christmas when she mailed me a charm with letter beads spelling out the word “SHALOM.” It healed my broken heart.

    I hope your trip will inspire you to write that play and your next memoir (and more)!

    Happy 2024!

    • Ierardi

      Yes, an art show of the trip is a great idea…thanks Priscilla. While I plan the show maybe you will plan your Puerto Rico ancestry visit. I waited a long time to go to Armento being in a remote location but it was so worth it.

      I am so happy to hear about your birth mother and her peace Shalom offering to you! Your Christmas Adoption Parable was moving and beautifully done with words and images. You captured that sense of miracle that I was thinking of with the Willa Cather quote. How do miracles speak to us in our lives…how do we allow miracles to enter our psyches and our bodies as Mary did – how we become transformed. Like the men in Armento who invited me to be in their family even if we couldn’t trace our ancestry.

      All the best in 2024,