Irpinia contradicts everything you expect about Southern Italy. The rainy climate and green mountains have more in common with the Pacific Northwest than the Amalfi Coast, just 40 miles away. Instead of Roman ruins like those at Pompeii, stones remain from the Osci, the native Campanian tribe known for their salacious festivals. The spiritual center of the region is the famously hard-to-reach church at Montevergine.
Washington Heights—the neighborhood in northern Manhattan that houses The Cloisters museum and gardens—is built upon a series of bluffs and cliffs. Concrete staircases and creaky subway elevators connect different sections of the neighborhood, and buildings stand tall on stilts driven deep into Manhattan schist. From a distance, blocks of apartment buildings appear like castellated European villages. However, despite its once-impenetrable terrain, or maybe because of it, Washington Heights is a place where some of the wildest and most romantic medieval-architecture fantasies in New York City have been realized for over 150 years.
The Zodiac Club has done an admirable job of keeping their dinners and membership rolls under wraps. Breathless newspaper articles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries detail the spate of twelve-person private dining clubs formed by the titans of the Gilded Age. A book by Stephen Birmingham published in 1987, America's Secret Aristocracy, claims that J.P. Morgan founded the Zodiac Club.