Monday, October 24, 2011

The festas of Southern Italy

The Madonna of the Church of St Elias, Furore, Amalfi Coast

Since I'm back in Italy on the Amalfi Coast this week, here's an appropriate post....

Southern Italy, that is, Sicily and all the boot up to Naples, has been occupied by foreigners on and off (mostly on) for 3,000 years, until 1860 and the advent of Garibaldi and his wild men. But Italian history is for another day. I point this out now merely to comment that one of the long term occupiers, Spain, has left the Southern Italians with at least one interesting cultural by-blow: a taste for parading their saints about and celebrating their Saints Days with local feasts and festivities.

Festa in Sacco, in the Cilento Hills

It's hard work for the band members.
A well-earned break 
The Madonna in the church at Sacco
Waiting for her outing.

Every small village has a special day when they carefully and reventially parade their special Madonna or Saint through the streets, and this must be accompanied by a band. The musicians of Puglia in Southern Italy have made such bands their speciality. For a really special festa, the village pools its funds and busses in a high-quality band from Puglia, preferably complete with an imposing maestro who will round off the parade with a set of operatic favourites (Italian opera, of course). Then there must be the lights put up all over the village to make the place sparkle on festa night; and the piece de resistance: the fireworks display. Village compete over the magnificence of their fireworks displays. The local comitato for the festa will receive congratulations all round if the band, the lights, the parade, the priests and the fireworks are all up to standard - and preferable better than those of the next-door village.

Atrani's Festa

The Comitato manning the office, Atrani

Ahhh...S. Maddelena! Atrani.

But it is not all about competing. The time of the festa is also a time for spotlighting the madonna or the saint of choice, showing some serious devotion; and of the community coming together. In some villages, it is the time when the diaspora of village people returns to visit from the far-flung corner of Italy - or Brooklyn.

Atrani parades its S. Maddelena

Atrani's fireworks rule!

No comments:

Post a Comment