While waiting for some pasta to become al dente I heard a brass band in the distance. Then I remembered La Festa della Madonna del Carmelo. Unsure of what it involved, it seemed like a good idea to treat my ears to the marching brass band.
On the street I heard chants of “Viva Maria!” and much commotion in the distance. Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II or Piazza Umberto as the locals call it was lit up in glorious colour. Via Mesumerci was awash with light also so this encouraged me to follow the illumination in search of the procession.
I came upon a large crowd at a crossroads. They moved along behind a type of cart which held the relic of their saint. They moved on towards a piazza by Chiesa Santa Maria Ammalati where they seemed to stop and wait as more people gathered. Many sat around a fountain, others stood by kiosk, enjoying a quick seltz a limone while they waited. The relic made its way around the piazza and stopped by the kiosk where people got a closer look.
Suddenly without fore warning, a huge firework went off, stopping people in their tracks. A slight pause to lull you into false security and another two went off. They were coming from the front of the church where now I understood the purpose of the red and white tape which was stretched across the area in front of the church.
The display was quite dazzling with colours and sounds interchanging. This art has been finely perfected by Italians at their local festivals.
Once the spectacle was over, the relic set off past the entrance of the church and down via Giuseppe Verdi. I walked alongside noticing for the first time that it was the women, clad in brown hooded cloaks, who were pushing this huge cart along. They struggled under the weight of the relic.
The brass band played on, young and old stood side by side. The young had thin sheet music attached to their instruments, the old had it embedded in their brains.
The procession entered the fiera or market area and the huge piazza filled quickly. Suddenly another firework display went off, this time on a more fantastic scale. The relic was maneuvered around until it faced the steep incline leading into the church. The men then “ran” the relic up the steep concrete ramp and into the cathedral.
It was 1am; I had spent the last 3 hours in awe following this magical event. Then all made their way home: families with tired children, old men who had seen it all, restless young students and some curious faced tourists.
John P Brady writes fiction, articles and a blog about life in Italy, where he has chosen to make his home. His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been recently published by Roadside Fiction. It concerns the wild happenings in Dublin by night and documents the attitudes of the youth in modern Irish society. Keep up to date with his writing by subscribing:
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Back to the Gaff
Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland
Back to the Gaff is a book by new author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life. Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.
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