Showing posts with label Feste. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feste. Show all posts

19 September 2016

Festival of San Gennaro

Worldwide celebrations for patron saint of Naples

An artistic depiction of the beheading of San Gennaro in 305
An artistic depiction of the beheading of
San Gennaro in 305
Local worshippers, civic dignitaries and visitors meet together in the Duomo in Naples every year on this day to remember the martyrdom of the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro.

Each year a service is held to enable the congregation to witness the dried blood of the saint, which is kept in a glass phial, miraculously turn to liquid.

The practice of gathering blood to be kept as a relic was common at the time of the decapitation of San Gennaro in 305.

The ritual of praying for the miracle of liquefaction of the blood on the anniversary of his death dates back to the 13th century.

Gennaro is said to have been the Bishop of Benevento and was martyred during the Great Persecution led by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for trying to protect other Christians.

His decapitation is believed to have taken place in Pozzuoli but his remains were transferred to Naples in the 15th century to be housed in the Duomo.

Pope Francis kisses the vial containing San Gennaro's blood at a ceremony at the Naples Duomo in 2015
Pope Francis kisses the phial containing San Gennaro's blood
at a ceremony at the Naples Duomo in 2015
The festival of the saint’s martyrdom is celebrated each year by Neapolitan communities all over the world and the recurrence of the miracle in Naples is televised and reported in newspapers.

On 19 September in 1926, immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City to celebrate the Festa di San Gennaro there for the first time.

Over the years the festival has expanded into an 11-day street fair celebrating Italian food and drink.

The Festival of San Gennaro is celebrated every year on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy
The Festival of San Gennaro is celebrated every year
on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy
In 2014 a Little Italy bakery constructed the world’s largest ever cannolo, a giant version of the popular Italian pastry that contains a sweet, creamy filling, to mark the occasion.

There is a major shrine to San Gennaro in the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Manhattan.

Festivals are also held in the Bronx, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Nevada and Seattle.

On the few occasions the miracle hasn’t happened in the Duomo in Naples, Neapolitans have dreaded a catastrophe occurring. In 1980, one occasion when the blood did not turn to liquid, a massive earthquake later struck the region.

The imposing entrance to the Duomo on Via Duomo, off Via Tribunali in Naples
The imposing entrance to the Duomo on Via Duomo, off
Via Tribunali in Naples
Travel tip:

The Duomo in Naples, in Via Duomo, off Via Tribunali, was built over the ruins of two earlier Christian churches for Charles I of Anjou at the end of the 13th century. One of the main attractions inside is the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, which contains many precious works of art. The Duomo is also sometimes referred to as Cattedrale di San Gennaro. It is open to the public from 8.30 to 1.30 and 2.30 to 8pm Monday to Saturday and 8.30 to 1.30 and 4.30 to 7.30pm on Sundays.

Travel tip:

It is not known whether Gennaro was born in Benevento or Naples, but he is believed to have become a priest in Benevento when he was just 15 years old. In ancient times Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy and there are many Roman remains to be seen there, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an amphitheatre.

More reading:

The martyred Roman soldier who became Sant'Alessandro of Bergamo

Why Italians look to Saint Anthony of Padua when things - or people - go missing

(Photo of Mulberry Street in New York by Nightscream CC BY-SA 2.5)


26 August 2016

Sant’Alessandro of Bergamo

Annual festival keeps alive the memory of city’s saint

Sant'Alessandro, as portrayed by artist Bernardino Luini in 1525
Sant'Alessandro, as portrayed by
artist Bernardino Luini in 1525
The patron saint of Bergamo, Sant’Alessandro, was martyred on this day in 303 by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

It is believed Alessandro was a devout citizen who had continued to preach in Bergamo, despite having several narrow escapes from would-be Roman executioners, but he was eventually caught and suffered public decapitation.

In Christian legend, Alessandro was a centurion of the Theban Legion, a legion of the Roman army that converted en masse to Christianity, whose existence prompted a crusade against Christianity launched by the Romans in around AD 298.

Alessandro was reputedly held in prison in Milan on two occasions but escaped to Bergamo, where he defiantly refused to go into hiding and instead openly preached, converting many Bergamaschi to his faith.

Of course, he was ultimately taken into custody again by the Romans and beheaded on August 26, 303, on the spot now occupied by the church of Sant' Alessandro in Colonna in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town).

Festive lights in the Via Sant'Alessandro in Bergamo
Festive lights in the Via Sant'Alessandro in Bergamo
Today is the Festa di Sant'Alessan- 
dro. In fact, his memory is celebrated with a series of religious, cultural and gastronomic events that take place in his name over several days throughout Bergamo, which is decorated with festive lights.

In 2010, for the first time, there was a re-enactment of Alessandro’s execution in full costume at the place where it is believed to have been carried out, in Via Sant’Alessandro. 

The Chiesa di Sant'Alessandro in Colonna lit up for the Festa along with the Roman column
The Chiesa di Sant'Alessandro in Colonna lit
up for the Festa along with the Roman column
Travel tip:

A Roman column in front of Chiesa di Sant’Alessandro in Colonna in Via Sant’Alessandro is believed to mark the exact spot where Bergamo’s patron saint was executed by the Romans. The column was constructed in the 17th century from Roman fragments and there are various theories about where the pieces came from. The church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna was rebuilt in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church. Its ornate campanile was completed at the beginning of the 20th century. The church houses a work depicting the martyrdom of Sant’Alessandro by Enea Salmeggia and one showing the transporting of Sant’Alessandro’s corpse by Gian Paolo Cavagna. It also contains paintings by Lorenzo Lotto and Romanino.

Travel tip:

Porta Sant’Alessandro, which leads from the Città Alta (upper town) to Borgo Canale and San Vigilio, was built in the 16th century in memory of the saint. It was named after a fourth century cathedral that had originally been dedicated to Sant’Alessandro  but was later demolished. The gate became a checkpoint manned by customs officers, who would tax farmers from outside the city bringing in vegetables, eggs, chickens and wine to sell to residents of the Città Alta. The Duomo in the Città Alta, originally dedicated to St Vincent, was renamed in honour of Sant'Alessandro in the 17th century.

13 June 2016

Saint Anthony of Padua

Pilgrims honour the saint famous for his miracles

Photo of the Basilica di Sant'Antonio
The Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua
The feast of Saint Anthony of Padua (Sant’Antonio da Padova) will be celebrated  by thousands of pilgrims visiting the northern Italian city today.

Special services will be held in the Basilica di Sant’Antonio and a statue of the saint will be carried through the streets of Padua.

Over the next few days pilgrims from all over the world will visit the Basilica, to see the saint’s tomb and relics.

Anthony was born in Portugal where he became a Catholic priest and a friar of the Franciscan order. He died on 13 June, 1231 in Padova and was declared a saint by the Vatican a year after his death, which is considered a remarkably short space of time.

Anthony is one of the most loved of all the saints and his name is regularly invoked by Italians to help them recover lost items.

It is estimated that about five million pilgrims visit the Basilica every year in order to file past and touch the tomb of the Franciscan monk, who became famous for his miracles, particularly relating to lost people or things.

The magnificent basilica in Piazza del Santo is an architectural masterpiece created between the 13th and 14th centuries, but it was later enriched with works of art by masters such as Titian, Tiepolo and the sculptor Donatello.

Saint Anthony’s Basilica is an imposing sight in Padova’s skyline even from a distance as it has seven domes around a cupola, two campanili (towers) and tapering spires like the minarets of a mosque.

Inside, the church is in the plan of a Latin cross with a nave and aisles in the gothic tradition. The Saint’s body lies in a marble tomb in the area known as the Chapel of the Tomb in the left transept.

The walls around the tomb are decorated with large 16th century marble reliefs that depict scenes from Saint Anthony’s life. These are overshadowed by the impressive amount of offerings and photographs on display from people wishing to give thanks after surviving car crashes or serious illnesses thanks to what they believe was the intervention of Sant’Antonio.

In a separate chapel, visitors can see relics of Saint Anthony and other important objects, such as a tunic believed to have been worn by the saint.

Photo of the Scrovegni Chapel
The Scrovegni Chapel is home to magnificent
frescoes by Giotto
Travel tip:

Padova in the Veneto is also one of the most important centres for art in Italy and home to the country’s second oldest university. Padova has become acknowledged as the birthplace of modern art because it is home to the Scrovegni Chapel, the inside of which is covered with frescoes by Giotto, a genius who was the first to paint people with realistic facial expressions showing emotion. His scenes depicting the lives of Mary and Joseph, painted between 1303 and 1305, are acknowledged as his greatest achievement and are one of the world’s most important works of art. At Palazzo Bò, Padova’s university founded in 1222, you can still see the original lectern used by Galileo and the world’s first anatomy theatre, where dissections were secretly carried out from 1594.

Travel tip:

The enormous Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova, or Basilica del Santo as it is known to local people, is one of the most important places of Christian worship in the world. To reach it from the railway station in Piazzale Stazione, take the tram and get off at the stop called simply, Santo. Buses also run between the station and the Basilica. If you are on foot, walk down Corso del Popolo, Corso Garibaldi, Via Eremitani, Via Zabarella and Via del Santo. The Basilica is open from 06.20 to 19.00 in the winter and 06.20 to 19.45 in the summer. Admission is free.


25 April 2016

Festa della Liberazione

Date of radio broadcast chosen for annual celebration

Photo of Liberation Day celebration
Gatherings such as this one in Seregno in Lombardy
celebrate the role of the partisans in driving out the Nazis
Today is an official Bank Holiday in Italy as the whole country joins together to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the fascist regime with la Festa della Liberazione.

Every year on this day, the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy is commemorated with parades and parties and many public buildings are closed.

The Festa della Liberazione (Liberation Day) marks the day when Allied troops were finally able to liberate Italy. 

The date for the national holiday was chosen in 1946. It was decided to hold the Festa on 25 April, the date the news of the liberation was officially announced to the country on the radio.

The marches and events held throughout the day provide an opportunity for Italians to remember their fallen soldiers, in particular the partisans of the Italian resistance who fought the Nazis, as well as Mussolini’s troops, throughout the second world war. A ceremony will be held at the war memorial in each city and town.

But when the official part is over it is also a festive occasion for many Italians, who have a day off work, and will enjoy the food festivals, open air concerts and parties taking place.

Travel tip:

When in Rome, a focal point for celebrating Liberation Day is the Quirinale. The impressive Palazzo del Quirinale, at one end of Piazza del Quirinale, was the summer palace of the popes until 1870 when it became the palace of the Kings of the newly unified Italy. Since 1947 it has been the official residence of the President of the Republic of Italy.

Photo of Bergamo monument
The monument to the partisans in Piazza
Matteotti in Bergamo
Travel tip:

In Bergamo, in northern Italy, the citizens gather each year at the Torre dei Caduti in Piazza Vittorio Veneto in the lower town. In nearby Piazza Matteotti there is a striking monument dedicated to the partisans, which was created by Bergamo sculptor Giacomo Manzù, who presented the work of art to his home town as a gift in 1977. 

(Photo of Seregno commemoration by Paul Barker Hemings CC BY-SA 2.0)


14 February 2016

San Valentino and Sant’Antonino

Celebrations for two different Italian saints

Saint Valentine, a third century Roman martyr, is commemorated with a feast day on this day every year.

His name has become associated with the tradition of courtly love but all that is really known about him is that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia in Rome on 14 February.

His feast day was first established in 496 by a Pope who revered him. It is thought he was imprisoned and tortured and then hastily buried, but that his disciples later retrieved his body.
Sorrento's Sant'Antonino looks across the square
 to the Basilica named after him.

During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired in mid-February and this is probably why Saint Valentine’s Day became associated with romance.

But while lovers all over the world raise a glass to Saint Valentine on this day, residents and visitors in Sorrento celebrate the festival of Sant’Antonino, the city’s patron saint.

Sant’Antonino Abate died on 14 February, 626. He is credited with saving the life of a child swallowed by a whale and also protecting Sorrento against plague and invasion.

Each year on the anniversary of his death, a silver statue of Sant’Antonino is carried in a procession through the streets of Sorrento and there are festive lights, fireworks, and musical events in his name.

Travel tip: 

Sant’Antonino’s body is buried in a crypt that became part of the Basilica di Sant’Antonino, a magnificent church that dates from the 11th century, but has been added to and refurbished over the years and is situated in Sorrento’s Piazza Sant’Antonino. Inside the Basilica, another statue of the saint is surrounded by the many offerings from sailors who have been saved from shipwrecks over the centuries and believe it was thanks to the intervention of Sant’Antonino.

Travel tip:

A statue of the Saint stands among the palm trees in the middle of Piazza Sant’Antonino opposite Sorrento’s town hall. Just off the square, the Via Santa Maria delle Grazie has many interesting shops, bars and restaurants, including the long-established Ristorante Sant'Antonino, named after the saint, which serves fish, seafood and Sorrentine specialities.


6 January 2016


A good witch who traditionally sweeps away problems

Children in Italy will be waking up on this day hoping to find that Befana has left them some presents while they have been sleeping.

A puppet depicting Befana
Photo: Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Although Christmas is almost over, the eve of 6 January is when a kind witch is supposed to visit the good children in Italy and leave them presents.

Traditionally, children who have been naughty are supposed to receive only a lump of coal and those who have been stupid are supposed to receive only a carrot.

But in reality, many children throughout Italy will expect good presents from Befana today.

Befana is also sometimes referred to as La Vecchia (the old woman) and La Strega (the witch). But she is supposed to be a similar character to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.

It is believed her name derives from La Festa dell’Epifania (the feast of the Epiphany).

Befana is usually portrayed in illustrations as an old lady riding a broomstick, wearing a black shawl and covered in soot because she enters the children’s homes through the chimney.

Another tradition is that Befana sweeps the floor of the house before she leaves, symbolising the sweeping away of the problems of the previous year.

Many households will leave out a small glass of wine and a plate with small portions of the regional or local specialties for Befana.

Some lucky children in Italy will have already received presents from Santa Claus on 25 December and will wake up today to find another delivery from Befana.

The famous Christmas market in Rome's Piazza
Navona. Photo: Mitravabanerjee (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Piazza Navona in Rome is the site of a Christmas market, which lasts till Epiphany, where toys, sweets and craft items are on sale. Many people go down to the market on the night of 6 January as there is a legend that Befana will appear at a window overlooking the square. Everyone jokes about it while enjoying the festive atmosphere and buying the goods on sale.

Travel tip:

The home of Befana is traditionally supposed to be Urbania, a small town south west of Urbino in Le Marche. A national Befana festival is held there every year between 2 and 6 January and a special post box is set up to receive mail for Befana. Urbania has medieval walls and a Ducal Palace and is well known in Italy as a centre for majolica and ceramics production.


1 January 2016

Capodanno in Italy

Toasting the New Year the Italian way

New Year’s Day is called Capodanno in Italy, which literally means ‘head of the year’.

Rai Uno will be screening a New Year's Day concert from La Fenice
Teatro La Fenice in Venice

It is a public holiday, and schools, Government offices, post offices and banks are closed.

After a late start following the New Year’s Eve festivities, many families will enjoy another traditional feast together, either at home or in a restaurant.

Visitors and residents will attend church services throughout the country before sitting down to a festive meal and toasting 2016 with a glass of good Prosecco.

Rai Uno will be broadcasting a New Year’s Day concert live from La Fenice in Venice at 12.20 local time.

San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi

The Catholic Church remembers cardinal-priest Giuseppe Maria Tomasi di Lampedusa who died on this day in 1713.

He was the son of the Prince of Lampedusa in Sicily but he renounced his inheritance and joined a religious order.

Later in life he worked to reform the church and was created a cardinal-priest by Pope Clement XI who admired his sanctity.

He was buried in a church near his home after his death but his remains were later transferred to the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome and he was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Travel tip:

La Fenice (the Phoenix ) is Venice’s world famous opera house, originally built in 1790. The name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to rise from the ashes after their previous theatre burnt down.  La Fenice was itself destroyed by fire in 1836 and had to be rebuilt. It was severely damaged by fire again in 1996 and rebuilt at a cost of more than 90 million euros, reopening seven years later. La Fenice is in Campo San Fantin, a short walk from Piazza San Marco.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea
della Valle in Rome
Travel tip:

There is a shrine to San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi in the baroque Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Corso Vittoria Emanuele II in Rome. The large church is also famous for being chosen by Puccini as the setting for the first act of his opera, Tosca.

Buon Anno e Tanti Auguri per 2016 (Happy New Year and best wishes for 2016) from all at Italy On This Day!


25 December 2015

Natale – Christmas Day

Celebrating Christmas the Italian way


Christmas Day in Italy is very much a family feast just as in other parts of the world.

After la Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve), when traditionally a fish meal is consumed and the adults go to midnight mass, Natale (Christmas Day) is a time for feasting.
Panettone, the traditional end to the
Christmas Day meal in Italy

While the children open their presents, the adults savour a glass of good Prosecco or uncork a special vintage bottle while they prepare the festive table.

Friends and relatives who drop in with presents or to exchange good wishes will be offered a glass of wine and nuts, biscuits or torrone (a type of nougat from Cremona).

Antipasti is likely to include Parma ham or Bresaola, served with preserved mushrooms, olives or pickled vegetables.

Stuffed pasta is usually served as a first course, either in the shape of ravioli or tortellini, which are said to have been offered as Christmas gifts to priests and monks during the 12th century. In the south a baked pasta dish is often served.

For the main course, turkey or capon is likely to be served in the north of Italy, with potatoes and vegetables as side dishes. Veal, beef and chicken can be served in the south.

The traditional end to the meal is almost always Panettone, served warm accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine or Prosecco. 

Salute e Buon Natale from Italy On This Day!

Travel tip:

Cremona in Lombardia is famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

Travel tip:

Milan, the main city in Lombardia, is believed to be where Panettone originated.  It is said to have been concoted by a Milanese baker, Antonio (Toni), to impress his girlfriend at Christmas time in the 15th century. The result was so successful that ‘Pane de Toni’ has become a regular feature of the Christmas season all over Italy and now even abroad.


8 December 2015

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Prayers are followed by bonfires and feasting

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on this day throughout Italy every year.
Christmas trees are traditionally lit up on December 8 in Italy
Christmas tree in Salerno
lit up for the festivities
Photo: Soloxsalerno (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It is a public holiday everywhere, when banks and offices are closed, special masses take place in the churches and people celebrate the start of Christmas.

It is an official festa in the Christian calendar, when the immaculate conception of Jesus is celebrated. The day commemorates Mary, the mother of Jesus, being given the grace of God to live a life ‘free of sin.’

Many people attend Mass and the Pope leads the celebrations from Rome.

The day was officially declared a festa by the Vatican in 1854.

It marks the official start of the Christmas season in Italy, when the lights and trimmings go up.

The shops are open and do a brisk trade, with many people not at work taking the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.

Bonfires are lit in some parts of Italy and the different areas celebrate with their own traditional food and wine.

Travel tip:

Since 1953, the Pope has visited the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza Mignanelli in Rome on 8 December and laid flowers at the base of this monument to the Virgin Mary.
Christmas markets are held all over Italy during the festive period
Christmas market in Piazza Navona
Photo: Mitravabanerjee [CC BY-SA 3.0)

Travel tip:

A big Christmas market is held every year in Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome, running until Epiphany on 6 January. The stalls sell Christmas decorations and gifts, nativity figures, traditional food, roasted chestnuts and hot wine.


7 December 2015

Feast of St Ambrose in Milan

Celebrating the life of a clever and fearless Bishop

The feast day of Milan’s patron saint, St Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio), is celebrated in the city on this day every year.
A service is held in the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio to mark the saint's day on December 7.
The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan
Photo by Novellon (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The day is an official public holiday in Milan. Banks, Government offices and schools are closed along with some shops. Public transport may also be restricted.

A service is held in the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, the church built by Ambrose himself. The date also marks the opening of the traditional 'Oh Bej! Oh Bej!' street market, with stalls selling local food, wine and crafts.

Aurelius Ambrosius was born in the year 340. He trained as a lawyer and was a great orator before becoming Bishop of Milan in response to popular demand.

After his ordination he wrote about religion, composed hymns and music and was generous to the poor.

He stood up to the supporters of the alternative Arian religion, who wanted to take over some of Milan’s churches, and he also told a Roman Emperor what he had done wrong and how to atone for his sins.

A famous piece of advice that he gave to his congregation was to follow local liturgical custom rather than to argue against it. He said: “When I am at Rome I feast on a Saturday, when I am at Milan I do not.” This is believed to be the origin of the phrase: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

He died at the age of 57 in the year 397 and, after he was made a saint, his feast day was fixed to take place on the anniversary of his ordination each year.

Travel tip:

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio is in south west Milan in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. It was originally built by Ambrose, when he was bishop, on the site of an earlier Christian burial ground. After his remains were placed there, the church was named after him. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and further modified in the 15th century.
The Bibliotheca Ambrosiana in Milan was one of the first libraries to be open to the public
Milan's Bibliotheca Ambrosiana

Travel tip:

The Pinacoteca Ambro- 
siano, named after St Ambrose, is an art gallery and cultural complex founded in the 17th century by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Located in Piazza Pio, in the centre of Milan, the complex also houses the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, one of the first libraries to be open to the public.