Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Sicilian Sunshine and 'Scampagnate'!

Ciao amici - I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter! In Italy, no sooner are residents back to work and school after the Easter holidays then other celebrations make their appearance.

The 25th April is the 'Festa della Liberazione' in Italy, or, Liberation Day. This 'festa' commemorates the day in 1945 that signalled the end of the the Fascist regime in Italy and is now a national public holiday. Throughout the country ceremonies take place in commemorance of the peninsula's fallen soldiers and exuberant marching bands play in hundreds of beautiful piazzas.

The 1st May is also a national public holiday known as the 'Festa dei Lavoratori' or, the celebration of the workers. This is to celebrate the achievements of Italian workers in the struggle for their rights and Italian Labour Unions organise an annual concert in Rome's Piazza San Giovanni which is attended by internationally famous music groups. In Sicily, families and groups of friends head into the country for a 'scampagnata', or picnic, which usually entails an abundance of barbecue-cooked meat and litres of homemade wine being consumed! Many people also head to the coast where beaches open for the summer and the sun is finally hot enough for the first swim of the season.

At the 'Lago di Pozzillo', in Regalbuto (Enna), boat races are held on this day every year attracting numerous visitors to the shores of this beautiful artificial lake - one of the largest man-made lakes in Europe. I would recommend a trip to this area at any time of the year just to experience the beauty of rural Sicily and to see for yourself the expanse of the hills and valleys with the legendary backdrop of Mount Etna. Regalbuto itself is an ancient town set high up on the Sicilian hills and is the location of many stunning Baroque churches and aristocratic buildings.

Many Italian residents, especially office workers, will take advantage of these two public holidays by taking off all of the days inbetween to enjoy a leisurely extra-long weekend. The expression for this is a 'ponte', which literally means bridge.
So amici, enjoy this 'ponte'  - and I hope that those of you who are not in Italy will be able to enjoy a delicious 'gelato' somewhere scenic ....... or why not even organise a full-blown Sicilian 'scampagnata'!!

A presto :-)


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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Buongiorno a tutti i miei amici!! I hope that you are all well and enjoying the Spring sunshine :-)

We are now entering a period which, to me, is the most significant week in the Sicilian calendar, and that is Easter. Every year, the atmosphere in Sicilian towns changes considerably throughout the week according to the day and its religious implications. Even the weather usually changes accordingly, with the week prior to Easter being dark and miserable, only to give way to glorious sunshine on Easter Sunday. My own personal experiences of the week's events have mostly been in the town of Adrano, which is situated at the foot of Mount Etna, in the province of Catania. The processions are so elaborate and moving here, and they attract thousands of devotees.

Today the procession of 'Cristo alla Colonna' takes place from 6pm until 3am tomorrow morning, when the statue of Christ on the cross is carried throughout the streets of Adrano, calling in at each of the town's churches in order for the men carrying the statue to kneel at each altar. This is so emotional to watch as the statue is carried very slowly, three steps forward then two steps back, and sways from side to side. On Good Friday from 7am until 2pm the statue of the Virgin Mary, l'Addolorata, is carried through the streets visiting each church looking for her son Jesus, and at 8pm there is the procession of 'Cristo Morto'. In dialect, this is 'U Lizzanti' and is the statue of the body of Jesus which makes four stops around the town, each time accompanied by a marching band playing the funeral song 'Canzoncina a Gesù morto'.

On Easter Sunday the sun is normally bright in the sky and hundreds of families head towards the town centre to see the procession of 'Cristo Risorto' (Christ Resurrected), the Angel and of 'Maria Annunziata' (Virgin Mary). The happiest time of the day is when the statues of Jesus and Mary finally meet and this is known as 'A Paci'. The statues are made to dance and kiss and the atmosphere in the piazza is so happy and uplifting. Adrano is renowned for 'la Diavolata', which is a theatrical production held outside in the piazza on Easter Sunday and depicts the fight between good (symbolised by angels) and evil (the devils). In the evening the town holds an incredible fireworks display.

I wish each one of you a 'Buona Pasqua' and will leave you with a video in Italian showing the highlights of Easter in Adrano -

Amici, if you enjoy reading my blog please become a follower by registering at the Google 'Join this site' icon at the top right of the page. Grazie mille for your support!!

A presto :-)