Monday, January 2, 2012

The Italian Chronicles - Prima parte

I have three stories that carry on some topics I've written about lately: my Leatherman, my camera (or lack thereof), and "a story for another day."  As I was pondering these yet-to-be-written posts, I realized all three had one thread in common:  they all took place in Italy.

A Story For Another Day

The first part--prima parte--of these Chronicles is about some festivale, and takes place in Sant'Agnello, on the Sorrento coast, about an hour south of Naples.  The place where we stayed is in the center of this photo, a beautiful small hotel hanging on the cliff over the Bay of Naples.

Nearly every day, without fail, we would hear fireworks, whistles, church bells, whatever made noise.  We would hear these sounds off in the distance, up the mountains, around the corner, out on the water, everywhere.  The first few days we thought it must be a celebration of some saint, or holiday, or some happy event.  After a couple more days, we would just shake our heads, smile, and carry on, clueless.

A Sunday morning.  Alan and I are sitting out on our balcony, as usual I'm savouring the best cup of coffee I've ever had, Guido our resident sea gull was waiting for some scraps to be tossed his way, or to steal a croissant when we weren't looking.

I'm working on Alan to move from Edinburgh to Italy, and he's starting to listen.  We were on our way down the Amalfi Coast in a few hours, but right at this moment, we're enjoying the peaceful quiet of a stunningly beautiful morning in Sant'Agnello.

From off to our right, around the cliff, comes the raucous pealing of many church bells.  Okay.  It's Sunday, it's Italy.  Then we hear horns honking, cannon fire (yes, that's right, cannon fire), whistles, singing, shouting.  We look at each other, then stand up to see better over the balcony as this...flotilla?...armada?...of boats comes from around the corner.

It was all so joyous, and happy, and seemed so spontaneous for a Sunday morning.  There were people playing music in the big boat, and people singing and making noise on the little boats.  It was just wild and wonderful.  We waved, they waved back and yelled up at was very cool. 

More and more boats, appearing out of nowhere, joined the crowd, then the big boat began to shoot water streams, and another began firing the cannons.  By this time I am just laughing at the sheer fun and exuberance of this impromptu moment.

The whole flotilla went to Sorrento--off in the distance in the photo below--and continued to make music, sing, fire off the cannon (you can see the smoke in the center of the picture), and have this incredibly wonderful time for another hour or so.  It was magical.

Later in the morning, Alan and I went to the lobby, preparing to head down the coast to Amalfi for the day.  Maria, the woman who handled the front desk, gave me a smile as we walked by.  She couldn't speak English, though between my not so great Italian, and lots of hand gestures, we had managed to have some good conversations.  I went up to the counter and asked her what all the commotion had been about.  Was it a special holiday, or saint's birthday, or an Italian Day of Whatever..?? 

We went back and forth for a few moments as she tried to understand what I was asking her.  I was making noises like the cannon fire, pointing out the large windows toward the water, then suddenly she smiled.  Nodding her head, finally getting what I was asking, she shrugged, threw her hands up and as she walked into the back room, said over her shoulder in very bad English: "Some festivale."

There are so many festivals, events, and celebrations in Italy, it was just another day of  "some festivale" to Maria.  To us, it was pure, captivating entertainment.  From then on, no matter what part of the world we were in, whenever anything came up even remotely comparable, we would shrug, wave our hands and say, "Ah, some festivale."

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