Thursday, July 26, 2012

San Giacomo

Finally with something to do on a Wednesday (our only day free), we headed to neighboring Levanto for dinner and the festival of Saint James, or San Giacomo, the patron saint of the seaside town.  The festival is quite large, as is anything when compared to tiny next door Monterosso, and the streets are full of vendors selling panini, sweets, knickknacks, games, and so forth.

Dinner - one of my favorite things about Levanto, gattafin

More dinner - local fish, Ligurian style

It's much like a summer carnival, cotton candy and all, and the night finishes off with fireworks over the still, dark sea.  The scene is not one unfamiliar to me, as summer carnivals are something I always looked forward to as a kid - but the religious procession through the streets is something certainly a little different then the Waldwick Lions Club.  Never forgetting the reason for the festival, around 9 pm people line the streets as the marching band plays, baton twirlers march, and the flags of Levanto are proudly marched through the town.  Children, men and women walk behind them, dressed in costume from the Medieval times, and religious confraternities from throughout the region follow, solemnly holding banners, dressed in their finest.  The police, the mayor, the priests, the faithful - all weaved through the streets, some stopping to smile at friends, some to throw a flower at the crowd, some children to scratch the uncomfortable costume, or blow a kiss at a parent.  What was the most incredible was the procession of the numerous crucifixes, decorated elaborately in gold and jewels, adorned with thin gold "leaves" that when moved, create a tinkling whistle, a "singing" in the breeze.
Chalk drawing of Mary on the street
They are hoisted into harnesses and carried through the streets by the most faithful, as the procession stops periodically for everyone to nervously watch the heavy crucifix lifted off the harness of one man and then placed carefully in the harness of another.  After the procession, there are fireworks, then after the fireworks, everyone trickles into the streets for one last drink before heading back on the train home - after all, tonight in Monterosso there is another party, this time with a totally different connotation - the festa dei pirati, or the Pirate Party.

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