Ferragosto, or the 15th of August, is one of the biggest holidays in Italy. Everyone takes the day off. Everyone. Did you forget to buy milk or bread the day before? Tough. Did your television or refrigerator go on the blink? Oh well. On the surface it seems to be the day when everything in Italy grinds to a halt. When I walked down the streets of Cianciana that afternoon, it looked like a ghost town. Not a single person, other than me, on the streets.
If that had been the only time I had gone out, I would have agreed that it did seem that everything had ground to a halt. Fortunately Nick and I had been told what would be happening that day, so we went back out about 8:30, parked ourselves along with our Irish friend Bernadette at a table outside the Bar San Antonio. We waited.
At about 9pm, mass at the Mother church ended. Suddenly, people lined the streets holding candles. At the end of the street a band began to play and the procession started. On the shoulders of several strong men, rode Santa Maria. Everyone watched respectfully as she stopped right directly in front of us.
The priests gave a blessing and a prayer and then the procession was back on. As the procession continued more and more people joined in until the streets were so full of people Nick and Bernadette and I were all stuck where we were. It reminded me of riding the trains at ‘crush hour’ in Tokyo!
It was a huge party. We went home early at 1:30am, but many people were out until 3 or 4 in the morning! We missed ferragosto last year but I am very happy we didn’t miss it this year!