Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Rites in Northern Lazio

The small towns in the territory north of Rome, previously the Papal States,  are an antropologist's dream for many ancient ceremonies connected to the rites of Easter  still happen here each year.

One of the oldest  is the traditional visit  to the sepulchres - sepolcri - which takes  place on Holy Thursday.
How many  of  my readers remember    visiting   seven different  churches on this evening  as children ?

Check out the dark, underground crypts of churches like San Francesco in Vetralla  and you will see these archaic "crops".
sepolcri  grow in the dark crypt of San Francesco, Vetralla

About  a month ago vases with wads of moist cotton were sprinkled  with seeds  and grains  and then kept in the dark until the seeds  sprouted.  These sepolcri range in color from white filaments to light green and red, depending on which type of seeds were sown.
 They are the perfect symbol for the Christian Easter  celebration of  resurrection and also  connect the local population with  its  Etruscan   heritage.
San Francesco, Vetralla, crypt 
The use of the sepolcri dates to pre-Christian times  and  symbolizes   the renewal of life in the spring.
 See the story on my website about the recent discovery of the  sanctuary of goddess Demetra in Vetralla. 

Good Friday  procession  of barefoot penitents in Tuscania
  The many processions which take place   on Good Friday  night at  9 p.m. are another ancient ritual  still to be seen in the towns of Orte, Bagnaia near Viterbo and Blera

 In this last town  the procession consists of groups of black-garbed  men and women  chanting ancient litanies (a use found only  in the town of Blera) as they proceed along  candle lit alleyways, and  horsemen  dressed  as Roman soldiers . 
It  concludes  with a realistic crucifixion  scene in front  of the main church.
Photo of the procession  in Tuscania  courtesy of Agostino Cecchini. More about local Easter  rituals  in "Etruria-travel, history and itineraries  in Central Italy".

Monday, April 11, 2011

Italia in Tavola

Vendors  from  many  parts of Italy  brought   the best of the country's foods and  handicrafts   right to our doorstep this weekend .     
Biscotti  and carta musica, a thin, crispy  Sardinian bread  could be found  as well as huge round wheels of  Altamura  bread. 
 We stocked up on  mirto, a sweet liqueur distilled from Sardinian    myrtle-berries each January and  rich red   Cannonau  wine.


 Cheeses  and  salumi  from Trentino in the far north were  lined up next to Umbria's   gastronomic  delights  such as truffles   attracting   visitors  who were surprised  to find  such variety in the improvised market  -Vetralla's  main  parking lot . 

Antonella  and  Marco  showed off their  hand decorated Deruta wares including   Easter eggs, dinnerware, clocks,  umbrella stands  and even a giant  dog house .

 peperino  from the Viterbo area
  Deruta   hand-painted  ceramics  come in all  sizes, shapes  and uses  from tiny  pendants    to huge, heavy  tables  made of volcanic  stone
hand painted   in Deruta 

 and covered with ceramic- the perfect "tavola"  for  a terrace or garden since it can withstand extremes of temperature  and need no maintenance.

Here  is  my   olive  motif  table on the terrace, purchased  from  another  Deruta  manufacturer, Domiziani .

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend of Vintage and History

The first really warm weekend  here in central Italy saw many people heading for beaches  and countryside pools  to catch their first quota  of sun tan.   Others avoided the lines and crowds  in the  hamlet  of Blera  or the historic center  of Viterbo where  lots of cultural  happenings were in store. Here is a sampling:
marble insert above San Nicola doorway 
Blera -a wall with  a history 

 In Blera artisan Eva welcomed visitors to her tiny  shop full of goodies from Gubbio .
 and  hand made jewelery   while across the narrow  main road   Swedish and Italian  archeologists  convened to discuss  the importance  of the sheep in ancient times.
Speeches were given, poetry was recited/ sung, photos were admired and  ricotta and cheese were eaten at the end of the evening.

 The tiny altar and marble inserts adorning the exterior wall of the  Sala San Nicola  give an idea of the  town's   antiquity and   flavor.

 On Sunday  there were numerous artisans  showing off  their wares and tables full of vintage bags  and knick knacks in the former  convent  of Santa Teresa in Viterbo's Piazza Fontana Grande.
The venue was used  as a courthouse  in the  1950s  and  the  writing on the wall  above the prisoners' cage still  says  "La Legge é uguale per Tutti".

Valerio and his fantastic fashions and bijoux

Giusy and her friend show off their wares

One tiny room held  delightful lamps  created from 
 old wine containers and   hand painted screens  that  Massimo  and his partner Paola have made from discarded window shutters
Don Quixote lamp 

Nearby  in the San Pellegrino medieval quarter  the magnificent Palazzo degli Alessandri hosted    a group of costumed  knights  and soldiers  who   were roasting  in the  hot noon sun  under  the weight of their  armor .     They were inaugurating the Templar's mansion, a sort of living history experience, which will be  open on weekends  to enliven the quiet  medieval quarter  for the next three months. 

Thanks  to the collaboration of Gianluca di Prospero and Bruno Scardozzi  the  group  "La Contesa"  have recreated  a  Templar Knights' habitation  right down to the swords, bread plates, beds of straw and  hand made candles.