Thursday, June 28, 2012

Becoming a Porter of Santa Rosa-The Trials

Palazzo Mazzatosta, on the way to the trials 

exclusive interview  with the President  of the Facchini 

Viterbo’s spectacular  festival dedicated to Santa Rosa which has taken place on September  3rd  for  over  750 years starts here,  in a former  church dedicated to peace, just  before  Viterbo’s families  go off  to the  beach on  holiday. 

 During  my  35 years in Rome I had never  heard of the festival, but  upon taking up residence  in the province of Viterbo, I quickly learned that it is the most important  happening of the year, around which the Viterbese  arrange their vacations and family life. 

Massimo Mecarini &  the  cast iron  box which is  padded for "comfort"  

Each one of the 100 men who make up the Sodalizio dei  Facchini (porters) must undertake the annual  trial known as  the prova di portata    on these  hot  afternoons at the end of June.

closeup of the  cast iron   chest  
 One by one they must  carry  this  150 kg. weight for 90 metres, or  three times around   the Sala Prova, under the watchful eyes of their colleagues  and beneath the frescoed  ceiling of the former church.   
frecoed ceiling  S. M. della Pace 

You can  watch the video  of the prova on the official website of the Sodalizio dei Facchini. This year  a TV  crew  will be on hand to film the prova di portata .

padded  and numbered neck braces
The  young, aspirant  porters  are also put "on trial "  and only the fittest, who must be between 18  to 34,   are accepted. 

They will become  the new heroes  of  the city, adulated  by the crowds on the night of September  3rd .  

For more  on the Santa Rosa Festival and the Porters, see  this post.

family and girlfriends will watch the prova di portata 

Here is my translation of Lorena Paris' poem in honor of the Facchini. 

The Porters of Santa Rosa
Identical  smiles mirrored in the faces
of the white river
between amphitheatres of crowds
always  astonished
and there the statue  swaying
above the roof tops
cuts  the blue
 of a holy and profane night.
Then the pavement runs quickly
With the  breath of the eyes glazed by pride
in the devoted steps and the rhythm of faith
in the strong arms of adoration

under that  yoke of tradition. 

Don't wait  35 years like I did-put this traditional festival on your  list of things to see in Italy.   

There is very little in English about Viterbo and  its festivals, but you can find ideas for accomodations and itineraries on  my website and of course, in my books about the area.  
After  12 years, a newly designed website   is now  in the works, stay tuned!   


  1. Grazie Mary Jane, can you tell me where we can find out times of the trials and where they're held?

  2. complimenti per l'articolo e bella la poesia!

  3. The trials are held Thursday, Fri and Sat. in the afternoon...5 pm on.
    The Sala Prove is the ex-church della Pace, in the center of Viterbo, next to the Fantappie school.
    Enter Viterbo through Porta Romana, then turn right just after the lovely fashion shop, Margot. Just ask, everyone knows it.