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Sunday, March 20, 2005

My sister bought a house in Calabria last year -- that's the toe, Calabria. I visited in late August, the time of year when people all around the Mediterranean celebrate arcane traditions connected with cults of local patron saints.

In the little town of Gioiosa Ionica, the event of the year is the Feast of San Rocco, and the tradition involves banging on snare drums and dancing around a statue for hours and hours. It's sounds prosaic, but it's actually one of the more remarkable things I've ever seen.

Calabria is tucked away at the far end of Italy, relatively untouched by tourism. Most guidebooks only devote a few pages to the region, which is perhaps best known as home of the bergamot, the citrus fruit that gives Earl Grey tea its flavor. (Fun fact: The bergamot is a finicky fruit, and thrives only within a narrow band of optimal fructification conditions. Apart from the southern end of Calabria, only the Ivory Coast can boast of any bergamot cultivation to speak of.)

My sister's house in Gioiosa is across the street from the house her husband was born in. Everybody in town knows each other and people really do yell at each other from balconies on a regular basis. It's that sort of place. The budget airline Volareweb operated a morning flight from Rome to Lamezia Terme, about an hour's drive from Gioiosa. With SmartWings's new early morning flight from Prague to Rome, this means I could have left my apartment early in the day been in Gioiosa for lunch, which is really just crazy. So crazy, in fact, that it's not true anymore, because Volareweb just went belly up. The best way to get to Gioiosa is probably an overnight train ride from Rome.

During the Feast of San Rocco, Gioiosa goes batshit crazy in an extremely audible way. San Rocco is St. Roch, the patron saint of bachelors, cholera, diseased cattle, dogs, epidemics, falsely accused people, invalids, knee problems, Orsogna Italy, Patricia Italy, plague, relief from pestilence, skin diseases, skin rashes, surgeons, tile makers... and natives of Gioiosa Ionica going batshit crazy banging on snare drums. The townspeople spend much of the entire month of August practicing for the big day. At all hours of day and night, all through August, you're likely to come across young kids practicing their rolls on the snare drum.

"Come across" -- that's not quite right. The unholy clamor fills the town and can likely be heard from space, except I doubt many satellites bother going over Calabria. It's loud as hell.

Here is a ethno-musicological explanation of what happens on Feast Day. This is one of the web's only references to the Gioiosa tradition:

[T]he prerogative of the tamburrinari consists above all in accompanying processions during summertime religious festivities, which are very common especially in the most southerly part of the region. For example, at Gioiosa Ionica (province of Reggio Calabria) on the feast of San Rocco the faithful perform votive tarantellas before the statue of the saint carried in procession accompanied by a very numerous group of tamburrinari (as many as 50-60 players).... The tarantella performed by the tamburrinari is characterised by a little-varied compound-time rhythm pattern, strongly influenced by military playing practice (see Ex. 2).


Here's Ex. 2:

In more colloquial terms: Feast Day starts when the locals carry the statue of San Rocco out of the church on the hill and down to the piazza in the center of town. The entire town turns into an open-air market with the statue at the center of the revelry. Everybody's out, everybody from all over. All day long, the men of the town bang out this rhythm on snare drums and bass drums. Did I mention it's loud?

At sundown, they pack themselves onto the road back up to the church, and carry the saint back up to the church. People are struggling to reach the statue to touch it. Many people leave baby clothes as an offering to the saint. Yes, baby clothes. When the statue finally reaches the church -- given the crowds, this is an impressive feat by itself -- they turn the statue around so it faces the square in front of the church. Some dude that gets up on the statue's pedastal, and people start passing babies to him. Yes, babies. The guy takes the kids' clothes off and gives them to the saint. He holds the screaming child up to the saint so that Saint Roch (patron saint of bachelors, cholera, diseased cattle, dogs, epidemics, falsely accused people...) can give it a good luck smooch. I have not made any of this up.

The festical ends with fireworks.

UPDATE: Of course I meant to write, "The festival ends with fireworks," but that word "festical" is funny enough to leave as is.

9 Comments:

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6:30 PM  
Blogger Charles Prendergast said...

Quite agree with what Costa Rica said - I'm looking at some property in Calabria and this article was invaluable insight! Cheers!

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an apartment in Gioiosa Ionica and I'm going over at the end of August. After this review I am really looking forward to a meal in The Rupe restaurant followed by the festival

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Testimonianza vivente delle offerte di prestito tra individui.

Questa testimonianza è vera prestito. Io sono una donna con 3 bambini. Dopo la morte di mio marito, mi sono trovato in difficoltà. E aveva molti debiti da pagare prima della fine di gennaio e iniziare la mia azienda. Ho chiesto i miei vicini e ho la mia banca per aiuto, ma che la gente non vuole aiutarmi; Era in gravi difficoltà. Ho detto alcune offerte di prestito su Internet e sto facendo due volte sciocco. Ma per seguire la mia ricerca, ho letto una testimonianza di prestito che parlava di un uomo onesto e serio. EH Beh questo uomo contattato LUCAS di MARIO, che lo ha aiutato con un prestito di € 40.000. Ho garantito che ho ricevuto il prestito all'inizio del mese, grazie a questi fondi, si potrebbe pagare le mie bollette che non devo pagare dopo la morte del mio marie. È vero che ho accettato di pagare per i soldi ma non male per altri truffatori. Se si desidera rendere il prestito, medejar mi essere consigliato e guidato verso quest'uomo e non non è rimarrete delusi. Lì, la tua - smalto Indirizzo:
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-Avete bisogno di una cura per l'HIV
-Hai bisogno di un prestito
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Ecc non esitate a contattarlo al lucasmariolola@gmail.com; lucasmariolola@outlook.fr e blog: lucasmariolola.blogspot.com.

Se non volete prendere lui per spiegare la loro situazione e la mia fiducia ha diritto ha portato 3 fuori su di esso se non si prendono i costi di elaborazione e contratto grazie. Ecco a me anche la mia e-mail: engel.nina588@gmail.com per ulteriore condotta e supporto buona occasione a voi.

4:45 PM  
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alla ricerca di prestito per più di 3 mesi. Sono stato molte volte truffe in prestito tra singoli che vogliono fatto siti un prestito tra individuo in diverse persone. Ma ogni volta stavo truffato e infine non ottiene nulla sul mio conto. Ma fortunatamente mi sono imbattuto in testimonianza parlando prestito assistenza su Mrs. armelle duvont, ho contattato lui in conformità con queste condizioni. Grazie a lei, ho avuto il mio prestito di 78.000 € per un periodo di mesi 65. Così è che ne hanno bisogno come me si può scrivere a lui e spiegare la tua situazione e sarete soddisfatti in 48bh; Che potrebbe aiutare anche te. Posta fredericbernard@ok.de

8:34 PM  
Blogger muller nicole said...


Ciao, persone reali sono quelli che sanno come aiutare i loro compagno sollievo quando subiscono. Quest'uomo mi ha dato un prestito di 80.000 € senza affatto me complicare il compito a livello dei documenti che richiedono le banche nelle applicazioni di prestito. Se sei in difficoltà finanziarie, grazie a lui jai super mercato all'angolo oggi, è stato il mio Salvatore e davvero non so cosa sia perché GAI ha deciso oggi di testimoniare in suo favore, è possibile contattare per posta e seguite le sue istruzioni e sarete soddisfatti entro 48 ore al massimo. Ho confermato e questo momento se e ' successo che hai esigenze un prestito vi preghiamo di contattare lui si che ne hanno bisogno come me si può scrivere a lui e spiegare a lui la tua situazione potrebbe aiutare sua posta fredericbernard@ok.de

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