What's On in Italy - September 2014

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 03:00

With summer drawing to a close, the events are stacking up in Italy throughout September. John Bensalhia looks at some of the best-known examples...

Summer comes to its close, paving the way for autumn leaves and red skies. Italy in September is very busy, hosting a wide variety of events and festivals that mark religious occasions, icons, music and even the eponymous character from Romeo and Juliet

MACCHINA DI SANTA ROSA – Viterbo, 3rd September

Just what is the Machine of Santa Rosa? Answers can be traced back all the way to 1258, in which Pope Alexander IV oversaw the procession of the body of Saint Rose of Viterbo, who was moved from the original church of Santa Maria del Poggio to the Church Santa Maria delle Rose. Further down the line, the first evidence of subsequent processions to mark the original can be found in October 1686. This is the first evidence of the eponymous machine, which is said to have been designed by Sebastian Gregory Fani and built by Giuseppe Franceschini.

Today, a replica of the machine is transported in a lavish procession in the early part of September. It's a sight that attracts thousands of visitors, who can witness the 30m machine illuminate the way. 100 porters will bear the machine through a route that takes them through the streets of Viterbo. The procession stops off at places such as Piazza Fontana Grande, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza del Teatro, before reaching the Church of Santa Rosa. 

MITO INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL – Milan and Turin, 4th - 21st September

This year sees the 8th edition of the MITO International Music Festival. One of the most notable aspects of the 2014 festival is the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. There will be special performances, marking the Sounds and Words of the Great War, allowing for reflection and remembrance.

The 2014 festival also includes a broad selection of special events and performances, celebrating a diverse range of performers and composers. A selection of performances will mark the work of Brahms, with pianists including Jan Hugo, Margaryta Golovko and Martina Consonni playing some of his greatest compositions. It's not just Brahms who will fall under the spotlight – there will be celebrations of composers like Ravel, Debussy, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky.

Iconic performers and names from the big screen will be recognised at the 2014 MITO festival. A celebration of the Merrie Melodies music is on the roster, as well as a tribute to one of the all-time cinematic legends, Charlie Chaplin. Elsewhere, jazz fans can enjoy a turn from the Denise King Quartet and a tribute to Adolphe Sax, the man who invented the saxophone in 1841. The festival will span the globe, from the Marimba Orchestra of Mozambique to the Masters of Tradition of Irish Music.

Younger attendees can enjoy this year's showcase too, with special workshops and performances, including a puppet show with Silvano Antonelli. All in all, there is something for everyone at the 2014 MITO International Music Festival, spanning all cultures, genres and of course, it will provide a fitting tribute to those who fought in the First World War. 

FESTIVAL OF THE MADONNA OF THE SICK – Misterbianco, 14th September

The Festival of the Madonna of the Sick marks a miracle that dates back to 1669. An eruption from Mt Etna swamped Misterbianco in lava, but miraculously, the sanctuary that bore the Madonna's name was saved.

To acknowledge this miracle, every September, La Festa della Madonna degli Ammalati takes place (normally around the first weekend of the month). The festival includes a procession of the 51 kg bell that was retrieved from the lava, as well as a procession that bears a painting of the Madonna holding Jesus. Mass and fireworks are included in the event, as well as the traditional La Cantata. This involves masses of people coming together to link arms, dance and sing in praise of the Madonna. 

REGATA STORICA – Venice, 7th September

The centrepiece of the yearly Voga alla Veneta rowing calendar arrives in September. The 7th is the day in which Regata Storica dazzles and entertains with a series of exciting races and a spectacular parade. The parade is the curtain raiser to the races, and is steeped in historical culture, from the period costumes (eg: from the 16th century) to the lavish boats.

The races themselves will run for different categories with respect to the likes of age and types of boat. There will be specific races for younger rowers, female rowers and a special university challenge comprising competitors from the University of Venice and other local colleges. The most famous of these races is Campioni su Gondolini, which involves the gondola racers competing to be the first to end up at the spectacular finish stage which is located outside Ca' Foscari Palace. 

FESTA DELLA RIFICOLONA – Florence, 7th September

The roots of Festa Della Rificolona date all the way back to the 12th century. Celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary, a group of peasants and local residents made their way to Florence. Lighting the way in the dark, they used paper lanterns on sticks to illuminate their way.

That's where the Paper Lantern Festival of Florence drew its inspiration, and it's seen today in a colourful lantern parade. To accompany the parade are music, songs and a market that sells agricultural produce, in honour of the original villagers buying agricultural-related items and gifts.

It's a vivid celebration that takes its tradition to make a memorable acknowledgement of the birth of the Virgin Mary. 

JULIET'S BIRTHDAY – Verona, 7th September

To celebrate or not to celebrate? That's the question that can only receive a resounding Yes when it comes to the eponymous heroine in Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet.

Taking place in Verona, the revelries marking Juliet include traditional parades, period costumes, food, drink, dancing, street artistry and music. The parades feature homages to the Courts of the Montagues and the Capulets, as in Shakespeare's literary masterpiece.

If you're in Verona, then it's worth checking out locations such as the house of the Capulets (where the lucky bronze statue of Juliet resides) and the Wall of Letters, bearing the many notes left by people from all around the world. The Wall of Letters is a progression of the age-old tradition in which people left notes on Juliet's tomb. Today, this institution even has its own club responding to the letters and has even been the subject of the recent film, Letters To Juliet, which starred Amanda Seyfried. 

FEAST DAY OF SAN GENNARO – Naples, 19th September

In 305 AD, San Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples and Bishop of Benevento was beheaded after being persecuted for his Christian beliefs. Today, San Gennaro is honoured every year on 19th September, as crowds of people flock to Naples to pay tribute.

One of the main aspects of this day is a ceremony in which the crowds wait to see if a miracle will be performed. At Naples Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo, the square outside the cathedral, people witness vials of blood taken to the altar of the cathedral. The crowds then wait to see if the blood turns into liquid – if the miracle happens, then it's said that this is a sign that San Gennaro has blessed the city. Bells will ring out as the Cardinal takes the liquefied blood into the square for all to see.

In addition to this, there are stalls and stands containing food, sweets, trinkets and toys to buy. This is an event that's also marked by the Italian communities in American areas such as Los Angeles and New York. 

COMMEMORATION OF PADRE PIO – San Giovanni Rotondo, Puglia, 20th - 23rd September

Padre Pio, aka Pio of Pietrelcina, came to San Giovanni Rotondo's Capuchin Monastery. Padre Pio, a friar, stayed at this destination until his passing on 23rd September 1968. He was known for caring for the sick, but is perhaps best known for an experience in 1918.

Padre Pio first experienced the Stigmata in this year. Not only did he experience pain, he also bled in places linked to the wounds suffered by Jesus – such as wounds on his hands similar to the wounds caused by the nails hammered through Jesus' hands at the Crucifixion. Furthermore, it was reported that the odour of the blood was that of perfume or flowers – a similar miracle known as the odour of sanctity mentioned in the tales of the lives of saints. Given that this experience occurred in 1918, the year in which the First World War ended, it's said that some regarded Padre Pio as a symbol of hope for the future.

Today, Padre Pio (having achieved posthumous sainthood in 2002) is honoured through religious ceremony and a torchlight procession over a period of four days. In addition, there are stalls selling religious-themed items throughout San Giovanni Rotondo. 

FEAST OF SAN MICHELE – Throughout Italy, 29th September

St. Michael the Archangel will be honoured on 29th September throughout Italy. There will be events marking the patron saint of grocers, paratroopers, mariners, police and sickness - from Carmignano to Ischia, and of course, the Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael on the Gargano Promontory.

There will be a wide variety of events, with Alghero marking the end of the summer season with music, games and a fireworks display at the port. In Ischia, there will be a procession bearing the statue of San Michele, with bands providing a musical accompaniment. After the closing procession, music and fireworks combine to provide an aural and visual feast.