April 8, 2007: La Settimana Santa in Florence and Naples

April 8, 2007

La Settimana Santa in Florence and Naples

Holy Week activities start more than a week before Easter with a band and parade on Saturday evening through the old center of Naples. Flag-carriers, drum majors, an enthusiastic crew. Brass section, drums, and eight men carrying a shrine to the Virgin came down the street. From our third floor (2o piano) room in Hotel Chiaja www.hotelchiaia.it directly overlooking Via Chiaja there was a grand view (and complete sound) of the small march. The brass included a distinct air of a minor key (think of the brass in a Fellini film).

The hotel itself is colorful, formerly the townhouse of Il Marchese Nicola Lealdano Sasso La Terza,. The hotel has a grand gate opening into a courtyard. On weekends and evenings the gate is closed, leaving a (really) small doorway (no tall guest need plan on an evening out or on coming in). The building, which also houses the Uruguayan consulate in Naples, is six very tall stories high, with an imposing outdoor rough stone staircase. Each story requires two flights of stairs. There are high ceilings, balconies overlooking the street, long corridors, closed circuit television security (even southern Italians regard southern Italy with distrust), and a reputation for disreptuable use in the far distant past.

Palm Sunday in suburban Ercolano: a street fair. The same sound of brass in a minor key, this time playing a martial adaptation of “Red River Valley”! Palm Sunday evening back on Via Chiaja, another smaller march of barefoot troopers, carrying a shrine and playing “Red River Valley” once again. Good Friday at Chiesa di San Frediano in Lucca another barefoot procession, without music, in ceremonial black robes and black cloth caps, carrying a small shrine.

Il Scoppio del Carro

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Easter Sunday in Florence was remarkable, http://www.italiansrus.com/articles/scoppio.htm. The celebration starts at 9:30 with a march to the Church S.S. Apostoli (2 short blocks from our flat on Via delle Terme). The marchers are in full renaissance regalia: costumes, plumed hats, carrying flags of Florence (three ostrich plumes arrayed like a fleur-de-lys). They stop at the church to pick up burning coals to carry to the Duomo. The march proceeds to collect the “carro” (an oversize — fireproof — cart carrying a large supply of fireworks) at the Porto Prato and then proceeds through the Piazza de Strozzi, the Piazza de la Republica, to the Duomo (Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore). A crowd awaits there. The marchers convey the coals to the pulpit of Duomo where they are put to good use, igniting the rocket. At 11:00, a rocket propelled incendiary dove travels from the pulpit of the Duomo on a wire to the carro igniting the fireworks. It’s midday but the fireworks and the exploding sounds are impressive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBS7eZFWvVw .

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The cart remains at the Piazza del Duomo while the march returns to the Piazza de la Republica for displays of music, flag and baton twirling. Finally the march returns (after the occasional photo-op with a spectator) to the Torre de Guelfi (two blocks from our apartment) where the marchers end up behaving (despite mature years) like frat boys. A rousing good time was had by all!

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One Response to “April 8, 2007: La Settimana Santa in Florence and Naples”

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