Sunday, October 02, 2005

La Notte Bianca, Perugia 9.24.05

For the longest time now we have seen posters around town for this event but weren't really sure what to expect. We knew we wanted to try to find out, but as with all the posters advertising various festivals and sagras. (Festivals held in small towns to celebrate some particular specialty of that town, for instance we have seen posters for a Celery Festival or a Strawberry Festival and we went to one that celebrated "Stinko" - the shin of the pig that is roasted and was incredibly delicious!) we often see these when we are walking around and then forget about them. Many are in places we have not heard of that are not even on our maps and until recently, were out of our reach because we did not have a car and as I have said before, happen in the evening after the buses stop running. And in Perugia there is always something going on so we figured we would happen on to whatever it was if we didn't get some info sooner.

I started to tell you about hearing the sound of drumming in my last post. We went down into the town to find a sort of a parade of guys dressed in medieval costume, from the town of Gualdo Tadino, doing flag demonstrations as they parading around centro preceded by a drum corps, the sound reverberating off these ancient buildings and everyone was lining the streets and following along. The colors were black and white and red and the fluttering of these flags was like the wings of giant butterflies cutting through the air and with the drums pounding made quite a spectacle in these medieval streets.

Art and Barbara had heard about this festival and called to ask what was going on. We filled them in and they decided to come up and see what was happening. We met them in the piazza, listened to some music with them, joined up with Nedra and had pizza at Il Segretto, one of our favorite places. I'm sure they did not get the best impression of Salvatore whose restaurant was packed with people, trying to take orders and serve everyone and who was all business and kind of gruff in taking our order. Normally he has time to kibitz with us about something or other and in fact the last time he and Bob discussed cameras and he was telling us about a way to add more memory (ask Bob about this).

The streets were getting crowded by this time - and there was a line of people waiting to get in (we were glad we went early and had no trouble getting a table). Sal's place is very popular and along with many other people, we really enjoy his authentic Napolitano-style pizza. We wandered around and found the medieval marketplace down Via de Priori, complete with flags flying and medieval crafts, like instrument making and headwear, with beautiful pots of colors and delicate looking fabrics among some of the "mestieri" - the trades - represented. I just learned the meaning of this word I was trying to translate as "mysteries," incorrectly. One example of how words can be what are called "false friends" where you mistakenly think you know what it means because it sounds like an English word but the meaning is completely different.

By this time Barbara and Art were getting tired and since we were near where their car was parked they decided to call it a night. Nedra and Pamela wanted to wander on their own and explore the shops that we going to be open all night and we wanted to listen to music and see what else was going on so we parted company. We headed in the direction of Piazza Morlachi where there was supposed to be a concert. It turned out the times had changed and what was to start at 9 was postponed until 11, which we felt was too late for us and so we decided to go back around to the Corso Vannucci and see what the medieval market in Piazza Danti was doing and ran into a full blown medieval procession. (Although Rita told us when we ran into her on the Corso that the world procession in Italian only refers to ones that are religious and so this would be considered more like a parade I guess.) With the drums pounded and the flags waving and ladies and men decked out in their full medieval costumes, it was a site to see and we followed along and snapped photos, even though it really was too dark to be doing this.

The rest of the night was one music or cultural event after the other and simultaneously throughout the city there were concerts, poetry readings, performances and lectures. Corso Vannucci was a sea of people from one end to the other, as were most of the streets leaving off of it. We heard an old fashioned Italian band and watched the older couples dancing. It reminded me of my childhood when there was a wedding and I loved watching my aunts and uncles who were wonderful dancers, glide across the dance floor in their formal poses, completely in unison, smiling broadly. The best part was that they would always take the kids out on the dance floor too and let us put our stocking feet on their shoes and waltz us around. I loved this so much. While we were standing there watching, we noticed an older couple standing next to us. The husband was trying to get his wife to come out and dance with him but she wouldn't do it. He was giving her these "looks that could kill" and Bob noticed that I was standing there like the proverbial wallflower and told this man if he asked me, that I probably would say yes. His eyes lit up. He looked at me and I turned to his wife to ask "permesso?" and she smiled and said Sì, so out on the floor we went. Poor man, I'm sure he didn't expect that I could not follow his graceful moves and in fact stepped all over his feet! But I think he was happy just to have been able to get out on the dance floor - just an area in the piazza in front of where the band was playing - that he didn't care. I tried to explain, with tears falling down, that this reminded me so much of when I was a child and they understood how much it had meant to me. I believe it was as joyful a moment for them as it was for me and I am grateful that my husband understood that and made it possible.

We listened to a lovely classical ensemble playing flute and harp in one location and a swing band in another. There was an odd demonstration of interpretive music that sounded more like noise and drove people out of one area and into another but always there was something else to discover. Museums and shops were open all night, along with restaurants and bars. By the time we headed home at 3 in the morning (can you believe that!) the streets were a mess with discarded cups and papers and quite a mess! But knowing what we know, early in the morning the crews will show up and by the time folks head out to pick up their bread or newspaper or to have a cappuccino and a cornetto at their favorite coffee bar, you will never know anything took place the night before. Amazing.

In just a little more than a week Jessica will be here with us, closely followed by Chris's arrival. We have been working hard to make plans for this visit and to show them a few things around Perugia. The chocolate festival should be taking place during this time so that should be fun. Time is flying by us much too quickly, I can't believe how fast it has gone. And yet, at the same time, it seems a very long time since I have seen friends and family and I miss all of you.

Take care,
Rosemary & Bob

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