It’s always all or nothing in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples that is the home of my ancestors and husband. In August, it’s all… all tourists, all sunshine (at least when God cooperates), all beach, and all feasts.
We love our saints around here, so we honor them with unique celebrations. When the rest of Italy goes to sleep in August, Ischia throws some pretty big parties. There’s the pageantry of Sant’ Anna in early August that has parade floats traveling in the sea toward Castello Aragonese. There are the more subdued but equally important religious feasts for the patron saints of various towns, including the Festa di San Rocco in Barano and the Festa di San Giovan Giuseppe in Ischia Ponte.
Then, there’s the Festa di Sant’ Alessandro, which took place Aug. 26, with a parade that starts in Ischia Ponte and arrives in Ischia Porto. Since Alessandro is a royal name, the feast celebrates royalty and features Ischitani dressed as the people who long ago lived on the island (after conquering it). In a parade that is part fashion show and part history lesson, you can see how Ischia evolved through the ages.
It begins with the Greeks, who first settled the island as Pithecusa. Through the years, royals from Spain and even the Arab world came to what is now known as Ischia. The garb of these different distinct cultures and time periods is depicted throughout the parade. Animals get in on the act, too, with horses that dance or carry carriages and for the first time this year a falcon and owl. Flag throwers and marching bands are also part of the pomp and circumstance. You can see a parade past on YouTube. In case you’re interested in seeing more of those stunning costumes from the 2015 event, here are a few choice pictures:
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When I first arrived in Italy in June, I was hauling Baby Boy down the street in his stroller – in the hopes of getting him to nap – and was greeted by the T-shirt in the photo above. The message “Sono una blogger, non sono una santa,” translates to, “I’m a blogger, not a saint.” My reaction was, “WTF?” As a blogger, I took offense. Why shouldn’t I? It was meant to be offensive. I’m no saint. That much is true.
But I know the Italians. They are conspiracy theorists by nature. I already told you that the latest scapegoat for the island’s economic woes are meteorologists who predict the bad weather (even though their predictions have been correct this summer). The next problem child for the Italians is the up and coming blogger. Blogs might be old school in the United States, but they’re still the newest form of communicators around here. This tee suggests that bloggers are a bit devilish, a bit naughty, probably because they tell people the truth and share just a little more than most Italians like. Bloggers make Italians uncomfortable, even a bit nervous.
While the islanders are famously good gossipers, they like to gossip in private. You can’t get more public than the Internet nowadays. Blogs often are like gossiping with the entire island watching. Good blogs are among the first to share the news of the day, even if it isn’t so positive – that photo of you a little tipsy by the fountain, word that apple juice could kill ya, or predictions of bad weather. God forbid. My advice to the Ischitani and people everywhere is: If you don’t want to see it in print (in old-fashioned newspapers or new world blogs), don’t do it. Punto e basta.
Yeah, so, I’m not a saint because I just opened up about this online. Airing dirty laundry is a no-no in the Italian rule book. But like any good Italian, I’m okay with breaking the rules now and then. So, you keep making your passive aggressive T-shirts and I will keep acting in a way that permits me to wear them.
Recently, I worked on a story about St. Patrick for Las Vegas’ La Voce and ItaliansRus.com, both publications for Itaian Americans. In my research, I learned that St. Patrick has ties to Roma. You can read all about it in the story, “St. Patrick is a Paesano.” In the meantime, enjoy the photo of my hubby (above), who is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as I write this. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! Irish – and Italian – eyes are smiling on you.