Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The church bells in San Venanzo often ring at strange times. It’s normal to hear them on the hour and half hour, but only between the hours of 6:30 am and 9:30 pm. Since the bells are located pretty close to our house, we’re glad that they don’t ring throughout the night.

When they ring on the hour and the half hour, the ring is a normal “DING!” There are other times when the bells ring at odd times. Usually at ten minutes after eight in the evening, the bells will ring continuously for maybe five minutes….usually playing some sort of song. Other times they go “dingdingdingdingding!!!”…very quickly and persistently. Other times they’ll play “the song”…it’s not a melody I’m familiar with, but our bells play this same song quite often. In general, we never know when or why they ring. If we’re on the phone when they start to ring, there’s no point in trying to continue the conversation, especially if it’s during one of the songs.

For the past few days the bells have been ringing at even odder times, and playing lots of songs. Last night the bells rang at 8:30 in the evening for at least ten minutes. Today they were ringing throughout the day, and Art walked outside to see if someone could tell him why.

Armando told Art that today was the feast day of a woman saint, but Art didn’t know who it was. Armando told him that there would be a procession tonight and then a dinner. As we drove past the churchyard we saw tables and chairs set up outside.

This evening we started to hear music, so we walked outside, expecting that the procession would be coming down our street like it did on Ascension Sunday. Every house had the same beautiful red and gold banners hanging from the windows. Once we were outside, we decided to walk down towards the church, since the music still sounded like it was coming from down there.

As we got closer to the church we saw more and more people milling about. There was a lot of activity at the church, and a vendor had set up a table with peanuts, candy and junky kids’ toys. We didn’t see a procession, but we heard the music getting louder and louder.

The procession was coming down our street towards the church. The marching band was playing, the priests were there, as well as men carrying banners of Mary and (maybe) San Venanzo. Behind them marched most of the women of San Venanzo. Then men of the town lined the street and watched as the procession marched by. The procession continued up the street, causing traffic to stop. There’s only one road that goes through San Venanzo, on the way to Ospedaletto, other small towns, and eventually over to Orvieto. The procession filled the entire street, forcing any cars to stop and wait for at least fifteen minutes, maybe longer.

The procession marched to the very small church that’s just down the road. We’ve never even been in this church, and I wasn’t even sure that it was ever open, much less used.

The procession stopped there for a few minutes, maybe to say prayers, and then marched back up towards the main church, this time with only the men. The band was playing, and now we felt as if we were having “The Godfather” experience right in our own town! Once they reached the church, the band stayed outside but the priests and rest of the procession went inside. Since I had on jeans and Art was in shorts, and especially since we don’t subscribe, we didn’t go into the church to see what was going on.

Meanwhile kids were running around, screaming laughing, eating, trying to talk their parents into buying them some plastic toy that would be broken before dinner was served. Most of the other people stood around visiting. We saw Gilberto, who told us that this was a feast day for Mary. We also saw our neighbor Marco and his brother Vittorio. We knew that our plumber Fabio played in the band, but we hadn’t realized that Art’s barber also played (saxophone) in the band.

After a few minutes the band struck up again and played two or three songs, then everyone began to head towards the church’s side yard for dinner. We headed back up the hill to our house. We could hear the sounds of people laughing and talking as they ate dinner, and later when we heard music, we knew that the dancing had started. Music and dancing is a staple of any Italian function.

At ten o’clock we were sitting in our living room when BOOM!!!!!!! We both jumped about a foot! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???!!! If we had to make a guess, we would have said that a very large cannon was fired about fifty feet behind our house. We jumped up and looked out the window….nothing. We listened…no screaming, no crying, just the sounds of people talking. What could it have been?

A few minutes later…….BOOM!!!!! Okay, this was getting weird…we had to find out what was going on. We ran out the front door intending to walk down the hill. As we exited our door, Art said “maybe it’s fireworks.” I couldn’t imagine any fireworks ever being that loud, but before I could even respond, another BOOM!, then we saw that yes, it WAS fireworks!

Not wanting to miss another second, I hurried through the back gate and into the park behind our house. Art wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I told him that we could watch from the pool area of the hotel. We climbed up the steps leading to the pool area and found that yes, we had a great view! If we had taken the time to walk down the hill, we would have missed some of the show, and since we both love fireworks, I didn’t want to miss a second!

We grabbed chairs to stand on so that we could lean against the low roof of the hotel, and are we glad that we did! This was one of the best fireworks shows I have EVER seen! Those of you who live in Louisville know what a fantastic fireworks show we put on each spring at Thunder Over Louisville…I know it must be one of the best in the world, and it gets better every year, even when we don’t think that it’s possible. But….

When you factor in the size of San Venanzo versus the size of Louisville, that made this show even more impressive, but really, this show could stand on it’s own anywhere! It went on for a good twenty minutes, and two things struck me…..first, it was so cool to hear not only the firing of the rocket, but also to hear the pops and sizzles of the fireworks and they exploded in the sky and fell back to earth. Every launch was a gigantic BOOM!, followed by incredibly HUGE explosion! Every one was gigantic and gorgeous, and they came very close together.

I saw designs that I had never seen before…and after several years of Thunder I really found that hard to believe. My favorite fireworks are the ones that I call “fairy dust”. We had an explosion of gold fairy dust that was just unbelievable. There must have been at least seven if not more explosions of gold fairy dust, and the sky was literally FILLED with falling gold fairy dust…it was SOOOOOO COOL!!!!!

We had what we thought was the grand finale not once but twice…a constant barrage of fireworks…everyone huge and incredible, exploding BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM!!!!! Once it was really over, we looked at each other and shook our heads…who’d a thunk it?! Right here in San Venanzo, an incredibly elaborate and beautiful fireworks show! It was probably paid for by the money that was supposed to clean up the park behind our house, but what the hell!!! Tonight made up for missing Thunder Over Louisville AND the Fourth of July celebrations!!!

I took a few pictures of the procession, but unfortunately I don't have any of the fireworks. Hopefully next year I can be better prepared and have my 35mm set up on a tripod for some time exposures!


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