Monday, August 10, 2009

La Buona Notte di San Lorenzo

Today is San Lorenzo, the feast day of Saint Lawrence, a popular festa throughout Italy. He is the patron saint of librarians and is called upon by comedians and cooks, owing to his famous quip during his martyrdom, "I am roasted enough of this side, turn me over now". He is also one of the patron saints of Rome. The notte di San Lorenzo is widely celebrated, though I suspect it is because his feast day falls in August while the entire peninsula is on vacation and in a party mood.

Why notte? San Lorenzo coincides with the Perseid meteor shower, the most predictable show in the sky. The shooting star event arrives like cosmic clockwork, littering the nocturnal heavens with a glorious light show that inspires romance, awe, and the hope of wishes come true. As kids we would lay down in the backyard, braving mosquito bites, and wish upon the falling stars. When it was a particularly active shower, we called it stardust, which wasn't far from the truth, since meteor showers are the stream of debris shed from a passing comet.

The experts are saying that best viewing will begin at about midnight tomorrow night and continue into the early morning hours on August 12. (But do they *really* need to point out that laying down in the middle of your street is not recommended?!) It is supposed to be a good year, with about 30 shooters per hour.

In Ascoli, the feast of San Lorenzo is the biggest bash of the year as it is designated la notte bianca, or "white night," which turns the entire centro storico into an all-night street party. Shops and museums stay open. There is a communal aperitivo hour in both of the main piazzas, and music and dancing are lined up in various venues all over the historic core of town. In one street you'll hear blues, while another stage boasts tribal music, and yet another cranks out ska. The acts and genres rotate all night long. This year there is one dance spectacular scheduled called Orgasm of Flamenco (do I want to know?).

The party peaks at 3:00 AM with the high-flying antics of a theatrical troupe called la Compagnia dei Folli, or the company of crazies, which in fact they are, as they "dance" and perform while suspended from bell towers and church domes.

The night caps off with a concert at dawn, then everyone traipses off for breakfast before bed. (And you wondered why we couldn't sleep during the summer while living in the heart of the centro?)

While Ascoli's notte bianca is headlined as the festa di San Lorenzo and stars do feature prominently in their logo, there really isn't any attention given to the actual feast day, so I didn't put it together with the Perseid showers or know how that fit in with Saint Lawrence until I read about it on Bleeding Espresso last year (thanks Michelle!). Sometimes Italians take it for granted that you know your saint's days and their signficance.

This year we'll be missing out on the party in the piazza, and, knowing the crazy weather around here, it will likely cloud up, but late tomorrow night we'll go outside, brave the skeeters, and turn our eyes heavenward just like when we were kids, hoping to bask in the stardust and cast our wishes on a star.

Photo credit: Flickr flattop341


janie said...

Those Italians sure know how to throw an all night party! I'd never make it past midnight (if I was lucky to last that long!)

michelle | bleeding espresso said...

Hope you made some fabulous wishes :D