Nov 2, 2014

Santhiàtese celebrations


This is Enrico. (Sorry if I spelled your name wrong!) He works at the Café della Piazza six days a week. He has been kind enough to translate for me, answer my stupid questions, and serve me cappuccinos for the past six days. (The café is closed Mondays.) 

Today after attending the 11:00 Mass, I walked across the square through the hubbub of TV crews, agricultural displays, the local marching‎ band, and many Santhiàtese milling about excitedly, and entered the friendly confines of the café. Today it was almost as crowded and noisy inside as it was out on the square, because the TV was tuned to the network programme Mezzogiorno in Famiglia (, which was showing live clips of the scenes outside. Apparently two towns are selected to compete in various activities, and this week, Santhià was in it to win it.

When I didn't ask for my customary cappuccino, Enrico offered to prepare an Italian aperitif for me, known as a Spritz. It was cool, light, refreshing, and a little bitter. When I expressed my appreciation, he offered to fix me another drink, this one made with a lemon garnish instead of orange‎. The "udo" (I forgot to ask him to write down the name for me) was even better than the Spritz. When I went to settle my account, I discovered that it was also on the house. Grazie, amico mio!

As was the case yesterday, I was up and out the door before the church bells began to chime for early Mass. As I left the hostel, I observed two municipal workers cleaning up the road apples that had been deposited the day before‎ by those beautiful horses. (On Monday I plan to upload a few dozen photos from Santhià to my Flickr account. That work crew won't be featured, but the horses and carriage will make an appearance.) At 8:30, a tractor drove into the square, towing behind it a fairly old and rickety looking piece of machinery. Once that was in place, I looked it over and decided it was a thresher. Later events proved me correct. 

Just as they were on Saturday, the network crew was scurrying around the square, setting up lights, laying cables, and generally looking very productive. The tractor was driven around the corner out of sight, but a much more venerable looking machine took its place. This was eventually connected to the thresher with a broad drive belt for the televised demonstration. A few bales of hay were set up as props. Into one of them, several hand sickles were planted point-first. The other display area featured some very beautiful wood-frame lacquered wicker furniture‎. 

The final "display" was set up later.‎ It featured two trestle tables placed end to end, with two bowls, a stack of apples, and four teens wearing bright yellow Santhià t-shirts. Before the cameras started rolling, they had been transferring apples from one bowl to the other, using only their mouths. (The first bowl was eventually filled with water.) This was apparently one of the events in which they were competing. (The backwards hoop-shooting yesterday was another.)

All of this was very fun, but there was a more sombre side to the‎ morning's festivities. In the western Christian tradition, the day after All Saints' is known as All Souls' Day, a day to remember all the faithful deceased. There was a dual observance today, both in the Mass and outside in the square afterwards.

On the 3rd of November, 1918‎, the Austro-Hungarian Empire signed an armistice with Italy, which took effect the next day at 3:00 pm. Just as with Canada's observance of Remembrance Day on November 11, until just a few decades ago November 4 was a national holiday.

Giorno dell'Unità Nazionale e Festa delle Forze Armate (National Unity and Armed Forces Day) ‎was observed today with a laying of a wreath and lighting of a candle at the memorial at the town hall. (There is a shocking number of teens named on that memorial plaque.) There were a few veterans in uniform, as well as members of the various police forces and the local politicians. And did I mention the marching band?

War Memorial

I'm able to follow the flow of the modern Mass in Italian, but I wasn't able to pick up what the Epistle reading was. The Gospel text was the passage of the Last Judgement (Matt 25:31-46), and in his homily, the priest quoted one of my favourite passages of Scripture, from Romans.

"Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?  (As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

* * * * * * *

By 1:00, the crowds had dispersed, things were being swept up, and the tech crew from the network were busily coiling cables and stowing gear. I wandered back to the hostel, had a bit of lunch, and then spent most of the rest of the afternoon reading. I did emerge at one point and walked over to the library. I didn't expect it to be open, but I wanted to check the hours. (I also wanted to see whether the nearby residential WiFi access point was ‎still wide open and available. No such luck.) 

On the way over to the library, I spotted a group of six women on the street, all wearing backpacks and hiking gear. I walked up and greeted them and apologised for my non-existent Italian. One of them replied in English. I didn't catch where they had started from, but they were making their way to the train station to make a side trip to Milan before continuing on. This makes the third time I've met a group of pilgrims wal‎king at least partway to Rome.

Santhià beat the other town in the network's competition, and so to celebrate all things local and excellent and Santhiàtese, I returned to La Vecchia Taverna for dinner. As before, I took my pizza to go. Passing by the café on my way back to the hostel, I exchanged waves with Enrico, who was on the verge of closing up. This time around, I splurged and ordered a "2014 Santhiàtese," which was their entry in the 23rd World Pizza Competition. The chief pizzaiolo, Alex, has been invited to participate several years now. I don't know if this particular creation won anything, but I certainly enjoyed it!

Ever since I walked across the Great St Bernard Pass into Italy, I have had a string of over two weeks of gorgeous weather. That's set to change at some point overnight, with the weather app on my phone calling for six days of rain. (I checked the forecast for both Turin and Milan, and it must be the same‎ weather system.)

Tomorrow afternoon I return to the hospital for my follow-up appointment. To my untrained eye, the amoxicillin ‎has done a good job of bringing the infection under control. The wound still looks messy, but that's probably due to the antibiotic cream they have me (oh so gingerly) applying every day after a 10 minute footbath. 

If the rain isn't too bad, I intend to spend the morning at the library making use of their internet and perhaps even reading more children's books. I don't relish the idea of splashing through puddles with an open wound on my foot, even with it safely wrapped, so I may just stay indoors all day except for a brief excursion out. I'll probably stick my foot in a plastic bag for the trip.

And that is all for tonight. Ciao ciao!

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