As we arrived, we met with a large procession from the nearby community of Maranola, making it’s way up the mountain. Led by a priest, prayers and songs wafted down the slopes and late-comers jogged to catch up. They were walking to put statues of the Madonna and San Michele in the mountain chapel for the summer.
At first I worried about my group who I’d promised would ‘get away from it all’ but they embraced it and we joined in and watched in wonder. On reflection I realise we were part of something really special.
It was a truly authentic local event which is really important to this village. There was a festival feel – children on horseback, bunting, aunts cooling off in the spring, families selling communion bread, pushchairs bumping over the stones and men playing ‘zampogna’ (bagpipes made from a goat hide) – as the village came together to celebrate their faith.
It wasn’t what we thought the day would bring, but it was the ‘real Italy’ we all search for – with tradition, family and the church rooted at its centre – noisy, fascinating, beautiful and humbling.
I also loved that we were steadfastly beaten off the mountain by an 84 year old ‘nonna’ collecting wild sage in her skirt and sneakers!
Watch the video here.