Not so long ago when we were in Franca’s mother’s hometown of Noci in the southern region of Italy known in the English speaking world as Puglia.
Puglia is a lovely and scenic region that differs to what I’ve experienced so far around the country. It has rolling hills and field after field of gnarled olive trees that twist and turn towards the sky in the boiling hot Mediterranean sun. It’s for this reason that Puglia and the rest of the South is known as the more basic farming country compared to the oh-so-glamorous North, but what the region doesn’t have in vast industrial and financial strength it more than makes up for in great beaches, a ‘please take everything I have‘ attitude to hospitality that’s heartwarming to experience and generation-after-generation of traditions that are not to be missed.
It’s this local pride of tradition that I experienced in Noci that I want to share with you, something I’ve only ever seen in stereotypical films and never thought I’d see and hear for myself.
“…it’s like something out of ‘The Godfather’…”
Those are word’s I actually found myself to mutter to Franca as we stood at the side of the road in Noci amongst the crowds as collectively we all watched as the procession started, then stopped, then started again as it wound it’s long snake like tail around the tiny streets of Noci’s old town in full Catholic regalia carrying a large carved sculpture of a saint.
Row after row of local towns folk passed by in their respective robes and attire to the beat and twiddling tune of the band that accompanied them along the way. Though the attire was classic in design and meaning, it still brought a smile to the corner of my mouth to see many amongst the clothed masses wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and trainers on their feet.
After one group would come another and this time in the splendid white of church robes. For the most part it seemed that they were you younger male members of the church, perhaps on only their fourth or fifth consecutive work compared to the elders amongst the procession. Of course, the elder members were represented well enough amongst the white robes of this segment of the walk too.
As people watched from balconies and the masses of spectating older men built around Franca and myself, the procession moved along and came to the feature sculpture that this merry celebration was for; San Rocco himself.
Surrounded by local dignitaries and the local carabinieri – that’s the police to you and me – the figure of San Rocco is transported on the shoulders of those chosen lucky few past a mass of older local Italians that now surround me all crossing their chests with silent prayers to the saint.
Following on from the icon and feature of the procession was by far the group and moment that transported me to all those old Italian films I’ve watch with Franca, the scenes where they carry the icon through the narrow streets of the day to finally deliver the icon safely to the church or to push off into the water as a tribute to the story of that particular icons greatest moment.
It was the soundtrack to all this that filled me with wonder the most and I’m really pleased that I took just a minute to capture some of the music that I immediately fell in love with that played as the people walked.
It’s less than two minutes long but it’ll transport you hundreds of miles in an instant. I hope you enjoy it, I apologise for the quality, I recorded it with our point-and-shoot camera.
The Sound of Music
Isn’t it incredible? The melody is unmistakably old Italian and feels perfect for that moment and that it’s a song that’s been played over and over since time began, that it’s end is always too soon and that you just want to hear and feel more.
As the procession resumed it’s pace and the next group of nuns and worshipers followed, we took chose to catch up with the icon itself in the main square where the mass of people got denser and denser. The band got louder, fireworks we’re going off with a phenomenal bang and echoing off the walls in the piazza.
End of Scene
From the public square we decided that with only a small part of the journey left for the icon to go before it reaches it’s resting place in the church, we had better start making our way towards the old town where we were set to have a fantastic Italian sunday dinner with all the family crammed around the table.