God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Night in Greve

Let me share last night as it was special--not spectacular, not noteworthy, not a blip on the world scene--but special when value is placed on new experience and new insights into culture and people.

In Italy festivals, sagras, and celebrations are a part of life--everywhere, all year, for multitudes of reasons. They reflect the gregariousness of a nation and people who have for centuries valued relationships, traditions, family, community and simplicity. They spring from a time when villages were small and knowledge of the world measured in a few kilometers; when celebrations were the joy that allowed laughter and pleasure to off set the drudgery and hard work that defined life. They were a way for villages to share with each other.

In the Chianti region, September begins the grape harvesting season when big and small wineries move from the quiet, relaxation of summer to the dramatic and emotional activity of wine making--the soul and heart of the region. To those of us who visit, to the photographer who comes from across the world, to the film maker who finds the perfect location, Chianti is the beauty of vineyards lining the hills and valleys, the perfect patch work of rows of vines, color and romance. But---to the people of the Chianti, these lands are the reason for existing, their love and their livelihood. They are passionate about the lands, the grapes, the harvest, their wine. Chianti exists for its vineyards and all else exists because of the vines.

Which brings us to the festivals of September--in Panzano, Impruneta and, most of all, in Greve--festivals that pay respect to the grape in all its varieites. Festivals where big and small producers display and promote their products.

This is the weekend for Greve's Festival--which is the largest of the group. For several days the piazza is closed while booths are set up, entertainment stands built and merchants along the arcade rearrange their wares to maximum advantage. Then from Friday night until Sunday night people come to participate in the events and activities. There is a separate venue with entertainment appealing to the young crowd--the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Funky Monks (I must admit that I am not familiar with either of these groups--but then, I am a grandmother.) This auditory assault is quite a ways away from the piazza so that the "older folk" can have more sedate entertainment.

Addionally there is a special exhibition at the Museum of Sacred Art which is housed in the former convent of San Francisco and other dramatic and dance productions. The finale is Sunday with a concert in the piazza featuring The Dark Blues which evidently is a well-known and enjoyed band from England. Unfortunately we will be in Firenze that night and will miss this. The publicity says that the female singer has a range that allows her to emulate Areatha Franklin and Tina Turner and so it should be quite good.

Last night we went in to the piazza for dinner and some "product" sampling. It was a lovely evening, meant for strolling and enjoying the ambience of the region--an extended and enlarged passeggiata (for those unfamiliar with Italian ways--passeaggiata refers to the early evening ritual when people come out of their homes to spend time strolling the sidewalks and pedestrian areas--greeting and talking with friends, socializing, seeing and being seen.) We shared much of the evening with a couple from Monrovia whom we met a couple days ago and enjoyed very much.

Taken by Photographer Casey

Deciding to eat early, Ken, Casey and I went to dinner at our favorite restaurant in the piazza, Il Portico. They now save the "best" outside table for us when they know we are coming-- right on the edge of the piazza so that we can watch all the happenings while we eat. Of course, the reason we are known so well is because of the charm of Casey, who this time spent much of the meal sitting with our friends--who assured us they were thoroughly enjoying him.

This is not a good picture--but the best I have--sorry!

A side note: One of the great things in our little community is the sense of safety. For instance, Casey finished eating before we did and then was able to leave the table, go by himself to the gelateria, get his ice cream and then just wander the arcades. This is not to say that we didn't keep track of him but not as we would at home in the states.

When we finished eating, we, along with Susan and Rick, began our own passeggiata--walking up toward the church at one end of the plaza, following what seemed like a different type of activity. That's when we learned that it was Greve's Patron Saint Day. Gathered at the church were priests, altar boys and girls in their robes, musicians with brass instruments, and a growing gathering of people.

At nine o'clock the bells began tolling--long, rumbling and loud. Then the parade started, eventually marching down the main highway--The Chiantigiana (route 222). Parishoners carried candles and a priest's recitation was projected over a portable loudspeaker carried by another priest, women took turns carring a large display with relics of the saint and other tributes . The mood was somber and respectful.

The procession wound slowly along its path, causing a long back-up of cars in its wake as this is the main road through Chianti to Florence. But, that was just the way it was; this was Greve's procession and its portion of the road and so all else was subservient.

What we soon learn as we become part of another culture in a new country is that these are things that go on day in-day out, year in-year out and yet we exist in ignorance of each other in our isolated cultures. So--last night is just one of the reasons why we are doing what we are doing; why it is so special and worth whatever inconveniences have gone before and will walk with us. All that becomes insignificant when measured by the learning and opportunities and the life-long understandings that Casey will gain and carry with him. And for Ken and me, we appreciate and are thankful that we can spend a portion of our retirement years still learning and growing. We are blessed and fortunate and praise God for his goodness to us--in all ways.

1 comment:

gentle spirit said...

What a wonderful evening. We enjoyed two years of visiting at the Greve festival, and your post brought back wonderful memories. I do hope you will save a copy of your blog for future generations. What a treasure of memories it will give.May you continue to enjoy each new days' gifts and surprises.