Friday, March 29, 2013

Procession of the Mysteries

Last April, we had a special Good Friday on the island of Procida. All over Italy, Good Friday is marked with special processionals, usually involving robes, hoods, and elaborate displays that are hand carried. Here in the south, most villages have their own, but one of the ones I most wanted to visit was on Procida, the Procession of the Mysteries walked by the Confraternity dei Turchini. Based on bits and pieces of articles I'd read over the last few years, I had an idea of what went on, and it included a processional beginning at dawn as the sun rose and involving some haunting chanting and/or music with men in blue robes carrying some religious floats...or so I thought. I convinced Nathan to take Friday off of work and take the ferry over to Procida on Thursday night so we could spend the night and be ready to watch the procession by sunrise. Unfortunately, my Procida processional experience was colored by the prior evening.

Our hotel was located in a dark and completely dead part of the island with no staff on-site. When we asked the hotel driver who dropped us off if there was an open restaurant nearby (and for a map), we got no map and were told a pizzeria was around the corner. This was not true. We walked for an hour and a half and found not a pizzeria, restaurant, veggie stand, even a coffee bar! In a land with a coffee bar and pizzeria on every single corner, we walked miles in circles and ovals and lines, with me becoming more and more desperate. I was five months pregnant and ravenous ALL the time. We saw a Procession of Mysteries alright, but it was our own. Thank goodness we found a bakery open about 10pm and preparing Easter bread, so we were able to buy a box of cookies - the bread was massive, about as big as my upper body, so we took a pass and just ate cookies for dinner. Then tried to sleep on the Murphy Bed in our hotel room.

The next morning, we woke at 5am in order to give us time to find a good location for watching the processional...or just find any spot along the route given our troubles the previous night. We found a great viewing spot, enjoyed the rising sun as it illuminated the beautiful island, and watched as men and boys walked past in their white robes and blue hoods, making their way to the processional's beginning. We'd picked a place closer to the start but also a piazza with a ledge upon which we could sit. Good thing since we were in place by 6:30am...and about 9:30, saw the beginnings at last.

The floats are indeed amazing. Some of them are massive, and all are hand carried. They are made by various neighborhood groups and tell stories from the Bible. My favorites were ones including food - The Fishes & Loaves, The Last Supper, Water into Wine. Floats involving food used real food and the displays were so elaborate, fitting in a country where pride in food reigns. And the Noah's Ark floats included some real animals as well, little bunnies primarily. We most enjoyed the pre-processional hours in which we watched all the men and young boys converging. Procida's Procession of the Mysteries is quite an attraction, so the the streets were packed, we had to fiercely guard our ledge perches when we'd just stand up for a moment to stretch. The procession was so long that we finally decided it was time to head to the port for the next boat off the island. And there, we found that all the floats end up at the port, where they are set down for display. Given our horrendous evening and hours of waiting that morning, I really wished we'd just taken a morning boat over to view the floats, but that was my hungry, bad mood speaking. For a more positive report, take a look at this Naploli Unplugged post - it's much more informative about the actual Procession and why it's such a neat event.
Procida really is a beautiful, little gem

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