Not all Festas in Italy are grand affairs with costumes, regional dances, unusual local food and hoards of people. Some, like the Lions Club Pancake Breakfasts I remember in the States, are simply a modest offering of food and some paid-for entertainment as a means of raising funds.
San Maurizio’s Fireworks committee had just such a festa a week ago.
Under ordinary circumstances I’m sure the dining tables would’ve been set up outside under a leafy tree. But we had not been living with ordinary circumstances; we had been living with rain, rain, and more rain. Sensibly the organizers decided to move the festa indoors. But where? Fortunately a property-owner nearby has an apartment that is only partway through restoration, and he was willing to rent it for the festa. It made for one of the more unusual venues I’ve ever seen for such an event.
A house in the midst of restoration is not necessarily the most festive sight, but the organizers the Fireworks Festa did their best with happy face plastic streamers to dress up the entry.
The offerings were uncharacteristically simple as well: ravioli al ragu or trofie al pesto; spiedini (meat cubes grilled on a stick), sausage or matama’ (thin-sliced meat) with gravy; french fries; simple tossed salad; beer, wine, water. The prices were very reasonable (E 5 for the trofie al pesto; E 3 for the sausage), and the plates were assembled in the ground floor kitchen by the cheerful ladies (no, those are not hardhats).
Once we left our order with Giuseppe at the Cassa we were instructed to go upstairs and find a table. We were early so finding a seat was not a problem, but it was the oddest arrangement I’ve ever seen. It being an apartment, and a Ligurian one at that, the upstairs was divided into three quite small rooms with a long hall and what I imagine will someday be a bathroom.
Evidently the children helped with the decorations which can be reused, in a pinch, at Christmas time next year. Each small bedroom held two tables and bench seating – all new, from the looks of it, and quite comfortable.
The Captain had sausage and French fries (we were too early, the oil wasn’t up to temperature yet so they were, alas, a big soggy). I had the trofie al pesto, which is one of the best things in the world to eat. This bowl was superb.
We didn’t have dessert, which is a pity (but a person can only do so much – do you see how much trofie there is in that bowl??). The desserts were all home made: a couple of lovely tortas and some cupcake-sized custard, or perhaps pana cotta, in both vanilla and chocolate.
It was small in scale, and the surroundings were certainly modest. But for all of that, it was a festa, and there was a holiday air about the whole proceeding. Outside on the terrace one of the men was dancing with a broom between bouts of sweeping. The sun was shining for the first time in days, and everyone’s spirits were high.
Other men were setting up the sound system for the afternoon and evening entertainment. All afternoon we listed to karaoke, which is quite amusing. It’s especially endearing to hear the high croakings of the kids, shouting out the words in a sort of tuneless unison. It was tempting to go back and belt out a few oldies in English, but I resisted. In the evenings there was live entertainment – Carmen! No, not the opera, the woman.
She came on Sunday; Ely was there Saturday night with her orchestra. We were all buttoned up in the house because of inclement weather, and never heard a peep – perhaps the performers were indoors as well.
It amazes me that a town of only about 500 people can organize a two-day event like this, at least twice a year, and everything goes without a hitch (well, everything except the weather). It’s a real community effort. Giuseppe said that, given the weather, the event had been a success and some money had been raised for the fireworks. Cross your fingers for a fine evening on San Maurizio Day September 22; the Comitato Fuochi deserve it.
Meanwhile, Rapallo is gearing up for the Really Big Festa – 3 days (July 1, 2 and 3) in honor of our patron the Madonna of Montallegro.