Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Novoli and the great Fire
So last night was the Focara in Novoli. It was a very interesting night and I had a great time. I did a little research on the festival and you can see here what I read: S Antonio Abate. The first fact is that S. Antonio Abate is the patron saint of animals, so I like him already. They had a blessing of the animals in the afternoon but I didn’t know about this until it was too late. I could have brought Nello and Mara to be blessed by the local priest. I was told this is done in Brindisi too, but still the cats would have thought we were going to the vet. They wouldn’t go willingly!
When we arrived in town there was still a lot of traffic but the town itself seemed empty. Luckily I’m not Italian and I had no problem paying to park if it meant it was a good spot and we didn’t have to search endless back streets and then jam my car in where it couldn't fit. This was a good thing too because we didn’t have time to spare as the fireworks just starting going off when we arrived in the piazza. Just in time to see the the fireworks and the start of the fire (should I mention that the website says the fire starts at 7:30 PM but a friend at work said it starts at 8:30 PM, it's good to know people who know).
The story of this huge stack of wood is quite simple. In this area they grow A LOT of Negroamaro grapes. If you don’t believe me, this stack of wood is 25 meters (82 ft) high and 22 meters (72 ft) in diameter, and it's all grape vines trimmed after grapes were harvested in the fall last year. Starting in mid-December they trim the grape vines back and bring all the vines here to create this stack. Twenty-five communes contribute to the stack and they each have a little stack at the base with their commune’s coat of arms. What I didn’t expect is they light the fire on top, as you can just see in the first picture, this means it burns down. With all the empty space created by the twisted vines the fire collapses in so it looks like a volcano as it’s burning. You don’t see a lot of flames but there is a lot of sparks and ash and smoke erupting from the top. I tried to zoom in on the top and I didn’t have a tripod so you’ll just have to live with the fuzzy photos I took. Also you don’t feel the heat so people can stay pretty close, until much later in the evening.
The music was also great but we had to wait through many long-winded speeches. I was beginning to think that every one of the 25 communes was going to have some one speak about their part. I did learn an important fact that this year they created the Parco del Negroamaro, which I take it is a park for the conservation of the grapes. I’ve never heard of something like that. I was getting into the speeches a little bit because I really noticed how much more I understood. When people are giving a speech they speak slower and without slang (some dialect, but not much) and I can follow the subject. Personal conversations can jump around just when you’re getting into it someone jumps in, and we’re off on a tangent.
The food was a little disappointing. There was food everywhere but it was all those trucks that make panini. I was thinking it would be like one of the many sagras I went to over the summer. Where they would have several dishes based on one local ingredient (ahh, the Sagra del lu purpu!!). I had a panino and a coke because I was starving but tonight I’ll make something good.
In summary it was a very fun night that went well. Given the huge crowd (they were expecting 50,000 people) it was easy to get there and leave and move around. The music and festivities were exciting and fun. It’s just the kind of thing that makes living here so interesting. I've been here for 3 years and I think I saw this in a guide book once and just barely mentioned.