While in Corinaldo we popped in for a drink with Luigino, the farmer who sold us the house, and his family. They told us that next Sunday was the feast of Sta Maria della Salute, one of the patrons of our contrada, Le Ville, along with Sant’ Apollonia, to whom our little parish church is dedicated. As part of the festa there would be a procession followed by refreshments. Unfortunately we couldn’t make the refreshments, as we were meeting our friends at Casa Adagio , but we took part in the procession.
From the church we walked, repeating the Rosary and a hymn, while the police warned any traffic of our approach, along the strada provinciale that runs along the spine of the hills overlooking the valley of the Cesano. The priest walked in the middle of the procession – a much better position than at the head, as I can say from experience. It meant everyone could hear him and there were no stragglers. The saint’s statue brought up the rear.
At our turning point, the priest stopped and led our prayers. What made the deepest impression on me was his prayer for “nostra cara Italia” in her time of trouble. The recession (la crisi) has hit Italians very hard, and undeservedly in Le Marche at any rate, where people work hard and save hard. The priest’s prayer made me cry, and I thought of the moment at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome in 2011, during the performance of Verdi’s Nabucco, when everyone stood up and sang the Hebrew slaves’ chorus, “Va Pensiero“, together. That made me cry too. In case you’re wondering, Va Pensiero is Italy’s unofficial national anthem. It expresses the love and longing of Italian exiles for their homeland, and by extension, Italians’ love of their native land, “Italia bella e perduta” and longing for her to fulfil her potential.
How far Italy has come since the nineteenth century Risorgimento, when the Papacy and the freedom fighters were, almost literally, at daggers drawn. Now the parish priest can pray for his nation, united Italy. Many English Italophiles like to dismiss the idea of a united Italy. They say that Italians are loyal only to their native town- campanilismo rules ok. This is all part of the rather showing-off discourse that passes for conversation among Italophiles. “I understand Italians better than you”.
Here in Le Marche, however, the idea of a united Italy is very real and commands loyalty. In Orciano in 2011 I had an interesting conversation with Ivan, whose grandfather was a partisan in World War II. He explained that many Marchigiani, or their parents or grandparents, were partisans. They were fighting for the whole of Italy, not just their region, province or town. Consequently, when they celebrated the anniversary of Italian unification in 2011, it was with real sincerity. Of course, the other side of the idea of united Italy, is that it is rather (but not exclusively) left wing. On one hand, if you read the newspaper La Repubblica, you are probably in favour of a united Italy. But on the other hand, if I may generalise, all Italians are united in their love of Verdi, the bard and prophet of Italian unity.
All this has taken us rather far away from Le Ville in Corinaldo in 2013. So let’s return and say, “Santa Maria, pray for our beloved Italy.”