Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A SAGRA FOR ALL




My friend Carol King and I nearly backed out of a coach trip to Agrigento on Sunday when an 05.30 departure was announced but we decided that we really did want to attend the 67th Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore [Almond Blossom Festival] so up we got and off we went.

When the coaches arrived at our boarding point we were both somewhat disconcerted to see people loading enormous bags and even suitcases into the luggage compartment and wondered what could be in them as this wasn't a trip with an overnight stay.  Then we saw some familiar shapes covered in special waxed paper being carefully placed on top of the bags and we understood:  our travelling companions had been loading their packed lunches!  Every Sunday they go to the pasticceria to buy trays of pastries and why should this Sunday have been any different just because they were going on a trip?

To be honest, I had been hoping for a good nap on the four-hour journey and had thought my fellow-passengers would be feeling the same.  However, they were all remarkably chirpy.  By 8 am an animated discussion about how to make the best pane di casa [homemade bread] was in full swing with the men confidently contributing what they assured us were the most reliable cooking tips.

Luck was with us weather-wise and the sun was shining on Agrigento's honey-coloured temples as we approached the Valle dei Templi.  When I saw Concordia in all its breathtaking glory I felt as I always do in Akrigas - as though I have finally come home.



Once we had disembarked Carol firmly steered me past the market traders with their tempting trinkets and on we walked to the town centre where the processions would shortly be taking place.  Everything had been well organised and the parade began only half an hour late, which is excellent in these parts.

First came the bersaglieri, playing a fanfare.  One cannot, of course, take photos of the bersaglieri for public display but I thought you would like to admire the magnificent hat worn by this fine gentleman from one of their benevolent associations:



Then came these jolly folk:



Band after band appeared:







There were knights aplenty



and who needs to go to London for the Jubilee?



Our friends from across the pond were not forgotten





and folk groups from all over the world joined the procession.

The flag-throwers performed amazing feats:  up and up went the flags, time after time, and time after time they were expertly caught:




Suddenly it was time for lunch by a shimmering sea:




Afterwards, on the coach, everyone was offered a glass of Limoncello by the tour organisers.

And so to the highlight of the day - the performances by international folk groups and prize-giving ceremony in the Valle dei Templi with the Temple of Concordia as the backdrop.  Now my days of clambering up Sicilian hillsides like a mountain goat are over so I couldn't get high enough or close enough to get good shots of the performers but I hope at least to give you a flavour of the multicultural nature of the event:





As I watched both performers and spectators from my perch atop a stone, I realised that here was Italy at its greatest: there has to be hope for a country where so many young people can gather peacefully and joyfully to watch such an event taking place in front of a building which has stood for 2,500 years.  It didn't matter that they weren't always listening; what mattered was that they had come. There were also elderly folk like me, people nel mezzo del cammin della vita, babies and dogs.  Everyone was welcome at Agrigento yesterday.

The Agrigento Almond Blossom Festival began in 1934 in the town of Naro, where its aim was to celebrate spring by giving farm workers a day off and some fun.  Later the Festival was moved to Agrigento and over the years, the word spread, not only in the rest of Italy but around the world.  The white almond blossom represents peace and friendship and it is in this spirit that people from many countries meet and find "concord".

An added attraction this year has been a collection of sculptures by Igor Mitoraj.  These bronze "giants of mythology" have been placed around the temples and are on display until 20th February.







We left the lovely Valle at sunset, having enjoyed a truly international festival in the most beautiful of settings.

Everyone has their own vision of eternity.  This is mine:

Agrigento - Tempio di Concordia

Agrigento - Tempio di Ercole

8 comments:

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Buon compleanno, mio ​​carissimo amico.

Thanks for letting me tag along! I had fun.

rosaria said...

Are you having a birthday too? Happy, happy day Pat!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Grazie, caro Nick e buon compleanno a te! Glad you enjoyed the trip and a pleasure to have you with us. xx woof!
Yes, Rosaria, I am - I mean, "was" because it's 2 am over here! Had a pleasant day, thanks. x

Claude said...

Magnificent post! Et (comme mon petit-fils dit: Tous les jours, c'est ma fête.) Vous aussi, Pat! Meilleurs souhaits pour une Bonne Fête toute l'année!

Rowena... said...

What a beautiful event. I took a look at the page for international groups...wow! The whole world was there!

Winchester whisperer said...

I'd love to go there!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

A fabulous trip Pat, Love the photos. Thanks for sharing. xx

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Merci, Claude. Votre petit-fils est très intelligent! Yes, it certainly seemed that way, Rowena. Then go there you must, WW. Hi, ASnne. Glad you liked it. x

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