98. Magic Moments

Sure, one travels to see the biggies for oneself – the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben. There’s no shame in that. But it’s those little unexpected moments that stayed tucked in our memories forever, long after the selfie at the Trevi Fountain has been forgotten.

It happened for us when Tonio invited us to accompany him on a 45-minute drive to Irsina, a hilltop town of 5000 people, where he was meeting a hunter to pick up some freshly-shot cinghiale, or wild boar. He rightly knew we’d be interested, and I think he wanted the company, too. Once we arrived, we met the hunter in a deserted, dark parking lot and the tub of raw boar meat exchanged hands, causing Ben to remark that the whole thing felt like a Grade B action movie, and we were about to be ambushed by either the cops or a careening car with squealing tires and machine gun fire out the window.

Cinghiale is tough, so Mrs. Creanza would boil it briefly, then simmer it for hours to make ragu.

Once our business was accomplished, though, Tonio suggested that we go see if the town’s cathedral was open, so he could show us something special. And special it was.

The church’s caretaker happened to be there, and he was proud to show us around. First, we saw a nearly life size papier mache sculpture of a dead Jesus, his body riddled with bloody wounds. Then we saw an equally alarming statue of the town’s patron Saint Eufemia, with what the caretaker pointed out was real human hair and a relic of an actual shard of bone from her arm. This statue is carried through the streets on the celebration of her saints day every September. But then we were taken to the real reason for Tonio’s stopping there, a marble statue of her, apparently the only statue made by the 15th-century artist Andrea Mantegna. St. Eufemia’s miracle was that when she was thrown to the lions for refusing to renounce her faith, she calmed the wild beasts and they licked her wounds, so she is always depicted with a lion. The caretaker pushed a button, and her pedestal slowly revolved, allowing one to see this marvelous statue from all angles.And if this were not enough, it just so happened that the choir, with accompanying strings and piano, was rehearsing for its Christmas concert. As an American accustomed to only bland folk Mass church music, I found it stirring. We hated to leave.So on that cold and drizzly night, I will never forget the feeling of being together in that beautiful church, surrounded by gorgeous sights and sounds, in a little town we had never heard of in southern Italy. We will likely never return, and but we also likely never forget.

3 thoughts on “98. Magic Moments

  1. As I look at my email each afternoon, I am so excited to see another post of Italy … I’m captivated by your adventures… Hope there is more coming !!!

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