0541 The Fransiscan Festival (Ita 060—new)

Reggio Emilia Travel Blog

 › entry 166 of 201 › view all entries

I reach Reggio Emilio after dark--  but hopefully I’ll be able to find the hostel that’s supposed to be in the Old Town and hopefully there will be vacancy...

I wander down the vacant streets and through a huge park to the edge of the Old City.  I must have read the map wrong because the hostel is nowhere around.  Finally I retrace my steps and try again and finally find it…

 

It doesn’t look like a hostel.  There’s just a little plaque that marks it on an enormous gateway.  I ring the doorbell hoping I’m not too late.  Someone opens the door and lets me in.  There’s a beautiful courtyard, long columned porticos and fresco paintings on the ceiling above the vast stairway. 

My guess is this used to be a monastery.

 

 

Sure enough--  and now it’s been turned into one of the coolest 15 Euro hostels I’ve ever seen… You can walk down the long arch ceiling halls and still get a feel for what it must have been like…

 

I’m very lucky to find a bed.  There is a big Fransiscan festival going on and monks from all over are gathering for the event… so basically, the place has been turned back into a monastery for a couple of days!

 

That evening I get to talking with an Italian fellow out in the courtyard.  He’s from south Italy and gives me quick crash course on south Italian culture--  the good, the bad… it seems Italians don’t mind talking about the negative sides of their country to a foreigner.

  It’s a great chance to hear a south Italian’s perspective, now that I’m heading into North Italy.


He explains a bit more about the divide between north and south.  See France, Germany, England and Spain are all relatively flat countries so it was easy to create one, single unified nation.  But Italy’s geography shaped the country differently.  In the north, you have the plains.  Then you have the Po river which created a natural barrier.  Then you have the mountains which for centuries provided a buffer between the two regions.  Then there were the centuries of being conquered and occupied--  by the Austrians in the north and by the Muslims in the south…

 

Two very different worlds in this one country… A very insightful discussion…

 

Then next day I head out to check out this Fransiscan festival thing.

  The main plaza is full of brown robed monks selling literature, giving speeches, doing songs and activities for the kids and talking to whoever was interested.  Quite a few people milling about, there seems to be a good bit of interest. 

 

Over to the side, a Protestant group is methodically shoving a pamphlet into the hand of every passerby, and a couple of Mormon missionary are prowling about, looking for strays--  but clearly the monks own the show today…

 

I figure it’s a good opportunity to learn first hand about this unusual subculture, that seems like a relic from another era.  It’s like all of a sudden, the Middle Ages come back to life--  and this is not re-enactment--  it’s the real thing…

 

I approach a monk that looks Mexican and ask him if he speaks Spanish… sure enough… He tells me how he felt the “calling” to be a monk and how his whole family--  who are Catholics—turned against him… He told me about their vows, about the living in community and that, yes, it’s a lifelong thing…

 

A little later, another Italian monk approaches me and starts telling me his story, a similar one, of how his life felt empty before and how he’s found fulfilment in this new life, despite the criticism of his family…

 

I finally head on my way, not quite sure what to think of the whole rather surreal encounter with the Fransiscans there in the plaza of Reggio Emilio.

  Definitely one of my more memorable experiences here in Italy…

 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Reggio Emilia
photo by: Aussiedream