“Non ce la faccio. Arriva la Madonna,” my grandmother says, when I asked her if she was coming to lunch on Sunday. Nonna skipping lunch is quite rare as she has the body of an 88-year-old but the appetite of a prize fighter. Nothing usually stands in the way of Nonna getting her much-anticipated Sunday lunch. Nothing, apparently, except the Madonna.
The Madonna coming to Chiaravalle is not quite as strange as it would seem, and has nothing to do with Mary coming back to life. La Madonna is actually a rather beautiful painting of the Madonna della Mercede, liberated from her usual home in a small church in the Montagnolo-Pinocchio neighborhood of Ancona. Every third Sunday of May, she comes down from the mountain (more of a large hill, really), to tour a few small towns, strapped to a makeshift pedestal on the roof of an unassuming Italian car, with flowers and speakers on either side. Perhaps very contadino (in this sense “rural”), yet so awesome.
The most amazing part about a Madonna who “makes rounds”, however, is the crowds of people of all ages who come out, just as they used to a hundred years ago, when she was carried down to Chiaravalle on foot. Everyone welcomes her with rose petals laid out in driveways, streets, and town squares, in various shapes of sacred imagery.
As she makes her way to the Abbazia di S. Maria in Castagnola, where she will stay for a few hours before moving on to another little town, she is greeted by all: the town band, the town priest, children who just received their first communion, babies, senior citizens in their Sunday best, freshly-coiffed ladies, adolescent teens on their way home from their weekly soccer game . . . and just about everyone in between.
Pretty ladies always get lots of attention. And this one is most certainly no exception.
– Contributed by Enrica Frulla, a marketing consultant and copywriter living in Le Marche.