Here comes La Madonna!

December 7, 2010 / Local Interest
No, Madonna is not arriving in Assisi but la Madonna is – or so the children believe.

As darkness creeps in on December 7th, the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (on the 8th), the men of the Comunità Montana (Forestry Service) light a huge bonfire in front of the massive 14th-century Papal fortress La Rocca Maggiore towering over Assisi. They roast sausages on the fire and offer them with hot mulled wine to “the locals” gathered around the fire. According to tradition, this bonfire lights the way for the angels who are flying in Mary’s home from Nazareth!

In fact, during the night of December 7th, la Madonna will stop at each Assisi home, leaving a simple gift for the children. In the past (and in the 1970’s when we moved here – and when Italy was still largely an agricultural economy), the gifts were only basic clothing needs such as socks, underwear, perhaps gloves – in harmony with the saying (in Umbrian dialect) Chi si rinnova per Maria, sgrampola da ogni malattia (“whoever renews – ie, replaces old clothes with new – for Maria, escapes all illnesses”).

Our children used to wake up on December 8th to find new socks or underwear, a scarf or gloves, next to their pillows. One year on December 8th, our Giulia returned home from elementary school quite mystified by the new bicycle that one of her friends had received from la Madonna – “and not clothes as she should have, Mamma. I guess la Madonna made a mistake!”

Nowadays, la Madonna might bring an I-POD, a digital camera or a new cell phone to a child. More “Madonna mistakes”?!

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

8 Responses to “Here comes La Madonna!”

  1. Lyn Beckenham

    I love this story and I love your photo views of la Rocca Maggiore!

  2. Anne’s interesting, and her usual, great contribution. I love that the articles usuually also tell a story.

  3. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    A lovely tale about the past and the now obligatory technological present (both senses). Having visited La Rocca (but in high summer) I can imagine how atmospheric and magical it must be to have a big bonfire here in winter as a navigation aid to the angels. Thanks for an engaging note Anne.

  4. Elizabeth Seman

    As usual, Anne Robichaud has her finger on the pulse of the beautiful Umbria region.
    The sentiment is pure sweetness. Brava, la Madonna!

  5. Great story by Anne, and great tradition, but I liked it a LOT better before the Madonna went “high tech”. Patrick of Pacifica

  6. The photos of La Rocca are stunning – the stories you share about this beautiful part of Italy are inspiring. Many thanks for the beauty. Marianne Binetti


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