My grandmother always repeats that the weather is bad on Holy Week. It is so. It is God who wants it this way.
But tonight there are stars above the roofs of Corso Rosselli in Sassoferrato, and Signora Maria (the gassy) and Rina (the mattress maker) and the count (our neighbour) and Tullio (the painter) have already put the lights on in the windows and we all greet each other in a chorus from across the street.
On this night of Good Friday in Sassoferrato.
My father closed the shutter of our hardware store a few hours ago, or rather the shop, and in the afternoon after school I too was with him to “help”.
But also to watch and listen to the speeches of customers who, while buying “a pound of nails”, find a way to tell you any story, ranging from wars and its evacuees, to recipes for maccaroncini made with an iron and non-fetal egg.
All this with extreme ease, then proposing the same script from the watchmaker, the butcher, the baker, the photographer, along the whole street and up to the square, with a certain resentful conviction.
The shopkeepers of Corso Cavour all know and respect each other, they leave the doors of the shops open to go and have a coffee. Unattended, because the neighbour takes a look at us anyway and sends for you if needed.
Tonight, however, we of the Borgo are all staying at home because the Sacconi Procession starts from the Castle, and we cannot miss it.
I have always secretly envied the Castellans, always a little more privileged than us, a little more noble, because from up there everything always leaves first … They have the Rocca and the most beautiful bar in the town, the town hall and large school. And it is also from there, from the church of San Pietro, that the Turba leaves with its fearsome characters.
However, on this still cold April evening I feel that I could not be anywhere else but here, on this ledge of one of the many windows of the Corso.
In this house perched on steep stairs, wedged between all the others, where the ancient doors of all different colours peek out. From where one can see the Borgo from both sides, anxiously waiting for the ritual to repeat itself once again.
Boom, boom, boom.
It is the sound of the drums. Boom, boom, boom. Here comes the band.
Here we are.
A hidden murmur of prayers and songs rises from the corner of the covered market. There where the balconies, no later than this morning, hosting the banks teeming with fruit and cheese sellers, and fishmongers who populate the village market on Friday.
And then here it is: while the sound increases and the music (solemn, dark) gets closer and closer.
The Cross that advances and precedes the slow procession stands out.
And there, gloomy and ghostly, there they are, the penitents with the white habit and the hood. For us all the Sacconi with gruesome objects in their hands (first of all a disturbing dead rooster!) But also nails, hammer, whip, skulls and a crown of thorns.
And while hands cross out of devotion and fear and tongues unroll murmured prayers in unison, the sad statue of the dead Christ also passes by, followed by the Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows), the most powerful image of death.
The queue of people following the procession is that of great occasions: there is the Mayor, there is the marshal, there are the most illustrious characters and those from other places, who only meet again at Easter and Christmas … And then the villagers, those of all time, those over whom, between the sacred and the profane, barely murmur, those to be greeted with a wave from the top of the window …
And while the procession passes and the last pilgrim has also turned the corner of Piazza Bartolo, we still remain at the windows for one last comment. The excitement a bit faded and a few restrained yawns, because here you wake up early in the morning.
The night is now silent again on Corso Rosselli, the shutters close and the cats regain their place between the doors and the terracotta-coloured vases.
While the smell of candles lingers in the air waiting for the village and its inhabitants to wake up again tomorrow morning in the shadow of the Apennines.