“You should have bought a house in Fara San Martino.” My builder said on the morning of July 8. “You’re always over there.”
I was telling him how we had spent the previous evening watching the torch-lit procession down the mountain there. On July 7 people hike up to the top of the mountains, they trek along the ridges high above the town and some do it in remembrance of the Alpini, the alpine soldiers. We’ve all heard stories about the young boys, who while watching the sheep up there would fill their pockets with stones to prevent themselves being blown off the mountain. (These are actual facts, not romantic notions.) The wind up in the mountains can be quite fierce, and small boys would crawl rather than walk upright as a matter of self-preservation. Seppe, once told me how he’d be up the mountain for several days watching the sheep, and how he’d take cheese and a goat with him too. “We used to sleep in hollows made from rocks, and the smell of the cheese attracted the greedy goat inside, and the goat provided the warmth needed at night when sleeping.” I asked him if the goat ever ate the cheese, and he said, “Only if you were foolish and didn’t hide it away properly.” So who ate the cheese I asked him, “Me of course,” he replied.
We arrived in Fara just as the evening light was fading and walked across the bridge lit by candles to a clearing where a stall was set up to sell hot food. Here we met some friends and passed a few evening pleasantries before joining the crowd of onlookers taking up position over the river in the mountain’s shadow. Applause sounded as the orange glow of torchlight appeared at the top of the mountain, we watched as these pin-pricks of light arranged themselves into order the begin the long descent in darkness. Very slowly the group became an orange flickering line of light as it twisted and turned its way downwards.
At the halfway point, someone looked like they dropped their torch and immediately a bush caught fire. As fires are banned during the summer months for fear of them becoming out of control, frantic action took place and the fire was quickly put out. The procession resumed and as the torch-bearers navigated what looked like a tricky incline, their red jerseys became more distinguishable. After three hours the first person descended to applause followed by others as they walked along the river’s edge over the bridge and passed everyone who had come out to watch their alpine trek.