Pitigliano & The Bonfire of St Joseph
Italy’s Father’s Day March 19th
The traditional Torciata di San Giuseppe (the Bonfire of St. Joseph) in the inland of Tuscany Maremma on the night of Saint Joseph recalls an ancient pagan ceremony where an auspicious purifying bonfire marks the arrival of the new season.
This ancient Etruscan ritual was later Christianized and connected to the feast of Saint Joseph. Religious traditions and folklore are intertwined, creating a moment of joy and happiness in the streets of the village of Pitigliano, culminating on March 19 with the big bonfire.
The village come to life with historic reenactments, illuminated by torches and candles: three trumpets kick off the march of forty “torciatori”, racing in the dark of night. The yellow stone buildings and the arches of the Medici Aqueduct are illuminated by the flames. Flag wavers perform in Piazza del Comune with the ” invernacciu “, a large stick snowman lit on fire symbolizing the death of winter. St. Joseph is invoked to protect the land. The coals from the fire are collected by the women and kept in the homes as a good omen.
Pitigliano is a stunning medieval town in the Maremma of Tuscany, dramatically perched atop a tufa ridge of Etruscan origin. The town is also known as Piccola Gerusalemme, or Little Jerusalem. This part of Tuscany sees far fewer tourists than central Tuscan hill towns and should not be missed. For several hundred years Pitigliano was a frontier town between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States. For this reason, the town was home to a flourishing and long-lived Jewish community, mostly made up by people fleeing from Rome during the Counter-reformation persecutions. Jews of the town used one of the Etruscan caves for their ritual Passover matzoh bakery. The beautiful Synagogue built in 1598 still officiates from time to time and was restored in 1995.
A must see in Tuscany!