Last night, after riding up a mountain, I spent an evening that I will remember with warmth for many years to come. Now and again we get to experience something that is outside of our normal life and gives us an insight into a different way of “being” in the world. This occurred in the little town of Albarabella in the South of Italy where I have been riding for the last week. If anyone has been to this particular town, they will remember the first sight of the white “trullis”, white conical homes with pointed roofs that give the impression that you have stepped into either a Disney land set or perhaps a scene from Lord of the Rings! The weather was superb which added to the experience.. but what really made the impact was what happened in the evening.
As we ate dinner at an outdoor café at the piazza, town centre suddenly came to life. First, I noted the families, and the way there were dressed – on a Monday night, all in their Sunday best strolling up and town, kids running everywhere, while the adults conversed with each other. Yes, talked. They didn’t rush up and down with a purpose. Then arches that we had seen and were curious about were lit up and the scene became another fairyland scene. Basket weavers pulled up chairs and began their craft, all wearing traditional costume; opera singing interspersed a pantomime of people creating the scene harvesting their crops with scythes, and other implements – all also in traditional dress. Older people together with young children took part in this festival and it lasted about three hours. The final section incorporated a play with full stage set and the small crowd watched, thoroughly enjoying what must have been a comedy as they all laughed regularly. We didn’t understand a word of what went on but it didn’t matter. We felt transported to another world and privileged to witness this extraordinary spectacle. What was even more incredible was that we discovered that this wasn’t the actual festival – it began the following week! So this was merely a rehearsal!! I am sure that Albarabella has its problems, its feuds, its disagreements but I have never and am never likely to see again, such a a shared sense of connection to celebrate something we take for granted – the creation of food to eat. It truly was community wellness at its best.