Blundering into a festa in Trani


We arrived in Trani on an everyday Tuesday to find Jesus being ferried around the harbor, a marching band playing loudly and clergymen and city leaders in brightly colored robes ready to receive the holy icon on land.

We had blundered into a festa – you can find one going on in any Italian town on any given day – and Trani was not to be outdone on its own Crocifisso di Colonna. An official version of the celebration says it commemorates the miracle of 1480, when Saracens attacked the ancient port town.

At Santa Maria di Colonna, the waterfront church, they damaged the crucifix and it started to bleed. An unofficial version, however, told to us by our friend Rosangela, is that the invaders stole the icon and as they headed back to Turkey, it began to cry. They tossed it overboard, but it found its way back to the port.

We watched as the intact crucifix made a few celebratory turns around the port aboard a fishing trawler accompanied by canon fire, and just before docking, a booming 15-minute fireworks display (at high noon, no less).

As the last of the silver sparks floated to ground, dour looking clergy and impatient children received the icon and a happy throng carried it through the streets. Southern Italians, who can boast some of the most gorgeous churches you’ll ever see and yet are frequently irreligious, love nothing better than a good processione.

And why not? You get a day off to remind yourself of your own spectacular history, you bring the children who are feted with balloons, fireworks and cannon fire, and you march through your own lovely town to the patriotic musings of a brass band.

Sounds like a good day to me. And indeed it was.

Don and I enjoyed the festa scene at the port and then headed off to Beltrani29, a fabulous seafood restaurant with a remarkably talented young chef — and crisp local chardonnay. Midway through the meal, the processione passed by the restaurant, treating us to an encore. What could be better?

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