Vernazza unites in tradition at the Sanctuary of N.S. Reggio

“Some roads aren’t meant to be traveled alone…”

May 15, 2012
by Michele Lilley

On Saturday, Save Vernazza sponsored a Trail 8 clean up from Vernazza to the Sanctuary of N.S. Reggio in anticipation of one of the Sanctuary’s traditional celebration days known as “Christo” the second Sunday in May.

This feast day is in honor of Christ, not be confused with the artist, Cristo, who bears a version of the same name in Italian and who has daringly canvased celebrated landscapes around the world. I must admit that I have often fantasized on my way to Reggio from Vernazza about what the artist, Cristo, might do with the cappella’s (small chapels) that house faded depictions of the final days of Christ and the terraced olive groves on the edge of this pilgrimage path known as the Via Crucis (Path of the Cross).

Doing as the pilgrims did so many years ago and pushing my fantasies aside, myself, my daughter Magdalena, along with her friends Niccolò, Manuel and their moms, began our climb up the hill to Reggio, skipping the particular tradition of placing a flower and a rock at each of the chapels to bring us good fortune. As it was, luck was on our side and small rays of light peeked through the storm clouds high above and our children gathered wild flowers, happily sharing their bright colors and perfumed centers with us.

The sweet, smoky smell of roasted chicken greeted us as we arrived in the piazzale (a vast green and tree lined square) at the Sanctuary and several of the men from town were busy cooking in the kitchen. While the mostly older generation attended their first mass in the church since October 25th, Jenny and I went to work to set up tables and chairs while the children played in the thick of the leaves with branches and stones. On each of the tables we placed a bottle of “house” red wine, made by someone in the hills above, accompanied by a small bottle of water half its size, reminding me that this was a traditional celebration day, in which case wine was as good as water… if not better.

Mass let out and the towns people (about one hundred in all) gathered at the tables in anticipation of Corrado’s ravioli and the chicken roasting over the fire. The 20 somethings arrived at the last minute, picnic blankets in hand and the “festa” began. Our own Yana Pietra and friend Megan from S5T was in attendance as well, soaking up her last week in Italy with friends from Vernazza.

It was nice to see Vernazzans reunited in the beauty and quiet of the Sanctuary – young and old and middle-agers chatting it up, children running in groups chasing each other, babies playing with their older cousins, and families gathering from neighboring towns. And for the first time in months, since the devastation of October 25th, the clock seemed to have turned back time, the detour in the road our lives had taken reunited us on the path that had been travelled by many before us to the peace and tranquility of the Sanctuary high above Vernazza.