Few things say, “have a fantastic field season,” quite like a welcome feast at the annual candlelight festival.
Earlier in week one, we’d heard rumblings that the Comune di Arquata Scrivia wanted to host a dinner welcoming the Libarna Urban Landscape Project on Thursday evening. Aside from the obvious reasons for anticipation (who doesn’t love a party?), it would also give us a chance to meet more of the community and thank them for their hospitality and generosity. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but from what we’d tasted so far at the local trattorias, the food was guaranteed to be excellent. As a delightful surprise, we found that Thursday was also the night of a festival of candlelight, the Notte Delle Candele. A night full of music, breezy white clothing, and of course, lines of votive candles weaving through the streets of town.
We dressed to impress (or were at the very least clean), however, we were a bit short on white clothing, so we stood out a bit in the crowd! Not knowing what the comune had in store, we were ushered into the 16th century Palazzo Spinola where the mayor Albert Basso (adorned in his very official, ceremonial sash) and members of the council, Paolo Spineto, Nicoletta Cucinella, and Stefania Pezzan, gave our directors a beautiful welcome. And then came another surprise-a stack of books made an appearance and were gifted to the project. These local travel guides, historical surveys, and books featuring regional artists are fantastic additions to our field library.
After several rounds of pictures, we turned to the next phase of the evening-the feast. And yes, I truly mean feast. For those of you out there who have not yet experienced the pleasure and obligation of a classic Italian dinner, the flow of food seems endless, and you must have at least a little bit of everything. The comune took us to a lovely trattoria on the edge of the Piazza Santo Bertelli where we had front row seats to the early hours of the candlelight festival. As the choir assembled and vendors brought out their wares, our plates were filled with salads of faro, beef tendon, and vegetables; breads, lasagna, egg pies, roasted tomatoes, cheeses, and finally a divine apple cake with swirls of spices in its delicate crumb.
While the festival stepped into full swing, Melania took us on a tour of the oldest house in Arquata. The flickering candlelight illuminated our path to the medieval home where her grandfather was born. Today, it is a workshop and gallery for craftsmen creating incredibly detailed dioramas of religious scenes and imaginings of life long ago in Arquata Scrivia. As we climbed the stone steps of the house, we found ourselves captivated by the delicacy and beauty of each vignette.
After that, nothing was left but to enjoy the festival. Song filled the piazza and children were given white balloons with small LED lights casting a warm glow to match the flickering candles. At the culmination of the festival, hundreds of white clad children throughout the square and streets released their balloons into the darkness of the night.
We are very happy to be here, and it is so rewarding to know that Arquata Scrivia is just as excited to host us as well. Thank you so much for the very warm welcome!