Still today in the hills of Molise, and particularly in Agnone, the old tradition of la serenata is alive and well.
In days gone by when a young man had set his sights on a particular girl and felt he had a chance of being accepted, he would serenade below her window, encouraged and supported by other local lads and men. Sometimes the bride was quite surprised and sometimes not very keen, in which case he might be greeted with a bucket of water! Today, this tradition continues, although the marriage day is by now planned (for the next day) and there are few surprises. But the bride can spin it out as long as she likes and everyone has a lot of fun. On Friday night on the beautiful steps of the piazza white ribbons and flowers decorated the trees outside an old palazzo in quiet anticipation.
We had been ‘tipped off’ to arrive around 9 pm and sure enough, minutes later a group spilled around the corner, a folk band and accordion accompanying the groom bearing a large bunch of roses. The steps were suddenly flooded with townspeople: old, young, even babies, teenagers and grannies, all singing together. Some had sheet music, others singing by heart.
The fearless groom sang his required solos with great aplomb, all the more touching in that he didn’t have a very good voice. It just didn’t matter! This bride played very hard to get, the singing continued for at least 50 minutes by which time we had more or less learned the words and were joining in with the young priest, the folk band, some of our B&B hosts, and all sorts of other people we had met during our time here. Eventually the girlfriends appeared at windows teasing the lads outside, until finally the bride herself appeared and a ladder was raised to allow the groom to climb in.
The family opened the doors of the house to offer the townspeople food and drink as the festa continued. The beautiful cantinas of the house were filled with trays of pizza and beautiful cakes.
What a wonderful closing night of our programme; a chance to engage in the community life of a town and to see at first hand the cultural traditions which bind its citizens so closely to their heritage.
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by Jenifer@ liveandlearnitalian.com