Un Grande Giorno per Perugia… Festa di San Costanza

Saint’s days in Italy are definitely something special. Today, 29 Gennaio, is the Festa di San Costanza. San Costanza is Perugia’s patron saint, so today was a big day. I had no idea what it entailed; all I knew was that everyone in Perugia had the day off except American students at Umbra Institute. This morning, when we walked through Piazza IV Novembre, it was already starting to fill up. There was a tent set up on Corso Vanucci, but it was fairly small, so I thought, hm, okay, this is the celebration. Then I was told that a bit down the mountain on a side of Perugia that I’ve never been was a huge open air market, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it down there because I had classes from 8:40 this morning to 6:45 this evening. Fortunately, San Costanza was looking out for me.

The day started out quite well– even Italian class this morning was special. My professoressa, Roberta, wanted to see how our conversational Italian skills were going, so she said, “Andiamo! A caffe!” So we went downstairs and out the door to one of the many, many caffes that just happens to be next door to one of the Umbra buildings on Via Mazzini. Actually, this caffe is one of our favorites– the old man that works in there is so nice and back before we knew how to use our mocha (stove-top espresso-maker), we used to run in there every morning, with about 2 minutes to spare before class, down a shot of espresso, and trek up the stairs to class. Anyway, our entire class went in this very small caffe. We were only allowed to speak Italian to each other (and the barista of course), which was funny because I had a story to tell my roommates. I know my Italian is improving because they understood it! Anyway, so we spent a good amount of class in the caffe. After class, Corso Vanucci was getting busier and busier. We headed home, and a little while later I was on my way back to class. Corso Vanucci and Piazza IV Novembre were jam-packed with people, puppies, news crews, photographers, artists… it was insane. There was a tent with free food but I didn’t have time before my next class, photography. I couldn’t help but just grin as I walked through… there were so many children about, stuffing their faces. It was wonderful.

Photography was even great today. We had our first day in the dark room, developing our negatives of a roll of black and white film that we were assigned to take last week. It took forever, with all the people in my class (only 9 or 10 but still), but it was really great to learn the process and, at the end, take a look at the negatives. The dark room was hard to get used to, though, because it’s, well, dark. I really enjoyed it though. Next week we will be making prints of our negatives and that should be fun.

I was a bit worried last week that I wouldn’t get the black and white roll exposed because I was in bed all week and wasn’t supposed to be out shooting pictures, but fortunately (and maybe not intelligently), I did, on the snow day and then again yesterday. I went exploring a little further yesterday and found some amazing places, just off my street, behind a monastery, that had views of all of the east side of Perugia’s mountain as well as the Appenines in the distance. Gorgeous. Another thing that is interesting in Italy is the graffiti… it’s on every surface which is kind of sad in some ways but you get used to it… but a lot of it is in English, and a lot of it is very political. It’s interesting. I got some good pictures of it I think.

Anyway, so this evening, I had Perugia Practicum, the service-learning course. We sat down and our professor, Cindy, began to talk about our internship assignments. I was assigned to the Ranieri Foundation, which I am so excited about. That is the one I mentioned earlier, a family-owned archival historical library with 20,000 volumes, soon to be open to the public. I’m not exactly sure what our job is going to be, but it is just me and one other girl. I know we will get to know the Ranieri family very well, which I am so excited for, and my Italian should really improve. It is going to be so interesting– apparently this place also has ancient documents, art, tapestries, etc that need to be archived and I’m pretty sure that’s our responsibility. It’s going to involve a ton of in-depth research about Perugia… I’m so excited!!!

So, after about 15 minutes of talking to the professor, she said, okay– we’re going on an outing. So we walked and walked and walked and finally, we were at the San Costanzo market! It was an enormous open air market, and she just said to walk around and enjoy it and do a little write-up for her and she’d see us later. It’s important for us to know about San Costanza because it’s Perugia’s big thing… it’s a big, huge, ancient part of Perugian tradition. My friend Anna (my Ranieri partner) and I walked around for an hour and a half, looking at everything. Vendor after vendor, booth after booth… Some of it was really neat, but I didn’t buy anything because Anna and I decided to go to Florence this weekend and I want to do market shopping there. At the end of the market is the Cathedral di San Costanza, which I’d never seen. It was gorgeous, and so old… we were looking for the sanctuary because there is a statue of San Costanza. All the unmarried women in Perugia, on Festa di San Costanza, are supposed to go pay homage to him, and if he winks, then you will be married within the year. However, it was dark and the gothic cathedral is not well lit, and we couldn’t find an unlocked door, so… I’m pretty sure I won’t be married within the year.

So, not Bologna, but Florence– two of my roommates decided to go to Dublin for the weekend, and I’ve been there already, and I am dying to go to Florence, and they’re not– so, Anna and I are going. Anna is also in my photography class so we’re going to get some great pictures in and spend a fun weekend in Florence. I can’t wait for that either!

Yes, I’m feeling much better. Still some weird stuff going on, but all in all, I’m much better and still glad to be here. I also had meat for the first time in a little under two years tonight… just made some chicken, but decided I need to find a way to eat protein since veggie burgers simply do not exist here.

I’m exhausted after such a long day, but wanted to share the goings-on of la vita Perugia… buona notte, tutti!


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