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On the Land in Umbria - Ode to "Povero" Alessandro

Anne Robichaud

This fall, we all gathered together to celebrate an important fresco restoration in a tiny country church here in the Assisi countryside, the Church of Sant'Anna. The 16th century fresco which depicts Sant'Anna standing near the Madonna with Child, has long been object of simple local piety. Sant'Anna is Patron of expectant mothers and for centuries pregnant rural women of our area have stopped at the tiny church to offer Sant'Anna flowers and to light candles to her while whispering a prayer for her assistance at the moment of childbirth.

The church is up a hill, quite a walk for those who used to make the pilgrimage on foot. That day, while sipping local vino rosso and nibbling the sweets which the rural women had prepared, I felt again that sense of famiglia which has underscored always our life here on the land. And I thought of "Povero" Alessandro (here in Umbria, "povero" or "poor" precedes the name of anyone who is deceased) on that July day so many years ago.

It was July 26th and I was a few months' pregnant with our Giulia (now 20). I motorbiked down our hill, heading to Assisi, passing the farm of old Alessandro and his family. As was his custom, Alessandro was standing in the farmyard, near the road, surveying any passing traffic (there never was much, maybe a vehicle or two a day) and he waved at me to stop as I went by. Like a pap, he gently reminded me that "oggi la Festa di Sant'Anna e ..." (today is the Feast of St. Anne and ...), adding a touch of fatherly advice, "non ti scordare di andare su a dirle una parola" (don't forget to head up there to put in a word to her).

I promised that I certainly would go up to the Church of Sant'Anna. For one reason or another, I didn't.

"Povero" Alessandro on his farm in Umbria

"Povero" Alessandro on his farm in Umbria

The next day as I putted past on my motorbike, Alessandro again waved me down. He put out his hand and handed me a Sant'Anna prayer card. With a twinkle in his eye, he told me that he had doubts that I would go to Sant'Anna to ask her help at childbirth - so he had walked up there for me.


Slow Travel Photos: See larger versions of Anne's photos on our photo gallery.

Anne Robichaud lives near Assisi and gives lectures and tours. www.annesitaly.com

© Anne Robichaud, 2005. Do not republish without permission.

This essay was first published on Anne's website www.annesitaly.com. Edited by Slow Travel.

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