In 2013 the Festa de’ Noantri began in Trastevere on July 20 at 6:30 p.m. I was so excited to see this celebration, but a renegade cold from Verona turned into a sinus infection on July 19, and I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed for the short walk across the Tevere. Bummer!
In 1535 some local fishermen discovered a wooden statue, the Madonna of Mount Caramel, at the mouth of the Tevere during a storm. They fished the statue out of the river and gave it to the monks of San Crisgono in Trastevere. The statue was originally housed in a chapel built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, but in 1890 the chapel was demolished (to make way for the street now known as Viale Trastevere), and the statue was moved—first to San Giovanni dei Genovesi church for a few decades, and then to its present home at Sant’Agata church.
Once each year, on the first Saturday after the feast day of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel (July 16 this year), a replica of the madonna leaves Sant’Agata and returns to its original home, San Crisgono, for eight days. With much pomp and circumstance, the statue winds for several blocks through the streets of Trastevere, even though the two churches are located just a block or so apart. Many Romans attend the ceremony and follow the parade. Eight days later the madonna floats on a boat down the Tevere, leaving the Ponte Sant’Angelo (in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo) at 6:30 p.m. and landing precisely at 8 p.m. at a dock below Ponte Garibaldi. Hordes of people line the bridges and streets along the river to watch this procession.
We drove to our parking garage Sunday evening at about 7 p.m. As we crossed Ponte Garibaldi, we saw the masses of people and wondered what was going on. We walked down to Ponte Garibaldi, and Michael figured out that it was the return procession of the Madonna of Mount Caramel, so we HAD to watch, especially since I’d missed the first parade. We walked down to Isola Tiburina, which was directly across the river from the dock, as it turned out, and made our way along the island’s river bank to the northern tip of the island.
And there, in the middle of the river, sat the madonna, garbed in turquoise and looking serene and regal. The boat waited until a minute before 8 p.m., and then drove to the dock, where people were crowded onto bleachers, on the stairs, and on the wall above the Tevere. As the boat went under Ponte Garibaldi, people applauded and tossed flowers and confetti. Just as the madonna landed, a beam from the setting sun shone on her. So lovely! A band played, and a priest sang, and as the madonna was lifted out of the boat, confetti guns sprayed colorful pieces of paper or foil into the air—gold, blue, silver, and red. It was glorious! Porters then had to carry the madonna up the steps to the street, and then they paraded the statue back through the streets of Trastevere to its home, where the parade ended with a fireworks display.
So I didn’t completely miss the Festa de’Noantri after all. Lucky me! Perhaps next year I can see the whole thing.