Although Trapani is a mission to get to, the only direct flights from the UK provided by budget airline Ryan Air so unfortunately there’s a limited choice of flight times, so we arrived at 9 o’clock local time, made out way through the airport then the inevitable queue to pick up our hire car. I was looking forward to immersing myself in the Italian experience b driving a fiat 500 but got a Clio then with sat nav programmed for Sicily drove the 90minutes to Trapani in the dark and very tired. Had an interesting experience with the local ‘roads’ in the old part of the town to say it was a tight squeeze does not give it justice!! But found the hotel, parked then bed.
Day one started with getting bearings and walking the key routes. Trapani in the sun is stunning, gorgeous soft yellow, tall, balconied buildings along narrow streets then widening out into the main town area and piazza, including a large garden/park area. As always I had my camera and captured a wonderful image of two local ladies enjoying a morning chat in the sun. Poverty exists in all towns and cities and a lone gentleman man sat in the shade of the tree surrounded by his life in bags, long matted hair, sun aged features with the local cats playing and curling up to sleep on him.
We made our way to a local photographer’s studio, Sergio Cancelliere, an amazing modern place with his stunning work displayed on the walls. Thanks to my translator app and hand gesticulations we were able to understand each other. Sergio had organised for the photography passes for the procession, enabling us access inside the church.
Time to stop for my first cup of Italian coffee and wow does it deliver a hit, it’s no wonder the cups are more like shots of coffee.
One of the joys about training is the different people you get to meet and work with, and this trip was no exception. It as really lovely t be greeted back as an old friend by one of the local shop keepers, I’d bought the traditional wooden ‘clacker’ (more of that later) on my last trip and since then he has followed my work on Facebook.
The evening started at the Chiesa del Purgatorio, the church is filled with the floats and people come in to take a look and photograph them whilst the floats are adorned with flowers and the silver and gold finishing touches. A constant stream of visitors including the locals walk around the church and everyone pays their respects to the ‘Madonna’ float which is kept behind a barrier and guarded.
We went to a favourite pizza restaurant Salvatore Calvino, near the church, established in 1946, proper stone baked base, oozing with Gorgonzola and spicy salami, I highly recommend you make it part of your visit to Trapani.
Then we went off to join the Celebrazione Eucaristica at the Cattedrale San Lorenzo, a stunning cathedral compete with its own Carvaggio on the wall. This resonated with me as my work has been compared to that of the Renaissance fine artist and like Carvaggio I employ the technique of churascuro, highly contrasting light and dark, to create depth and intensity in my editing. It was disappointing that the lighting of a candle was an electric version, but I guess that’s the sign of the times and the concerns of health and safety in what is a very popular and busy church, so breathing in the incense, listening to the almost hypnotic tones of the priest delivering the service in Italian or possibly Latin, and a moment of quiet reflection.
Day two started back at the church now even busier with the floats receiving their final touches and those who would be carrying and escorting the floats in the church. The atmosphere was different today, even as a non catholic I could sense the emotional importance of this event for the people involved, there were smiles and hugs as people greeted each other but for many there was also the overwhelming sense of what they were about to do and many people, men and women, and children, shed tears and took a few moments to still themselves.
The crowds began to fill the streets and the doors were closed during the last hour with gave the float attendants chance to get in position and practise bracing themselves and lifting and replacing the immense weights of the floats.
At two o’clock there is a knock at the church door and two men are lifted up to unlock and open the door to cheers, and the loud clapping sound of the wooden clackers. As he doors open the first band is in position playing, the attendants walk out then the first float and the story of Jesus as told in the passion plays is depicted across the 14 floats culminating in the ‘Madonna’. We stayed within the church for the first 6 floats then repositioned outside to continue photographing.
We decided that food and drink was needed as frozen fingers are not great for operating cameras so squeezing through the crowds and escaping onto some of the back roads we headed for coffee and pasta.
Warm and refuelled we joined the procession as it made its way through the town. Everyone was waiting for the ‘Madonna’ and by this time it was dark. The Madonna float it positioned to look into either side of the street as they make their way slowly along the route, the priests praying and rose petals are cascaded from the balconies overhead. At this point the procession had been going for 6 hours, the crowds were still waiting patiently and those carrying the float and walking alongside were looking in need of a break but with the determination and commitment to continue.
The procession continues through the night going all the way out through the town before making its way back to the church. We went back to the hotel to get a few hours sleep before rejoining it at dawn to catch the perfect morning sunlight.