La Befana

This morning’s trip to the insurance office provided us with a quote for full private health cover. Not cheap but the comune will accept this for residency. But, before we hand over wads of cash, we decide to wait for the chance to meet the ‘health registrar’ at the hospital. This is to see if we can register with a doctor, and if necessary pay the equivalent national insurance contribution for the year, and thereby provide proof that we have state medical cover.  Nope! You cannot do this without residency!  Where have we heard that before?

If we get the residency we still have to wait 45 days, to allow for a random police visit, and so building work cannot begin until the end of that waiting period. That now means we are talking about the end of February and we had hoped the work would be nearly finished by then.  No idea what our builder is going to say and whether he is willing/able to wait.  We feel really stupid now after all our pressing to get the work started as soon as possible, but then again “who knew”?

Tomorrow is a public holiday and the festival of the ‘Befana’ (Witch) or in religious terms the feast of the Epiphany, when the 3 kings brought the gifts to Baby Jesus.  Nowadays children get stockings filled with sweets and gifts supposedly brought by a witch. Not sure what the connection is but hope that Mary and Joseph invested the gold wisely.

(The folklore surrounding Befana seems to include all sorts of pre-Christian traditions that are part of the Santa Claus story elsewhere. It may even include elements that go back to neolithic times. For more info see the Wikipedia page.)

The town is famous for its Nativity Scene and so we visited that this morning.  Quite an installation. It is spread out over several rooms.  On entering you see an area dressed as a home office, with all the paraphernalia of the modern computer age, but the monitor is replaying the attack on the Twin Towers…. There follows a tableau on refugees and the lack of tolerance and love in the world and then there are rooms full of the Nativity story created as miniature landscapes with beautiful model animals and characters.  The lighting slowly changes from dawn scenes to desert nights. Finally, there is a model of the town and examples of work by local community groups. We entered thinking that this was just going to be a cheesy Christmas show and left feeling quite moved and depressed about the state of the world currently. Which, if it encourages just some of those who visit to be more tolerant and loving, then “well done” Citta della Pieve.

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By the way, we had small flurries of snow and temperatures of 6 degrees below zero!  What is going on…Bristol was 12 degrees warmer (but probably grey and wet).


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