In Borgo’s main square Misericordia squads from every part of Tuscany and beyond, with some arriving from as far afield as Avellino near Naples, congregated for speeches, the national anthem and ribbon-cutting.
The new vehicles were charmingly covered with blue and white balloons which were lifted off when officially admitted into Borgo’s Misericordia fleet with the blessing of the parish priest.
At this stage an almighty noise started up when the ambulances driven by representatives from the other Misericordie switched on their sirens! It was an example of “concrete” music if there ever was one and temporarily deafened most of us. It reminded me a little of the unison of ships’ sirens we used to hear from the Thames at our feet when London was still a port city.
I was glad I’d come to Borgo’s festivity – after all it was a Misericordia ambulance which saved my life after that dastardly hornet attack mentioned at:
I was so pleased to be able to spot the team which came to my rescue and personally thank them!
The cortège of local dignitaries, the new ambulances, the local band etc. made its way to the old ex-convent of San Francesco on the nearby hill-top for refreshments. And what refreshments they were too! The piping-hot lasagne were among the best we’d ever tasted and these were accompanied by focaccie, panini, salamis and many other dainties. We thought that was it and gorged ourselves on two helpings of the lasagne, of which new trays were constantly arriving, washed down with red wine and prosecco. But then the cakes followed: chocolate cakes, rice cakes, apple cakes, fruits-of-the-forest cakes….
The convent, incidentally, is a very beautiful building consisting of a single-nave church – the venue for our splendid Christmas concert with the Ghivizzano choir and the Stereotipi vocal group last year when we sang Michael Haydn’s Missa Sancti Gabrielis – and a cloister with quaint lunette frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Francis. An on-going project is restoring the frescoes and their before-and-after difference is quite astonishing.
Now the convent is converted to an old folk’s home and it provides solace for the last years of many people’s lives. The garden, with its kiwi-fruit avenue is especially beautiful. Unfortunately, the accomodation price-tag is somewhat prohibitive, unless you are on a low income and can avail of subsidies.
We finally managed to tear away from this gargantuan culinary display to head towards one of the several chestnut festivals which take place at this time of the year. Two thoughts entered our minds, however. One, we hoped that no major emergency would be taking place in Avellino or Stia or Colle di Val d’Elsa or any other place from where the Misericordia groups had come from. Two, we couldn’t think of ambulance services in London putting on such a feast for its new vehicles.
The point, however, is that the Misericordie are voluntary bodies dating back centuries – the one in Borgo a Mozzano has a particularly distinguished past recorded in a lovely book written by the mother of the husband of the lady who sold us our house in Longoio – and depend entirely on volunteers’ time and voluntary contributions. So, this delightful send-off for the new vehicles and the sumptuous repast was a way of thanking all those who contributed to the Misericordia, and the invitations to representatives from far-afield was another way of affirming solidarity within the national bounds of this very worthy institution.