Valentine’s day is commonly known, in the modern world, as the yearly event in which lovers express their romantic affection for each other. It is known as an ancient tradition, dating back to 1500 years ago and before that, to the Ancient Roman times, with Lupercàlia: these were three sacred days dedicated to the fertility god, or faun, Luperculus, dedicated to a much more erotic love, as women used to get naked in the streets and practice sexual rites with men, that was to be later ended by a pope. But where this tradition comes from and why is it celebrated this day? This tradition comes from historical events tied to Saint Valentine from Terni: he was the Bishop of Terni and used to protect lovers, encouraging them to get together even if they were part of a different religions and social classes. That is why he was beheaded by order of the emperor Aurelianus and this is why it began, a celebration still lasting and very important all over the world, be it laic or religious.
What about Vico del Gargano and why is it related to it?
In Puglia, there is a city called Vico del Gargano, where this day is not only a love display, but also its patronal day. This medieval town, or hamlet, is very important, thanks to its olive and citrus groves, especially composed by orange groves. The latters and their fruit are considered an IGP product, i.e. a protected geographical identificated product. The patron saint of this town used to be Norbertus, celebrated on June 6, but in 1600 a terrible frost hit the town and its farmers, killing the cultivations.
Because of that, people asked their bishop to change the holy man that used to be celebrated, deciding for Saint Valentine, for two main reasons: the first is the period, that is essential for the ripening of olives and oranges; the second one is the belief that orange juice was capable of magic: it was considered an elixir of love that made love last longer; this was thought in the Middle Age and later on, because these fruits have a long lifespan: they can last till 40 days after their harvest, indeed.
A festival for Valentine’s day
Today, Vico del Gargano is decorated and adorned with heart-shaped red balloons, as a symbol of love, laurel branches, as an ancient sign of prosperity and knowledge and obviously with the town’s oranges, typical in Vico. One of the narrow streets in the town is called Vicolo del Bacio meaning Kiss Alley: this is one of the most decorated part of Vico, while another important spot is the Well of Promises. The ongoing tradition is a ritual, in which two people should be kissing each other inside the alley: doing that is believed to magically give the lovers a long-lasting relationship. And after this ritual, people can also go to the well of promises to renew their love promises.
Obviously, during this festivity, people can also find typical products: it is possible to try the paposcia, that is an Apulian word defining a kind of sandwich made with focaccia or pizza-style bread and that can be filled with whichever food people want, especially it being apulian fresh produces. And for people who have a sweet tooth, they can have the famous dolce della sposa, litterally meaning bride’s dessert, that is a soft sponge cake pastry covered with different icings.
Happy Valentine’s day
In conclusion, Valentine’s Day is a rooted tradition and a custom coming from a distant past, that spread all over the world in time, perhaps thanks to its main topic, love. Love is a feeling that all ages have in common and that is why this festivity will not die very soon, going on for so much time again. Even though in Italia is not celebrated so much, if you go to Puglia, Valentine’s day is not only very important, but can also be a magical and ritual event! Buon San Valentino a tutti!