Yesterday I found out that the night of San Lorenzo, which is a big deal here in Italy, is relatively unknown outside of this country. Since apparently, due to various scientific reasons that us dreamers don’t really care about, the best time to see this year’s shooting stars (stelle cadenti in Italian, literally “falling stars”) will be on the 12th of August rather than on the 10th, I thought that I might be still in time to explain what all the fuss is about.
Let’s start with the basics… August 10th is the day on which we commemorate the martyrdom of San Lorenzo. You may wonder what this can possibly have to do with shooting stars. Well, San Lorenzo was literally roasted (yes, those Romans were not shy to invent the craziest and most painful forms of torture, I’ll give you that). Christian legend says that the shooting stars that are so easy to see on and around August 10th are the sparkles of the giant bonfire where San Lorenzo was killed.
This is the gloomy part of the story. Now back to the part we like the best!
For those who are able to forget about poor San Lorenzo, August 10th is a magical night. First of all it falls right at the heart of the summer, and I believe there is not a single Italian who does not have a fond memory of one such night.
You see, on August 10th, at least a full month into your school holidays, you have already had enough vacation time to meet new people, to fall in love, to make new best friends, to meet that special someone etc. By that time of the year you know very well what kind of summer you are having and you’re ready to make the most of it.
When the weather is nice, it’s the perfect time of the year to lie on a quiet beach or in a harvested field in the countryside and watch the sky, waiting for the next shooting star to cross it. When you see one, your instinct is to scream “Oh, did you see that!?” (I’m taking for granted that shooting star spotting is not a solo activity here…). But you are not supposed to do that, because you are supposed to keep quiet, make a wish and hope that it will come true. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, really. It’s the night itself that’s magic.
If you happen to be in any coastal destination in Tuscany on the day of San Lorenzo, you will probably see several bonfires on the beach (which aren’t actually permitted by the way…). People organize beach parties, or house parties. They all have dinner together and then some people will stick with the group to watch the sky with a good glass of wine in their hands and others will take a walk on their own to enjoy the night in a more intimate way.
It is harder to see the stars if you are in a city. But most cities will have some sort of celebration on August 10th, and I remember a year in Pisa when they even dimmed the city lights to allow people to see the stars.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a tiny countryside village, so I never had that problem really. I would go out with my friends to the village park or by the soccer field and watch the stars there.
This year, I hope the scientists are right, and that the best night to watch the shooting stars is tomorrow night. I’m planning to go to my parents’ place in the countryside and watch them there. And then I’ll be able to remember all the San Lorenzo nights of the past. I will also remember my grandmother and my grandfather who loved that place so much and who passed away on August 10th, both of them on the same day, but 24 years apart. What are the chances of that?! Well, in the end, the night of San Lorenzo is a magic night when all dreams come true, even that of being together again after all those years…
Oh yes, I’m going home and I’ll be looking at the sky. I’ll remember all the San Lorenzo nights of the past and dream of the many more I hope to be able to enjoy in the future.