Sunday, January 9, 2011

Burn Last Year's Woes

In the town of Cencenighe in the Agordino, the locals celebrate the entrance of the new year with hands-on fire.

Several brave individuals hike up to the top of all the visible mountain peaks and make giant bonfires to be seen below, in town. Those include places like Cime Pape (2503 m/8212 ft), Monte Pelsa (2255 m/7398 ft) and many others around and in between. The bonfires begin at sunset the night before the Epiphany. This year, that occured on January 5th.

In town, the neighborhoods and individual streets gather its people together to light their own bonfires at the same time. The idea is that they are burning all their woes, problems, issues and misfortunes from last year in those big flames that rise at the beginning of the new year. They will start the new year with a clean plate, and hopefully it will be a better one.

Cencenighe center with bonfires in the lower fields of a fraction of town, Bastiani, and Monte Pelsa above

Then fireworks accompany the event from the peaks as well as a few shot up from the town fires.

Cencenighe river front, bonfire at the Cordevole river bank

Neighborhood "Inter"-bonfire in all its glory

It's impressive to think about the souls who climb up the mountain to set the upper flames aglow. After a heavy hike like what they have to do to get up to those altitudes, your sweat turns to ice in about 5 minutes, once your body stops moving. Honestly I don't know how they stay warm up there, waiting for sunset. I know that they take wine and grappa to drink, but I still can't believe that's enough to stay warm for more than half an hour.

Then, the same hikers have to come back down the mountain in the black of night. It takes about 2-3 hours to get down those mountains on snowshoes. Skiing down, the faster solution, is too dangerous without any light.

After the fires have all waned, the locals crowd into the town hall, Nof Filò, and eat gnocchi and polenta that the old ladies prepare. It's offered by the Comune (Town), so everything is free. It's a real event! Everyone is warm, slightly drunk and full of comradery. They dedicate a special table to the hikers that went to the mountain peaks. They are considered the guests of honor in this situation.

I've seen this event several times over the years and each year they are adding more bonfires and locations. It is growing in its importance.

Most of all, it's authentic, not turistic and as the Italians say, "suggestivo" (evocative).

Approaching Inter's bonfire along the hillside


  1. Wow, I'm going to have to see this next year! I know towns all over have big bonfires on Jan 6 to celebrate the Befana's arrival, but this one seems more personal.

  2. John, It really is special. You'll have to let me know what you think when you get to see it in person.