Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Motorbikes and Magi?

First we heard the sirens. Over breakfast Stefano commented, "That's different. They've been going on for ages." Then after wandering over to our kitchen window he called out, "Wow, come and look at this."
Via Foppa had become a one-way motorcycle drag track.  There were hundreds and hundreds of motor bikes, all with their lights on and horns blaring, filling both sides of the road.
When we stepped onto our front balcony to get a better look, the traffic was banking up at the cross-streets and pedestrians had become marooned on the pavements, yet no one seemed perturbed.  Those stranded were happily waving to the motorcyclists, while the cars were unusually quiet. The only sound of horns was coming from the thousands of motorbikes of all shapes and sizes that kept streaming down via Foppa for 15 more minutes. What was that all about?
After a week of rain it was great to see the sun shining on the feast of the Epiphany, a public holiday throughout Italy, and the last day of Stefano's Christmas holiday. Like many Italian cities, Milan celebrates this final day in the Christmas calendar with an annual street parade re-enacting the visit of the Maji - the three wise men, who came to pay homage to the baby Jesus. In Milan the parade starts at the Duomo and travels slowly along via Torino, via Porta Ticenese to its destination at Sant'Eustorgio, the church dedicated to the Magi and allegedly where their relics are buried.

The Magi are accompanied by an assortment of citizens in costume, including shepherds, knights, ladies of the king's court and townsfolk  in traditional dress. We met the parade en route to the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, just by the Colonne at the church of San Lorenzo.  Here, what had been a reasonably orderly parade became a typically Italian celebration. The crowds mobbed those dressed in character to congratulate them and take photos.  Some of the traditional bands attempted a hesitant rendition of Silent Night but they were completely swamped by the exuberance of the onlookers. Once the Maji had paid their respects to the clergy at San Lorenzo, the parade continued on its colourful march.  
 The video below gives you a taste of the parade which was charming as it was low key, inclusive and  friendly.
The motorcycle cavalcade and the parade of the Maji are both Milanese traditions held on the feast of the Epiphany. Next year we'll know to look out for the the giant statue of the good witch la Befana who leads the motorcycle rally, a charity drive which raises money for the poor.

Fino alla prossima settimana e un felice anno nuovo!


  1. Motociclo and Magi are familiar in our house...

    1. Haha, yes of course they would be Meaghan.

  2. Great photos Jen. There's something to be said for a bit of tradition especially when it's a visual feast! Happy new year to you and Stephen.

  3. Thanks Therese. I'm able to claim shared photo credits and sole credit for my first You Tube clip on the blog! A proud moment. Ciao.

  4. Very impressive Jen re your first You Tube clip!