It was Saturday afternoon on the Adriatic coast, and there was evidence that hobbits might be squatting on the beach. A least that's what this year's Fogheraccia pyre looked like; a makeshift hobbit hole, complete with front door. I couldn't help wondering why there was a door and which poor bastard was being sent in there to set the thing ablaze?
At exactly eight forty, the Daugther and I took up station on a sandhill. A man dressed in a green overall, protected by a red helmet and red gloves came forward aiming a long spray gun nozzle at the pile of wood. The crowd chanted, 'la benzina! la benzina! la benzina!'.
'What does la benzina mean?' asked the Daughter.
'Gas,' I said. 'They're about to turn that hobbit hole into Mordor.'
The little green man doused the pyre with la benzina for about five minutes, then returned to the company of his pack of pyromaniacs.
'It's the first time I've seen anything running early in Italy, they must really be sick of winter' I said to the Daughter, but I had spoken too soon.
A priest, armed with a portable public address system, emerged from the group. But his PA system was no match for this crowd. Parents were screaming accensione–ignition, children were screaming piadina, and small dogs barked mercilessly.
Fogheraccia–purifying fire, is a big celebration in Romagna. People bid ciaone–a big goodbye, to winter and celebrate the arrival of the good season, and in Rimini, that means party season. For the past two weeks, men on ladders have been pruning trees all around the city, and tonight their branches are brunt to bring good health and ward off thunder, lightning, mould, insects, infertility, disease, witchcraft ... and anything else that might stand in the way of a debauch summer.
After about ten minutes the priest checks his watch. He is well aware that Fogheraccia had its roots in the pagan era and by now is fearing for his own safety, so wraps things up with a prayer. He blessed the little green man, who then walked toward the pyre accompanied by a man with a ten-foot long burning torch. It was time to say goodbye to winter, and farewell to any hobbits trapped in their mobile hut.
In the old days, before health and safety, they used to make the fire in the middle of the town and burn an effigy full of nuts and fruit.
The bonfire roaring and the smell of hobbit drifting through the night air, we made our way over to the surf club for barbeque and beers. A surf club on the Adriatic? The change in the tide level is bigger than any wave here. I imagined the local surf report, 'It's a monster day out there today, with sets coming in at six centimetres.' Sweet Jesus, I thought, how can anyone surf in Rimini, it's like a bloody lake.
A surf club on the Adriatic? The change in the tide level is bigger than the height of any wave here. I imagined the local surf report, 'It's a monster day out there today, with sets coming in at six centimetres.' Sweet Jesus, I thought, how can anyone surf in Rimini, it's like a bloody lake.
Unlike surfers in Africa, surfers in Rimini are health conscious. Our invite offered the option of piadina with cheese or piadina with meat. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the cheese option had been devoured, and the surfers were lazily barbequing half a pig. For all our vegan friends out there, really sorry, but this is a report from the edge, and the summer is only set to get weirder.
While there are no waves on the Adriatic, the Rimini surfers are known to travel to the four corners of the planet in search of a decent wave–anything above sixty centimetres.
It was like being back in South Africa, only, without the waves or the hotdog rolls. Here, like everything else in Romagna, braaivleis (barbequed meat) is wrapped in piadina ... and eaten without ketchup. For once I agreed with the Daughter. Some things just shouldn't be eaten without that vile red sauce ... I give you the Boeriedina.