Checking through the archives of barganews, we find the following text from over a decade ago: The annual San Rocco fair brings thousands of people flooding in to Barga.
One of the attractions is the street market with hundreds of stalls lining the streets of Barga selling everything from the traditional San Rocco goods such as melons, onions, garlic, sweets, pots and pans to the more exotic articles such as small green iguanas, African drums, silk kimonos and Chinese medicines.
There is such a huge amount of things on display that the shopping binge has to take place over 2 days to get everything in.
At every San Rocco fair you will see people arriving at Barga Giardino with small bundles wrapped up in newspaper in their hands or pulled out of shopping bags.
15th and 16th August is the traditional time to get the kitchen knives and scissors resharpened by Umberto the Arrotino – the knife sharpener.
Once upon a time there would have been many travelling knifesharpeners working in this area but that has changed over the years as peoples buying habits and expectations have changed.
These days it is just easier to throw away the pair of scissors that no longer cut as well as they did or buy a new sharp knife to replace the old blunt one. One person who knows this better that most is Umberto who has been working his trade since 1950.
During the day local musicians keep the crowds entertained but in the evening its time for some serious stuff. The roads are blocked off, tables are put out where once were parked cars and the serious evening festa begins.
On the surface, nothing appears to have changed over the past few years … the above text could quite easily have been written this afternoon and yet, speaking with people in the piazzas of Barga today there seems to be a slight underlying feeling of something different this year .
Most people said there seemed to be far less people moving around the fair and most of the traders, when asked replied that there was much less money floating around … according to them, people were spending far less this year. Could this be a self fulfilling prophesy ? …. very difficult to say as there does seem to be the usual crowds in the streets but maybe they were out earlier and spent less, who knows.
One thing is for sure though, most people seems to have a black cloud on their horizon as far as the future is concerned. It maybe San Rocco, the traditional summer festa but the party is a bit forced this year with many people already with a wary eye on the coming winter.
St. Rocco was born of noble parentage about 1340 A.D. in Montpellier, France. At birth it was noted that he had a red cross-shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. As a young child, St. Rocco showed great devotion to God and the Blessed mother. At an early age, his parents died leaving him an orphan under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Soon after, St. Rocco distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty.
St. Rocco dressed in the clothes of a pilgrim and departed for Rome. Along the way, he stopped at Aquapendente, which was stricken by the plague, and devoted himself to the plague victims, curing them with prayer and the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighboring cities, and then finaly Rome. Legend has it that everywhere he visited, the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power. He visited Mantua, Modena, Parma, and other cities, all with the same results.
During his travels, he too contracted the plague which was evident by an open sore on his leg. Rocco was banished from the city and took refuge in a cave. There he slept on leaves and drank water from a small stream. Miraculously a dog that refused to eat, faithfully brought him bread as a means of sustenance. The dog used to leave a nearby castle and the lord of this castle having a curious nature followed this dog into the woods and discovered Rocco. The nobleman had pity on Rocco and brought him to his castle where Rocco was cured – source
San Rocco in Barga is the time of year when you take your knives and scissors down to Umberto the Arrotino – the knife sharpener. It is also the right time in the season to buy onions and garlic for the winter. Once again just like yesterday, the air is filled with the sound of bells – this time coming from the San Rocco church in Barga Giardino (3D moving image here) calling in the faithful.
Outside of the church the day seems more to do with shopping. The market stretches right through the Giardino area making progress slow for traffic and walkers, shoppers alike and then once the evening comes the road is totally blocked off, tables are set out and a huge mat laid down all ready for the dancers.