Once a year the small, quiet town of Riviera Ponente bursts with fierce fireworks that may put into the shade even nearby San Remo.The name of the town is Taggia, which on that very day thanks the saint for protection from war looting by savage troops.
In 1625 Taggia found itself between the fighting forces of Dukes of Savoia and Republic of Genova. It was only the small episode during the Thirty Years War, but of vital importance for habitants of Taggia, who during local parliament meeting decided to ask Saint Benedict for help with saving the town and as a token of gratitude declared to celebrate the saint’s day every February 12th.
At the same time they’ve offered to Savoian troops the yield in return for giving up the sack. We are not quite sure what solution worked better, still the town was spared from plundering.
The tradition of celebrating the day of Saint Benedict is today over three hundred years old and has both religious and pagan aspects ( the fire ).
The event takes place on Saturday and Sunday close to Feb 12th and during the last Sunday of the month.
On Saturday’s evening in several locations are placed the large piles of wood that are burnt giving the powerful stream of light.
The tradition says that around year one thousand the pirates came close to Ligurian shore. Saint Benedict ordered to make large fires close to the village, so the pirates left thinking that the place was plundered by another group of marauders.
But the central point of the event are ‘furgari’, the tubes that erupt millions of sparks. Prepared by the locals several months before, the ‘furgari’ are made of bamboo canes filled with carbon, black gun powder and some other secret ingredients. These tubes are firmed to the walls all over streets of Taggia making the promenades of sparkling fire.
There are also smaller tubes called ‘furgaretti’ that are popular mostly among teenagers, who try to keep them in the hands until the fire ends.
The following Sunday witness the procession of local confraternities to chiesetta di San Benedetto, the small votive church dedicated to the saint for saving Taggia.
Today Taggia preserves most of its medieval character of borgo surrounded by the stone walls and several old town palaces around. The museum of the monastery of Saint Dominic preserves many of interesting pieces of art, including works of Giovanni Canavesio, Parmigianino and Gregorio De Ferrari.
Taggia is also known for its unique oil of olives, which is manufactured here since the 12th century, when Benedictine monks introduced olive trees to the Ligurian coast.
[photo courtesy of stordito]