When Hilary (aka Missfoster) asked us writers in Sweden who would like to write an article on Santa Lucia’s Day I thought that it wasn’t something for me.
“This is my first Santa Lucia in Sweden in my whole lifetime and I dunno much about it, maybe somebody else like a Swede should write about it, not an Italian!”
And I thought that Thomas did an excellent job already with his post on Lucia…
The only thing I know about Santa Lucia in Italy is a funny rhyme:
“Santa Lucia, il giorno più corto che ci sia.”
Which means “Saint Lucie, the shortest of the days”, if referred to sunlight makes perfect sense both in Italy and Sweden.
Then I did some quick research over the Internet, curious to know the story of the saint, Lucia.
She was Italian, off course, but my eyes became stuck on the city where she came from: Siracusa.
As far as I know almost every city of Italy has it’s own saint and when it comes to that day normally it is a city wide holiday (no work since Italians are lazy).
Siracusa is in Sicily… and in an ogonblick everything became clear in my mind: I knew why Santa Lucia’s day is more important in Sweden than in Italy.
The Normans, I wrote about them on and old article, brought back to Sweden the cult of the saint so important for the whole area where they sovreigned (Naples and below all the way to Sicily), after they settled down in the south of Italy!
Since 1970 in the City of Siracusa there takes place an event called “Lucia di Svezia e Settimana Svedese” “Lucie of Sweden and the Swedish Week”. At the end of the week, which is on the 20th of December, young Swedish girls “Lucia di Svezia” go to Italy to represent Lucia, as you can see in the video.
Since Swedish girls are VERY important to Italians they are heavily escorted by the carabinieri, our military police
Images via Wikipedia.org.
I’m just taking a break from my study “homework” to write this article.
I’ve been battling with a bunch of questions while sitting in the wonderful biblioteket (library) of Medborgarplatsen.
Well, time passes and I need to go to the toilet. What you would expect to do in a normal library of Italy is just go to the toilet, but it’s not that easy here in Sweden.
Your toilet use in this public building has a fee of 10kr! And you cannot pay with a credit card or banknotes!
I’m lucky, because knowing how things work here I’m saving all the coins I can get (which is a pretty hard task since papermoney and coins are used kinda rarely in Sweden) and keep them in a special pocket in my jacket!
But things don’t always go this smooth when you need a toilet in Stockholm. This is how I discovered it the first time, the worst 30 mins of my life I guess:
I was in central station waiting for my train to go home when I suddently realized that I shoudn’t have eaten spicy food at the Indian restaurant…
Please let me add no more explanations to the reason why I rushed for a toilet.
I asked on the run for the toilet in a fast-food store, but they told me “the floor above”.
I was kinda surprised about that answer because in Italy we do have a law that makes it mandatory for any business related to the public to offer total and free use of the toilet while the business is open (and even if you are NOT a costumer).
Luckily for me I had a 10kr coin in my wallet, but there were two or three people waiting in line with a worthless 50kr banknote, and they looked like they needed to go so badly to the toilet that they would pay 5 times the price to get in there!
Is it possible that in Sweden there’s the allemansrätt in the forest but not the right to go pee for free in the city?
Next time you visit Sweden, take a bunch of 10 and 5 kronor coins with you, trust me, they may end up being more important than all of your paper money and credit cards!
PS: I heard from my room mate Mona, that it may be true a legend that states that sometimes when guys are in need for a toilet they use a empty cup of coffe or soda while alone in a blocked elevator in a public transport station.
Need to try and see if it works…
And so it happened, one day I woke up knowing that I had a plane from Fiumicino di Arlanda.
It was the day that one of my biggest dreams became true.
I remember looking outside the windows of the airplane, from Germany on there was a layer of clouds which covered the whole ground. I was expecing it.
I remember also the airplane starting the descent manuever, looking outside with the eye of a pilot I saw the airplane piercing 3 layers of clouds! And I thought that the sun had no chance to reach the ground.
Then all of a sudden there was a lot of green around us, so much treetops that I was really wondering if there was a runway in front of us
Some people told me that Sweden is grey and sad, but looking around me at that time I though it was grey, green but beautiful.
I had a place to stay in the south of the city, on the other side compared to the airport, and it was a thursday night.
I was tired but I said to myself that I would get the train and the the taxi. (not only the taxi as planned).
Walking by the airport I say the advertisement of the bus shuttle service : we run on biofuel.
And I decided to take my first biofueled bus ride!
But I saw a bunch of cars that I didin’t expect to see on a Thursday evening.
And only after the trip I made to get to my place I realized that I really underesimated the size of Stockholm. It is quite a larger city than the one I had pictured in my mind.
I will barely mention how I felt breathless looking at the city reflecting in the water while the taxi (powered by biofuel!) was bringing me to my destination.
After about one week I had the chance to walk in Galma Stan, as I also traveled back and forth all around the bus and tunnelbana system while I was looking for a permanent place to stay (which I found after a long and painful research!).
And by doing this I had the chance to meet plenty of people, Swedish and not.
I have to say that the Swede’s are really nice people, nowhere close as the cold-nordic-stereotype that people that never even talked to a Swede believe they are.
In less than a week the temperature dropped and I saw the first snowflake of the year while I was walking during the evening in Kungholmen.
I was surrounded by this snowstorm and felt a little nervous, but I became extremely calm when I saw that most of the people around me just kept doing what they were doing!
People kept cycling, kept pushing their baby’s trolley and kept walking on the streets keeping their’s lover’s hand.
I keep feeling a little chilly even with my best (Italian) winter gear and people keep saying to me “this is not even the winter, is still autumn!”.
I saw a couple Swedish boys escorting their girlfriends to the bus stop and kissing them goodbye even with jackets much lighter than mine. I guess the Swedes have the heat inside!
When tourists come to see my country (Italy) they are astonished by the beauty and the history of it.
When Italians go abroad and find themselves together, they are surprised on how people relate in such a different way than their homeland.
But…when you do study the history of Italy… you see a lot of different armies, cities and cultures clashing together… but you keep missing where the Italians really come from!
And, is there such thing as an “Italian” in the end?
I kept asking myself all those questions when I realized that the answer is “no”, but instead of being somehow put down by this answer I did realize that the beauty and the amazing culture you can still feel in Italy today comes from chaos more than order.
Just to make a quick example: a few years ago we had the first ett hundra femtio år (150 years) of the unity of Italy.
150 years sound like a very long time… but if you think about it and make a comparison, you find that, for example, the USA came together on the 4rth of July of 1776 and even though we consider it a “young country” it’s more than 200 years!
Just to make another comparison, the Reign of Naples which covered a long area in the center-south of Italy lasted from 1302 to 1816… and that’s almost 500 years!
And since we had such a variety of cultures way before becoming united and having a republic, I questioned myself if any of the old reigns of Italy had, somewhere and somehow, a Swedish legacy…
And to my surprise the answer is… YES.
I was doing some small research on the crusades when I came across to a population that lived in the center-south side of Italy and took also part in the crusades: they were called the “Normanni” in Italian.
When I heard that name I realized that it was too close to the italianization of “North men” to be just a coincidence, and my research went deeper:
The Normanni were a population that also included some vikings and came from scandinavia (including Sweden!) and conquered part of the old UK and the north-west side of France that was then called as you know “Normandie” (North men, again!).
But how you can see from this picture the men of the north did not stop here… they came to my country!
I always wondered how some south-italian people I know have blonde hair and blue eyes, just like most scandinavians, and now I know the answer.
The Normanni came to Naples and they putted themselves at the service of the Duke of Naples Sergio IV around 1030.
He decided to let them have an outpost and they founded the city of Aversa (which is BTW a beautiful place to see), just 20 chilometers north of Naples.
In the following years a scandinavian family called Hauteville, “Altavilla” italianized, come from the north to change the history of Italy.
At the time Sicily was under the Arabian dominion and being an island it was almost invincible… until Ruggero d’Altavilla, taking advantage of an inner dispute between arabians in sicily, stormed the island and conquered it, expanding also to the tunisian border.
And for the first time in centuries the center-south of Italy was finally united!
The scandinavian dominion of the new reign was something never seen in the history of Italy, it was fair and peaceful….
Even if they had to live between the pressure of the pope, the arabians and Bisantium, there was so much harmony that the muslims living in Sicily lived in peace with the cristians for a very long time. (Which was such a strange thing during the time of the crusades!)
Tancredi, the last king of the Normanni, was the Count of Lecce, the Duke of Athens and the King of Sicily.
At his death, Herny IV of Germany would reclaim the throne of the reign of Sicily because of his marriage with Costanza d’Altavilla, and that put to an end the scandinavian dynasty of Italy.