I wasn’t visiting anyone in particular as I walked through Assisi’s cemetery on November 1st, but everyone I met there was: visitors had armfuls of lilies or bright yellow chrysanthemums for the gravesites of loved ones, some were scrubbing family plot headstones, others lovingly polished the framed photos of their deceased and two sisters chatted as they snipped lilies for the vase before the photo of their father (on his Vespa!).
Bunches of white button chrysanthemums lay on the ground as they’d be visiting their aunts’ graves next
On November 1st (Ognissanti, All Saints’ Day) and 2nd (la Festa dei Morti, All Souls’ Day), the Italians head to “visit” their relatives, all of them: visits can take all day, depending on how many cemeteries one has to visit (stops are made even at the tombs of very distant relatives).
If you are in Italy in early November, don’t miss a visit to the local cimitero, transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors as visitors arrange chrysanthemums of rust, deep yellows, creamy whites and burnished oranges on their relatives, above-ground tombs, many of them, architectural wonders.
I stayed longer than I had planned that day, enjoying the quiet conversations of families sharing memories at the tombs of their morti.
Each tenderly caressed the deceased’s photo as greeting, before arranging any flowers.
I followed an older couple as they wandered up and down the cemetery lanes, reminiscing on old friends, relatives: “qui e’ Chiara…ti ricordi Francesco?….ah, povero Paolo….che grande donna, Giuliana!….”
Before I left, I wandered a bit, stopping at the tombs of many I knew, farm friends, townspeople, feeling connected to them through happy memories.
As I left, I met two nuns, bringing flowers to deceased “co-sorelle” and beaming.
A sense of peace prevailed.
Read about la pasta dolce, another Umbrian link to early November feast days.
See the beauty of the Assisi cemetery here: