Every year around August 10th, Italians flee to higher ground and look to the stars. Why, you might ask? It is San Lorenzo’s day and it falls during the period of the Perseid Meter Shower – which means, a sky full of shooting stars and for Italians: The Tears of San Lorenzo.
Not growing up Catholic, I knew very little about San Lorenzo (Lawrence) or really any other saints. He is a beloved saint to Italians who was the “keeper of the treasures of the church” in the early 3rd century and when asked by the Roman Prefect to present that treasure - what he presented were people – the sick, the poor, and the weary. You see, he had distributed the church’s treasure to the poor and needy instead of handing it over to the Romans. This enraged the Prefect, he arrested Lorenzo and according to legend, had him roasted alive on a grill over burning coals. The shooting stars during this meteor shower are said to represent the tears he shed while being roasted, thinking about the people he considered far more valuable “treasures” than the jewels and gold that had been in the coffers.
So in honor of this beloved saint, on August 10th, Italians flee the city and find a spot to watch the astrological show. There are usually many star gazing events on this day – dinners and events that take place away from the city lights. We live near the beautiful Euganean Hills (Colli Euganei) so went up to a lovely spot called CasaMarina and with about a dozen or so other people, watched the sky for the shooting stars. This year, the peak of the shower is around the 11th - 12th so there weren’t too many shooting stars to see yet, though we did managed to see about 4 – which to be honest, is more than this city girl had ever seen in her lifetime. Luckily for us, it was a gorgeous night, with clear skies, a million stars, and a nice pleasant breeze. And while we will go back up around the peak to see more, it was awesome to connect to the culture by following this tradition that Italians have been doing for years.
So, if you find yourself in Italy mid-August around the 10th, check your local papers and tourist offices – find out where to go for the best view of the sky, or see what events are planned that night. It’s a great way to experience local culture, you might even happen upon a small group of astronomers who will let you look through their telescope J and who can pass up on a magical night full of shooting stars. I’ve made my wishes, you should too.