Rituals – Northern Italy, October 2022


On the tops of high rises in the mountains there are often crucifixes or some other symbol of Christianity. One might assume that these are symbols of a culture and a people for whom religion is important.

Yet all the evidence points in a different direction.

As I read in an English language Italian website: polls show time and again that when asked about their religious belief, the Italians are amongst the least religious people in Europe (the highest being in Eastern Europe}. Striking indeed for the country home to the Vatican. 

And yet as one Italian explained to me: ‘the rituals are still important to us, we get married in a church and are babies are baptised there and we die there too.’

Coincidentally that was something we witnessed at Livigno when we left the small hotel where we were staying and descended into the main town to go to the supermarket. We had to pass the church on the way. Every morning its bells ring but on this morning we had noticed that the bells were ringing for an inordinately long time, the echoes filling the valley.

We found out why: there was a funeral. As we passed the church, we saw a procession of priests dressed in white tunics and long flowing purple frocks and behind then a large crowd of locals, dressed in their best clothes. The priest leading the procession held a kind of icon on top of long pole bordered by black cloth.

Later, on our return journey, we passed the open door of the church where an organ was playing and people were singing. It was a strange scene in the midst of endless mass of shops, boutiques, restaurants etc. – a reminder that once Livigno was a village and very poor one at that  – but also that rituals were still very much a part of Italian culture. 

And something which I as a traveller appreciated. 









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