My beloved mother in law Anna writes down some memories of her childhood in Padua, Veneto region.
“My husband and I were both born in the 1950s in Padua, Veneto region, when the cultural and social transformation was very strong but we distinctly remember some old professions:
• The knife grinder (el moleta in the local dialect) who shaped scissors and knives
• The umbrella maker (l’ombrelaro) who fixed umbrellas
• The mattress maker (el stramassaro) who came to fix the old wool mattress
• The chair maker (el caregheta) for repairing old straw chairs
• The rag dealer (el strassaro) for collecting old second-hand garments
• The water melon seller (el molonaro)
• The shoe repairer that resoled shoes
• The street sweeper arriving with his tricycle
Basically the artisan would use his manual skills anywhere, almost with a home delivery kind of service, using a bicycle as his favourite means of transport and offering a simple but reliable service. This reality has completely disappeared!
Padua University and the world famous Basilica di Sant’Antonio (Saint Anthony Cathedral, known as “Il Santo”) have always been the main focus for the town of Padua. The strongest traditions still ongoing are the ones connecting to either one or the other. Padua is one of the few places in Italy where life as a student at University is marked by not only a personal cultural development but also precise rituals that are rooted in the medieval era. It is common to see students strolling in the streets of the city centre during the first days of November when the University celebrates the beginning of the academic year, or perhaps on the 8th of February when they commemorate the student riots leading to the insurgency of the town against Austria and Hungary in 1848. On these occasions students elegantly walk around in the historical centre covered with mantels and headgears showing the colours of their belonging faculty. For all students it comes the day of the “papiro” ritual, bay leaves and pulling faces when they graduate. Papiri are long pieces of paper where the graduate’s friends draw him/her and write down some moments of their life together in an exaggerated and grotesque way, with cartoons and humorous texts. This poster of poor behaviour is hanged outside the faculty and the graduate has to read its content out loud during the celebrations! Consequently on periods when graduations are more frequent the streets in the centre of Padua get all wallpapered by tapiri left on the same spot for days, they almost become part of the cultural heritage of the city and appear to be an interesting and peculiar surprise for foreign tourists who stop to contemplate them. The one of papiri is a unique tradition of Padua and originates from the habit of the first graduates of leaving a mark of their academic journey. Behind the humour of friends and classmates lies the message that a degree is a starting point and not a finishing line, it represents a call for humility.The tradition about the Santo (Saint Anthony) sees a long procession of believers and representatives of artisan associations, followed by the statue of the Santo. This happens the 13th of June every year on the so called Festa di Sant’Antonio. From our childhood till today the town of Padua changed face. A rampant immigration is shaping the town, but it remains a crucial centre for academic studies that still attracts students from all over the world.”
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