Italian Traditions: The legend of Innamorata
- WTI Magazine #93 Jul 14, 2017
Every year on July 14 the Legend of Innamorata is celebrated in Capoliveri, in the Elba Island, Tuscany. It is said that the legend of Innamorata originated back in 1534, when the coasts of Elba Island were sacked by the pirate Barbarossa and his Saracen crew. The legend tells about two young lovers, Lorenzo and Maria, whose love was, however, hindered by the noble family of him.
Their love had blossomed on the beach of Innamorata, closeby Capoliveri, which later became their secret place where to exchange love promises. The Innamorata legend has now become one of the most characteristic summer events in Capoliveri.
On July 14, Capoliveri and Innamorata Bay wait the sunset to perform the representation of this legend, dating back to the 17th century. The traditional torchlight procession with historical costumes through the lanes of Capoliveri starts the event, whose promoter was Domingo Cardenas, a Spanish nobleman who, disinherited by his father and forced into exile, settled in the land of Innamorata, called at time "Cala de lo fero" (Iron bay), given the proximity to the iron mines of Calamita.
The legend tells that one evening of July the nobleman believed to have seen Maria: "her shadow, graceful and gentle, was standing against the vastness of the horizon lit by a myriad of bright flames; her cry, heard rising above the roar of the waves..." The mind of Domingo returned to the fishermen's story, which dates back this legend in 1534. In that year, the coasts of Elba were invaded and pillaged by the pirate Barbarossa and his Saracen crew, but two young lovers like Lorenzo and Maria didn't care about it. Their love, hampered by his rich family because of her poverty, was too big and drew its strength from sea.
Their eyes crossed the first time by the beach, while, due to heavy sea, Lorenzo was trying to shelter the fishermen's boats. Since that moment, the beach became their secret refuge, the place to exchange vows of love and tenderness. Right there he decided to ask her hand.
That afternoon, was on July 14, Lorenzo came in advance on the beach; from the top of the path, Maria wandered with her eyes looking for her beloved, but she saw a gang of men on a sloop coming ashore... Helpless she witnessed the fight that ensued; Lorenzo fought with honor but, exhausted, he was captured. Maria ran towards the beach in time to see the pirate ship throwing away a dying body. Recognizing her lover, Maria threw herself into the sea, in a last desperate surge of love. Later was found only her shawl, caught on a rock that since then has been called "Ciarpa".
Shocked by that vision, to help Maria regain her Lorenzo, Domingo promised himself that, in years to come, he would light a thousand torches lighting up the beach, which was renamed the beach of Innamorata; also, to ensure the continuity of the celebration, he decided to put a clause in his will, that has been handed down from father to son, with which his descendants have kept alive the tradition of Innamorata, and so it was until WWI.
The legend of Innamorata was resumed later, in 1985, by the Historical Re-enactment Committee, founded and chaired by Michelangelo Venturini, who, on 14 July, each year renews the promise made by Domingo Cardenas: the beach shines thanks to thousand torches and a procession of people in costume parades through the land and the sea in search of the two young lovers.
Today the commemoration of Innamorata's Legend starts with a traditional costume parade, a torchlight procession illuminates the lanes of Capoliveri and animated by drums that keep the march rhythm. After that, the procession moves through some free shuttle bus to Innamorata beach, already lit on shore by hundreds of torches. An act of the legend is represented by the beach: upon a rock the young Maria is waiting for her time to drop herself among the waves removing from her shoulders the shawl (ciarpa). After the performance of Maria, the shawl is disputed in a rowing challenge through a mixed track starting from the beach. The winner boat is then entitled to the shawl's recovery; after, on the crowded beach, the winner crew is awarded while the young Mary is rescued and greeted by big applauses. The festival continues with a wonderful fireworks show played on water and a feast prepared at a restaurant next to the beach where the evening follows with good music and fun.