Candles Crossed


In Italy we don’t only reason in kg, meters and Celsius. We usually call every town ward with the name of the Saint Patron of the local church, and if more churches have the same saint in the same city, well there must be another name, be it the fraction or the ward whatsoever. Yes, I agree, we are weird people. My native church is known as “Borsano” as there’s another ward of the city dedicated to the same SS. Apostles Peter and Paul. Also, Borsano was an independent municipality till the 30s, and calling it with another name would sound confusing.

After WW2, Borsano became the new home to the ethnic Italian refugees escaping from the mass killings in Rijeka, Istria and Dalmatia. Their dedicated alley (Via Giuliani e Dalmati, indeed meaning “Istrian and Dalmatian People Drive”) became a ghetto over the time (little town’s narrow-minded people are not easy to deal with, ouch). In 1970, another wave would hit the quarter, with new Italian refugees coming from Lybia, after Gaddafi’s golpe.  Today, that same alley and the entire little Borsano are home to people from Eastern Europe, Africa, Sri Lanka and Latin America. Even though tiny and small, that portion of town is extraordinarily culture-contaminated. They all had (and still have, sometimes) a hard time handling racism, prejudice and bad faith.

Then, six years ago, a new priest comes in town and turns what once was a ghetto into a pivot point for the whole Borsano and Busto Arsizio. He brings a new vision with him and wants the little town to open wider and appreciate its multicultural identity, broaden understanding and foster dialogue. For his want, Borsano itself today has five quarters, each one with a different saint and a different color. Today Via Giuliani e Dalmati is the gem of Saint Blaise yellow quarter and has become the capitol of remembrance.

“The Feast of All Gents”, held in May, unifies these old and new immigration stories under one celebration. The Feast of “Saint Blaise”, celebrated the 3rd of Feb for one week, features a full schedule of initiatives to share the memories of the Istrian-Dalmatian exodus, including movie nights, concerts, religious celebrations and special events, involving local survivors and witnesses.

Not to be missed on Saint Blaise, Physician, Bishop and Protector of the Throat: The blessing, with two consecrated candles crossed over the throat, and a special (priest-blessed) mitre-shaped shortcrust cookie called SanBiagino, created and made every year with love, dedicated by a clever woman from the quarter. She does all on her own, working for days to make everything perfect. She belongs to the Italian immigrants from Lybia, and I am her proud daughter. :)


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