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Monday, September 6, 2010

La Macchina di Santa Rosa - Viterbo September 3rd is a significant date in the local calendar of events for Viterbo.



Photo of Macchina New for 2009 - Copyright All rights reserved by PaPier66

Yes September 3rd is a very important date in the local calendar as it is when the transport of La Macchina di Santa Rosa takes place annually. It is apparently an event unique in the world; the existing Macchina is approx 100 feet in height and weighs around 5 tons. The legend as to the existence of the Macchina is fascinating, in brief Santa Rosa was a young girl who lived in the first half of the thirteenth century, whom thanks to her abilities and prophesies was made a Saint. The cult of Santa Rosa saw the creation of an annual procession which re-evoked the removal of her body from a church in Viterbo to the convent.

The memory of this youthful Saint is perpetuated by the unique ceremony held in her honour on the evening of September 3rd every year. This event consists of a procession in which the “machine” dedicated to Santa Rosa is carried on the shoulders of hundreds of strong young men of Viterbo, along the streets of the historic town centre for about half a mile. The Macchina sparkles with the lights that decorate it, the large watching crowds line the streets, where they are wide enough and applaud it. The macchina is carried by 130 Viterbesi men at a time, known as Facchini dressed in white with red scarves, for each stage of the route from Porta Romana along a route of the major streets of Viterbo, concluding with a strenuous climb up to the Piazza di Santa Rosa, its final resting place. Each Macchina has a life span of around five or six years, after which a new one is designed and built after a competition has taken place to pick the designer. They seem to have got bigger over the years and are these days around 30metres in height and weighs around three plus tons.

It is a touching and important annual spectacle for the locals. It is impossible to describe properly, you need to see for yourself and be there to get caught in the emotion of the moment. Some years but not every year we go ourselves to experience the atmosphere first hand. Last time we were lucky enough to have the most fantastic view of the proceedings thanks to an invitation to view from a friend’s family owned shop.

Understandably the town is heaving with humanity for this event and one needs to get there early to get a good viewing point and find somewhere to park outside the city walls. It is estimated that the crowds attending normally number over fifty thousand people.

Two years ago there was a noticeably increased police activity because Viterbo was honoured with the presence of Berlusconi. We read in the newspaper the next day that he received a ‘standing ovation’ when he promised the commune that Viterbo Airport will definitely be going ahead. As a side note some progress but not much as been made since that promise.
It is a long evening but well worth the time waiting, just for that fantastic emotional sight when the Macchina passes by your viewing point! The atmosphere is one of a party. The procession is supposed to start at 9pm but in 2008, thanks to Berlusconi did not get underway until after 10pm!
  The first outing for the current 'Macchina Santa Rosa' was last year, in 2009.

The day after this event is a local public holiday for Viterbo and the streets of the city are host to the largest street market I have ever seen. It seems to sell everything you could possibly need or want, plus all those things you do not need. We often go along as also on show is the ‘Macchina Santa Rosa’ at the Monastery, well worth viewing close up. It looks so different in the daylight.

Macchina 2008 Model- Last appearance for this one.


Macchina 2009 Model- First appearance.

Close up of detail on the current Macchina.

 A trip down memory lane, a photograph I took in 2004.


This is a truly amazing event and definitely worth seeing, the experience of actually being there is actually very emotional. The Italians really do put their heart and soul into events such as this.

This year we were unable to attend in person but we were still able to enjoy the experience through the medium of television. We were having supper at a local restaurant where we were able to enjoy watching the Santa Rosa Macchina Procession with other customers on the television. Everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion even if we were not actually there. Great fun.

If you are interested in seeing my photos from previous years they can be found in My Flickr Albums

Macchina di Santa Rosa - September 2008

Macchina di Santa Rosa - September 2009

We know an American couple who attended the Procession on Friday evening and found it to be an amazing experience. They are spending a year in Italy and are writing a blog about their experiences. Our Year In Italy If you do not already know this blog do visit this post to see what they have to say about La Macchina di Santa Rosa.

Mamma Mia Santa Rosa


Macchina Santa Rosa 2010 - Partenza da piazza del teatro - Leaving the theatre square.

Courtesy of mrkoch

I also found this excellent video on YouTube of this years procession taken just as the Macchina Santa Rosa was about to start its final ascent. It is just over two minutes long and well worth watching if you are able to do so as you will get a real feeling of the atmosphere in Viterbo on the evening of September 3rd 2010.

Finally here is a picture of the hill that the Macchina was just about to climb in that video! This was taken the day after the event last year when it is possible to go and view the Macchina close up, which as you have seen from my photos above, it is quite amazing.


  1. Oh, I've never heard about this machine....you opened a world to me!!!

    Buona serata,
    Zaira xx

  2. Good Morning Lindy Lou...
    Oh thank you so much for sharing the Macchina di Santa Rosa celebration. What a magnificent piece it is. My gosh in the tons and only 130 men to carry it. I imagine it is quite a site to see. The roses are so beautiful on the current one, and I love the gold color so much more than the silver color of before. I love the leaf details and the angel is so beautiful. I can see the lights on it too. I imagine it is wall to wall people for the event.

    I have never heard of this celebration. I so love to come and visit as you always have something SO beautiful to share. I cannot thank you enough for taking me along today. I have enjoyed myself immensely.

    Many hugs and so much love sweetie...Sherry

  3. It just amazes me at how religious events such as these attract the masses. I don't know of anything similiar in the north, so I wonder if it has to do with the central and southern regions?

  4. I don't think that we have anything to rival that here in the UK. The nearest must be Guy Fawkes night or fireworks on New Years Eve.

  5. This is new to me too. A macchina? Does it contain pieces of a saint?

  6. Dear Linda , so impressed again by your blog , and happy that I can find it easily now , How impressive the Machina Rosa procession is , how much is visual excitement/ religious memories ? Best wishes , Joyce

  7. One of the things I love most about blogging is that I'm learning about other parts of the world and the traditions and cultures of people and places I will never see in person. This is very interesting and the pictures with the lights are just beautiful.

  8. Wow, what an impressive event! I had no idea of the magnitude or importance of it. Thank you for such an in depth report that makes us feel we were there! – g

  9. Hi!! You are very welcome! I'm glad you enjoy them! Have a great day!!

  10. Zaira - One of the things I love about blogging, all the new things I learn about :)
    Sherry - I am more than happy to share my life here with you and grateful that you enjoy reading about it. It is a truly amazing spectacle with crowds of over 50,000 people.
    Rowena - I think places such as Genoa and Venice, celebrate religious festivals with pomp
    and ceremony don't they?
    Cheshire Wife - The equivalent of Guy Fawkes here seem to be the big Firework displays that are put on in the summer months especially around Ferragosto. I have posted about these events previously. I do not know of anything similar it is thought to be unique in the world.
    Lakeviewer - Yes Macchina!! Odd I know! No I do not think so. Her remains (?) I believe are what everyone files past when they visit the monastery at the time of this event. Most of the material on the internet is in Italian, you will be able to glean a lot more information about this event if you Google it.
    Joyce - Visual and religious, the latter still plays a very important part in such events here in Italy. I know the Facchini attend various church services.
    Sue - I do so agree with your comments, I also enjoy the opportunity to learn about other cultures.
    Georgianna - It is an impressive and important event, I am delighted you felt the atmosphere!
    Sweet Life - Thankyou , what did you think of the Macchina had you ever heard of it?

  11. Very impressive as a work of art and a powerful religious symbol. I would get all mushy inside if I were there, you know people's energy is very contagious.

  12. Here in our Protestant Northern areas we have no such events. In Bavaria and Austria there are the Passionsspiele and other processions, and probably in Poland there are such events, too. It must be a Catholic thing. Very interesting to me! I would feel a bit strange, but would like to look.
    Still wanted to say that each time I look at your header photo, I sigh! Such blue water!!

  13. I love Italian culture. This is beautiful.

  14. That sounds amazing!! Adding it to my "to do" list!! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  15. Simony - It sure is and I do :)

    Angela - Yes, the Catholic countries seem to be the ones with these religious celebrations. Glad you like the header, I was contemplating changing it, but maybe should leave well alone for now.

    Velva - So do I and yes truly beautiful.

    Jeannie - A pleasure, hopefully you will soon be posting about similar events in your region.


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