Friday, May 23, 2014
In 2002, my wife and I made the first of many trips to Sonnino to visit my family, eat brilliant Sonninese food and learn more about my roots and my heritage. It was during this first visit that I was told over and over by family and friends that I must return at some point to do Le Torce, that it was a rite of passage for anyone who is Sonninese. To my American ears, Le Torce sounded like an other-worldly experience…bonfires, giant torches, firing guns and hiking all night through the mountains singing songs. In 2008, with the arrival of my first child 4 months away, I recognized that my life was about to get a lot busier. I made the decision that this was the year that I would do Le Torce. I purchased at ticket to Rome, bought some good hiking shoes and studied my Italian dictionary (I couldn’t find a Sonninese dictionary!). Though my great grandparents left Sonnino for American nearly 100 years ago, the second I arrived in Sonnino I felt like I was home. Coming for Le Torce was another way for me to connect with my roots and the heritage of my ancestors. I have always felt so welcomed and well cared for when I and my family have visited Sonnino. My experience with Le Torce was no different. The week prior to Le Torce I received encouragement from everyone I met, wishing me a great experience and an easy hike. All of my family and friends in Sonnino kept me well feed and well rested. The day of Le Torce I gathered in the church with others overwhelmed by the experience. It was amazing to see all of the people of Sonnino come out to celebrate. The energy was incredible. People were laughing, singing, firing guns and hugging each other. As we left the church I took a deep breath and thought about the generations of Sonninese before me who had had experienced the same feelings of excitement and anticipation. As we hiked through the mountains I had the opportunity to truly appreciate the beautiful countryside and enjoy the company of my fellow Le Torce participants. People taught me songs, shared their food and drink and encouraged me keep going. Walking through the mountains and countryside, I felt a deep sense of connectedness to my family, my culture and to the land. It was a sort of walking meditation. When we reached to bonfire to light our torches I was able to witness one of the most beautiful parts of Le Torce. There is nothing like the site of hundreds of Sonninese snaking down the mountain, singing songs with torches lighting the night sky. I ended the night exhausted but overjoyed with my Le Torce experience. Places are important but it is people who matter most. My amazing Le Torce experience was possible because of all of the support that I received from my family and friends in Sonnino. I can’t say enough about the kindness and generosity of my fellow Sonninese. It is my hope that every Sonninese, no matter what part of the world they live in, has the opportunity to do Le Torce at least once in their lives.