Trapani and Folklore: the Holy Week

It is particularly significant for me to write about Trapani, as it is my hometown. In my previous article for Travelicious (click here to check it out!) I gave a general overview of the city’s history and culture, as well as some suggestions for touristic points. But Trapani’s charm is not limited to summertime only: being full of folklore, there is a lot more going on. An example of it are the town events taking place during the Holy Week.

As I suggested in my previous article, Trapani’s Catholic heritage is permeant in the city’s culture, and the folkloristic activities taking place before Easter are part of our oldest traditions. As one may expect, they have a strong religious focus, but only a part of the citizens who take part in them is animated by Catholic faith: indeed, they are mostly religious practices. As I have already mentioned, due to the participation of Trapanese people, they are commonly seen as folkloristic activities. Everyone is welcome to join, and the tourists are usually delighted to.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week. Among all the other celebrations, this one is the most religious one: a procession takes place, with all participants holding palm leaves or olives branches, which recall Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem, and the beginning of His Passion. As the Bible narrates, in when Jesus entered the city, he was welcomed by the habitants waving palm leaves and olives branches at his passage: from that derives the procession tradition.

The procession inevitably ends with the I still wanted to mention it in this post though, for people who do not know much about the traditions taking place during the Holy Week.

Holy Tuesday: Madonna della pietà

That signs the beginning of the Holy week for Trapanese people. It is a procession starting at Chiesa del Purgatorio, in the afternoon of Holy Tuesday at 16.00. During such parade, a portray of the Virgin Mary is taken around in Trapani’s historic center and surroundings. Is not exactly known when the procession took place for the first time, but for sure it is very antique: the primary documents referring to it strike back to 1850 (more references at

Holy Wednesday: Madonna del Popolo

This procession is even more antique than the other, taking place in 1723 for the first time. What is peculiar about it is that once the Icon arrives at Piazza Lucatelli, the “taper exchange” between the Massari and Fruttivendoli, the two fraternities who operates this procession.

Holy Thursday: I Sepolcri

This is one of the most significant moments of the Holy Weeks for Catholic believers. Sepolcri is the name which refers to the altar displayed in the several churches of the city, which are decorated with wheat seeds sprouted in the dark. This event is strictly connected to Biblical episodes again: the believers converge in the churches in adoration of the Eucharist, in memory of Jesus washing the Apostils feet, and the loneliness in the Gethsemane, the olive grove where he was betrayed and caught. It is a moment of profound faith for many. However, for many other people in the city, it’s just a moment to enjoy a walk in the city center and take a look at the decorated churches.

Good Friday: I Misteri

This is the most famous procession held in Trapani for the Holy Week. I Misteri are 18 groups of simulacra of Jesus Christ and the Lady of Sorrows. The 79 statues, which represent 18 moments of The Passion, they have been created by Trapanese craftsmen in ‘600 – ‘700, using wood, glue, and fabric. They are real art pieces. During the procession, the statues are carried along the streets of the city center by volunteers who carry the floats by hand, with the typical swinging movement annacata. The procession is big, accompanied by a band, believers holding candles and so on. It is a very involving moment, even if you’re not a religious person.

Click here to watch part of the procession!

Group “Gesù nell’orto”

The procession starts at 14.00 PM on Good Friday afternoon, in the Chiesa del Purgatorio, where the statues are kept during the year. The parade is long, and many streets of the center are sealed off from traffic for the occasion. The simulacra are brought around all night long, coming back to the Chiesa del Purgatorio di almost 24 hours after their departure. Taking part to the whole procession can be extremely tiring.

Still, on Good Friday there is one more event taking place in Chiesa Santa Maria di Gesù: the descent from the cross, popularly known as “a scinnuta ‘cruci di Santamariagesù.” This representation was introduced by the Jesuits in ancient times; it is a commemoration of Jesus’ deposition from the Cross. It takes place almost at the same time with the beginning of the Misteri, but until the ’60 the procession was allowed only after the commemoration’s ending. The events consist in the deposition of a simulacrum of Jesus from the Cross, which is then enveloped in a white sheet and adored by the believers.

Easter Monday: Pasquetta!

There is no specific event taking place on Holy Saturday, being it the day of mourning for Jesus’ death, and as regards Easter there is not much special to say: believer families go to Church to attend the Mass, and then everyone has lunch with his family. So, I’ll go straight to Easter Monday: Pasquetta’s barbeque!

It is a tradition for Sicilian people on Easter Monday to have a huge barbeque with families and friends: sausages and bruschette and carcocciole (artichokes) are the main dishes. If the weather is good (as it is often), it’s gonna be a great moment.

There are plenty of places where to go in Trapani’s countryside for Pasquetta, but the most famous and convenient one is probably Bosco Scurace. It is a bit far from the city, but there you’d find pick-nick areas and free barbeques available, you’d only need to bring the wood, your food and enjoy the day. You might want to make sure not to leave too late because you might find the place already too crowded.

I enjoyed writing this post so much; it’s a pleasure to write about my hometown and what makes it so unique 😊 hope to see you all next year, write me your feedback in the comment below!

Survival Guide for International Students of Shandong University, Jinan (济南,山东大学)

Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province, the city where the main headquarters of Shandong University is located. It is highly populated (over 7,000,000 habitants), still for Chinese standards doesn’t really count as a big metropolis. For me, and for many other international students who happened to find themselves in a study abroad period in Shanda, or decided to take their BA or Ma there, that city is filled with memories.

I’m already back in Europe while I’m writing this post, and honestly, the chances that I’ll be back to Jinan soon are not many, but the memories of there stay with me. Of course, in the beginning, it has not been easy to get myself adjusted to China, and among my friends, there’re many who’ve experienced cultural shock. Nothing that hasn’t been overcome with the time, but arriving in China for a study abroad can be harsh. Therefore, I’ve decided to outline a small guide about the city, specifically for international students who are about to settle in Jinan’s Shandong University for a while. Who knows, it might turn out to be useful for somebody 😉

1. Explore the city: main touristic points of interests

As I’ve mentioned above, Jinan is not a big touristic city. Still, there are some pretty cool things to see, and because it is not a famous capital of China, it’s good to avoid the floods of tourists you’d find elsewhere (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou…).
Here is a tiny list of places you’ll have the chance to visit for sure, especially if you happen to have a Chinese Buddy from the study abroad program, these are the defaults spots to get to know the city.

As international students in China, you cannot miss a visit to Daminghu (大明湖), the Lake Park, in the city center. The Park is free entrance for everyone, and if you want to see it at its best, I’d recommend an evening visit with the buildings lighten up (till 23.00, so don’t take it too easy). Another must is the city’s hot spring park, quite famous because of Jinan’s nickname “the city of hot springs.” Unfortunately, there is a small entrance fee that you need to pay to get in, but it is worth it because the park is unique in its style, and you can learn about Jinan’s peculiarities.

Finally, my favorite one: the street food! Everyone in Jinan must know Furongjie (芙蓉街), where you can find lots of street food stands, with much variety and an affordable price (most of the times). The street is located in city center, very close to the hudong area (the traditional quarters). It is intriguing to have a walk in there if you want to have an idea of Jinan’s life before the Economic Reform, where “genuine Chinese life” can be found.

In Furongjie you’ll find roasted meat sticks, stinky tofu, even sushi and delicious Muslim bread. There’s the option to eat while standing for sure, but if you feel like sitting down (away from the stinky tofu maybe), there are also plenty of cheap and good restaurant nearby. Which leads me to the following point:

2. A new world of food specialties (never seen a spring roll)

What is the first thing you are always sure to find on the menu of a cheap Chinese restaurant? Spring rolls of course. Well, here is the breaking news: spring rolls are Vietnamese food, you wouldn’t find it easily in China. But don’t lose heart, because you are going to have the chance to discover real Chinese cuisine, and to fall in love with it.
If you are Shandong University students, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the canteen of the campus of course. A canteen is a canteen, it’s very cheap for the students, but the food is not the best quality. Personally, I used to like the canteen-food a lot, and there is also a full variety: four floors, quality, and the price raise the higher you go. However, if that’s not your cup of tea, there is plenty of restaurants all around the campus. There is something to be found literally at each gate of the campus, but the most convenient one is probably the North gate. There are some tiny good restaurants right opposite the entrance, but also if you’re looking for something unique, just walk towards the Catholic Church at Hongjialou, the other university campus, and you will not be disappointed.

Finally, if you want to experience Jinan’s typical cuisine, I would recommend going to Shimao (世贸), the city’s shopping mall. There you can find many restaurants, some more expensive than the others, where Jinan’s dishes are the specialties. Give it a shot!

3. Nightlife, yes there is some

International students = party hard; everyone knows that. Jinan is a perfect city if you want to improve your Chinese because it is not “westernized,” but this also means not much entertainment after 9 pm. Are there no clubs? Yes, there are some, but there is also the possibility of finding yourself and your friend surrounded by sketchy businessmen sitting on the sofa with pretty girls, smoking and drink a lot. Love Song is the most famous club among the international students, but the entrance is a bit expensive (50 RBM for girls, 100 for boys), although it is open bar. Besides that, you can also take a look at the Space Bar in the city center or the other pubs around the campus.

But if you really want to have a Chinese experience, then you must go to KTV. There is one at about 15 minutes walk from the central campus, as in all KTVs you pay according to how much time you want to spend here, but it is very cheap compared to the other places. And you can stay all night 😉 Officially, drinks from the outside are not allowed, you could buy something there or sneak some bottles in (as we always managed to do). Try KTV once, and you’ll get addicted to it.

So this is my overview of international students living in Jinan, I hope it can be helpful for someone 😊 It can be difficult to find yourself in Jinan, but I can tell you that all the people I met, in spite of the initial difficulties had a great time at Shandong University: nobody wants to leave in the end. Wish you a lot of fun!