For hundreds of years the people of Tuscany gathered together on their farms on a designated evening of the week to share stories and traditions with each other. The veglia (vigil) was a long standing tradition in which stories, folk prayers, the news of the community and gossip were shared. Traditionally, the veglia occured by the hearth of the host’s home. The adults were the storytellers and speakers, and a large focus of the veglia was to teach the children the family values and traditions of the Tuscan people. In this way, the children were guided into adulthood with regular reminders of the principles and ethics expected by their community. The veglia was a central part of rural life in Tuscany.
The veglia consisted of four parts. Storytelling started the entertainment for the beginning of the gathering. Next riddles, lullabies and folk prayers were said just before the youngest children were sent to bed. Young people who were courting took the focus during the third part of the veglia. Courting was done through poetry and song performed by those with high hopes of marriage. Finally, the veglia focused on married couples, with stories and songs that emphasized the expected behavior for both man and wife.
In modern day Tuscany, the veglia has given way to a faster paced world and the ritual has all but disappeared. However, the tradition of tightly entwined communities that are supportive of their members continues to this day in Tuscany. The folklore and notions from centuries ago have been passed down from generation to generation and continue to be told.
Some of the societal rules are amusing when considered by today’s standards. They are also endearing. For example, to go out after sundown was considered risqué. At dark, all family members were expected to be at home and were not to leave until daybreak. It was the woman of the house’s job to make sure that the fire in the fireplace never went out in the home. If the fire went out, it symbolized that the family had been hit by dishonor and that there could be a possible end to the marriage. Young men were advised to “buy your wine and wife nearby”. Young women were chastised never to choose a husband from another area, but only to wed a local boy.
In Tuscany, the remnants of the passing of the stories in the veglia have resulted in a region of Italy that is close-knit and supportive with a strong love of family and community. This is evident most anywhere you go in Tuscany, and the feeling is always one of camaraderie and friendship to those who visit. Join us on a tour of Tuscany or a workshop in Tuscany and experience the sweet kinship of the Tuscan people for yourself!