La Darbia blog

“CHIM CHIMINEY CHIM CHIM CHEREE…” THE FESTIVAL OF THE “COAL-BLACK” MEN

Mon, 21 August 2017
“CHIM CHIMINEY CHIM CHIM CHEREE…”     THE FESTIVAL OF THE “COAL-BLACK” MEN
«Or blow me a kiss and that's lucky too» sang the chimney sweep in the famous film, Mary Poppins. The festival will be held once again this year. In keeping with tradition, hundreds of chimney sweeps from all over the world get together at Santa Maria Maggiore for their annual international gatheri..

«Or blow me a kiss and that's lucky too» sang the chimney sweep in the famous film, Mary Poppins.

The festival will be held once again this year. In keeping with tradition, hundreds of chimney sweeps from all over the world get together at Santa Maria Maggiore for their annual international gathering every first weekend of September. It is one of the best known events in the north of Italy: thousands of people travel, many of them on the characteristic little "Centovalli" train, to Valle Vigezzo which gave origin to these "coal-black" men.

There are many interesting items on the agenda and I would like to bring them to the attention of our La Darbia friends: the spectacular parade and the traditional demonstration on the roofs of the historic town centre, the so-called "black night" with live music, the little alpine shops kept open until late and the sampling and tasting of typical products. There will be fireworks, music and dancing, with folklore groups and bands giving performances. It is one of those events not to be missed by tourists as it combines an atmosphere of festivity with the portrayal of this unusual, traditional trade of yore.
In fact, whole generations of local people emigrated from Valle Vigezzo to various countries in the north of Europe. Many of them were youngsters, “rüsca”, recruited by older chimney sweeps who went from house to house. They were particularly suitable because they were slight and agile and could easily climb the chimney flues :the monument in Malesco Square is dedicated to them.

Equipped with brushes and trowels, dressed in black and dirty from the soot but smart in their distintinctive top hats, the heirs of these chimney sweeps come here from every corner of Italy and not only, but also from France, Germany, England, Scotland, even Japan and the United States and this year also from Russia. They congregate in a reunion and pay homage to their craft and create an atmosphere of merry-making and mirth. Because just like Dick van Dyke sang in the film Marry Poppins "though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke, in this 'ole wide world there's no happier bloke".

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