Here's another interesting fact about Italy....
On the afternoon of the 6th, commonly known as the Epiphany to most Catholics, Steve and I stopped at the crosswalk in our little town to let three witches pass in front of us. "Three witches, you might ask?!?!" Yep, three women dressed complete in witch outfits--black dress and shaw, pointy hat, and straw broom stick to boot. We had learned about the Italian version of the Epiphany and La Befana several days before from a friend who worked at the hotel. La Befana is essentially the Italian version of Santa. On the night of January 5th, La Befana brings children toys and candy in their stockings. She arrives via the fireplace upon her broom sticks. Supposedly, the story goes something like this:
On the night that the three Wisemen arrive to bring gifts to the BJ, they first stopped by the house of an old woman. She was poor and dressed in rags, but they asked her to tag along anyway. She declined but then later regretted her decision and now spends each night of January 5th searching for baby Jesus.
We had just moved into our house that day and heard a bunch of loud popping sounds that evening. Turns out, they celebrate with a huge fireworks display also. Paul, our American friend who works at the hotel, said the Italians frequently celebrate the Epiphany on a much grander scale than they celebrate Christmas. We've heard that you can arrange for the town resident La Befana to visit your house. Apparently, that's who we saw that day!