February 14th has always held a certain stigma for our students while living in the United States. The students at Sant’Anna Institute, since speedily becoming friends, have traded stories of Valentine’s past and their significance back home. From a very young age, they can recall the trips to department stores and their excitement in addressing their card and candy gifts for classmates. Some students shared how this practice evolved over the years and recall the single roses or carnations their high schools would sell for distribution among friends and love interests. But, as their semester abroad has continually done, this year’s holiday would prove to be a completely different experience.
On a sunny Friday morning, the small town the students had come to know as quiet and slow had become a bustling carnival overnight! The streets were shut down to general traffic and lined with traveling vendors of food, jewelry, candies, and more. The people of Sorrento and tourists alike enjoy the festivities of the feast of Saint Antonino and recognize the day as a religious holiday; very different from the romantic meaning it holds in America. Saint Antonino is praised for his rescue of a young boy from the mouth of a sea monster and prayed to in hopes of healing various ailments of the body, the weeks preceding and during the day of the holiday, hundreds of parishioners walk the narrow streets of Sorrento to reach the Basilica of Sant’Antonino to give thanks. After witnessing the processions of singing church goers, the ceremonious bells, and wondrous fireworks the study abroad students will forever look at Valentine’s Day in a whole new light.