Maria SS. Lauretana Festival Returns To Niles Labor Day Weekend

117-Year-Old Chicago-Area Festival Has Sicilian Roots Dating Back To The 1600s

A centuries-old Catholic festival set to take place in Niles over Labor Day weekend has roots to the 1600s in Sicily and dates back 117 years to the Chicago area.

The 117th annual Feast of Maria SS. Lauretana of Altavilla Milicia in Chicago will take place Friday, Sept. 1 to Monday, Sept. 4 on Church Street between the Golf Mill Shopping Center and Golf Mill Park.

Between 15,000-to-20,000 people attended the four-day event last year, according to Deputy Niles Police Chief Vince Genualdi. Religious highlights of the festival include the Procession of the Vera, the Flight of the Angels and the pulling of a large ship. The festival also includes secular entertainment, a fireworks display, carnival rides, food, vendors and a beer tent.

A group of up to 60 men will carry the Vera, a two-ton altar on a wooden base with a portrait of the Virgin Mary on top, down Church Street. They will make stops for people to give offerings and kiss the face of the image of Mary.

After about two blocks, the Vera will be placed between two high scaffolds, where two young girls in dresses — one in pink the other in blue — will be tied by the waist and one ankle onto a pulley system of ropes high above the Vera, where they will “fly” out over the crowd to sing a religious song in Italian. The Vera will be moved several times Sunday, after which additional Flights of the Angels will take place.

Entertainment Friday night features Tony Ocean performing Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and other songs of the 1960s Rat Pack. Saturday will see the Wind Gypsies perform in the afternoon, before the band 7th Heaven will perform later that evening. Monday evening will be emceed by Gino Nuccio with music by Vincenzo LaFranza, Mike and Victoria and DJ Tony Spavone.

The story of the shrine to the Virgin Mary in Altavilla Milicia, Sicily started in the 1600s when an image of Mary was looted by pirates. Traveling off the Sicilian coast, the pirates found the painting of Mary in a barrel. They blamed the portrait for the violent seas and believed it was responsible so tossed it overboard near between several Sicilian towns including Altavilla Milicia, Joe Camarda, president of the Maria SS. Lauretana of Altavilla Milicia in Chicago Society since 1966, said.

Legend said village leaders from several towns found the portrait of Mary washed up on shore and hitched oxen to a cart, intending to build a church and shrine with the recovered relic from the ship wherever the oxen stopped, Camarda continued. The oxen stopped in Altavilla Milicia where a church was built.

Immigrants from Sicily brought the festival to the Little Sicily neighborhood near North and Clybourn avenues in 1900. Angelo Camarada, chairman of the Maria SS. Lauretana of Altavilla Milicia in Chicago Society, said the festival moved to other suburbs, including Rosemont, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and more recently Berwyn until 2014. The first festival in Niles took place in 2015.

Festival Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2; noon to midnight Sunday, Sept. 3; and 3 to 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4. There will also be a special procession and Mass in Golf Mill Park with a procession at 9 a.m. and mass at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 3. The festival will have other religious observances Saturday and Sunday. The festival will include Italian and pop music Sept. 1, 2 and 4.

Tom Robb

A group of 40 to 50 men, all members of the Fratellanza Brotherhood, clad in white and maroon, lift the two-ton Vera shrine holding a sacred image of the Virgin Mary at the Maria SS Lauretana Festival in Niles Sunday. Their labor is a sign of sacrifice and devotion to their faith.


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‘St. Louis Square Off’ Vows to Determine the Best St. Louis-Style Pizza

Posted By  on Thu, Aug 10, 2017



If your dream pizza comes with a cracker-thin crust, a mound of gooey Provel and, yes, squares instead of slices, you’ll want to get to the Hill this fall.

St. Louis’ old-school Italian neighborhood will be hosting a festival to determine the very best St. Louis-style pizza around: the St. Louis Square Off.

For $25, attendees will get to sample eight different pies, and then help determine who goes home with bragging rights. Each ticket also includes a glass of wine or a beer.

And that’s not all. Per the founders,

There will be music, activities for kids, art, local retailers and plenty of samples of other staples of St. Louis’ amazing food history (looking at you t-ravs and gooey butter cake!).

The event goes down in Berra Park on Sunday, October 8. So hey! If you’ve been spending all your free time in the RFT‘s comment section, praising (or blasting) Imo’s, whatever the case may be, here’s a chance to let your voice really be heard. Remember, you can only complain about the outcome if you bother to vote.

Check out the event’s Facebook page for more details. Tickets benefit Hill 2000, the neighborhood’s association.

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Italian Movie for Netfilx Subscribers: ‘Me, Myself and Her’

Italian Movie for Netfilx Subscribers

Marina and Federica have lived together as a couple for five years. Once a popular actress, Marina is open about her love for Federica. Federica, an architect and a divorced mother, is more discrete. When Federica runs into a man she once had a crush on, she starts questioning her life. Will the couple survive Federica’s identity crisis?

A breakthrough movie for Italy, Io E Lei is the first movie about a lesbian couple. Stars top actresses Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli.


Review Me, Myself and Her

This Italian film anatomizes the breakdown of a relationship between two middle-aged women who’ve been together for five years. Marina (Sabrina Ferilli) is a former movie star who’s now in the food industry; Federica (Margherita Buy) is an architect who’s never been in love with a woman before Marina.

From the beginning, we see a subtly escalating level of strain and doubt erupting between two people who definitely love each other but are becoming very restless. Federica is, even after five years, supremely insecure and uncomfortable with the idea of herself as gay—in fact, she specifically says she isn’t—and resents the hell out of Marina for outing her in a magazine interview. (The journalist asks whether she’s in love with anyone, and Marina mentions Federica by first name and profession.) Meanwhile, Federica’s doubt and denial have clearly been very hard on Marina, who’s been out for decades (attested to by the interlocking Venus symbols tattooed to her hand) and who’s understandably hurt by the constant nags that she isn’t being “discreet” enough.

They’re women in their fifties; of course they’re restless and wondering if this is all there is. A man shows up in each woman’s life around the same time. One’s a filmmaker who wants Marina to come out of retirement for a part he’s written just for her. One’s an optometrist who’s had a crush on Federica for a while.

Marina accepts the role. You can probably guess what happens next.

Me, Myself and Her is a mixed bag. At a character level, it does a great job anatomizing the decay of a relationship and the pain and confusion that result. This in large part thanks to Buy and Ferilli, both extremely gifted performers who embrace and embody a very nuanced portrayal of a middle-aged female couple dealing with the pressures (internal and external) of their situation. Every closeup on Buy or Ferilli is a symphony—these women can do more with their eyebrows than many actors can with their entire bodies. Their acting, and the relationship they portray is the heart and soul of the film. And regardless of its shortcomings, Maria Sole Tognazzi’s film has a good heart.

But beyond its lead performances and competent if unfleshed out supporting cast—once again, the city of Rome steals the show in the supporting category—the story is one of those uncomfortable ones that is not quite a drama and not quite a comedy. It has elements of both, and some of the film’s best moments are a bit silly and others are deeply introspective, and while there are plenty of examples of a dramedy that works, this is not one of them.

The ending is painfully predictable, but worse than that, it rings completely false and puts two very gifted actors through a finale completely unworthy of their subtlety and deftness. It doesn’t feel true to the characters, to who they are. In fact, without totally revealing it (“You had me at Ciao?”), I’d go so far as to say that anyone who’s been cheated on would be highly likely to call bullshit on the ending. It’s ridiculously easy. And contending with broken relationships can be a lot of things but easy ain’t one of ’em. I found myself thinking of the scene in Grosse Pointe Blankwhere a bloodstained John Cusack pauses in the middle of a shootout to tell Minnie Driver, who is hiding in the bathtub, “Debbie, I love you and I think we can make this work!” That’s pure comedy, and it’s earned. That’s not what happens here. Me, Myself and Her has light comedy, a lot of existential angst and a certain amount of drama, which, taken together, makes the ending hard to excuse.

That said, the film has compelling and wonderful principal characters, a good premise and is decently stylish. And though the story contains zero surprises—unless you were expecting a more subtle denouement—the film has a kind heart and a certain guileless sincerity (and a certain Mediterranean femme spiciness) that are charming no matter what. Upshot? Viewers will probably be charmed and annoyed in equal measure, the latter especially whenever some irritating script choices put the great actors in a tough spot. They do the best they can with it, and their best is a lot.

Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi
Writer: Maria Sole Tognazzi, Ivan Cotroneo, Francesca Marciano
Starring: Margherita Buy, Sabrina Ferilli, Fausto Maria Sciarappa, Alessia Barela, Domenico Diele, Ennio Fantastichini

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The Ciao St Louis Interview of the Week. This week’s guest is Federico Alessi

Michael Cross, VP of Ciao St Louis, interviews Federico Alessi, an engineer from Padua (Padova) who now lives in St Louis, USA. Federico shares his story both in Italian and in English about the struggles and joys of moving from Italy to the US.

The Ciao St Louis Interview of the Week. This week’s guest is Federico Alessi who comes from Padova. The interview is in both Italian and English. Enjoy. Grazie Federico per essere stato con noi.

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