Viterbo Celebrates Santa Rosa on September 3 with 200 men carrying around the Macchina!

They call it “Macchina”, which is so striking, but when seen up close, the hardwork of the men who carry it, is even more impressive. Imagine this, 200 men (“facchini”) dressed in all-white traditional clothes who follow their leader’s call, mixed with the discipline, the coordination, sweat, the crowd’s continuous boost of encouragement, movements, and the effect of the only light against the dark background of the town that comes from the inside of the construction – these all create a great sense of anticipation, almost a delirium.


Every year on September 3, we are about to experience the intense expression of Santa Rosa’s faithful. In the Viterbo town’s air, there’s anticipation, there’s pride, there’s joy, there’s surprise, there’s wonder and amazement. But there is also a feeling of fear of things that can happen since this religious procession has a challenging narrow path and full of curves.


No wonder there is a certain respect and great belief and support for these “facchini” during this event. They need to pass a test before they can be eligible to carry the “Macchina”, they must be able to carry 150 kgs and walk 90 meters with this weight. These eligible men carry the same car/machine for 5 years and through a public competition, the next car/machine is decided. To construct it, materials such as wood,papier mache, aluminium, fiberglass, carbon fiber are used. In contrast to the modern materials, there are no restrictions as to its architectural design.


The construction is 4.3 meters wide and 28 meters high, therefore it is very hard for the men to arrive in the town’s main square. However, the exact moment they arrive at the main square, all of the town’s lights are magnificently lit up. Viterbo is a city grandly set in last millennium’s art. Their city along with this magical tradition of Santa Rosa’s devotees are two extraordinary reasons of which their citizens are greatly proud of and two remarkable reasons you must experience for yourself.


The ceremony starts at around 8pm, but get there earlier if you want to be near Santa Rosa!


Viterbo can be reached with local, cheap, slow trains departing from Ostiense & Trastevere railway stations, or Valle Aurelia underground stop every 30 mins. Timetable here.
Another religious cerimony of this area is described here.
A typical happening of Viterbo province is the Carnival in February. All the details here.


Photo and text by Patrick Nicholas,