The Befana festival of Piazza Navona
In the case of Rome, for example, the Befana has always been the day for visiting the fleeting Christmas market of Piazza Navona. For just a couple of days the majestic square fills up with wooden stalls selling all sorts of typical delicacies and toys, amidst the festive songs of merry-go-rounds and other colorful attractions. Or so it was until 2015. This year the Piazza Navona market was upturned by a veritable revolution – but some context is needed to understand what really happened. Fact is, the market had grown denser and denser for two decades, until the square was packed with over 120 official concessions and countless street peddlers. That would have not been a problem if the quality had remained the same that enchanted visitors from all the world over for centuries. Unfortunately however that was not the case. The concession stalls had slowly been bought and coopted by two families who ended up controlling over 90% of the market. As it often happens with Italy, this could only happen due to the proven influence of corrupted politicians and of organized crime. The effect was a steady drop in merchandise quality: gone were the traditional, artisanal treats and the handcrafted toys. In their place, overpriced supermarket-fare candy bars and knockoff Chinese toys that escaped safety certifications tested the patience of the public. The oft-mentioned symbol of Piazza Navona’s market decadence were the porchetta vendors: tasty but smelly sellers of roasted pig sandwiches that have nothing to do with Roman tradition.