‘Fare San Michele’: Moving Day for the Métayer

'Alba di San Martino' by artist Roberto Viesi*

‘Alba di San Martino’ by artist Roberto Viesi*

Fare San Michele is an Italian idiom synonymous with ‘moving day’. In the mezzadria era, contracts between farm laborers and landowners expired on September 29, which is also the feast day of Saint Michael (aka Michaelmas), and thus it was on this day that folks loaded down horse-drawn carts with their personal effects and moved out. A related saying, San Michele ribalto (Saint Michael ‘overturned’ or ‘capsized’), describes any chaotic or disorderly situation or unexpected turn of events. This expression is linked to a tale of one such peasant family, for whom moving day ended disastrously: an overturned cart, their belongings scattered and broken. The expression Fare San Martino has the same meaning, as November 11, the feast of Saint Martin, also saw the conclusion of seasonal farm work and the departure of laborers and their families.

*to see more of Roberto Viesi’s art work, visit his website.

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