La Notte di San Lorenzo: Make a Wish!

I couldn’t let another August pass without talking about La Notte di San Lorenzo, the Night of St. Lawrence.

Also called La Notte dei Desideri (the Night of Wishes), August 10 is a special, magical day for Italians, and it can be for you too.

Each year on this night, Italians turn their eyes skyward in the hopes of seeing a shooting star, one of the many that will fall during the Perseid Meteor Shower. Seen near the constellation of Perseus, the numerous stelle cadenti (falling stars) are actually remains of the comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862.

The falling stars are believed to represent tears shed for San Lorenzo during his August 10 burial after he died a martyr’s death in 258 A.D. As deacon of Pope Sixtus II, San Lorenzo had been ordered by one of tyrant Valerian’s judges to offer up the church’s treasures; San Lorenzo presented the poorest of his congregation, and the judge ordered San Lorenzo to be burned alive on a gridiron.

San Lorenzo bravely faced his death and famously said, “I am roasted enough on this side; turn me over and eat.”

And so, on this night, Italians believe that wishes will come true for those who stop to remember the pain suffered by San Lorenzo and with every falling star they say, “Stella, mia bella Stella, desidero che…”

“Star, my beautiful star, I wish that…”

If you really want to get in the mood, have a look at the 1982 La Notte di San Lorenzo:

The Night of the Shooting Stars

Then get as far away from city lights as you can, keep those eyes toward the sky, and tell those shooting stars what you most desire.

I won’t ask you what you’ll wish for, but tell me,
have you ever wished upon a falling star?

39 Beans of Wisdom to “La Notte di San Lorenzo: Make a Wish!”
  1. Gil

    Very interesting story! I’m cleaning things here that I should have learned 40-50 years ago in CCD classes. As far as wishing upon a falling star, stars have been a rare sight around this part of the US as we have been having rain for days. Many years ago I too wished upon a falling star.

    Oh I would *love* some rain! Send it here please πŸ™‚

  2. 08.11.2008

    We had a beautiful clear and starry night here yesterday, but not a single falling star. I’ll look out again tonight and tomorrow. If I see one, I’ll let you know. (But to be honest, I’d rather have some clouds at the moment because I’m rather selfishly hoping for some rain – that’s NOT my wish!)

    casalba’s last blog post..XXX Festival Internazionale Del Folklore, Staffolo

    I didn’t see any last night either despite a beautiful, clear, starry sky. Maybe tonight!

  3. joanne at frutto della passione

    It has been years since I actually went out to see the stars on la notte di san lorenzo. The last time that I did, I made a wish and it came true.

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Taking some time with and for my boys

    How wonderful Joanne! Maybe you should go out and make wishes more often πŸ™‚

  4. 08.11.2008

    I never had the chance! Maybe someday I will…

    nova’s last blog post..Blip

    I hope you do; it’s such a lovely sight πŸ™‚

  5. 08.11.2008

    Great and educational post. too bad San Lorenzo didn’t also tell them what herbs to use while cooking him. Now that would have been something.

    Like gil I have rain to spare.

    As for wishing upon a falling star, yes indeed. Looking up at the stars when camping, how can you not. I would wish for wealth as I have already been blessed with love.

    running42k’s last blog post..So tired

    Can you imagine? Rosemary would go great here boys! Poor San Lorenzo πŸ™

    I *love* looking at the stars anytime, but I hadn’t seen a falling star until I moved here even though I always looked….

  6. I have, and I will. I’ll be heading out to the countryside after lights-out tonight… will be meditating all day on a break in the rain.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..Street ridin’ man

    Sounds lovely, but I just read your tweet…guess I’m the outsourcee πŸ˜‰

  7. We were *just* talking about falling stars this morning with our guests.

    Guess they knew something I didn’t!

    Cherrye at My Bella Vita’s last blog post..Love Thursday: The Best Surprise

    Hah, well if they were Italian, I’m sure they were in the know πŸ™‚

  8. 08.11.2008

    I have seen my fare share, yet have never wished upon one. I took 2 years of astronomy in college, and I was usually so in awe of what I was seeing a wish never crossed my mind.

    Guess now is my chance πŸ˜‰

    My MΓ©lange’s last blog post..Vegetable Tian

    I don’t think I wished on the first one I saw either; I was just so amazed by it!

  9. 08.11.2008

    If people can take their eyes off of the stars of the Olympics, they could make a wish! I make a wish on “falling stars” all the time. But, remember the old admonishment: Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it!

    This Eclectic Life’s last blog post..Olympic Rant

    So true Shelly, but remember what happened to the man who got everything he ever wanted? He lived happily ever after πŸ˜‰

  10. Tina

    Hum, I’m in the southern hemisphere, so I don’t think I get to see that.
    It also means that I’ve had to adjust to no big dipper as well. (It’s so weird to have to look at a completely different night sky!) And instead of a north star, we get the southern cross! πŸ™‚ There are a few things I can see down here that I can still see since they are closer to the equator like las tres marias (I believe that would be orion’s belt)…
    May I still make a wish? πŸ™‚

    Tina’s last blog post..Love Thursday – The Embrace

    Hadn’t even thought of this Tina! You can *always* make wishes, though…the stars will find them πŸ™‚

  11. Tina

    I did get this info, but alas I’m reallllly reallllly south and in a big city which = light pollution…

    “For observers in the Southern Hemisphere, the Perseid radiant never climbs above the horizon, which will considerably reduce the number of Perseid meteors you are likely to see. Nevertheless, on the night of maximum, it is possible to see 10-15 meteors per hour coming up from the northern horizon.”

    Tina’s last blog post..Love Thursday – The Embrace

    Thanks for the info Tina! I do hope you get to see some despite the odds….

  12. I would have to be at the beach/out of the city to see the stars better. The lights here are distracting.

    Okay is it wrong that the only reason I know the San Lorenzo story is because of the movie UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN? Mr. Martini told Francesca the story as he gave her a little statue of the Saint. He’s the patron saint of cooks.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Rome off the tourist track – Nuovo Mercato Esquilino/Piazza Vittorio Market

    Yeah the city lights are the worst for stargazing. I used to *love* going back home to middle of nowhere PA from Philly b/c there was this certain point when all of a sudden you could see the stars again! Whee!

    I don’t remember that part at all from UTTS! Great memory πŸ™‚

  13. 08.11.2008

    I have seen alot of falling stars and made wishes! The most falling stars I have ever seen was in Sicily when we did a pilgrimage (6hours) to another town. The sky was so beautiful and I saw so many shooting stars, it was beautiful.

    Lucy’s last blog post..More Clouds From Both Sides Now!

    Oh what an awesome memory to have! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  14. vanessa

    Ha plenty of ‘shooting stars’ here last night!! It was our village saint day/ festival night (Cozzo D’oro!!). Fireworks were let off every 15 mins or so from a boat on the lake starting from around 1-pm, culminating in a huge display (and finally silence!) at midnight.

    Oh that’s too funny…they *do* love their fuoci here….

  15. Pat

    Gentle correction, the martyrdom was in 258 A.D., not 58 A.D.

    Thanks Pat! Dang typos πŸ™‚

  16. 08.11.2008

    I saw 2 shooting stars on the 11th last year so be on the look out tonight…I was in Taormina and I would not leave my balcony until I saw one..and then wham bham I saw two! Also the first time I ever saw one was in Sicily too many years ago. Cannot recall my wishes however…and I doubt there will be any shooting stars to be seen tonight in Rome. Oh well! Two last year made up for it πŸ™‚

    Leanne’s last blog post..To be or not to be…in Italy that is?

    I’ll be looking Leanne! I may have to sleep in tomorrow because of it….

  17. 08.11.2008

    I have seen some dazzlers, so dazzling I thought a plane was going down in flames! But the night was the 12th some years back. I always looked if I were at my farm in the USA, but it was always clouded over. Hardly a breath of a cloud here, so let’s go look!

    You do have to stay up really late and better lie on your back looking in the right direction. Otherwise, you’ll be shaking a crick out of your neck just when the big one goes by.

    I am wording a wish that encompasses all three of the above.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Summer smooch

    Excellent advice Judith, grazie πŸ™‚

  18. 08.11.2008

    Thank you for the background – that’s really good to know and all new for me. And glad to learn from Ragazza that SL is patron saint of cooks – whadda guy. I guess it’s because of his Turn Me Over quip. We have a San Lorenzo not far from us, and as you can imagine there were a lot of fireworks there last night. Didn’t look for stelle cadenti (why isn’t it stelle cadente?… sigh) but surely will tonight – we used to give a Perseid Party each August when we lived in the States – it Always rained. (Like you, we’d be thrilled for some rain.) When I was young and on an island in Maine the stars fell by the hundreds – too many wishes to keep track of!

    Fern’s last blog post..The best thing we ate this week – Tzatziki

    Regarding the adjective cadente, when an adjective in the singular ends in “e” the plural is formed by changing the ending to an “i” regardless of whether the noun is masculine or feminine. See here.

    Ooh, a Perseid party! Sounds so fun!

  19. 08.11.2008

    Absolutely! I love falling stars but really don’t ever see them until we go to Martha’s Vineyard on vacation where it’s so dark at night and the sky is beautiful. At home there’s just too many lights to see them. Thanks for the info on San Lorenzo-I’ll be making a wish tonight, with or without a falling star!

    I think that’s a great plan Janie πŸ™‚

  20. 08.11.2008

    Not only do I always wish on one of those rare falling stars, but I also wish on the very first star I see each night that I’m in sight of the sky. Have done that since childhood. “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight….etc.” πŸ™‚

    Christina Arbini’s last blog post..Summer Book Giveaway Contest for August!

    Oh I used to do that too. Don’t know why I stopped actually….

  21. 08.11.2008

    I always looked for falling stars on S Lorenzo when I was in Italy. My friends and I would sit out on the beach and wait for the stars to fall. One year I saw 21 fall over the course of 2 days.

    The tradition in my family is to make a wish when you see one and then look on the ground for the nearest pebble or rock. Pick it up and sleep with the pebble under your pillow and your wish will come true. The first year I did it my wish did come true. I wished for this boy I liked to kiss me and the next day he did…we are still friends to this day. My mom always tells us she wished for my dad to propose to her on S Lorenzo and on August 15 he did. They were married 15 days later πŸ™‚ On my last trip I was looking around in the night stand that I used when I was a teenager and found a bunch of pebbles left over from my long ago wishes.

    This is one tradition that I miss being here in Philly – but usually there are too many city lights to see anything here.

    Italiamissima’s last blog post..Sweet baby girl

    Oh I love it! Love the pebbles!

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of this for the post, but I’ll share it here: P told me that he wished for a girl to find him and love him unconditionally and we met nine months later πŸ™‚

  22. 08.11.2008

    you bet i wish upon falling stars…always! last night we were clouded over, so no stars for la festa di san lorenzo…but tonight, maybe!

    qualcosa di bello’s last blog post..go get ’em, boys!

    Fingers crossed for both of us Qualcosa!

  23. 08.11.2008

    Absolutely I make a wish on falling stars. Do you remember the children’s rhyme that you say when you see the first star of the evening before you make a wish? Am I dating myself? This is what I was taught:

    The first star I see tonight
    I wish I may, I wish I might
    Have my wish I wish tonight.

    Ice Tea For Me’s last blog post..let the game’s begin…

    Yes I know it, and I love it!

  24. I’ve made a wish under a falling star and the last time was sitting on the beautiful Indian ocean on Valentine’s Day.

    I love that the most popular wish is for lasting love. That says a lot!


    collette~all over the map’s last blog post..a Love note

    I thought that was a lovely sentiment too…and what a great location for a falling star wish for you πŸ™‚

  25. odessa

    oh how i miss wishing on a star! i used to do it all the time back home, my siblings and i would sit on our rooftops and stare at the infinite night sky. i guess this is one of those things that i have to give up living in a city.

    thanks for sharing! this post brought back so many wonderful memories.

    p.s. i just did a major makeover on my blog. would love for you to come and visit sometime. πŸ™‚

    Yes, city life definitely puts a damper on wishing on stars. Will be over to see your blog ASAP πŸ™‚

  26. 08.12.2008

    That’s cute about P, but if he weren’t the kind of fellow to chase down and return a girl’s jacket, the wish wouldn’t work. The guy on the scaffolding outside my window right now would have just laughed and laughed as you chased down your errant clothing.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Anniversary: ooops!

    You know you definitely have a point there.

  27. 08.12.2008


    And what a wonderful holiday/concept.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Summer Fun with Detroit Edison

    Completely agreed Jen πŸ™‚

  28. 08.13.2008

    My son, who is in Assisi right now, spoke to me on Mon. night and said, “Okay, I’m going to sit outside now, drink some wine & watch the shooting stars.” He didn’t tell me it had a story behind it!

    Well now you know Monkling πŸ™‚

  29. Brenda Tripoli

    Lovely story, I have been looking for the statue that was given in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” for months. No luck!! Would you or your readers have any idea where to get the statue of San Lorenzo, patron saint of cooks. I want at least three for my cooks in the family. Thanks in advance for any help. Brenda

    Brenda, I’m sorry I know offhand where you could get something of San Lorenzo, although one idea would be to check out the website of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence–they must have *something* with him on and probably for sale via Internet? Maybe? Other than that I’d suggest Googling “Chiesa di San Lorenzo” and contacting them–English will probably be OK for any in the larger cities, but if you need help with Italian, let me know. And good luck!

  30. I have wished on a falling star. When I was 9 (I think), Haleys Comet (it’s considered a star, right?) came and I made a wish…that I’ll be able to ride on a plane and go to far places! Look where I landed! LOL!

    Hah, be careful what you wish for!

    .-= Grace @ Sandier PasturesΒ΄s last blog ..Kids Fashion Week Day 4: Surf’s Up! =-.

  31. 08.10.2009

    My grandparents and I used to sit out on the patio after dinner in “pien’estate;” he would smoke his pipe and we would watch for falling stars. Making a wish, certainly…but now I do not remember for what. How distant that all seems now…but sweet memories.

    Tonight, I will instead look for stars that fall into my “calice di stelle,” appropriated from San Lorenzo by Italian winemakers. I’m afraid it will be to light in the piazza in Mestre to spot falling stars in the sky…maybe on the walk back home? πŸ˜‰

    What lovely memories indeed; I hope you do “catch” a star or two tonight πŸ™‚

    .-= NanΒ΄s last blog ..Celebrating the wines of La Tuscia =-.

  32. I always wish upon a falling star – often see more than one when hanging out on my favorite beach. They’re magical. I wish I could see one on an Italian beach now. LOL
    Grazie per una storia

    Wish well, Lisa πŸ™‚

    .-= Lisa at Wanderlust Women´s last blog ..Frugal Friday – One Tank Solo Hop from Sacramento to Frisco =-.

  33. 08.10.2009

    Um… isn’t today the 10th? It’s interesting to me that health isn’t one of the wishes and no wishes for family or the world? I guess those wouldn’t be in the top three. I would think health would be in the U.S. because that’s so often connected to wealth these days!

    Indeed, Jen! This post was from 2008, when I wrote it the day after San Lorenzo (which, rest assured, is today the 10th) πŸ™‚

    .-= jen of a2eatwrite´s last blog ..We Are Family: A Wedding =-.

  34. 08.10.2009

    I often wish on the first star “Star Light, Star Bright” (in fact this is one of the nursery rhymes I’m teaching to the kids at the Head Start where I read to kids every week ( but I’d never heard of La Notte di San Lorenzo – even when we lived in Perugia where he is the parton saint – although I was familiar with his martydom (there is a huge stained glass window depicting his gory death in the cathedral there). Thanks for a lovely story. I would wish for Peace and Understanding among all the peoples of the world.

    Lovely wish, Rosemary, and that’s one of my favorite nursery rhymes too πŸ™‚

  35. 08.10.2010

    ‘have i ever wished upon a falling star?’…..~always, it’s part of the magic of life! count me in tonight πŸ™‚

    Woohoo! All week we should have some clear skies πŸ™‚

  36. Irene

    Every August under the stars of our summer camp, just across the pond from you, dear friend!

    Excellent, Irene πŸ™‚

  37. Margaret

    Isn’t there an old movie about the stars of San Lorenzo?

    I think you’re right Margaret, and I think it’s just called La Notte di San Lorenzo? I haven’t seen it.

  38. 08.10.2010

    Yes, I have and it is such a fun and exciting time! Wishing many stars for you Michelle! xoxo

    Thanks Pam!

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