In large U.S. cities, and even small towns, parking is often at a premium. You can drive around for blocks “praying” to find a space. Well, in a small Italian village, you do the opposite: you park and then you pray.
Here is the story. San Lorenzo di Rovetta is a tranquil place in the province of Bergama, region of Lombardia, in the Seriana Valley. There is very little parking for its 1,300 or so inhabitants. So, don Guido Rottigni, at the helm of the parish church since 2008, motivated by harsh economic times and his pastoral role, put a proposal on the table. He would let the public park in the parking lot of the church.
But not simply for free. The price to park the car was more spiritual than economic. As the sign reads, “Every stop, 1 Ave Maria.” It’s an official sign installed by the parish church and adheres to the rules of the road there. As predicted, the innovative method of “charging” has been extremely successful, so much so that the priest has announced possible enhancements: To park a van costs 2 Ave Marias.
It is not clear whether don Rottigni wished to save souls through this initiative or simply to initiate a new frontier of evangelism in the 21st century. But to many in Italy who see a proliferation of blue stripes on the pavement (parking illegal), his innovation assumes a miraculous aura.