The Last Festa

Our town’s last big festa took place last week, the celebrations in honour of Santa Reparata e San Gilberto take place from October 1st to 9th, with church services building up to three days of entertainment and community interaction. I’ve not been to the festa for a couple of years and this year decided to go to the last night as the posters around the area advertised that Arisa was the headline act.

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We arrived and walked up the main street beneath the tunnel of brilliant lights that are fixed to wooden poles that look so fragile you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a feat of engineering that defies logic. We stroll slowly taking in the array of stalls selling everything from arrosticini to hot chestnuts.The newly opened kebab outlet is filled with young people eager to try this new take-away that’s arrived in town, their parents opt for the more traditional porchetta panino. The obligatory porchetta vans have queues waiting for the fragrant roasted pork between bread, and three proprietors vie for the custom of the people here to enjoy this crisp, cold evening.

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It’s immature I know but as I walk past Signor Leonelli’s store selling hot shelled peanuts I snigger as I turn to my friend and say, “Mr Leonelli has hot nuts”. Children can be heard whooping with delight on the fairground rides and the man on the Nutella stall is calling out for people to try his chocolate and hazelnut slavered crepes.

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Walking back from the fairground we chance upon a friend working on a stall advertising artisan beers and we purchase two large glasses and enjoy them sat looking out over the newly refurbished belvedere, (a paved area looking over the countryside).

The crowds are starting to gather up at the piazza where the stage is and the most experienced festa-goers have come prepared bringing their own chairs. BB4

Every available space to sit is taken up, the cafe opposite is filled with people and its till is ringing with appreciation. Steps opposite the stage start to fill with people who’d rather sit, despite the cold that must numb their behinds than stand to watch the show, .

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We stand waiting in anticipation and eventually with the crowd so closely packed there’s no time to think about personal space, Arisa takes to the stage. In my opinion it’s a bit of an anti-climax; strolling on in ripped jeans and a leather jacket she waves to the crowd. A melancholy tune plays and she sings a slow ballad; in my opinion not the best way to start a show. This down-tempo song is followed by another ballad, then another and by the time we’ve witnessed five pedestrian tunes I’ve had enough. Maybe the name of her tour should have given me a clue to the style of the show, Ho Perso Il Mio Amore (I Lost My Love). Unhappy that we’d not heard any of her quirky upbeat tunes like Malamoreno or Sincerita coupled with the view being inhibited by phones recording the show we decide to leave.

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We struggle to extricate ourselves from the crowd and make our way through the now quieter streets, people are sat eating at small pop up eateries and the man selling pizza from his white van complete with wood burning oven has a large queue. I take one last look back at the castle illuminated against the blackened sky and drive home. At midnight we sit outside listening to the bangs and crashes of fireworks as the sky becomes illuminated with a pallet of fluorescent colours.

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Giornata dei Donativi

We’ve just had our October festa here in Casoli and an enjoyable three days it was too. On the first evening we enjoyed a stroll around town taking in the lights that festooned the streets before settling down for a few drinks at the borgo. There was a music system set up in the corner and a young man sang a mix traditional and modern songs and the piazza outside the post office became an open-air dance floor, as previously mentioned in https://intheflatfieldidogetbored.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/dancing-in-the-street/.

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The second day is Giornata dei Donativi, (day of donations) the traditional parade to celebrate the Feasts of S.Reparata and S.Gilberto. Tractors have been cleaned and flat-back lorries are bedecked with decorations and to give thanks for the harvest, people attired in traditional dress march through the streets handing out samples of oil, porchetta, mortadella and wine. Music plays and small children squeal with delight as the whole town lines the main street to watch. The evening is taken up with a rock band playing in the piazza while fairground rides entertain the teenagers.

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The third evening again has musical entertainment as a singer/impressionist entertains the crowds as he takes off popular Italian singers, as he changes costumes various other artistes entertain before we slope off to the borgo again, I toast the end of the festa with a grappa before making the steep climb up to Christine and Bill’s house on Via Gianino, for chicken curry and to watch the end of festa fireworks from their fabulous roof terrace.

Here’s the link to my video of the three days edited down to ten-minutes: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151647308362187&l=7102226553622154958

One Pumpkin Two Black Devils and Lots of Fireworks

100_7187I picked the first of my pumpkins two days ago and since then it’s languished on a shelf waiting for something to happen to it. So today as the iPod kicked in and Tilly and the Wall, play Alligator Skin, I took a knife to it and scattered it with chopped chillies, curry powder and cumin before roasting it until the flesh became soft. After it had cooled it was joined by an onion, some tomato puree, homemade stock and after seasoning, it was mercilessly dropped into the liquidiser and reduced to a thick paste. Some fresh cream and a little more stock was added to thin it down and the result was three and a half litres of spicy pumpkin soup.

Lunchtime arrives and as we eat warm focaccia and prosciutto we enjoy a bowl of the soup which has a kick of heat amid its soft creamy texture. It’s 38 degrees outside, but it feels hotter inside my soup bowl. I have to agree with myself that this was a morning well spent in the kitchen.100_7197

In the evening we pick up friends and after I give them a bottle of pumpkin soup, I drive to nearby Palombaro. We’ve been invited by our friends, Richard and Annie for dinner at their  magnificent palazzo. We’re welcomed with wine and I chat to Richard as Annie gives the others a tour of the three-storey property, complete with a sweeping staircase and marble columns. As we sit down to eat, fireworks appear in the distance and very quickly I realise i have the most advantageous seating position. Opposite me is a huge open window, so as I eat I’m entertained by the pyrotechnics in the distance. After a lovely evening of laughter, irreverent storytelling and random remarks about peaches we say our good-byes. We stroll back to the car in streets lit by ochre coloured streetlamps and as we descend back down towards Piana Selva another town is closing its festa with a magnificent firework display.

We arrive home at around 01.30, I let the dogs out for a mad dash around the front garden rough land at the front and then take them for a walk down the lane. When we get to our turning around spot, I clap my hands and like two black devils they race back up the lane towards home. When I eventually catch up with them, Alfie is sat outside the front door while Olive sits in the middle of the road, her eyes flashing in the light from my torch. I ask her to follow and together we enter the house and close the door on another Italian day. 

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Over the years playwrights and poets have written pieces inspired by the magic of Italy. Despite never actually coming here Shakespeare set many of his works here, the most obvious being Romeo and Juliet. Byron enthused about the country as did Shelley and Keates and why not, at times Italy can be truly magical. One of these magical moments occurred a few weeks ago, in fact it was so magical, I have put off writing about it for fear of not expressing myself eloquently enough.

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We were invited to the town of Fara San Martino for an evening of music. A stage had been assembled in the piazza at the base of Via Roma, and the musicians were tuning up as we arrived. We dropped in and had a pre concert drink with our friends Viv and Seppe, when we got there our other friends Graham and Mark were already there. We chatted for a while until we heard the music begin. So on a chilly evening we stepped outside and joined the locals who had gathered to enjoy the music.

A mist descended upon this mountain town and as the music played I left the audience and wandered through the narrow alleys. The experience was ethereal, shrouded in mist and lit by orange street lights with music filling the air the walk became magical. I felt like I was walking through a Federico Fellini film, and with these feelings of wonderment coursing through me I then understood why he favoured Italy for his backdrops. I remembered one of Fellini’s famous quotes, ‘Experience is what you get while looking for something else’, and it summed up how I was feeling, I just expected to listen to music on a chilled evening but instead I had an experience I’d never have imagined.

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Walking around a corner, heading back to the piazza I watched the band, resplendent in their orange uniforms beneath the lights erected for the evening. Just standing beside the barrier put there to keep traffic away and watching gave me a feeling of contentment I’ve not felt before. I stood for a while and to misquote Shakespeare, I was filled from the crown to the toe top-full of calm. I felt as if at last I was part of a community, that I had actually arrived. As the light had such a magical feel, I took a few more photographs before re-joining the others in the piazza.

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The second musical performance started, the first had been classical and this was more contemporary, even including a new arrangement of some pop songs into the mix. Children came over and took turns in walking Seppe’s dog, Ollie around the piazza, and we chatted to every person we were introduced to. We were four stranieri here at an intimate local evening festa, yet we were welcomed by everyone. The evening climaxed with a spectacular firework display, great booming stars of colour collided with the black inky sky and we all stood in awe, necks craning upwards.

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Photo © Graham Ward 2013