Fara San Martino is an ancient village nestling 1500 feet up under the lowering heights of the Majella about 20 minutes away from your Abruzzo villa for two. It’s home to some 1600 people and two world-famous pasta manufacturers – De Cecco (reckoned by gourmets and gluttons to make the best dried pasta in the world); and the scarcely less-renowned Delverde.
Each year, De Cecco throws a gigantic ‘thank you’ pasta-fest for the villagers of Fara San Martino, but the Faresi – as the inhabitants are known – are too big a bunch of party animals to be satisfied with just one annual beanfeast. They put on at least half-a-dozen assorted fairs, feste and sagre that find their way into the official Abruzzo tourism guides – and as many again that don’t.
Last Friday, Fara staged ‘Il Visitatore’, a medieval-themed pageant and banquet, which ended with a stupendous midnight firework display. For €27 a head, you could’ve tucked into a huge five-course meal of delicious local specialities with wine; been entertained by strolling minstrels and assorted jugglers, flag-wavers, knights, knaves, jesters, wenches and ladies all suitably dressed for the occasion.
And it’s an occasion very definitely off the beaten Abruzzo tourism track. All that’s needed to ensure a good turn-out for this particular evening – and many more like it – are a few posters strategically placed in a few local bars and pasted onto a few local walls – and friends phoning friends, phoning friends, to spread the word. If you’re on the grapevine, (and your Abruzzo villa for two is very definitely on the grapevine), you’ll always be in the know.
Some four hundred people sat down at long tables set-up under the stars on a warm night in Fara’s main square and cheerfully tucked into their dinner, while many more – us included – went in search of their own refreshments. In our case, finally annexing a large table at the nearby ‘Little Italy Caffe’ where I’m ashamed to tell you we drank rather too many bottles of prosecco.
In fairness, we did have a little time to kill before the start of the fireworks at midnight, marching to the beat of a band of medieval drummers up the hill to, coincidentally, yet another bar – the ‘Badia’ – which by day provides wonderful views of the San Martino Gorge while you sip your espresso and by night provides a perfect vantage point for fireworks.
What makes Fara’s fireworks so special is that that they’re set-off at the bottom of the Gorge and burst at eye-level, spectacularly lighting up the surrounding mountains, while the noise – and Abruzzese like their fireworks to be very, very noisy – reverberates thunderously around you.
I haven’t quite worked out yet what goes down best – the feasts, fun and festivities; or the fireworks. All I do know is that the end of every Abruzzo firework display is greeted with cheers and applause. And that doesn’t happen when the dishes are cleared away after dinner.
Our friends Nick and Michelle crawled into their house in Fara very, very late, (or if you want to put a positive spin on this, very, very early), and after what seemed like mere moments of sleep, they were roused by a brass band marching past their window and – yes – more Abruzzo fireworks at 8.00 Saturday morning. Not much point in pretty displays in daylight, so these were just extremely loud. Serve them right, say I.
The Fara festivities continued on Saturday; and Sunday; and Monday. With more fireworks. Now the village allows itself a little break before the roast chestnut festival sometime in November.
I told you the Faresi were party animals…
(Click on pictures in text for larger images)