Each year, on the first Friday and Saturday in September, our little home village of Ascigno puts on a festa in honour of its patron saint San Gabriele.
Ascigno follows the typical Abruzzo festa pattern. A two-day party. Friday, lower-key and essentially for locals only. Saturday, open house. Everybody welcome.
Both nights, music, dancing and good food. Saturday night, stupendous festa-ending fireworks at midnight.
In the week before, up go the lights and the little funfair for the kids and a sound stage for the bands is set-up in the main road. What of the traffic ? For heaven’s sake, we’re trying to have a party here !
And parties are one of the very few things in Italy that take precedence over cars. The local police signpost a tortuous detour by-passing party central. Yes, I know it means a long and time-consuming drive along country lanes to emerge just a few hundred yards further down the road. And I know you’ll probably get stuck behind a tractor. Live with it.
Arrive about 8.30 and grab a table. Buy beer and wine. Ponder whether to go for the arrosticini or porchetta. Pauline decides on arrosticini. I make a last minute decision on a pannini salsicce. A humble sausage sandwich.
It’s probably the finest sausage sandwich I’ve ever eaten. And the arrosticini aren’t too shabby either. More beer. More wine. Taking advantage of the fact that Villasfor2 is happily within walking distance.
Our friends Paul and Tricia arrive and cram onto our table. Our neighbour Guiseppe proudly tells us his son’s playing accordion with the band tonight. Assorted other friends/neighbours pass by, stopping for a chat. Mostly farmers. Mostly pessimistic about the prospects of the grape and olive harvests after a particularly hot and dry summer.
Up strikes the band. Up gets everyone to dance. Did you know line-dancing is a way of life in Abruzzo ? Babies learn how as soon as they can walk.
Now, I’m not qualified to judge whether the line-dancing taking place before me in the middle of the road through Ascigno is step-for-step identical to the line-dancing you’ll see in some down-home stomperama at Alligator Joe’s in Amarillo – and it is a tad incongruous – but you have to wonder whether line-dancing in Abruzzo and the US developed simultaneously and spontaneously – or whether it’s just another Italian (or rather Abruzzese) import that’s taken America by storm.
So here’s a thought. Come on an Abruzzo vacation – and go line-dancing !
But our loyalties are divided here. Our favourite band ‘Terre del Sud’ are playing in Casoli. A little after 10.00, we sneak off. In Casoli, in front of a huge crowd, Terre del Sud play an absolutely electrifying set.
We have guests arriving and leaving the next day, so just before midnight, we tear ourselves away. The band are still belting and everyone’s dancing. Not line-dancing. Folk-dancing. We have many choices.
Saturday it rains most of the day. Farmers happy. Then it stops just in time for the evening’s fun. Everybody happy. Just before midnight, we stroll down for the fireworks. Which are sensational. Again.
Ascigno’s festa. First Friday and Saturday of September. Worth an entry in next year’s Abruzzo vacation diary.