Maybe it’s local bias, but the best Abruzzo festa and sagre we’ve been to this year have been those nearest Villasfor2. And Casoli’s 3-day extravaganza topped the lot !
Don’t get the idea that Abruzzo festa and sagre – the feasts, fairs and festivals for which the region’s renowned – only take place in the summer. They’re a year-round attraction – as you’ll find when your’re staying at our Abruzzo villas for two. And one of the very best took place last week in neighbouring Casoli.
On October 7, 8 and 9 each year, Casoli holds a Festa Patronale to honour its patron saints Santa Reparata and San Gilberto. Just so you don’t forget, a giant thunderflash is set off at 5am on the 7th, taking a lead from the tumultuous 4am start to Lanciano’s Notte Bianche a couple of weeks ago. Thanks guys.
Highlight of the 8th is a a cross between a parade and a giant bring-and-buy sale. Local people, young and old, dressed in traditional Abruzzese costumes, lead a procession in which tractors from every village in this rural, farming community pull decorated floats laden with the best local produce, which is then all sold.
But that really only tells half the story. Being a rural, farming community, all sorts of good things to eat and drink are produced around here and the nice people who produce it are very anxious that you should try it all.
Especially the wine. Yes, I know it’s only 10am, but this is an Abruzzo festa ! Look around you. Everyone else is quaffing wine from plastic cups and nibbling bits of oil-drizzled bread, and little morsels slivered-off a gigantic provolone cheese, so you might as well join in.
And naturally enough, while you’re busy having a good time, it’s only fair that those who’ve produced the tasty nibbles being pressed on you so generously should enjoy themselves too – hence a very high level of infectious and good-natured merriment. If you’ve ever wondered if you can party on a float being pulled behind a tractor – that would be ‘Yes’.
I had to admit a moment of glowing pride when I realised that the tractor representing our little hamlet of Ascigno dwarfed all others in the parade. Did you know legendary Italian carmakers Lamborghini – of Miura, Countach and Diablo fame – also produced tractors ?
Yup, it is a bit of a letdown isn’t it. Anyway, out of the mist roared this stupendous silver Lamborghini tractor. I have to admit, I’d never seen it around before – certainly not doing anything as messy as ploughing – and such was its pristine beauty, I think it’s kept in a shed and only driven on a Sunday.
By late morning, pretty much everything had been sold; the wine had been drunk and the nibbles had all disappeared, while the crowds were beginning to get lured away by the thought of an aperitivo, followed by a long and leisurely lunch. Seemed like a tempting idea – especially as there was still one more day of festivities to go.
On Thursday 9 – exactly one year to the day after we first arrived in Abruzzo – we headed back into Casoli for a little celebratory drink and to watch the free rock concert and the fireworks.
The lights in town were…well…just lovely. The night was unseasonally warm with just a little autumnal nip in the air and we bought a bag of roast chestnuts and ate them as we strolled down to the funfair.
Funfair ? Yes – just for the kids. And hilariously so. The teeny little scaled-down version of a bucking bull ride was drawing screams of delight and excitement, but the real star of the show – the ride that separates big kids from little kids – was ‘The Octopus’.
You wouldn’t have got me or Pauline on this. Ever. But as soon as one insane butt-clenching ride was over, there was a mad scramble for the back of the queue and the chance to do it all over again. I hated these rides even when I was a kid. Maybe this is where an Italian’s love of speed and thrills all starts…
That the fireworks that followed soon after midnight were stupendous, lengthy and extraordinarily loud and vivid probably goes without saying. What’s even better is that it’ll all happen again next year !
Alongside Casoli on October 6, 7 and 8, Ascigno celebrates its own Festa Patronale – San Gabriele – on September 5 and 6, literally within strolling distance of your Abruzzo villa for two. The Ascigno fireworks were fantastic and the first-night band – Baci di Romagna – the best we’ve seen all year.
Click on the images above for the bigger picture.