Just read this great article from the Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) about Abruzzo, its food and Luciana Masci - tour operator for the Finding Valentino Abruzzo tour in October this year. Click here to read it.
Italians like to party - it seems that every village has a festival to honour its patron saint, the harvest or a religious event. Often these festivals occur in summer when families can enjoy time together celebrating in warm weather and late into the night. In my father's area of Casoli in Abruzzo, it is autumn that heralds the arrival of grape picking season, the olive harvest and the Festa di Santa Reparata on 7,8 and 9 October every year.
Throughout the festival the streets of Casoli are bejewelled with ornate street lights. Every evening locals congregate to dance, eat together and enjoy each other's company.The main event of any festival is its parade. In Casoli on 8 October the whole municipality converges on the main street to participate in the grand parade. Each district is represented by a tractor decorated colourfully and laden with donations and many locals dress in traditional costume. The most interesting part of the dress for me are the shoes - simple handcrafted shoes made of pigskin called chiochie. The tractors are stocked with all sorts of delicacies from cakes, cheeses and salumi to whole roasted pigs, giant provolone cheeses, grape stomping and women hand-making pasta. Participants proudly march down the cobblestoned road, carrying large baskets or copper pots filled with food, flowers or produce. All of these donations are presented to the priest at Santa Reparata church who blesses them before they are sold off auction-style to the eager crowd. All proceeds go to the festival and the Church - raising thousands of Euros. The festival ends with a bang with a chest-thumping firework display that illuminates to night sky for all to see.
What is so magical for me about this festival is the way that all generations embrace the history of their area and demonstrate pride in their culture and traditions. It is a time to show respect for the past yet embrace the future with children eagerly carrying on the traditions and participating in every aspect of the festivities.
So when you visit Italy, research which festivals are on and aim to experience one - it will be a feast for all your senses and a true way to immerse yourself in local culture.
The Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo in October 2014 begins with the Festa di Santa Reparata. I can't wait to share this cultural event with my guests.