Snake Festival of Cocullo in Abruzzo

Nestled in the hills west of Sulmona in the Abruzzo region, Cocullo has a population of 250 on any given day.  That number swells to thousands every May 1st when pilgrims from other provinces and people interested in this 985-year tradition converge on the village. The official name of the festival is the Festa dei Serpari di San Domenico (Festival of Snakes of San Domenico). Why snakes? San Domenico is honored for ridding the village of snakes in the 11th century and his statue, draped with these serpents, is paraded through the town for about 1.5 hours.

4587559906_867411526a_b (2)The snake handlers (serpari) start gathering them in March for the May celebration. The snakes used to be housed in clay pots but are now kept in wooden boxes and fed mice and hardboiled eggs in the days leading up to the festival. There are four types of non-venomous snakes used in the procession. The statue with the snakes and its escorts are accompanied by two women dressed in traditional costumes carrying breadbaskets on their head that contain five ciambellati. Ciambellati are local, sweet, round breads that have been blessed by the parish priest and given to the escorts carrying the statue in the procession.

8090565086_60f4cd07b7_b (2)Stands are set up around town to feed the thousands that have descended on the town for the spectacle. There is a fireworks display at the conclusion of the festival. Parking is quite difficult so expect to walk or be shuttled from wherever you park to the edge of town.

Official Cocullo Festival History Page

Google Map Link to Cocullo

Photo Credits:
All Snake Photos: Olga e Zanni via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
View of Village of Cocullo: paolofefe via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Streetscape Cocullo: amurrahs via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

 

 

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