Bonfires for the Saint

 

bonfire-and-fireworks-novoli
La Focara in Novoli

January 17th marks the celebration of Saint Anthony the Abbot throughout Italy. Also known as Saint Anthony the Great, he was born in Egypt and credited with being one of the founders of Christian Monasticism. He is the patron saint of animals and infectious diseases of the skin. He is often depicted with a pig in historic paintings and live re-enactments. The celebrations include ceremonies for blessing animals, enormous feasts, and tons of history.

 

In Abruzzo, the ritual feast called panarda is still alive in towns such as Villavallelonga and consists of 30-40 dishes, takes all night, and finishes early the next morning. What is the bonfire connection? It is thought that the bonfires were lit to encourage warmth for seeds to grow with spring being just around the corner; they are lit in church piazzas, at crossroads and scattered throughout towns. Here are three celebrations representing one each from the north, central and southern parts of Italy:

Saronno, Varese, Lombardia – Sant’Antonio di Saronno
If the name Saronno sounds familiar to you it may be because this is where the famed, Italian liqueur with an almond taste Amaretto di Saronno and Amaretti almond biscuits are produced. Saronno celebrates Saint Anthony two ways: with festival activities on the days leading up to the Saint’s day and a religious mass and feast on the actual Saint Anthony’s day, January 17th. The festival days include mixes of historical processions, folklore performances and typical food of the Lombardy region.

 

le-farchie-in-fara-filiorum-petri
Le Farchie in Fara Filioruim Petri

 

Fara Filiorum Petri, Chieti, Abruzzo – Le Farchie

Fara Filiorium Petri is a long name for a small town of less than 2000 people. But on Saint Anthony’s day, their bonfire is anything but small. Fara Filiorum Petri began to prepare on the 6th of January when the bonfire materials were gathered from the fields for assembly. On the night of the 16th, the 60-foot tall columns of kindling are hoisted into place and remain there through the mass and processions on the following day until the bonfires are lit at 5:30 PM on January 22nd. The resultant effect is columns of fire lighting up the town center.

 

Novoli, Lecce, Puglia – Focara di Novoli
All the way down on the foot of the Italian peninsula, the town of Novoli celebrates their annual Focara di Novoli for almost the entire month of January. Musical activities and entertainment are spread throughout the month in different venues. At 65 feet wide and 82 feet tall, this may be one of the largest of its kind in Italy. The lighting of the Focara is followed by fireworks displays lighting up the night sky.

FESTIVAL TRAVEL TIPS
There are many more celebrations for Saint Anthony the Abbot throughout Italy. To locate one, search on “Sant’Antonio Abate” and the name of the Italian town, city or region and you can find a celebration to incorporate into your itinerary. Celebrations for this day often begin several days in advance.

LINKS
Sant’Antonio di Saronno 
Le Farchie in Fara Filiorum Petri 
Focara di Novoli 

italy-map-bonfires-for-the-saint-jan-2017ABOUT

Lisa M. Vogele is the author of Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals, a travel reference guide that “helps you go local” by incorporating festivals into your travel planning. You can find out more information about Lisa’s books, custom itineraries and small group tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

La Focara in Novoli   ɯoop via Foter.com / CC BY
Saint Anthony Procession in Saronno   Gruppo Storico Sant Antoni da Saronn
Saronno Piazza and Church of Saints Peter & Paul   Lisa M. Vogele
Le Farchie in Fara Filiorum Petri   Cristian Roberti via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Gathering Kindling in Novoli   Andreauuu via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Gathering Kindling in Novoli 2   Andreauuu via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Building the Focara   20centesimi via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Lighting the Focara   ɯoop via Foter.com / CC BY
Map by d-maps.com

 

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

 

 

Thanksgiving: Introdacqua Style

Introdacqua.  Photo credit: heymrleej / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Introdacqua. Photo credit: heymrleej / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Introdacqua is a town in the Abruzzo Region of Italy, Province of L’Aquila, situated on a hill between the Contra and Sant’Antonio valleys. It dates back to medieval times and has a medieval tower dominating its landscape. The tower was used as a watchtower between Abruzzo and Naples in the medieval period when it was a fiefdom of the Trasmondi family. Loosely translated as “where the water comes in”, Introdacqua is a member of the “Borghi piu belli d’Italia” club (Most Beautiful Villages in Italy) and has been lucky to escape the major earthquake damage befallen its neighbors in recent years.

Introdacqua by night.  Photo credit: digitalWestie / Foter.com / CC BY
Introdacqua by night. Photo credit: digitalWestie / Foter.com / CC BY

Thanksgiving begins with a blessing of the crops and tractors followed by a parade of floats and musical groups throughout the village. Though it is an ancient tradition of tribute to the land and crops that sustained them, the festival has been rediscovered and is now in its 10th year. Thousands will descend upon the town this Sunday, November 8th to sample the authentic local food, watch the folk musicians, and discover the local flavors of the area. Food carts will be set up to display local products such as: extra-virgin olive oil, salami, cold pork meats, cheeses, red garlic, chickpeas and a multitude of sweet desserts. If you are not lucky enough to be staying in Introdacqua, it can be easily reached by car in about two hours from Rome.

Assorted confetti candy.  Photo credit: Accidental Hedonist / Foter.com / CC BY
Assorted confetti candy. Photo credit: Accidental Hedonist / Foter.com / CC BY

If you’ve ever been to an Italian wedding, chances are you were greeted at your place setting with a small tulle bag of confetti; not the paper type, the almond type. Used to celebrate significant unions and births, the candy coated almond treats are used as a thank you to guests and come in many different colors, each with its own meaning. Casa Pelino has been making confetti in nearby Sulmona since 1783 but the family got their start in Introdacqua.

Festa del Ringraziamento 2015

Borghi piu belli d’Italia

Confetti Mario Pelino

Festival of Chefs in Abruzzo

Typical Abruzzo Lamb Dish Photo Credit: Photo credit: Danny Nicholson / Foter / CC BY-ND
Typical Abruzzo Lamb Dish Photo credit: Danny Nicholson / Foter / CC BY-ND

The 37th edition of the Rassegna dei Cuochi (Festival of Chefs) returns to Villa Santa Maria in the Chieti Province of Abruzzo this weekend. Known as “La Citta dei Cuochi” (City of Chefs), this town has produced chefs turning out delicious dishes around the world for heads of state and mere foodies alike. This is no surprise since its home to the highly touted cooking school Istituto Alberghiero Villa Santa Maria.
On the second weekend of October each year, chefs return to this village to meet, perform cooking demonstrations and of course, enjoy the food. The event is paired with religious celebrations this evening in honor of Saint Francis Caracciolo, patron and protector of all cooks in Italy. The weekend program lists several cooking demonstrations in the afternoon and evening with booths setup for food tasting and local products.
Two of the highlights of this festival are the Saturday night feast and the competition for chefs. On Saturday night at 8:00 PM there is a large dinner served on what seems like a mile of tables in the Old Town. On Sunday, fifteen chefs are invited to participate in a competition juried by foodies from around the world. Winning this competition gives the victor a prestigious entry on their resume and a substantial cash prize.

Town Link & Festival Program: Villa Santa Maria

Map: Villa Santa Maria, Chieti, Abruzzo

Cooking School: Istituto Alberghiero Villa Santa Maria