There are an inordinate number of festas (street parties/festivals) and sagras (usually to do with eating) happening all over Italy for most of the summer months. Wherever you go there will be people eating, dancing and drinking in small towns and villages all of them offering something traditional and steeped in history. In Petritoli we have several of these and the biggest is the Festa De Le Cove. It’s a harvest festival celebration of sorts. A whole weekend of fun.
The basic idea is that the people from the surrounding countryside, the ‘contadini’ (peasant farmers) come into the centre of town with offerings of grain for the ‘aristocracy’ the corn is blessed by the priest, the rich people leave the town giving the farmers the run of the place for the weekend. They have a ball, dancing, eating and drinking. Until they have to leave on the Sunday evening. I may not have got this exactly right but I’m sure someone out there will correct me if I’m widely missing the point. Today it’s symbolic the people don’t actually leave town – everyone joins in the festivities.
The festival culminates with a procession of floats which have the most amazing sculptures made from straw and corn. This year the procession was led by a magnificent pair of oxen pulling a cart full of sheaves of straw. (Cove is the word for sheaves.) Other floats included a scythe, a ladybird (lucky symbol here), a 10 lira coin and a model of the wonderful Petritoli Tower. There was also an old threshing machine on show, many stands selling local crafts. Here you can see a video of the procession and dancing. I hope the quality is okay…it took me about 4 hours to put it together and it’s my first attempt so don’t expect too much!
Food stands sold, pizzette (deep fried pizza base I think), roast goose, pasta, polenta, bruschetta and much more. Oh and plenty of wine of course!
The town is beautifully decorated and each year there’s a different theme, this year it was poppies and sunflowers. At the roundabouts and road junctions they put life size dummies made of straw – I love them!
Everyone can dance the traditional Saltarello, they dance behind the floats, they dance in the square, the children and teenagers perform on the stage it’s a lively dance and it’s great fun but they never, never change the music! it’s the same from around 10am in the morning until they finally close down after midnight. By the end you cannot get the song out of your head and it inhibits sleep and stays with you for days! The vocals are interesting, if you can understand them! They make the words up as they go along. Often the lyrics are risqué, sung in the local dialect and directed to passers by and people sitting at tables. A couple of years ago I was the victim of the song and my Italian ‘friends’ fell about laughing, raising their eyebrows and thoroughly enjoying the joke of which I was obviously the centre but sadly, or perhaps gladly, I couldn’t understand one word.
Thank you Giancarlo Fabiani for some of the photographs this week. Giancarlo has an old printing press in the centre of Petritoli, it’s been in his family for many generations. I may blog about it one day as it’s very interesting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this week’s blog and looking at the photos and video. I’m going to take a well earned rest in the afternoon sun. 🙂