Festa De Le Cove… harvest festival Italian style…

oxen

Oxen – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

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.

Posh Mum and Dad

Posh Mum and Dad

Posh Daughter

Posh Daughter

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.

Contadini Family

Contadini Family

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!

A side street in the town

A side street in the town

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!

man with fork Mr and Mrs

These two look like they've had a row!

These two look like they’ve had a row!

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.

ladybird

Ladybird – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

scythe

Scythe – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

bell tower

Petritoli Bell Tower – Photograph courtesy of Giancarlo Fabiani

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. 🙂

Families…

Scan

On June 13th 2013 my brother, Tony Hatch, was in New York where he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. When I was a very young girl we would have regular family evenings with Tony playing the piano and the rest of us singing. (That’s me on top of the piano in the photo above.) Often on a Sunday we would travel to Bedforshire to my mother’s sister where other aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive and we would all sit round a huge dining room table (it was a full size snooker table with a cover on it) and eat roast dinner cooked on her Aga. I remember the delicious sticky meringues she made for dessert. Of course we were lucky to have a relation with a large enough room to accommodate us all. After lunch all the kids would pile out into the garden to play. I lost contact with my cousins for some years but I’m glad to report that more recently we have been in touch again.

I think the Italian family is still a very strong unit. I was chatting the other day to an English friend and we commented on the style of housing here where there are many large properties, old and new, divided into two or three apartments. Instead of being occupied by different families these apartments house different generations of the same family; ground floor grandparents, first floor parents and younger children, top floor married son/daughter and their family. I haven’t researched this but I don’t think families in the UK would take to this mode of living but here it works very well. Babysitters are on hand and there is always help for the older generation without having to call in too much in the way of home help or putting older relations into homes unless absolutely necessary. Of course, they don’t always live together in harmony!

The typical Italian family here in Le Marche live a very close knit life, coming together on Sundays for church and massive family meals in large restaurants or each others houses. Many Italians don’t move far from home, particularly in the rural areas, although that could be changing as these days there is a need to travel further afield for work. In my capacity as English teacher I am always amazed at how many cousins are at school together, sometimes six or seven in the same class of twenty students. This reinforces my belief that Italian families stay close together.

Our family are now spread all over the world, New York, Singapore, Wales, England and extended family in New Zealand and other far flung places, but I’m pleased to say that when we get together there’s always someone to pick up a guitar, play the piano or the harmonica and everyone joins in with a song or two. We enjoy big family meals too! Haven’t quite mastered the technique for the meringues though.