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Festivals In Abruzzo

You haven’t sampled the real Italy until you’ve been to a local town Festa. Good food and wine, a great atmosphere – and usually some spectacular fireworks too – will guarantee you one of the best nights of your Abruzzo vacation.

The keynote to all local celebrations is good humour and a great atmosphere. Everyone’s welcome !

Though Abruzzo’s festivals, feasts and fireworks peak in the summer months, they’re really a year-round attraction. Casoli’s annual celebration to commemorate its two patron saints isn’t until early October – and then there’s a rush of events in November – the best of them locally in Paglieta and Casalbordino – to herald the arrival of the new season’s wine, olive oil and chestnuts.

If you fancy a late May Abruzzo vacation and want to try some of our local wine, put the last weekend of the month in your diary. That’s when most of our local wine producers hold their Cantine Aperte – an open house when you’re welcome to drop by and sample their wares. It’s usually free; occasionally a nominal charge is made.

One of our favourites is at Cantina Miglianico, where they provide plates of pasta to go with their excellent red wine.

In late July, against the backdrop of its floodlit castle, the village of Crecchio is the perfect setting for a medieval festival but the very best place for a medieval theme is Lanciano, which hosts the famous Mastrogiurato pageant each year from the last Sunday in August to the first Sunday in September, ending with a wonderful costumed procession along the town’s main street.

Included in the pageant are highly atmospheric medieval fairs after dark in Lanciano’s old town.

Even a village as small as Ascigno, where we live, has its own Festa– always on the first Friday and Saturday in September. Always a great occasion too – capped by an ultra-special fireworks extravaganza at midnight on the last evening. We have a regular Villasfor2 table here – and our villa guests at the time are always especially welcome to join us.  

Feasts In Abruzzo

Although you’ll always find plenty of delicious food and drink at Festivals, at a great many events, the food and drink are the stars of the show. A feast – or Sagra – invariably features one particular kind of food prepared in lots of different ways.

Throughout August, Pennapiedemonte hosts its famous Sagra di Cinghiale, devoted to feasting on wild boar. Also in August, there’s one of our favourites, the hot chilli bonanza at nearby Filetto, where all the food on offer contains greater – or lesser – amounts of chilli. Including the chocolate ice cream. (Yes, really – and it’s scrumptious).

Others stream by. Not content with just hosting their medieval Festa, Crecchi also puts on the Arrosticini d’Oro – which needs a little explanation ! Arrosticini are char-grilled, pencil-thin, lamb kebabs – one of the very favourite Abruzzese street foods. The Arrosticini d’Oro – the ‘Golden Arrosticini’ – is a competition to find the best arrosticini maker in Abruzzo.

Competition is fierce – and so is the sampling of the results !

Not to be outdone, that other great outdoor Abruzzo favourite porchetta – an entire, slow-roasted loin of pork which you have to try during your stay – gets its own local Sagra in Lentella.

Name your favourite Italian food – and be prepared to sample one or two you may not have tried before – and you can be pretty sure there’ll be a Sagra in its honour at some point.

Only problem is that with pretty well all foodstuffs already grabbed for feasts, there are some decidedly odd recent arrivals on the calendar – like the Frankfurter Feast or the Mint Feast. But nobody seems to mind very much. After all, any excuse for a party…

Fireworks

We’ll travel a long way for a good firework display and have narrowed the ‘Do Not Miss’ events down to a select few. Most spectacular setting has to be the Spirito Sancto Gorge at the very base of the Majella in Fara San Martino – an incredible, echoing backdrop to their August 25 display at midnight. (Or later. This is Italy, where times are always approximate…)

For novelty and sheer ingenuity, go to Torino di Sangro Mare at the start of August for their beachside display at which, incredibly, fireworks land and display on the sea. Seeing is believing…

Climaxing weeks of summer partying, Lanciano brings down the curtain on September 15 with a really sensational display that starts at 4am. Yes, four o’clock in the morning. It’s one of those things – like New Year’s Eve in London’s Trafalgar Square, or Times Square in New York – you have to try at least once. Everything’s open all night to get you in the festive mood – and once the fireworks are over, it’s pizza for breakfast. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…

But the very best display, bar none, is right here in Ascigno, which wraps up our annual two-day Festa on the first Saturday in September. In 2011, by general agreement the best of all time, we were treated to a thunderous, sky-filling 30-minute display, climaxing with blazing fireworks set to music. Nessun Dorma with rockets ! Unforgettable !

If Sagra are the tastes of the real Italy, then our Festa’s spectacular fireworks have to be the sights and sounds of the real Italy. Try it sometime !

If Music be the Food of Love…

Yes, there’ll be a music at pretty well all Festa and quite a few Sagra too. After all, what’s a party without the chance to dance ?

Usually it’ll be fairly standard Europop, but sometimes there’ll be a band playing it’s worth a long journey to see. If you liked ‘Queen’, you’ll love Abruzzo tribute band ‘Regina’. Third-placed in the 2010 ‘Italy’s Got Talent’ TV series, they’re simply a great live act.

Our favourites though are Lanciano’s ‘Terre del Sud’. What do they play ? The folk and dance music of central and southern Italy. Stifle the yawns. Their music is catchy, fast, full-on, sexy and utterly compelling.

On a warm summer’s night, with good food, good wine and good company, to hear them play is as good as it gets.

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