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Italian Festivals and Harvests

Pauline Kenny

Italian Festivals

There are hundreds of festivals held every year in nearly every town in Italy. Even a small town like Panicale has many festivals throughout the year. In 1999 we had to leave just before their harvest festival in the middle of September. Here are a few of the festivals that interest me.

Arezzo: Twice a year they have a festival centered on medieval jousting. We wandered into one of these by accident and, after watching the parade, joined the huge crowds going to the central square. It was blazingly hot and everyone made little paper hats from their programs. It was also very crowded and hard to see anything. When the jousting finally happened, it was pretty boring. Guys on horses charging at a stuffed dummy. Pretty strange. But great medieval costumes.

Lucca: September 13, La Luminaria procession. The streets are illuminated with candles. I read about this in Eric Newby's wonderful book "A small house in Italy".

Panicale: The third weekend in September is the Festa del l'uva - grape harvest festival.

Siena: There seem to be festivals going on all the time in Siena. One Saturday night in September we went into town and saw a procession of hundreds of people dressed in medieval costumes or in red devil costumes. And they were all grouped by costume type. For example, the young guys dressed as devils were all hanging out together, smoking. I don't know what that was all about - we went and had a pizza.

Spello: Feast of Corpus Cristi (early June). The people of the town fill the streets with floral carpets. They use flower petals to make elaborate pictures on the streets. We have not been to this, but would like to see it some year. The agencies "Gorgacce" and "Vacanza Bella" have apartments in Spello. Wouldn't it be fun to rent an apartment for the week of this festival?

Italian Harvests

Grape harvest in Tuscany, near Sovicille. 10/99

The grape harvest takes place at the end of September. When we were in Chianti at the end of September in 1999, the fields were full of people picking grapes. They fill up plastic containers, then carry them to the end of the row and dump them into a big open container that is pulled by a tractor. You see these containers full of grapes driving down the country roads. It is quite a sight. We could even smell the fermenting taking place when we walked by some farms.

The olive harvest takes place in November. We have never been there for an olive harvest, but would love to do this one year. If you rent the farmhouse apartment in Panicale, you can help with the olive harvest. Gun gives you some of her oil to use when you rent an apartment from her.

The chestnut harvest takes place between the middle of October and the middle of November. A couple of months after that, the fresh chestnut flour is available. There are many areas with chestnut trees in Tuscany.

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