It’s August, so it must be Ferragosto, and if it’s Ferragosto, then it must be festa time in Montone! We are in the midst of our annual, week long medieval festival, the Donazione della Santa Spina.
August 15 is the official Ferragosto holiday in Italy, but one can go ‘on ferie’ (fair-ee-a) or vacation, anytime during the summer. We can all thank Emperor Augustus who, back in 18 B.C., thought it was a great idea to take a little break from work during the dog days of summer.
Yeah, great idea! Only somehow Montone lost that message in the space time continuum. More work gets done than is humanly possible, more tasks, more meetings, more planning sessions. It is an epic marathon where you participate by suspending all of your natural rhythms like breakfast, dinner and bedtime...and just roll along, doing what needs to get done. Pretend you are organizing a wedding with all the planning that involves; now pretend you are organizing 6 weddings in one week. OK...that gives you an inkling of what’s going on here in town. I wolfed down a piece of Jeff’s left over steak at 1:30 am because that’s what time I could eat. Worked just fine, me, the cats and a good book. (Anyone else read "The English Girl"? Timely topic, eh?)
Quick primer: Montone is divided into three riones (or teams), which are very loosely based on geography and we compete for the palio. The word palio comes from the Latin word pallium for fabric, which in our case is a beautifully painted banner. Each year a new banner is created and they are endearingly unique.
In Siena, their Palio is a bareback horse race in the piazza. Now, please explain to me why Siena’s Palio is so much more famous...ours goes on for a week, has amazing food at the pop-up tavernas, incredible original theatrical productions that range from bawdy singing transvestite nuns, tipsy saints on swings on clouds in heaven, to reenactments of significant moments in Montone’s history, and frequently include animals, children and casts of thousands!
Sunday was the official kick off day with the presentation of the Castellane from each rione and the opening of our tavernas. This year, Jeff was in the cantina serving the wine, vin Santo and plastic bottles of water. I was in the cucina dishing up pasta, while the sausages were being grilled by our grill maestro. Did I mention tht the food is very, very good? Home made, home grown, and as local as can be.
Monday night was the “i Bandi” event, where each rione puts on a short skit that pokes fun at the other riones. Love must have been in the air because two of the skits were about woman looking for husbands, and they were all about pride goeth before the fall. Of course, our rione, del Verziere was the most hysterical with those raucous saints on the swingset having a good laugh over our petty foibles! (I’m completely biased and partial..the other riones were pretty funny too!)
Yesterday was archery, and unfortunately, archery is not del Verziere’s forte, so we came in dead last. In classic medieval fashion, the score is nailed to the comune door...of course!
Tonight begins the presentation of the the ‘spettacaolos’, with the del Borgo performance. Town is a full blown construction site as the sets are being built, lights strung, trees trimmed and everything is getting prepared for the big showdown. Tension runs high! May the best rione win!
Just because everyone deserves a Ferragosto, here, for your viewing pleasure are some truly silly Italian rappers talking about their love of Ferragosto. This is what going to the beach is all about in Italia!