Sunday, May 5, 2013

Italy's Unusual May Festivals

May is  the best time to visit central Italy especially if you are an anthropologist. Here there are many unusual festivals  that include the marriage of two trees,  a race  honoring a horse man and   a procession of snake charmers. 

foreign visitors  at  the Wedding of the Trees 

The  period between Easter  and the month of May  abounds with festivals having  a fertility  significance such as  the Wedding of the Trees  held in Vetralla  and  the Barabbata  in Marta.
Sposalizio dell'Albero, May 8th in Vetralla 

Serpari festival, Cocullo, Abruzzo  (Pro loco Cocullo)

May 8th is also the festival dedicated to  St. Domenico Abbot in the Abruzzi town of Cocullo. Here the serpari or snake charmers parade through the streets  handling  snakes just  awakened from their winter hibernation.

at the finish line 

Another unusual festival happened this morning here in Vetralla:    the 16th edition of the  Uomo Cavallo  race  with 180  men and women contestants from all parts of central Italy . 
watching the racers arrive 

finish line  in Piazza della Rocca 

The  10 kms. itinerary is a figure 8  snaking through the town  center and includes  many murderous  hills .   

runners from southern Italy 

refreshments at the end of the 10 km. race 

Domenico Baghini known as Uomo Cavallo 
The race is named for  Domenico Baghini of  Vetralla  (1867-1943) who as a youngster learned to run as he rounded up the cows on the family farm. When the first train came to town he competed against it and won. With his incredible physical stamina, he continued his winning streak competing  against horses in  20 km runs.   
nutella, crostate and water   at the finish line 

He ran many races all over Italy, Europe and even in Tunis in the years 1900-1910. When a national sports newspaper  paid his way to Paris  to participate in a marathon, Baghini  pocketed the money and traveled to  Paris on foot  doing 80-100 kms a day. Needless to say, he won the race, with 10 minutes advantage over the second place. 

(foto-Proloco Acquapendente )

 The Pugnaloni festival  of Acquapendente, on the Lazio-Tuscany border, has been  held annually for over  800 years. It sees groups from different parts of town competing to  create  huge   mosaics  made from leaves and flower petals which are  displayed throughout the year . This year it will be held on Sunday  19th May. For more on I Pugnaloni check the pro loco website.
(foto-proloco Acquapendente)
What is your favorite, unusual Italian festival? 

Indepth  information on local life, traditions and celebrations in Northern Lazio can be found in my publications .
Order a signed copy for yourself or for a friend  planning a trip here. 

Subscribe to the blog  by leaving your email  at the bottom of the page....and be sure to share with friends who love Italy. Hope to see you  at the next local festival! 


  1. We always wanted to visit the festival with snakes but never made it.

  2. Thanks for another interesting post MJ,I have shared the link on my FB page.