|Pisa San Ranieri festival illumination draws crowds|
If you are planning a summer stay in one of Italy’s beautiful mid-size towns be sure to check the dates of the local summer festival before booking your flight and accommodations. Many historic Italian towns celebrate summer with festivals that draw large crowds such as Pisa’s Luminara di San Ranieri and Gioco del Ponte which have been celebrated in mid June for hundreds of years.
|the tower of Pisa by night|
Other towns like Montefiascone and Vignanello have invented festivals or sagre celebrating local wine and local food stars at the Cene in Cantina in my hometown, Vetralla.
Along with providing entertainment, these festivals produce a great amount of confusion annihilating the usual lifestyle of historic towns.
The younger crowd looking for lots of action may enjoy the added buzz of a summer festival, but if you prefer more traditional, slower paced living and genuine Italian lifestyle, organize your holiday stay before or after the festival or book a place distant from the festival venue in order to enjoy the festivities and also get a good night’s sleep.
Italian towns cannot compete with the night life of Ibiza or Mykonos yet Vetralla’s Cene in Cantina festival boasted 4 nights of rock music blasted by powerful speakers and a strange, sweet "perfume" wafted through the air from 11 p.m. until well after 2 a.m.
In Viterbo the pseudo-cultural Caffeina Festival’s ten evenings of happenings boasted many food stands cooking up fried foods and selling alcoholic drinks in medieval piazzas where local restaurants regularly close down.
|circus or cultural festival?|
|contrasting with the medieval architecture|
As tourists walked through Europe’s best preserved medieval quarter San Pellegrino, they wondered: What do energy drinks and mojito have to do with medieval Italy?
The lower prices and commercial (junk) food served at the 10-day festival creates a lot of competition with permanent restaurants offering quality local fare.. and what about the health safeguards? During a street-side show cooking, a chef was coughing directly onto the food being prepared.
This year the organizers of the Viterbo festival, perhaps sensing their future demise, decided to milk the city’s major volunteer and cultural associations.
|Archeotuscia presents in Cortile dell'Abate|
|on the far right, Caffeina staff take "donations"|
Archeotuscia with its 500+ members was given time and space on the festival calendar to publicize their association, but in order to enter the piazza where the presentation was being held everyone, including members, was asked to “donate” 3.50 euro to Caffeina’s organizers.
A mammoth book stall set up in the main piazza seemed to be a sign of culture: but after scouring the tables loaded with books and interviewing a volunteer (one of 250 who receive only a free meal and T shirt) I realized there was a complete absence of books, authors and publications from and about the Viterbo/Tuscia area.
|book tent at Caffeina|
There are a smattering of local authors presenting their latest books during the quiet dinner hours, and hopefully the audience will not mind paying a ticket to attend.
It was a surprise to see an entire stand dedicated to Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Vittoriale located on Lake Garda in northern Italy. This was done to thank a commercial writer whose books have been presented numerous times at the Festival.
The city's older residents, families and sleep deprived working people become prisoners of these summer festivals for they have little access to their neighborhoods and can be seen schlepping their groceries from distant parking areas.
Local tourism operators, restaurants, B&Bs and artisans who keep the historic center (especially San Pellegrino ) alive all through the year are not happy with the filth, broken bottles, hooligans and extra garbage produced.
|San Pellegrino, 8:30 a.m.|
Inhabitants and administrators are beginning to realize that concentrating large doses of festival/culture/action may not be worth the problems created. This year the discussions concerning these noisy summer festivals have been rife and the idea of sustainable tourism is now being considered.
|historic fountain and portapotty|
A set of guidelines and rules of behavior are needed to protect the rights of citizens living in the areas where the festivals are held. Safeguarding fragile medieval and Renaissance buildings, fountains and piazzas is another priority.
|historic fountains masqueraded as plant holders|
|massive speakers for a tiny piazza|
The architectural monuments that make our towns and cities so special should not be masked by garish carnival rides and plastic flowers.
A summer festival that involves high decibel music should have a proper container: a stadium, a large outdoor space or theatre not a tiny, flower filled piazza which serves as an outdoor living room to its inhabitants.
Read more about this on my previous blog article.
Your comments and shares are appreciated. What are summer festivals like in your area?