Mediterranean connection: Summer festivals, Italian style

· Jul 3, 2001 Tweet

The Badger Herald will feature a regular travel column straight from the hostels and hotels of the Southern Mediterranean. This week, a look at the festivals that grace Italy.

ITALY – All year long, the modest-sized towns and cities of Italy host festivals for various religious and historical events. This summer is no exception as every weekend brings another slew of festivals all over the country. While the events vary in size and content, they are alike in that they host some of the most entertaining musical and artistic performances of the summer.


In mid-June the Christian observance of Corpus Dominus (Body of Christ) is honored all over Europe. The Italian town of Orvieto, best known for its massive and breathtaking Duomo and spectacular local wine, hosts a medieval Corpus Dominus Festival.


The celebration begins at noon on Saturday with a procession down the main streets of Orvieto with people in authentic medieval dress. Local citizens dress in their family’s colors and honor a tradition and heritage that is centuries old. At the entrance of the Duomo, rows of colorfully-attired drummers play haunting rhythms, welcoming the worshippers into the church. Perhaps the most breathtaking display are the men at the foot of the procession baring banners adorned with the crests of their respective families. At the prompt of the drummers, these men throw the banners high into the air and fill the sky above the street with colors.


After this procession, the citizens of Orvieto and visiting observers move into the Duomo for a mass, complete with medieval singing and chanting.


Once night falls, everyone moves to the arena erected in the center of town to watch a spectacle of medieval song, dance and sport. The next morning there is a solemn procession of armored knights through the streets.


The city of Orvieto is very simple to get to and the events of the festival are free and open to everyone. However, the town is very small and finding accommodations for the night is next to impossible.


Another quite well-known Italian festival is Il Festival dei Due Mondi (The Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto. This 2-week event is a celebration of the fine arts and every year it hosts some of the finest dancers, singers, actors and artistic performers in Europe. Held from late June through early July, the festival draws visitors from all over the world.


This year’s festivities began with a sold-out performance of a Giancarlo Menotti opera called “The Saint of Bleecker Street.” The flawless performance was held in the gorgeously adorned opera house, “Il Teatro Nuovo,” and the audience, in black ties and ball gowns, was treated to an appearance by Menotti himself.


Occasionally, little-known and unadvertised festivals can offer some of the best surprises. This summer, a very small event in the umbrageous countryside outside of the city of Perugia hosted The Buena Vista Social Club, a sensational Cuban music group that was immortalized in a recent documentary film of the same name. The relatively unannounced performance drew a sizable crowd just by word of mouth and the band played to a very enthusiastic crowd in an outside arena into the early hours of the morning.


It is nearly impossible not to stumble across a festival while visiting Italy in the summer. They are provide wonderful opportunities to see excellent performances at close to no cost.

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This article was published Jul 3, 2001 at 12:00 pm and last updated Jul 3, 2001 at 12:00 pm

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