Almonds blooming festival

 

Sicily is the southernmost island in the Italian territory. Its geography has influenced its history too, making it culturally closer to Greece and northern Africa than to the national spirit. This is apparent in its archeological sites (Sicily has better preserved Greek temples than Greece itself), in its cuisine and in other aspects that sadly include the mafia culture. Sicily also remains, most of all, a beautiful and relatively unknown place to other Italians.

In 1934 a member of the Sicilian aristocracy decided to create a new event to celebrate the local culture and make it more popular. Taking inspiration from the Phyllis and Acamas myth from the Ilyad, he found a good hook in the beautiful blooming of the almond trees so common in the Agrigento area, that thanks to the southern latitude happen in late February already. He named the event the Sagra del mandorlo in fiore (literally: “Almonds blooming festival”), and built it around typical Sicilian products. With time the festival took on several more layers. Today it has become a large meeting for folk artists participating from all over Europe, so the main symbol for the event is now the Friendship Brazier – a fire that is lit up in the magnificent archeological site of the Temples Valley, right before the Concordian Temple. The weeklong festival involves many dance and song shows, conferences, food tastings, street markets, a beauty pageant and several parades.

The most important of the latter is about traditional Sicilian costumes and the unique, heavily decorated carts pulled by donkeys that are typical of the local culture. The apex of the festival is however its closing ceremony, which takes place in the Temples Valley again. That is when many awards are given to the best artists, costumes, cultural initiative and more, in a triumph of music and dances made even more spectacular by the splendid setting.