Grape festivals

 

Being one of the world’s greatest wine producers, Italy has a long and proud history when it comes to growing grapes. To understand the respect country people have for this fruit, you can look at the history of Marino, a village just outside Rome that got repeatedly razed to the ground by invasions, earthquakes and war bombings – and grew back every time thanks to its exceptional wine industry. Understandably grateful, the villagers began celebrating it: first informally, and since 1925 with an official Grape Festival.

The festival struck a chord, so much that it was immediately allowed the title of sagra, which at the time was an official honor reserved to just a handful of folk celebrations. It also grew explosively, and its history is dotted with anecdotes of gigantic traffic jams extending for dozens of kilometers all around Marino, effectively paralyzing the whole region. The Marino festival is, as it often happens in Italy, a mix of religious and pagan celebrations. It involves a Catholic procession through the village streets, a historical reenactment parade with costumes, mass, pop concerts featuring rather major artists… and a miracle. Yet again a fun mixture of sacred and profane, the “miracle” consists of actual wine spouting from the fountains of Marino, for all to drink from them.

This festival became a sort of template for many others throughout Italy, all of them of course happening around mid-September to early October, when the grapes are picked. None of the others replicates the fountain miracle, but parades and huge feasts in the main squares of the hosting villages are the norm. Some of them also add a little special touch. The Impruneta festival near Firenze, in example, has a focus on charity and on the playful feud between the city districts, with the winner for the best parade float paying a grand dinner to the other districts. The festival of Verla di Giovo, near Trento, is instead all about saving the cultural heritage of the valley communities. It sees several conferences and exhibitions about the local traditions – and of course a gastronomic tour of the restaurants, to taste classic local recipes at their best.