The Rola's Festival and the Cuckold’s Feast

 

To say that Rocca Canterano is a small village would be a real understatement. This ancient settlement on a hill 60 kilometers out of Roma has a population of just 218, dwindling year after year especially since 2000, when an earthquake made most buildings not safe for living in. This notwithstanding, it hosts no less than two concurrent festivals. The Sagra della rola is a culinary street festival honoring the local – and especially tasty – chestnuts, served in many ways but mostly roasted over an open fire. Other local delicacies include the arrosticini (roasted sheep cubes on a skewer), beans with pork, chicory and more.

All of that would however amount to a run of the mill food festival by Italian standards. The real highlight in the day before the patron saint celebrations for Saint Martin, however, is the Cuckold’s feast. Not in the sense of the bird, but of the man whose wife has an intimate relationship with others – and who in Italian is called ‘cornuto’, which is to say ‘sporting a pair of horns’. This ironic celebration was born in the Eighteenth century, when worried husbands went to the church to pray Saint Martin to keep their wives faithful to them even though November 11st marked the begin of the Advent fast – during which devout Christians were forbidden to eat meat and, by some weird similitude, to have sex for 40 days. While originally these pious men were the butt of the jokes of the whole town, today there is a self-ironic “Cuckolds brotherhood”, whose members parade behind their peer-elected leader – the Great Cuckold, holding an enormous pair of horns on his head. The parade is followed by a jester riding on a donkey’s back and spouting verses about local and national celebrities with notoriously unfaithful spouses. As strange as it sounds, all of this happens in good fun (but the copious amounts of wine involved surely help) and thousands of people visit Rocca Canterano for the event.