Small towns carry on religious traditions that are colorful and can be of interest to the less devout as well as those of the Catholic faith. Sooner or later, visitors to small towns are likely to stumble on a religious procession complete with priests, nuns, and local devotees carrying crosses and other religious symbols, often accompanied by the town band, or by hymns sung by the marchers. In this photo, you can see one such procession in Grotte di Castro.
Read more about charming Bolsena.
Bolsena also pays omage to its patron Saint, Santa Cristina, by hosting not one, but two, staged “Mysteries of Santa Cristina.” In these staged tableaus, villagers depict the various tortures that Santa Cristina underwent during the persecutions of Christians under Roman Emperor Diocletian, including flagellation, cutting out her tongue, death by arrows and more. Lest the reader be horrified, let me reassure you that the tableaus are actually beautiful if somewhat gruesome to behold, resembling in composition Renaissance paintings of the same. It should also reassure that Santa Cristina was saved by God to some extent from all of her tortures, except the arrows, which resulted in her death.
So why does Bolsena host two such Mysteries every summer? Well, the first is staged by adults while the second is staged by children. If you examine the following photo carefully, the little boy in the middle is holding Santa Cristina’s tongue!
Music & Dance of all Kinds:
La Zitella (Played in the Video above ) was a quite popular song this summer: It was fun watching the town population dance it!
Italians love music and most towns of any size host at least an occasional concert or dance in the main piazza. For towns that rely more heavily on tourism, such as Bolsena, there is music of some sort nearly every night, including:
Jazz, played by various groups, including slow jazz songs and other combinations. Most recently, we saw a jazz marching band called The Fantomatik Orchestra which marched or perhaps danced down the streets of Bolsena.
Classical music concerts, often with professional musicians. For example, Bolsena has a summers series of classical conserts called “Emozioni d’Estate.”
Traditional folk music complete with rustic instruments including various kinds of Italian bagpipes. For the unsuspecting visitor, the music may seem surprising similar to celtic music, but it is definitely Italian and includes Italian folk dances such as the tarantella and saltarello.
Rock concerts, obviously the big names are not playing in small towns, but the unknown performers can be quite talented. You may be surprised – given the number of people who hop up to dance YMCA – that the Italians may not be dancing to rock with the same enthusiasm. Do not allow this to disuade you from letting lose, as Italians may one day learn to dance with abandon to Sweet Home Alabama.
Street Music in Italy.
Theatre, Opera and Dance
You may need to travel a bit further to a slightly larger town to enjoy theatre and opera. For example, the Tuscia Operafestival staged performances of La Traviata, Rigoletto, La Bohème and Don Giovanni but you needed to go to Viterbo to see them. Keep your eyes open for performances in historic locations, such as the Roman theatre art Ferrento, between Montefiascone and Viterbo, where we saw an outstanding performance of the Merry Widow.
Dance performances are easier to find. In 2008, we were fortunate to stumble on a world class modern dance performance by Danza Prospettiva Vittorio Biagi called “All’italiana…da Rossini a Fellini” in the deconsecrated church of San Francesco in Bolsena. See the photographs.
While this level of performance is not frequent, other opportunities to view local dancing abound. For example, in Montefiascone and Bolsena, the Infinity Dance troup has students perform ballroom standards such as the waltz, tango and foxtrot, Latin dances such as the Samba, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha and Jive and even a little Hip Hop. If you are inspired, you can even take lessons!
Markets and Games
Some towns also hold games for kids. The San Rocco section of Bolsena holds its “Festa di San Rocco” every summer in August. In addition to evenings full of food, there are traditional games for kids, including an egg and spoon race which is familiar in other parts of the world, a pasta-eating contest (hands tied behind one’s back!) and, my personal favorite, the watermelon breaking contest. In this last, the watermelon (allegedly over-ripe and therefore not a waste of good food) is placed in the town square surrounded by sawdust intended to minimize injuries. The goal is to break the watermelon with your butt. Kids must run and lauch themselves (and their butts) at the watermelon at the critical moment, slow enough not to miss the watermelon but hard enough to break it. Needless to say, hard enough to break a watermelon is also hard enough to bruise most butts even when one hits the target. If you miss, the sawdust only goes so far.
How do you find the evening’s entertainment? Since small towns don’t have a weekly publication like “Roma C’E’” it’s necessary to do some spade work. An obvious resource is the poster. Most main events are postered all of the town where they are being held, and frequently in neighboring towns as well. Keeping up with events is as simple as keeping an eye on the posters which are covered over with new events weekly or even daily in high season. Watch out for little ones posted in places like your favorite gelateria.
Another source is the local information center, if your town is big enough to have one. Information centers usually contain brochures of concert series, opera festivals and other events, as well as useful information on guided tours and the like. I usually collect a pile of these brochures from my town and neighboring towns and consult them when we are picking a place to go.
In addition, some towns and some festivals have websites. If you know about them, they are a good source of information. Finally, of course, word of mouth is another good way to find out about local events as some may be poorly advertised.