Festa Monini: colors, sounds and tastes of Umbria

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Travel through time

Monini and Umbria
01 Agosto 2014

Travel through time

The countless events that in Umbria, within a range of a few kilometres, revive the atmosphere and emotions of centuries of history.

They call them historical re-enactments, but perhaps the definition is not appropriate. All cities have a history, and many of these have also had a period of splendour, but here in Umbria it is different.
Here, every village, every inhabitant is proud of their history and does not live it just as an historical fact. Here, the Celtic heritage, the ascetic rigour of the Middle Ages, the splendour of the Renaissance period, the rivalry between Pope and Emperor, between villages or between districts are all still alive in the knowledge, culture and daily actions of each Umbrian. Thus, wandering around Umbria, from village to village, you can feel the history that is eternally present, revitalising the soul and giving strength and cohesion to the future of each community. A strange alchemy of pride and passion, awareness of their role in history and desire to be there and to be important in the present, has meant that in every corner of this small region incredibly suggestive events fed by a large historiographical rigour and creative fervour are imagined and carried out. Vivid and participated events that welcome tourists in an inviting atmosphere that makes for a unique and unforgettable experience.

From the Corsa dei Ceri (Race of Saints) or the Palio della balestra (Cross bow tournament) in Gubbio to the Corsa dell'Anello (Tournament for the ring) in Narni, from the Giostra della Quintana (jousting tournament) in Foligno or the Mercato delle Gaite (local district market) in Bevagna, strength and the ability to revive origins and traditions seem inexhaustible. It is however, during the summer months that the tournaments, challenges and competitions come one after the other almost everywhere.

From the earliest days of August, Castel Rigone recalls its Ostrogoths origins with the Feast of the Barbarians and the Giostra di Arrigo (jousting tournament) (Arrigo or Rigone seems to be the name of the Totila's lieutenant that in 543 AD founded the city). The festival is held in Gothic costume: duels, ancient music, markets with evocative objects from the barbarian world, games and even a "barbarian menu" with food inspired by those that were allegedly consumed in the Ostrogoth camp. But it is not an invention for Tourists, "barbarian hordes" stroll the village: they are men, women and children in the beautiful village near Trasimeno, who descend through the streets and revive ancient scenes of everyday life, venturing even in improvised duels.

More or less on the same days Colfiorito also organises a very special festival: the Montelago Celtic Festival, one of the biggest events of Celtic culture in Italy. A "Druid festival" attracts more than 20,000 people each year to the exciting area of the Plateau of Colfiorito, a powerful place where history and legends are joined to intact nature and the strongly evocative Sibillini mountains.
A fascinating corner of the world for an emotional-filled festival. The historic camp dominates the centre of the plateau where traditional Celtic Village life re-emerges: dozens of people in costume, wooden structures, camp fires, camp stoves and tests to represent some moments from everyday life: from the preparation of food, mead, ippocrasso (or spiced medieval wine) or other drinks of Celtic derivation, to the maintenance of weapons or the practice of the archers and swordsmen. And guests who want to camp out here can do so provided they have a tent and appropriate costumes.
The most striking moment is undoubtedly the transition between day and night when you turn on the sacred fires. But lovers of these traditions will have fun in every moment: the games for young people will be aligned with traditional training for battle, the Celtic market will offer objects of fantasy or that are Celtic-inspired, in the Tolkien tent, seminars will be held dedicated to Celtic fantasy literature and imagery and figures, and in the evening a series of unmissable concerts, entertaining the guests with Irish folk or rock music, with the sounds of the wind flutes, fiery percussion rhythms and bagpipes, or the sweetness of traditional Irish uilleann pipes.
Finally, the highlight of the event, is the battle of armies that will clash on the Plateau when the Roman and Celtic armies meet.

Far from the spirit of the Middle Ages to Rotecastello in August, the Corsa dei Bovi (Bovine race) in Montefalco or the Palio della Mannaja (Mannaja Tournament) in Pietralunga, or the Districts in Nocera Umbra or that of Terzieri in Città della Pieve.

At Rotecastello it seems like time has stood still. From the Middle Ages to the present day, the structures and the houses of this little gem have remained intact, a village nestled in the hills between Marsciano and San Venanzo that, for one week, revives with naturalness which elsewhere such an historical re-enactment would be unthinkable. Of course, all the inhabitants are involved: some as members of the procession, some as drummers, dancers or medieval cooks (excellent menus and dinners through the streets of the village), some in the Giullaria Goliardica of the "Vagrant Clerics" and some in various challenges as in the Palio delle Brocche, a game for women, (finally) taken from an incredibly old game from the Rotecastello women.

The Palio della Mannaja, is instead a challenge between the hamlets and the districts of Pietralunga. It consists of a frenzied and exciting race through the streets of the city pushing a barrow (the means by which they once transported the condemned to the gallows). Everything is done in memory of an episode that occurred in 1334, when a man was unjustly condemned to death but was saved by the miraculous intercession of the city's bishop. Of course, on the occasion's anniversary, the town is decked out for the festival, the captains of the hamlet and the districts are chosen, dinners are organised for the palio and traditional culinary and craft traditions are rediscovered.

At Montefalco the festival lasts for nearly the entire month of August. And here the atmosphere is typical of the early Renaissance period, when the city experienced a period of the greatest splendour. In the central days dedicated to the commemoration, Montefalco is transformed into the city painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, halfway through the 1400s, in the apse of the Church of San Francesco. It starts on 12 August with the drummers and flag bearer tournaments, the next night the districts perform and challenge each other in the theatrical event on a single theme (the same for all the districts) that in the background of the splendid Renaissance square revives the magical atmosphere of that period that does not seem so far away. The next day a crossbow and relay tournament is planned and finally, the district members compete in the exciting Corsa dei Bovi (bovine race), nowadays recreated in a modern way and not bloody as once it was. Throughout this time, the four taverns in the town, bearing the colours and insignia of each of the districts, animate the most challenging choreography within the walls on the rediscovery of preparations and flavours: such as the lo sformato alla S. Agostino (a type of flan), Agnello tartufato (lamb with truffles) gnocchi de lu bove and the rocciata porcaccia di maiale (pork based meal)...
However, of all the recipes, the most interesting and unusual are those from the appetising Renaissance banquet that will inaugurate the festival.

The Palio dei Terzieri (district tournament) in Città della Pieve evokes, in a bloodless manner, ancient Sienese "hunting", a sort of bullfight which has now been transformed into a test of skill in archery. The champions for the three Terzieri (districts) have three arrows for each archer. The targets are three mobile shapes of a chianino bull, mounted on a carousel, each bull has a ribbon with the colours of the corresponding Terziere (district). From the first to the third turn, the speed of the carousel increases and hitting the targets becomes increasingly difficult. But all this would be cold and not very exciting if it were not accompanied by an intense programme of festivities: theatre, music, flag bearers, craft shops and antique markets, street entertainment, Renaissance duels with weapons and costumes, open taverns that prepare migliacci, soups of bread or grilled meat cooked in a masonry chimney and combined with the beautiful historical procession with more than 800 characters: banner carriers, soldiers, nobles, ladies, knights and commoners and fire eaters who parade through the streets of the beautiful medieval village entertaining the spectators with tricks and skill.

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