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Friday, 30 July 2010

The Miraculous Fruits of the Barabbata Festival, Marta, Italy - Page 2

Written by Diana G. Armstrong
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"Our float parade, Signora, each year these crazy people, they try to make it more special. For five hundred years these people are trying to out-do l'anno scorso (last year)." says the 80 year old barista. I am in a caffe in Marta—a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Bolsena, about 80 miles north of the center of Rome.

The reason for this whole parade is to honor Madonna del Monte. And it is here at her ancient church well above the town where the procession begins. Unfortunately for the parade, the road down to the lakefront cascades at a precipitous angle which is not ideal for the floats. It is especially challenging for the sheep wobbling on the back and the man tending his sausages as he walks behind, let alone for the people— donkeys and tractors are in charge of the floats. All are trying to hold their charges back from hurtling out of control down through the village and to the water's edge.

White Chiana cattle lurch by, decorated with huge red pom-poms dangling directly in front of their line of vision.

The Miraculous Fruits of the Barabbata Festival, Marta, Italy, Barabbata, Madonna del Monte, May 14th, Lake Bolsena, travel Marta, Italian festivals, Diana G. ArmstrongThe whole procession is received on the town piazza by the local town elders sitting on horses and dressed in their chaps made from long hair cattle. I had no idea Italy had cowboys (except, of course, on the Autostrada.)

The rain keeps on pouring down but nothing will stop the enthusiasm of the people on the floats or the locals watching.

As the parade winds down, we wander down to the lake and eat at the Ristorante da Otello. We order big bowls of lip-smacking Spaghetti all' Scoglio (Spaghetti of the Reef) which consists of a tantalizing array of freshly-caught fish and seafood nestling in spaghetti with a fragrant piquant red sauce spooned over the top for only 7 Euro.

They tell me at Otello Restaurant that the Barabbata actually dates back to ancient Etruscan times and is a celebration of the cycle of the seasons tied to a fertility rite. Lucky Madonna del Monte now claims this festival as her own.

We walk out of the restaurant, satisfied. The parade has come to its final halt. The proscuitto float has parked itself nearby under a tree. A large ham is hung from a lower branch and the farmer is expertly carving it with a massive sharp knife, and handing samples to the people.

And there go the uninformed tourists speeding right by this spectacle in Marta on their way from Rome to Tuscany.

©Diana G. Armstrong is an author, a cookbook author and a freelance writer of food and travel articles. Her recent book Somewhere South of Tuscany (April 2010) is available nationally. It focuses on restoring her 400 year old house and living and cooking in Italy. It may be viewed on her website or . She lives in Lubriano a small village halfway between Rome and Florence.

*Many Italian festivals are tied into a certain day of the week, but not this one.  Barabbata is always on May 14th.

Local Information:
Marta is on the southern shore of Lake Bolsena, the cleanest and deepest lake in Italy. It is about 1 hour 15 minutes drive north-west of Rome.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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