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Celebrations in Abruzzo
The little-known region of Abruzzo, like all the regions of Italy, loves festivals, and in Abruzzo, dozens of them take place every year. This article provides you with a rough calendar of some of the main festivals by month and location. Dates are approximate, so always confirm dates and timings with the local tourist office before you make your plans.
The majority of annual festivals in Abruzzo are in the spring or the summer months when the weather is generally good, and mostly they revolve around the twin Italian passions of religion and food.
The Traditional Befana Festival (Picciano): Coinciding with the Feast of the Epiphany. In case you didn't know, Befana is the witch who delivers gifts to good children all over Italy on the eve of the 5th of January and is celebrated throughout the country.
Living Nativity (Rivisondoli): A ‘living nativity’ featuring hundreds of costumed characters re-enacting the Three Kings arriving at the manger of the baby Jesus.
The Farchie Festival (Fara Filorum Petri): This festival celebrates the folklore around St. Anthony who transformed an oak wood into a defending army and saved the village from invading French troops back in 1799. Like a lot of Italian festivals, the celebrations conclude with a firework display. This event usually takes place on the 16th of January.
Here comes, here comes the Befana
She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night
Look how tired she is! All wrapped up
In snow and frost and the north wind!
Here comes, here comes the Befana!
— Giovanni Pascoli
Carnival (Francavilla al Mare): Every February the resort town of Francavilla al Mare plays host to a typical Italian carnival featuring a host of unlikely characters and flamboyant floats, overseen by the leader of the carnival 'King Patanello'.
Carnival (Citta Sant’Angelo): A carnival featuring a parade of incredible floats.
Easter is big throughout the whole of Italy, and that is doubly true for the Abruzzo region.
Procession of the Body of Christ (Chieti): This sombre procession commences on Good Friday at the Cathedral of San Giustino in the hilltop town of Chieti. An atmospheric and solemn event with musicians and hooded, lantern bearers weaving their way slowly through the streets of old Chieti. Many other towns in Abruzzo follow a similar ritual including L’Aquila and Sulmona.
I Talami (Orsogna): The village of Orsogna plays host to a procession with performances of key biblical scenes over the Easter period.
Madonna che scappa in Piazza (Sulmona): This Easter festival featuring ‘The Running Madonna’, takes place in Sulmona, and celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, culminating with a statue of the Madonna, carried by eight very fit locals, ‘running’ to meet the newly resurrected Christ on Easter Sunday. Be there early, as there are always hundreds of onlookers and the spectacle is often televised on the local TV networks.
Frittata Festival (San Valentino): Celebrating that staple of Italian cuisine, the frittata, this festival usually takes place on Good Friday.
Snake festival (Cocullo): The venue for this festival is a small town nestled amongst the hills of Abruzzo. The festival traditionally happens every year usually on the first Thursday in May. The festival honours Cocullo’s patron saint, San Domenico, whose effigy is draped in dozens of live snakes and paraded through the streets of the town.
Daffodil Festival (Rocca di Mezzo): This pagan-inspired festival celebrates the beginning of Spring.
Festival of the Madonna della Libera (Pratola Peligna): This festival usually takes place in early May, and stretches over ten days of entertainment, music and food. A spectacular firework display is the finale on the last day of the festival.
After the first flush of celebrations takes place over the Easter period, more festivals take place through the whole of the summer.
Cherry Festival (Raiano): This festival takes place in Raiano every year for one day only in June.
International Jazz Festival (Pescara): This annual event takes place in the resort town of Pescara on the Adriatic coast, and each year features some of the greatest and best-known names in the jazz world.
Festa of Santa Margherita (Villa Magna): This festival celebrates the miracle of Santa Margherita, when as a young girl, the Saint saved the town from marauding Saracen invaders.
Giostra Cavalleresca (Sulmona): This festival sees the main square of Piazza Garibaldi in the medieval town of Sulmona transformed into a giant open-air arena, where brightly dressed horsemen compete in a jousting tournament featuring games of skill and accuracy. The festival also has parades in traditional costumes and armour and incredible displays of flag throwing.
Trout & Shrimp Festival (Popoli): Another Abruzzo celebration of food, this time with a fishy twist taking place in August.
Palio del Pupo (Cappelli Sul Tavo): Colourful costumed races are the centrepiece of this festival.
Historical Parade (Cepagatti): Celebrations in honour of the local saints, Rocco and Lucia featuring floats, medieval re-enactment "Palio dei Saraceni" and, of course, lots of fireworks. Usually takes place around the 13th-16th August.
Medieval Week (Lanciano): The highlight of the many activities taking place in this town during this week-long festival is the Mastogiurato re-enactment, which takes place around the first week in September.
Festival of the Madonna of Loreto (Pacentro): In celebration of the Madonna di Loreto, the brave and the fit partake of a gruelling barefoot race, known as the Corsa Degli Zingari or the ‘Gypsy Race’.
Sagra delle Lenticchie (Santo Stefano di Sessanio): A food festival featuring the humble lentil.
Casoli – Festival of Santa Reparata and San Gilberto: This 2-3 day Festa Patronale honours two local saints of the Casoli region, featuring, of course the best in wine and food, local costumes, floats and a tractor parade. Takes place every year from October the 7th/8th – as always check with the local tourist office.
Sagra delle Castagne e del Vino Novello (Vittorito): Chestnut and wine festival.
Whenever and whichever festivals you decide to visit in Abruzzo, remember to check dates and times with the local tourist boards before your visit. I do my best to keep this list current and accurate, but there can be changes, so it's always best to check before setting off for an Abruzzian festival.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do I find out about local festivals in specific areas of Abruzzo?
Answer: The best place to search will often be Google in the first instance (just type in Festivals and the name of the Abruzzen town). You will also find information at local tourist offices (in the major resorts), and you will often see posters in many towns outlining a programme of annual events and festivals.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius
Jerry Cornelius (author) on September 17, 2019:
Hi David V,
Great you're going over to Abruzzo in in October, although festivals in the region are thin on the ground then, there will still be plenty to do. Here's a few suggestions: Visit the medieval town of Sulmona, check out the Trabocchi coast north of Pescara and sample local fish, check out Pescara itself, a nice seaside town with a cool vibe and plenty of shopping (if that's your thing), visit one of the many wineries in Abruzzo - try Zaccagnini (Bolognano), but book in advance if you want to do the tour - https://www.cantinazaccagnini.it.
Hope this helps, have a great time.
DAVID V on September 17, 2019:
Going to visit in October...any suggestions Coral or Jerry?
Jerry Cornelius (author) on March 28, 2019:
No problem, Coral - glad you enjoyed it.
Coral Anders from Germany on March 28, 2019:
Thanks for this. It was an interesting tour guide to Abruzzo.