Italy has its share of celebrations and festivals all year long. Here I have highlighted three celebrations that take place during the month of May, a snake festival, a pilgrimage to beauty and a fish festival. Come enjoy them with me!
Celebrations and Festivals
Celebrations, festivals and street parties are a big part of life in Italy. During the month of May there is more than enough to do by way of entertainment. There is a little something to suit every individual taste. So if you are fortunate enough to be visiting Italy during the month of May, you are in for a treat! Here I have highlighted three events worth taking in- a “snake” extravaganza (if you’re not too squeamish), a pilgrimage to beauty and tranquility and a fish festival complete with its own pyrotechnics display.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s explore the fun to be had!
Snake Festival in Cocullo
On the first Thursday of May, in the town of Cocullo, a very unique, albeit strange, ancient festival is held to honor the memory of Saint Dominic Abbot. Cocullo is a small town located near Abruzzo, which is less than an hour’s drive from Rome. The way the legend goes, Saint Dominic had his way with snakes- he was able to render every poisonous snake in the area harmless, much to the pleasure of the ople. For this reason he became known as the patron saint of snakes. A processional is held on this day every year and the local residents come out in droves to honor his unique ability. What happens is the Saint’s statue is carried throughout the town. The parade is always held at midday and people participating in this unusual ritual cover the statue and- it’s hard to believe but true- themselves with hundreds of live, slithering snakes. Of course the snakes are all non poisonous. This is not a festival for the faint at heart or anyone who has a phobia about snakes. It is believed that the snakes, once draped over the statue, hold some type of mystical power to predict future happenings.
The people in attendance watch the behavior of the snakes very carefully. According to custom, if the snakes wind themselves around the head of the statue, that is a very good sign and forecasts a good harvest to come. However if they wind themselves in the direction of the arms and steer clear of the head, local prophecies say this is indicative that something bad is ahead.
In days past the snakes were all killed after the event was over but that cruel practice came to an end back in the 1940’s. Since that time, every year once the festival is over, the snakes are released unharmed into local farmlands. This event dates back to the pre-Roman times and is connected to the goddess Angizia who had her own special way of protecting farmers from being bitten by poisonous snakes.
Patron Saint of Teeth
Saint Domenic of the 16th century, according to legend, also had a unique ability to keep away fevers and storms. For this reason he became the patron saint not only of snakebites but teeth as well. The “dental” element is incorporated into the parade near the end of it. What happens is that a bell is rung by a cord that must be pulled by teeth, which is an indicator of good dental health. After the tooth is pulled, villagers line up to kiss what they consider to be a “holy” molar. This is most definitely not an event for people who are scared of snakes (or dentists!) but worth a look nonetheless, albeit from a distance perhaps!