Un­ex­pected de­lights

Stum­bling upon a small lo­cal event can be­come a high­light of your trav­els

Central and North Burnett Times - - EXPLORE - Trav­el­ling Tales with Ann Rickard ann.rickard@sc­news.com.au Visit: an­nrickard.com

WE LOVE a big, colourful fes­ti­val, but we love stum­bling upon a small lo­cal event even more; as we did some years ago in the tiny town of Mon­te­cas­siano in the Marche re­gion of Italy.

At the top of a cob­bled street we came to a small pi­azza sur­rounded by hand­some old build­ings.

It was packed with what surely was the en­tire com­mu­nity of Mon­te­cas­siano out for a lo­cal fes­ti­val in­volv­ing sports and pomp.

On a podium in front of a beau­ti­ful build­ing draped with colourful flags sat five men dressed in me­dieval cos­tume: vel­vet pan­taloons, gold braid, flow­ing capes and feath­ered caps.

We watched while what we guessed were two lo­cal clans chal­lenged each other for strength and stamina.

Mus­cled young men jogged on the spot, anx­ious to get started, but this was small town Italy and noth­ing can be­gin un­til much hot dis­cus­sion, a show of ex­trav­a­gant arm wav­ing and some­times a bout of hair pulling, has taken place.

We waited im­pa­tiently with the vil­lagers for a tug-of-war to start, but there was much talk to get through first, mo­bile phone calls to make, the draw­ing of chalk lines on the ground, and an­gry dis­cus­sions to be had with the cos­tumed men on the podium.

Fi­nally the chal­lengers took po­si­tion and just as they were about to pull, the im­por­tant men on the podium de­cided more dis­cus­sion was nec­es­sary along with a bit of au­thor­i­ta­tive clip­board wav­ing and a pro­longed in­spec­tion of the chalk line.

We watched in de­lighted fas­ci­na­tion.

A large mama fi­nally in­ter­vened, gave a se­vere dress­ing down to one of the more beefy con­tes­tants and ban­ished him to the end of the rope.

This was fol­lowed by a se­ries of drawn-out an­nounce­ments into a scratchy mi­cro­phone by the frocked-up men on the podium, along with the smok­ing of sev­eral cig­a­rettes and more arm wav­ing and some mi­nor hair pulling, un­til fi­nally a bell rang and the men pulled.

It was over in sec­onds as one team im­me­di­ately hauled the other over the chalk line.

We had waited half an hour for a 20 sec­ond event. We were as dis­ap­pointed as the los­ing team, who weren’t hold­ing back on the foot stamp­ing and scowl­ing.

But it’s a fond mem­ory of a lo­cal fes­ti­val we just hap­pened upon. And isn’t that what travel is all about?

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