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