Donít think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian winter vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, and sometimes skiing and other winter sports. Italian winter holidays have several advantages: You wonít fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find, and every region has its own winter festivals. When we say winter, we mean November to February; spring comes early in Italy. Donít look here for information about Italyís marvelous Carnivale; we are planning a separate series covering regional Carnivale celebrations. Talk about planning; start organizing your Italian winter holidays now. Keep reading.
Abruzzi and Molise are small, traditional regions of Italy on the Adriatic Sea that were united until Molise was named as a separate region in 1963. They get pretty cold in the winter, but you still can enjoy yourself even if you arenít into winter sports. Here you can see the real Italy, virtually unspoiled by tourists. I first heard of this area decades ago, when I learned that according to Craig Claiborne, at the time Food Editor of the New York Times, Italyís best food was found in Abruzzi.
One heck of a bonfire.
Saint Martinoís day, November 11, is said to signal the end of the agricultural year. The harvest is in and prepared for the winter. Scanno, Abruzzi celebrates this day with enormous bonfires on the surrounding hillsides. Valle Castellana, Abruzzi holds a Chestnut and Potato Festival in November.
December 6 marks San Nicolo Feast Day often celebrated with traditional loaves of bread and taralli, hard round biscuits, washed down with wine. Two days later is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. Several towns and villages celebrate with bonfires and traditional singing. Among the beautiful Living Nativity scenes is Bethlehem in the Grotto in the town of Stiffe, Abruzzi held during the month of December. On Christmas Eve many Molise towns including Agnones, Acquaviva Collecroce, and Oratino hold torchlight processions, while Bagnoli di Trigno holds a flashlight parade. Each parade is similar and each parade is unique.
Rivisondoli, Abruzzi reenacts the arrival of the Three Kings at the Manger on January 5 with hundreds of costumed participants. Every January the village of Picciano, Abruzzi hosts a traditional Befana Festival honoring an old woman dressed as a witch who gives coal to the bad children. Villa díAgri, Molise hosts a similar festival. In mid-January the village of Fara Filiorum Petri, Abruzzi and several others host a Farchie Festiva in honor of St. Anthony. There are huge bonfires with torches over ten meters long (more than thirty feet) and a meter wide. Youíll hear firecrackers, songs, and stories. Thereís dancing, food, and wine.
In mid-January Ortona, Abruzzi celebrates a special festival in honor of Saint Sebastian; a decorated small boat filled with fireworks is launched. According to tradition, the length of the boatís journey indicates the success of the coming agricultural and fishing seasons. February in both regions means Carnivale, discussed in a separate article. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Abruzzi and Molise wines including Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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