One of my goals for this semester has been to get a feel for Italian life and culture. Since I’m spending almost four months here, I want to really feel like I have lived here, not just visited as a tourist. So with that in mind we decided to go to a little town outside of Rome to attend their annual wine festival. It’s an extremely popular festival that many Romans attend. Plus, come on it’s a wine festival. Why wouldn’t you want to go?
The festival is a celebration of two things. It is a harvest festival, celebrating wine and grapes from the area, and it is a commemoration of the return of Marcantonio Colonna from the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The victory prevented the Ottoman Empire from expanding into the European Mediterranean. The festival now involves many people dressing up in Renaissance garb and a procession of a prince on a white horse to meet his princess waiting on the steps of city hall. The costumes are all really elaborate and well put together, as well as accurate for the period. It was so much fun to watch the people going by!
The best part of the festival was, as always, the food! We had the traditional porchetta sandwiches, and they were some of the most delicious pork sandwiches I have ever had. And they were cheap, too! We also had some delicious crepes for dessert, and of course, lots and lots of wine. There were vendors everywhere selling red wine, white wine, sangria, and anything else you could possibly want.
The reason the Marino Wine Festival is so famous is because for a while, after the procession has gone through the town, the fountain is filled with wine instead of water. Everyone swarms around the fountain to get a bottle full of the free wine. We decided it was worth it and fought our way to the front. There were so many people that you couldn’t move, and the only way to get anywhere was to shove the people around you. This turned completely terrifying when it came time to take the train back. There were people literally climbing in the windows of the train trying to get as many people as possible back to the city.
The Marino Wine Festival was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in Italy so far. It was a great time, and we really felt like we were participating in Italian culture. Next Sunday Marino is having a donut festival- and I’ll definitely be there!