It's Sagre time! Feste in Lazio in May

Winter is over! It's time to Party! More specifically, if you're in Italy, it's time to get to a sagra. According to wikipedia, a sagra (plural: sagre) is a local festival, very often involving food, that often ties in with a historical pageant or sporting event, such as a joust or a horse race (where it is called a palio). From May onwards, the number of sagre and feste increases, almost exponentially, until around November time, when it trails off as Italians get themselves next to the fire and wait for Montalbano to come on the TV.

But how do you find out about sagre in Italy? How do you know they are happening? Well, usually you have to keep your ear to the ground, hang around a few locals' bars, talk to the old man sat outside the church. Now though, you can come here. 

I love sagre and feste. I think they are one of the best things about Italy. They combine local food, history and culture, and moreover, they are a great day out. Over the next few months, I'm going to select a few sagre and feste each month. All of them will be in Lazio, and all of them will be well worth a visit.

Here's my selection of the sagre and feste happening in Lazio over the month of May:

Festa delle Passate - Marta

Also known as the 'Barabbata', and 'Festa della Madonna del Monte' (the Madonna of the mountain), this festival happens on the 14th May every year and it dates back to the Etruscans. Born as a semi-pagan celebration of the cycle of the seasons, and tied to an ancient celebration of fertility, it is now a religious festival. To thank the Madonna for the coming year's fruitful harvest, Marta comes alive with a procession that lasts for most of the day. The procession is lead by the Signori delle catergorie. These are the people involved in carrying the Madonna, and are traditionally selected from four quarters within Marta: the 'Casenghi' (shepherds), 'Bifolchi' (diggers), 'Villani' (a type of farmer) and 'Pescatori' (fishermen), representing the four main industries of the ancient town. The Signori delle Categorie are followed by floats decorated with flowers and food, representing the fertility of the earth, musical bands and all the people of the town. Once the whole procession arrives on the top of the hill, they make three rounds of the church (passate), enter from the front door to pay their respects to the Virgin and leave from the back door, to continue their course to the main square. Marta is in a beautiful location on the shores of Lago di Bolsena, approximately 1.5hrs north of Rome. More information on the festival (in English), can be found on the official site, while an eye witness account of the festival can be found here.

Festa dei Pugnaloni - Acquapendente


The Festa dei Pugnaloni takes place in Acquapendente, right on the northern edge of Lazio, near the Tuscan border. It's about a 2hr drive from Rome. The festa is a celebration of the Madonna del fiore, in memory of a miracle that occurred in 1166. It celebrates the blossoming of a dead cherry tree, a miracle that incited the locals to revolt against the tyranny of Frederick Barbarossa (a German Holy Roman Emperor). Armed with only sticks and work tools they succeeded in expelling the enemy. Since then, every 3rd Sunday of May (the 19th, in 2013), the festival celebrates this victory. Today the Festa dei Pugnaloni involves the parade through the city (between 5 and 7pm) of massive floral carpets (Pugnaloni) made with a technique similar to that of mosaics, that represent the victory of freedom against abuse. During the festival, Acquapendente hosts flea markets, food and craft stall, and historical performances. More information can be found (in Italian) here and the full program, again in Italian, can also be downloaded as a PDF.

Last year's winner - Corniolo.


La Tiella e l'Oliva - Gaeta


Gaeta, a coastal city in the province of Latina, in southern Lazio, is hosting  'la tiella e l'oliva', or 'filled pizza and olives' event on the 25-26th May (17-19th in 2013). The tiella, a local specialty, is an oven-baked filled pizza, composed of two disks of pizza dough placed one upon the other, with a savory filling of fish and vegetables. Any type of fish can be used, from anchovies to cod. Gaeta is not only famous for its filled pizzas. In addition, the Gaeta Olive, famous since the time of Aeneas, thanks to the local microclimate, will also be available for tasting at the festival. Gaeta is set upon a promontory, stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, and is 120 km from Rome and 80 km from Naples. "Taste the Tradition" takes place in Piazza della Libertà, from 16.30 with free admission. More information (in Italian) can be found here.

Sagra del Lattarino - Marta

Also in Marta, the 'Sagra del Lattarino', on the 26-27th May (1-2nd June in 2013), is a great day out, especially if you like fish (OK, if you don't, it may not be the festival for you).  Lattarino (Atherine boyeri) is a small fish, up to 20cm in length, and is simply fried in batter and served up on greaseproof paper. The festival lasts all day but really comes alive in the evening, where big tables are set up with food and wine and all the locals come out to party. An eye-witness account of last year's event can be found on my friend Lindyloumac's blog.

Festa della Madonna di Maggio - Sant'Oreste

Finally, on the last Sunday in May (the 26th in 2013), Sant'Oreste, a small village about 35km north of Rome, celebrates is biggest festival: La Madonna di Maggio. The whole village is decorated with lights and arches depicting religious images, while the Madonna is carried in a procession through the streets between the main church (San Lorenzo Martire) and a chapel at the start of the climb up Monte Soratte. The mountain is then rapidly 'set on fire' (figuratively of course!) and becomes the backdrop to a spectacular fireworks display. More information (in Italian) can be found on the Sant'Oreste ProLoco blog

Of course, there are many more feste and sagre in Lazio in May. The sagre/feste above are simply my favorites. If you'd like to highlight any other festivals happening in Lazio in May, or want to tell me about how you got on at any of the events above, feel free to leave a comment below. 

Oh, and don't forget to come back in a months time for my June picks! ;)

Photo credits (click through):
The barabbata festival
The church in Marta
Corniolo - courtesy of Machine72
La festa della Madonna in Sant'Oreste


  1. Busy times ahead in Lazio, thanks for the link.

    1. Better to be busy though! Enjoy the sagra del latterino!

  2. I would love to taste those delicious pizzas in La Tiella e l'Oliva!

    1. Yeah, they look fantastic don't they! There are so many sagre at this time of year, it's hard to choose which ones to go to!