Medieval festivals in Italy - Ludika

Italy is often referred to as the living museum, as living in the past. People often relate things back to the Romans, to some ancient incident that happened over a thousand years ago. However, one of the things I hadn't realized was that Italians are pretty into their medieval history too. All over Italy, festivals spring up throughout the year where towns are transported back to medieval times, with medieval pageantry, food, and music.

One of the largest takes place in the northern Lazio city of Viterbo from the 18th to the 24th June... (8-13th July in 2013)

Ludika 1243 is a medieval festival that takes the San Pellegrino quarter (the oldest part of Viterbo) back to 1243, with games, historical reenactments, music and food. They transform the streets, with locals wearing medieval clothes, and street performers, jugglers, fire-eaters and the like wandering around. Plus, rather than breaking the ambiance with a modern day meal, you can also eat in special taverns serving food from recipes from the XIII century.

Ludika (from the Latin‘ludus' meaning a game, sport or training) is not only a medieval feste, where you turn up in your modern clothes, gawk and stare, and generally feel out of place. Oh no, in Ludika, you can actually take part! In a cool twist, you can sign up to take part in various medieval reenactments, such as the big battle between the Guelfi army (yay!) who defended the city of Viterbo against the Ghibellini army (boo!), under the order of Federico II. You can pick which side you want to fight for and then you'll be given clothes and weapons and even the possibility to train during the days preceding the battle. This battle itself usually involves hundreds of people and is a highlight of the festa. After a parade that passes through the city streets, once the “Guelfi” and “Ghibellini” armies reach Faul Valley, at the sound of the battle-horn, they start the battle royale. Every year the result changes, but once the battle is over, everyone retires back to the streets to partake of the food and wine. You'll have to be quick if you want to take part. Contact details can be found here.

If you don't fancy taking part in the battle itself, there's plenty more to be kept busy with. For example, there's a street play, where over 20 actors present an interactive wandering show where they search for the mysterious Brancaleone. Click here for the full programme (currently only in Italian, although they promise an English one).

If that isn't enough, there's also a photo competition. At the end of the festival there is an award ceremony (I'm not sure what the prize is) for the person who has best captured the spirit of the festival.

If you can't make it to Ludika, there are plenty of other medieval festivals in Lazio. Here's two more:

Medioevo a Soriano, Soriano Nel Cimino, Viterbo - from Friday June 22nd to Sunday June 24th. Highlights include a falconry show, reenactments and music. More information can be found here.

Carosello storico dei Rioni di Cori, Latina - from mid-June to the end of July.
Highlights include two palio, various festivals and medieval food. More information can be found here.

Who knew living the past could be so much fun!

All photos taken from

Sagre in Lazio - my June picks

Wow, the days are flying by! It's already time for my Sagre and Feste picks for June! I hope some of you managed to get to the sagre I recommended last month. From now until, well, winter, the number of sagre and feste in Lazio and indeed Italy seems to increase every month. For the novice reader, a sagra (plural: sagre) is a local festival, very often involving food, that frequently ties in with a historical pageant or sporting event, such as a joust or a horse race (where it is called a palio). Here, from a veritable feast of feste, are my highlights for June.

Sagra delle Fettuccine
Grotte Santo Stefano, Prov. di Viterbo

Sagra della fettuccine - in Grotte Santo Stefano

One of the things I enjoy about sagre is that they put traditional food in context. They are educational. For example, this sagra is about a type of pasta. Now, before you skip this section, you may be interested to learn that Fettuccine is a flat, ribbon-like pasta (the name translates literally to "little ribbons") and is similar to tagliatelle (from Bologna). It's made with flour, eggs and salt, and is a traditional pasta used in many Roman dishes. The Sagra delle Fettuccine, now in its 13th year, celebrates this local food hero. Grotte Santo Stefano, a small town near both Viterbo and Bomarzo (the one with the weird sculptures in the park), will come alive on the weekend of the 14-16th June with live music (and a disco on Saturday night), food stalls and good cheer. The fabled fettuccine will be available with a variety of sauces, and if you fancy more than one, then the 'Tris' is for you:  a trio of fettuccine with Ragu`, wild boar (cinghiale), and Porcini mushrooms. When you're all fettuccined-out, you can try other local dishes such as beans with pork rind (my father-in-law's favourite!), tripe, or sample a glass of the local wine....

The stands open at 7:30, and further information (in Italian) can be found on the Pro Loco Santo Stefano website.

Sagra della Ricotta 
Guadagnolo - Capranica Prenestina - Prov. di Roma

Capranica Prenestina, nestled in the Monti Prenestini mountain range in the Lazio sub-Apennines, is hosting a Sagra della Ricotta on Sunday 17th June. The town, approximately 40km to the east of Rome, will showcase homemade, traditional ricotta in every dish and style possible. Food stalls will open at 10am, with music and dance performances taking place throughout the day. More information (in Italian) can be found on the Pro Loco Guadagnolo website.

Sagra del Cinghiale
Castel San Pietro Romano - Prov. di Latina

Just down the road from the sagra above, there's the Sagra del Cinghiale (Wild boar food festival). I love wild boar. I actually prefer it to pork, although it is very gamey. Over the weekend of the 23rd-24th June, Castel San Pietro Romano, approximately 40km to the east of Rome, will host loads of food stalls, selling wild boar, porchetta, and many other (admittedly very meaty) food types, mixed fresh with pasta to eat there and then, or as salsicce to take home. There's also music, local food and craft stalls, and, of course, cheap, yet really good quality, local wine. I'm drooling already... 

For more information (in Italian), click through to the Pro Loco site.

Sagra della Frittella

Paliano - Prov. di Frosinone

If wild boar isn't your thing, what about pancakes? On the same weekend as the sagra above, the 23-24th June, frittelle, a kind of fried pancake, will be celebrated in the town of Paliano, approximately 60km to the south east of Rome. Both sweet and savory frittelle will be available, along with the local Rosciola oil, and other local products. Various cultural and sporting events will be held during the two days, with music and cultural performances every evening.

Palio del Velluto
Leonessa - Prov. di Rieti

By the end of June, you may be sick of sagre, and want to go to a non-food-related event. Thankfully, during the last week of June (29th June-1st July), Leonessa holds its annual "Velvet Contest", a historical eight day commemoration of Saint Peter (the Fiera di San Pietro). The Palio del Velluto takes its name from the local weaving style and was held from at least 1464 until 1557, when the event was abolished by the local Governor after a dispute that resulted in four deaths. Mercifully though, things are a little more civilized nowadays, and the games are back on.

The games are fought between the six quarters of the city - Corno (Horn), croce (cross), Forcamelone, Poggio, Terzone, and Torre (Tower). In addition, there aere various music and dance performances, concerts, taverns with dishes of the day, jugglers and other street performers throughout the city to evoke the atmosphere of 16th century. All in all, a great day out! More information (in Italian) can be found here.

Finally, I want to quickly mention the infiorate (street flower petal displays) that will be popping up throughout Lazio for Corpus Domini on the 16-18th June. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should check out this post.

OK, so there you have my hand-curated picks of the best sagre and feste coming up in June. There are many, many more. Please leave a comment below if I've missed your personal favorite or if you know of any other sagre or feste that are worth mentioning.

Buone sagre a tutti!

Photo credits:
Sagra delle fettuccine
Pappardelle al cinghiale