La festa della Montagna - Sant'Oreste

Sometimes you just 'drop on', and everything falls into place. This was one of those times. My parents-in-law invited us to a festival. They said it wasn't a big deal. They said no one usually goes. They were wrong.

The Festa della Montagna, celebrating Monte Soratte, the serrated mountain about 35km north of Rome, was a dying festival. There are lots of festivals in Lazio. Lots of sagre. People get a bit saturated. Nonchalant, even. This year however, the local priest, a new guy full of new ideas and vigor, decided to take the festival under his wing. So, invited by my adopted family, we trekked the short 2km walk up the mountain, blessed by gorgeous spring sunshine, last Sunday. We didn't quite know what to expect. OK, feste usually have a bit of food, usually some music of some kind, but this festival was dying on its feet, indeed, it had been for about ten years. Our hopes were not high. 

We were wrong. The Festa della Montagna was wonderful. From start to finish. The walk up Monte Soratte on a paved road through the forested hillside, bursting with flowers wherever the sun broke through the cooling shade, was wonderful. We gasped for air as we caught glimpses of the stunning surrounding countryside. On one side, lago di Bracciano could be seen through the already thick summer-like haze, on the other, the hills of Sabina, before the Gran Sasso, towering above all before it, still cloaked in snow.
The view to lago di Bracciano
Once at the top, driven on by the siren call of the band, we were greeted by about 100 people, of all ages, all enjoying the spring sunshine, the band, and of course the views. After the band finished playing, everyone, as if commanded by a silent conductor, all passed through an archway to a courtyard where, to our surprise, they were giving out free food! This being Italy, the food was a lovely amatriciana pasta, sausages, a plethora of home-cooked desserts (I failed to try them all, as I had already gorged myself on the pasta) and a coffee. All for free (well, if you don't count a donation), all cooked and served by local townsfolk. All very lovely.

As I said before, the local priest, a young guy replacing the old Don Guido (an absolutely wonderful man who indeed ordained our wedding), has decided to liven things up a little. He's all about facebook, twitter and connecting with the young people. Does that mean he leaves the (rather sizeable number of) old folk behind? Not a chance. He's a charming young man who seems to really care about the local community. In between rushing around taking photos on his iPad (no doubt to post on his Facebook page), he was talking with everyone, organising the many helpers, and generally making sure everyone was having a good time.
The priest, doing his best Montalbano impression
Would I recommend the Festa della Montagna? Well, with the caveat that this was the only time I've gone, I would. If you're in the area. While it was lovely, and a real community moment, I did feel a little bit of an outsider. I guess I wasn't the intended audience. No one said anything, everyone was lovely, but when the locals start singing in the local Sant'Orestese language, you just know you don't quite fit in. Having said all that, yes, I would recommend it. I had a wonderful time. It was great to see everyone out enjoying themselves. Monte Soratte is always good value. We even managed to squeeze in a visit to one of the many medieval structures on the mountain, the hermitage of saint sylvester. This charming little church has recently re-opened after some restoration work and is worth the trip alone. Filled with stunning paintings, a crypt and bags of history, this stunning little hermitage, perched right at the top of Monte Soratte, is one of those lovely when-in-Italy moments, where you know you're stood in an incredibly historical place, yet the locals seem to take it for granted and even overlook it.

All in all then, a great day out, and a great start to the sagre/feste season. The next festival up on Monte Soratte and in Sant'Oreste is the festa della Madonna, at the end of May. See you there!


  1. Sounds like a really fun time. I had a hoot at the Sagra del Frittello in Roccantica last year. Love your blog.

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