Published on April 8th, 2014 | by Ann Rickard


Unexpected Delights

We love a big, colourful festival, but we love stumbling upon a small local event even more; as we did some years ago in the tiny town of Montecassiano in the Marche region of Italy.

At the top of a cobbled street we came to a small piazza surrounded by handsome old buildings.Montefano-Portonova - 22-7-04 012

It was packed with what surely was the entire community of Montecassiano out for a local festival involving sports and pomp.

On a podium in front of a beautiful building draped with colourful flags sat five men dressed in medieval costume: velvet pantaloons, gold braid, flowing capes and feathered caps.

We watched while what we guessed were two local clans challenged each other for strength and stamina.

Muscled young men jogged on the spot, anxious to get started, but this was small town Italy and nothing can begin until much hot discussion, a show of extravagant arm waving and sometimes a bout of hair pulling, has taken place.

We waited impatiently with the villagers for a tug-of-war to start, but there was much talk to get through first, mobile phone calls to make, the drawing of chalk lines on the ground, and angry discussions to be had with the costumed men on the podium.

Montefano-Portonova - 22-7-04 015Finally the challengers took position and just as they were about to pull, the important men on the podium decided more discussion was necessary along with a bit of authoritative clipboard waving and a prolonged inspection of the chalk line.

We watched in delighted fascination.

A large mama finally intervened, gave a severe dressing down to one of the more beefy contestants and banished him to the end of the rope.

This was followed by a series of drawn-out announcements into a scratchy microphone by the frocked-up men on the podium, along with the smoking of several cigarettes and more arm waving and some minor hair pulling, until finally a bell rang and the men pulled.

It was over in seconds as one team immediately hauled the other over the chalk line.

Montefano-Portonova - 22-7-04 019

We had waited half an hour for a 20 second event. We were as disappointed as the losing team, who weren’t holding back on the foot stamping and scowling.

But it’s a fond memory of a local festival we just happened upon. And isn’t that what travel is all about?


About the Author

is a Noosa (Australia) local and author of six successful books, all humorous travel narratives. In 2005 Ann won the prestigious ASTW’s Australian Travel Writer of the Year and in 2007 she won the ASTW Travel Book of the Year. Ann takes a culinary tour to the South of France in June every year . Ann writes travel, dining and columns for the Sunshine Coast Daily and is the Life editor of the Noosa News. Ann also maintains a well read and popular blog site. Ann’s travels have seen her explore cuisines all over the world.

2 Responses to Unexpected Delights

  1. Suzanne Cogzell says:

    Ann, I have just read “Not Another Book about Italy” and roared with laughter because it is so true. I am the same age as you and first went to Italy 18 years ago. My nonno was born in the south of Italy and I try to go just about every year so all the places you mentioned I really knew what you were talking about. I annoy my husband so much when reading books about people living in Italy reading out bits and pieces aloud to him and his reply is always “Yes, yes I know if you are not Italian you are nobody!!” My daughter lived in Positano for 4 years and goes back regularly to see her friends. The last 2 years I have had to cancel my Italian trip at the last minute because of health issues, broken bone in foot then blood clots, suspected blocked artery in heart!!! Hopefully I will go this year with my sister. Regards, Suzanne

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