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Thursday, November 10, 2011

January Attractions of Southern Italy

Corigliano CalabroImage via Wikipedia

So you are hankering to visit southern Italy in January, but just aren't sure what to see and what to do. Don't despair; there are lots and lots of special events that simply aren't available in the good old summertime. Here are a few of them. Get rolling; Janaury is almost upon us. A Palio is a horse race that pits neighborhoods against one another. Pignola, Basilicata hosts the Palio of S. Antonio Abate in mid-January. Villa d'Agri, Basilicata celebrates Befana Canterina. You might know that Befana is an old woman dressed as a witch who gives sweets to the good kiddies and coal to the bad ones. In mid-January Rotondella, Basilicata hosts the Feast of Sant'Antonio Abate and Feast of Fire Festival on the following day. Corigliano Calabro hosts the Calabria Orange Festival and Procession.

If you want good luck in the New Year give kiddies some money or candies. This tradition is better kept in the small towns near Napoli than in Naples itself. Caserta holds its Festival of St. Sebastian in January. Make sure to see its Royal Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was headquarters to the Allied High Command in World War II. Italy celebrates Saint Biago Day on February 3rd. He was the saint of the throat. It's a traditional to honor him by eating leftover Panettone (Italian Christmas cake) with a glass of wine; your throat will thank you. Some localities celebrate with parades, music, and bonfires.

St. Anthony's Day is widely celebrated in Sardinia on January 16 and 17. Ancient tradition tells us that the saint, like Prometheus, stole into hell and brought back fire, so a bonfire is at the center of the festivities. Each town sets different herbs and fruits atop the blaze, creating a unique aroma. The women bring sweets and dark fruity loaves of pane nigheddu, while men enjoy wine and aquavit. The most spectacular celebration is said to be in Mamoiada, where 12 frightening masks called mamuthones represent the months of the year.

Every weekend from early January to mid February Alghero holds its Bogamarì Sea Urchin Festival that dates back to the days when Sardinia was ruled by Catalonia; this town's nickname is still Barcelonetta and the old people still speak a form of Catalan. The restaurants offer specials such as Spaghetti al Riccio di mare (Spaghetti a la Sea Urchins) which are best enjoyed with local white wine.

In early January Piana degli Albanesi holds a Greek Orthodox Ritual and Procession. Nicolosi, near Mount Etna, celebrates San Antonio Abate on January 17. Get up early; ceremonies begin before dawn when the monks repeat their vows of dedication to God and to the Saint. The day continues with parades and solemn ceremonies.

Many Sicilian towns celebrate the Feast Day of San Sebastiano on January 20. For example, in Mistretta it takes sixty men to parade his statue through the town.

Levi Reiss authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but would rather drink fine French, German, or other wine, paired with the right foods. He loves teaching computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website and his wine, diet, health, and nutrition website



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