Ferragosto Days (What’s Ferragosto? Click here.): Medieval Festa Montegabbione, Umbria
“Venite tutti, belli e brutti!” the town crier was crying out. Come all, the beautiful and the ugly! The crowd erupted into laughter.
The young boy dressed in the costume of a town crier was playing his part with gusto. Holding high a sign that read, Regno di Camelot, Kingdown of Camelot, he waved us to follow him, and the crowd hurried forward.
We were in the historic center of Montegabbione, a medieval hill village just on the Umbrian side of the border between Umbria and Tuscany. On this warm summer night the town was ushering in its Ferragosto days with a “roving theater” made up of local children reenacting the story of King Arthur.
Dinner in the piazza was just concluding when we arrived and we found teenage girls dressed as peasants dancing arm in arm under the beautifully lit medieval tower. When they finished the crowd applauded. They kissed and hugged one another in congratulations of a job well done and then scampered away, some holding hands – as Italian teenage girls will do.
Then the little town crier caught our attention and we followed him (along with a couple of hundred others) down a steep, dimly lit street and just outside the ancient stone wall that encircles Montegabbione. I could hear mothers warning their children not to climb on the top of the wall, certainly the same warning mothers have been giving their children since the walls were built – some thousand years ago. More or less.
There at the base of the wall, with the help of the lights from the public tennis court, we could see the famous sword stuck fast in a large stone, next to a glimmering pound surrounded by more stones. All made of paper, cardboard and fabric, this set for the first scene of King Arthur was nothing less than adorable.
The children in lovingly crafted costumes recited their lines while delighted parents, relatives, friends and townspeople cheered them on with “Bravi, bravi!” A highlight was Genevieve and her maidens, all in white, dancing into the scene from the shadows like fairies.
With cameras still clicking and parents still beaming, we made our way back to the car. As we drove along the narrow, one-way avenue to exit the town, the festivities in Montegabbione were continuing. Late into the night adults would sit in the piazza enjoying conversations with friends, along with the balmy night breeze, while children would run freely through the cobbled alleyways.
All was well … very well … in Camelot tonight.
Pamela Haack creates and hosts boutique-style small group tours, artists’ workshops and retreats that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps guests experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way – off the beaten strada.
Pamela is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites. She lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.