What's On in Italy - October 2014

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 02:30

It's Autumn time, and as the leaves fall to the ground, the events and festivals just keep on coming in October. John Bensalhia looks at some of the most notable examples...

With Summer in the past, it's understandable that people need a bit of cheering up in the Autumn. Darker skies, colder weather... but that's not going to stop the constant stream of interesting and enjoyable festivals and shows! In particular, this month, there seems to be a bit of a foodie theme going on. So let's find out what's on this month's platter of event goodies! 

MUSICA DEI POPOLI – Florence, 27th September - 11th November

One of the most rewarding aspects of music festivals is learning about a genre or style that you hadn't had so much experience of. Musica Dei Popoli, spanning more than six weeks worth of events and initiatives, lives up to this philosophy. The festival will play host to a wealth of performances and workshops dedicated to African music.

Some of the most talented musicians will be appearing at this event. Senegalese singer Badara Seck and West African group Bafoulabe will be taking part in the Night Of The Griot, a performance that will look at the history and the sounds of the Mande people from West Africa. Other performers include saxophonist Seun Kuti, singer Nancy Vieira and singer, dancer and percussionist Dobet Gnahore.

There will also be a workshop exploring the unique combination of vocals and percussion. The blend of drums, tambourines and voices will be looked at in greater detail, and will be another unmissable element of this fascinating and tuneful event. A must for all music fans! 

BARCOLANA REGATTA – Trieste, 3rd - 12th October

It's been described as the biggest gathering of boats in the Mediterranean Sea. The Barcolana Regatta comes to Trieste in the first part of October, and promises to be an unmissable experience for all boating fans.

The Regatta will boast a number of races, which cater to all types. There will be a contest for younger wannabe sailors, as children from eight to 15 years old can take part in their own race. There will be a competition with a twist as kite surfers and windsurfers will be able to put their own spin (probably literally) on their event. A new course has also been promised for this year, which will prove to be both more challenging for the participants and a glorious spectacle for those looking on. If you go to the Barcolana Regatta in the night, then the night races are always worth experiencing – the place will come alive with lighting illumination. Just the ticket for the darker October evenings. 

MASCHERA DI FERRO – Pinerolo, 4th - 5th October

Just who was the Man In The Iron Mask? It's a debate that's been raging for years ever since the mystery man was imprisoned in Piedmont in the latter part of the 17th century. According to legend, the man's features were obscured by a velvet mask which in turn was covered by a series of metal bandages. Some have speculated that it was either the natural father or the twin brother of King Louis XIV.

This mystery is returned to in Pinerolo in the early part of October for Maschera di Ferro, an event that re-enacts the fate of the Man In The Iron Mask. The story is acted out every year, complete with historically authentic costumes and accessories. In addition to the re-telling of this intriguing story, there will be historical processions, street performances, dinners, church services and lectures. Music and markets will also top off the event which promises to be another colourful and exciting exploration of the masked enigma. 

PALIO DEI RIONI – Lodi, 5th October (TBC)

Now in its 28th year, Palio dei Rioni has been an important event in the Lodi calendar since 1986. It's a day that is steeped in tradition, with historical re-enactments and parades in traditional costumes adding to the period feel.

With Mass starting proceedings, the day moves to the parades, and of course, the centrepiece of the event, a series of contests revolving around a horse.

Not a real horse, of course. This event utilises horses made from wood and iron – with the jockey being pushed by two athletes. The iron and wooden horses take part in contests such as the Race of the Rings and Cursa Cavai in order to win the coveted trophy.

It's a celebratory and hugely popular event which attracts not only the neighbourhoods of Lodi, but the inhabitants of the three nearby villages. Palio Dei Rioni will provide another spectacular and fun day out.

CASTELROTTO FESTIVAL – Dolomites, 11th - 13th October

If you like a bit of folk music, then the Kastelruther Spatzenfest could well be right up your street.

These legends of folk music were formed in 1976, while the Spatzenfest has been around since the mid 1980s. This three-day set of concerts will be taking place in the Dolomites from the 11th to 13th October. In addition to the performances, there will be autographs and drinks. The last day will see a special gala performance that also includes Semino Rossi and the Amigos. It's a popular event that will be sure to guarantee a tuneful night for the folks gathered to see this enduring musical act. 

ALBA WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL – Alba, 11th October - 16th November

George Harrison once mused on the implications of the Savoy Truffle in 1968, but if you're a truffle fan, then the Alba White Truffle Festival will be a tasty proposition.

It's recognised as one of the biggest, most impressive truffle festivals in Italy. There will be rows of truffles to look at and sample on the stalls at the markets and tents.

It's not just truffles that will tempt the taste buds. The event will also include a food and wine exhibition that gathers together some classy treats to eat and drink, including cured meats, pasta, sweets, cheese and wines. The Alba show will also line up demonstrations and cameo appearances from guests such as Ken Frank, Rubio and Ugo Alciati.

Over the course of the five-week run, this festival will also cater for the eyes and ears with a host of Middle Ages festivities such as pageants, displays and a donkey palio. Not only that, but there will be a wealth of diverse and interesting additions to the event, including jazz music, a vintage car show, a flag festival, markets and a mushroom exhibition. Providing something for everyone, why not get a taste of the Alba White Truffle Festival for yourself? 

ROME FILM FESTIVAL – Rome, 16th - 25th October

In this written bit of Communication, I can tell you that among the Gold stars at this year's Rome Film Festival are a famous 1980s pop band – yes, it's True.

To Cut A Long Story Short, Spandau Ballet will be appearing at this year's festival to promote their new documentary called Soul Boys Of The Western World. The documentary includes interviews, previously unseen footage, and of course, many a classic Spandau Ballet tune. The five band members will present the film on the 20th October in this ninth edition of the festival.

In addition to the Spandau Ballet appearance, the Rome Film Festival promises all sorts of celluloid goodies. In addition to the British band, the festival will be exploring the diverse range of styles of cinema from all over the world. These will include screenings of films from China (Xu Angi's Shier gongmin) and Germany (Burhan Qurbani's Wir sind jung, Wir sind stark).

Two great films will bookend the festival. First up, on opening night is Alessandro Genovesi's Soap Opera, which revolves around the lives and adventures of a group on New Year's Eve. The cast includes Fabio De Luigi, Cristiana Capotondi, Diego Abatantuono and Elisa Sednaoui. Closing the film will be the latest offering from Salvatore Ficarra and Valentino Picone. Andiamo a quel paese will follow the story of two unemployed men returning to their hometown while handling the economic crisis. Ficarra and Picone have written, directed and starred in the movie.

EUROCHOCOLATE – Perugia, 17th - 26th October

Another of the great food treats this month, Eurochocolate is the ideal destination for anyone with even just a minor hankering for chocolate.

It's now in its 20th year, having started out in 1994. This international chocolate exhibition plays host to a whole range of stalls, shows and events. You can even wonder at chocolate sculptures which have been lovingly assembled by dedicated talents who have turned the simple block of chocolate into a genuine work of art.

In the middle of this great big chocolate wonderland, there's still time for a bit of education. You can find out all about cocoa, from its uses through to its customs and traditions. Eurochocolate World will ensure that by the time you leave, you will be quite the cocoa connoisseur. 

SAGRA DEL TORDO – Montalcino, c. 25th - 26th October

A very important month for Montalcino, October brings Sagra Del Tordo (or the Festival of the Thrush), an event that traditionally takes place in the last weekend.

The festival is steeped in traditional activity and costume, from the medieval parades and processions through to the lavish costumes. Traditional food stands play host to a variety of choices including pastas, sauces, soups and meats.

One of the key elements of this festival is the archery contest which usually occurs on the Sunday. The competition pits the two archers from each of Montalcino's quarters against each other. Whoever scores the most points from the tests wins the coveted Silver Arrow.

While the cold nights and longer nights may be drawing in, events such as Sagra Del Tordo ensure that all hearts will be warmed.