Aosta Festival digs up Celtic roots in Italy

Fri, 07/01/2005 - 04:58
(ANSA) - The latest edition of an annual festival that is helping revive interest in northern Italy's Celtic roots kicked off at the foot of Mt Blanc on Thursday.

Celtica 2005 is a four-day extravaganza of art, music, dance, crafts, pageants and other cultural happenings, taking place at a number of towns in the Val d'Aosta region.

Once again this year the major focus is on the beautiful, ancient Peuterey wood, which is 1,500 metres above sea level and near the Courmayeur ski resort. Conferences by noted archaeologists and scholars of Celtic culture will be plentiful at the eighth edition of the show.

Visitors will be able to find out about Celtic and Druid spirituality, learn how ancient Celts used to make weapons and wage war, and discover how much historical truth there is in some Celtic legends.There will be concerts by musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Poland, Spain, Canada and Italy.

Among the most eagerly awaited performances are those of Spain's Carlos Nunez and Scotland's Finlay MacDonald Band, who play at Peuterey wood on Friday and Saturday evening respectively.

Nunez is a particularly interesting artist. He plays the Galician gaita - an instrument similar to Scottish bagpipes - and mixes Celtic sounds with a variety of influences, including Flamenco and Arab music.

Artists from all over Europe will hold workshops to teach people how to tie Celtic knots, wear an authentic kilt properly, weave traditional baskets and make various craft objects.

Historical re-enactment groups will show visitors ancient Celtic archery, axe throwing, flint fire making and wild boar roasting, among other things. There are Irish and Scottish dancing lessons too and children can get tuition on swordplay.

Those feeling less energetic can sit down and enjoy the tales of a number of storytelling societies.Since its debut in 1997, when 2,500 people came along, the festival has seen attendances grow exponentially. Over 25,000 visitors are expected to come this year.

The event's popularity shows northern Italians are increasingly interested in learning about their Celtic roots.Many guests to the fair are at pains to tell observers that the Celts had settled in the north of Italy long before the Romans muscled in.

What's more, a growing number of historical societies dedicated to the Celtic way of life are sprouting up in Italy's northern provinces. Some have put this down to a desire to assert a distinctive regional identity, which is linked to the development of the devolutionist Northern League party.

However, visitors to Celtica 2005 will find little trace of political undertones.The festival events programme is available online at