Week 29 – “La Sagra della Fojata”, my village festival in Umbria, Italy

One of the smallest villages in Italy is the place I call home. I have moved around a lot and this village, where my father’s brother and sisters have lived all their life is the only constant place I have known all my life. Since I left Italy 17 years ago it has become more than ever the place that connects me to my childhood.

Now that the people from my generation and I are older, we get to go back there less and less. Life with its responsibilities (job, family, friends, cats and dogs in different cities and countries) allows me to go back only twice or three times a year for a limited period, mostly for major holidays like Christmas, Easter and a couple of days during the Summer.

And Summer is maybe the funniest and most important moment to go back. It so happens that for the past 10 years or so, the youngsters from the village have been doing all their best to keep the place alive and to attract some tourists (and the adults that left to find a job in the city) back in the mountains. It used to be a very nice area, peaceful and attractive for city people (many Romans used to spend their holidays there to find a fresher weather than in the capital which is only 2 hours car ride away). However, it is a seismic region and 20 years ago an earthquake stroke and destroyed my family’s village and many others around (another very strong one 30 km away killed 200 people last year). It took a lot of time to rebuild everything but the main impact was that government invested in new faster roads that would let people cross the area faster from one side to the other without going throw the tiny roads passing every village. Hence, my aunt who for instance owns a bar and a gas station would no longer have a lot of passage all year-long as she used to. And now, 20 years after, nobody would cross the village unless specifically wanting to get there.

However the locals are putting a lot of effort to keep the spirits up as they keep organizing many events for any kind of occasion. Everybody participates during these festivals (by cooking, waiting at tables, helping to build stands and shelters,etc.), and now for a few days each year the town relives its old glory. It really used to be my favourite place on earth, because of the incredible memories attached to this place: for many years I would stay there many weeks each Summer and my aunt’s bar being the rallying point of the town I would always be in the loop for anything that was going on!

Today it has changed but each year the Summer festival is organised and we all want to participate, mostly because we get to spend some time together like in the old days. My brother and my cousin serve at the cocktail stand, my other brother and my father sometimes help in the food truck and I serve drinks during dinner. It is a lot of effort (I don’t do it regularly so not really for me), but it is a lot of fun and although it is a lot of traveling to get there just for a few days, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

 

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