Urbania is a small town that is under the tourist radar for most of the year…with the exception of a few days between after New Year and Epiphany when it hosts the annual National Festival of La Befana. For these few days, Urbania overflows with visitors from all corners of Italy as children and adults alike flock to this corner of the Le Marche region to meet La Befana, and take part in this FUNtastic festival!
This video with footage captured on the first 2 days of the festival is set to music played live by the brass band that entertained with their festive music.
La Befana arrives in a horse pulled carriage, then is given a golden key that opens the door (to much fanfare and media descending on ol’ Befana) of her cottage.
The parade lead by the band and “Befana helpers“….as night falls and lights light up, so does the lively music, dancing, and more parades including the very veeeery long Befana stocking you see people festively carrying along the main street like a long ribbon.
Witchy fun and dancing everywhere!
Want to see La Befana fly on her broom stick? She does from the bell tower!
The video ends with fireworks display right behind the belltower…a beautiful sight to a fun filled 2 days in Urbania!
Long before Saint Nicholas (who morphed into Santa Claus over the centuries) was even born, La Befana was busy making her way down chimney tops stuffing children’s stockings with gifts and occasional lumps of coal for the naughty ones. Absent a sleigh and reindeer, La Befana’s mode of transportation is her flying broom.
Old and haggard, Befana is the epitome of a witch that we have come to expect on Halloween. But La Befana is a good witch, and for this reason she is so popular in Italy and although Santa Claus creeped into the Italian Christmas tradition over time, La Befana still reigns supreme.
Hair grey, back hunched, La Befana is often seen wearing a headscarf of hat, a shawl, old clothes with patches, battered shoes, an apron, and carrying her broom.
A popular rhyme goes something like this:
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana
viva viva la Befana
The Befana comes by night
with worn out shoes
and dressed like a Roman,
Long live La Befana!
(it rhymes better in Italian!)
The name La Befana derives from the Italian word for epiphany (epifania)
Legends tell of an old woman who lived alone in an old cottage who, on eve of Epiphany, while she was sweeping around her house she had an incredible encounter: 3 kings stopped on their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the newborn King. Guided by a bright shining star, the 3 kings invited the old woman to come with them to meet the Christ child.
Poor and haggard and busy her chores, Befana declined the offer and the 3 kings departed. Later…La Befana had a chance of heart and decided to follow the bright star and go to Bethlehem to see the new Christ child. With broom still in hand, she ran in her cottage to look for a small gift to bring. But when she came out, the guiding star vanished from the sky. Determined, La Befana ran and ran toward the direction the 3 kings went, and she ran so fast her broom took flight.
Since then, more than 2,000 years ago, on the eve of Epiphany, la Befana goes out in search of the Christ child to bring her gift, and as she comes down the chimney tops of houses where small children live, she leaves a small gift for them….just in case.
National La Befana Festival in Urbania
With this long treasured Christmas tradition, the folks of Urbania turn their sleepy town into the Befana village with decorations, witchy costumes, the official La Befana, the La Befana cottage, parades (including the very long Befana stocking that you see in the video), live music, dancing, entertainment, crafts, flying Befana from the clock tower, fireworks….and all this in just the first 2 days!
If you happen to be in Italy during the first week of January and wish to experience a festival like none you’ve ever seen before, make your way to Urbania – located near the border of Le Marche and Tuscany. While you will meet thousands of other tourists, unless you’re Italian you might be one of the very few (if any) foreigners there. Unlike many festivals that attract foreign crowds, this is truly an Italian festival with deep traditions, and loved by the Italians.
Save your witchy Halloween costumes for the La Befana festival and join the fun!
For more information on the La Befana festival, visit the official website www.LaBefana.com