One of the joys of visiting Italy is experiencing history during historical festivals – primarily Medieval, which is one of the most significant (and fascinating) eras of Italy’s history, traces of which you see in many of Italy’s towns and villages that have been originally built during this time and still exist today perfectly preserved and populated by modern Italians.
One of such small villages is Poggio di Otricoli.
And thousands of people arrived here each day to experience the Giornate Medioevali (Medieval Days) festival.
Overlooking the expanse of hills and lush forests of Umbria near Narni and Terni is a small but imposing 13th century hamlet that rests vigilant on the slope of Mount San Pancrazio.
Known in the distant past as Castrum Podiums Medii, or Poggium Moggi (Poggio di Mezzo in Italian), this fortified castle with 14th century towers guarded the surrounding valley during times of great turmoil that was common in its bygone era.
Perfectly intact, Poggio di Otricoli exists today as part of the nearby town of Otricoli.
Frozen in time with just a few hundred inhabitants and surrounded by a majestic landscape, Poggio di Otricoli is the idea Medieval village.
And as such, every year during the 3rd weekend in July, Poggio di Otricoli recalls its glorious medieval past and celebrates “Giornate Medioevali” (Medieval Days).
For three evenings and nights, the village once again becomes Poggio di Mezzo and transports us back in time a thousand years for an unforgettably entertaining festival that makes you want to come back again next day and looking forward to returning the following year.
Although the festivities start at 8 PM, you can arrive as early as 6. You need to arrive here by car as it would be quite difficult (nearly impossible) to make it by public transport.
As the village becomes traffic-free during the Medieval Days festival, you will find plenty of free parking below the village and a free bus that shuttles people back and forth in a very efficient well organized manner.
In the evening the village comes to life with musicians, parades, costumed stilt walkers, jesters, dancers, historic performers, and the medieval market where dedicated artisans sell their fabulous products and handiwork .
Food and beverages at stands throughout the village can be purchased by converting euros into “Rocca”, the ancient currency of Poggio di Mezzo (actually, it’s just a simple ticket that you purchase at a stand upon arriving).
Italian musical group dedicated to the music and sounds of Medieval European folk and court music dating from second half of the 12th to the end of 14th century. Attired in medieval and mystical costumes of bygone eras, this group of talented musicians sweep spectators into their enchanting world of bygone eras.
Find out more about In Vino Veritas Musici on their website: http://www.invinoveritasmusici.org/
(click to watch live performance “Tempus Est Jocundum“)
Dressed in colorful flamboyant costumes and standing on stilts, the cultural association group Circa Teatro from Urbino experienced in street theater, delighted visitors and spectators with interactive entertainment, and fun comical performances such as in the video below.
(click to watch live performance)
Nespolo the jester (Nespolo lo Giullare) – what is a medieval court without its jester?
Many festivals in Italy include markets (shopping for unique hand crafted masterpieces is half the fun at festivals!).
And naturally, a Medieval festival would host a Medieval Market.
Artisans and craftsmen arrived from all over Italy set up stalls, dressed in period costumes, and have sold or showcased their hand crafted objects from jewelry and leather goods, to children’s medieval toys and costumes. Very few items were commercially made as they could not be made by hand, but they were all in the medieval theme.
Below are most of the artisans from the festival I personally purchased beautiful items from!
Leather handbags are a tradition that goes back centuries. However, handmade leather bags are something special and unique. You know that a lot work, love and passion went into creating these beautiful bags by hand.
I bought the “Scarsella” photographed in the middle. A scarsella is Medieval money bag that you wear on your pant belt).
I call it my “medieval fanny pack”, and I wear it just about every chance I get. Mostly I put my iPhone and keys in it, as well as some change. It’s handy, beautiful, and fun to wear!
Francesca D’Elia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opificium is a group of professionals and amateurs interested in different aspects of the Middle Ages.
Opificium is an organization joined by many who bring in their different experiences and knowledge, together reconstructing history and making it come alive even though centuries have since passed.
Their specialties include metalwork (you should see their defense armor and chainmail worn by medieval soldiers), spices and ancient medicinal plants, iconography, ancient bookbinding, medieval cloth and dress making, yarn spinning, embroidery, goldsmiths, coin making, and more.
Log on their website and find out more about them – if you can’t read in Italian, Chrome can automatically translate the website content into English (albeit sometimes with funny translations). Also check out their Creations tab on their website and browse through various categories.
Collectively, the group presents a well rounded Medieval experience recreating authentic everyday objects of the era, using ancient medieval tools and techniques.
From them I purchased bronze cast jewelry and other small items, and a children’s helmet and sword in the photo (they are NOT real metal) to put together a medieval knight costume for a special little boy.
A talented jeweler and goldsmith, Claudio crafts Medieval inspired copper jewelry using ancient tools and techniques.
By now I have a small collection of exquisite earrings, pendants, and a ring that I wear each day. In the photo above are most of the jewelry pieces I purchased this day.
If you want to know at which festival and medieval market Claudio will be next, follow him on facebook (he is also featured in the Opificium website under “goldsmith” category: http://opificium.weebly.com/orafo.html).
Claudio’s jewelry are tiny masterpieces, and I’m looking forward to adding more to my growing collection!
Basket weaving was also an important aspect of medieval life. This lovely gentleman worked patiently throughout the afternoon and evening, making baskets of every size and kind.
How can one refuse sour cherry wine (vino di visciola)? I sure didn’t. It was absolutely delicious!
While I didn’t purchase the wine (or the potent grappa with the fabulous almond scent I also sampled), the homemade natural sour cherry jams were out of this world!
Cinzia‘s stall was right next to the wine stand when she noticed my very big smile when I was asked if I wanted to sample some sour cherry wine. My smile at the invitation must have been quite something, if it got her attention.
Cinzia asked me to choose a headband as a gift (I chose one of the headbands in the photo above)…she wanted to give it to someone with a big smile on their face. (She should have seen my smile after I also sampled the grappa!
I also purchased one of the light colored the owls in the photo above (il gufo) that she knitted from hemp. It’s now hanging in my house. You don’t have to be the superstitious type to want to have a little “gufo” of your own in your house or to wear as an accessory.
A note written in Italian came with the owl, and it read:
The owl and a universal symbol of ancient origin, and an emblem of wisdom that protects from ignorance. In many cultures, the old and wise owl was considered a symbol of wisdom, it’s a very positive image. Generally the owl appears represented with a big head, often as much as its entire body, and what that attracts the most attention are their huge eyes, standing out in the front. The eyes are become a symbol of intelligence, and represents spiritual understanding.
Tradition has it that this kind of talisman has more effective if it was a gift from someone who loves you because if it was given with good intentions and with the affection of the personal that gave it.
Vincenza of Nonna Papera (grandma goose) displayed beautiful handmade medieval clothing for children and among other items, medieval dolls. How I wish I knew of a little girl who would want such a doll (I wanted one for myself!)!
I didn’t get a doll, but I did get one of the boys’ templar tunic to add to the medieval warrior costume I was putting together.
La Bottega di Nonna Papera – via Roma 38, Cerretto D’Esi 329-022-3046
Kids interested in medieval costumes had a ball picking out their favorite shields, helmets and flower headbands from this stand (and a few adults too!).
I did purchase a templar shield and a sword halter for the little boy who will wear one day soon be a proud medieval knight!
When the time comes for him to wear his new costumes, I will post a photo right here!
Pignalandia di Pina Grossi website is www.pignalandia.com
GIORNATE MEDIOEVALI WEBSITE: www.giornatemedioevali.it
LOCATION: Poggio di Otricoli ( also known by its ancient name Castrum Podii Medii)
WHEN: Friday-Sunday on 3rd weekend of July
OPENING TIME: at 6 PM, festival starts at 8 PM until….? (midnight perhaps)
PARKING: Free Parking available at the bottom of the village with convenient free bus shuttle service to take you to town and back.