A Very Merry Ferragosto in Cappelle sul Tavo

By Santatatiana

December 2, 2011

Category: Abruzzo


Cappelle sul Tavo is a small, rather ordinary rural town in Abruzzo, Italy. I’ve got to know it because this town is situated next to Montesilvano where I use to spend half of a year. Formerly, it made a part of Montesilvano till 1906. The town sits on a small hill (122 m a.s.l) among olive groves and fields where the river Tavo flows into the river Fino. Its population counts only to 3,000 people, mainly well-to-do farmers who are engaged in producing olive oil.
Some history
The name of the town probably derives from a number of small “cappelle”, chapels, among the woods. The name “Cappelle” also appears in documents of the XI and XII centuries and is represented at the emblem of the town, showing three Gothic towers and chapels with crossed laurel and olive fronds. The first information about the medieval village dates back to the XII century.
In fact there is nothing very special about this town except one thing. Each Ferragosto since 1975, it hosts a very picturesque “Palio delle Pupe”. “Palio” means a competition, like the famous one of Siena, and “pupe” means dolls. It sounds rather amusing, if not crazy. Last year, I made an attempt to attend this strange “palio”, but failed because it took place in the midnight. Naturally, the public transport was not available.
This year, a friend of mine who lives in Cappelle told me that “la sfilata”, or the procession of dolls takes place in the afternoon. So I invited my friends from Russia and Ireland to go to Cappelle sul Tavo. It took us five minutes to get to the foot of the hill by bus # 38 and nearly 20 minutes to reach the town on foot.
It was the sacred time of siesta, and the road was empty. We met only one old signora who greeted us heartily and invited us to wait for the procession on a terrace near her house. We sat on a bench and talked to her for a while. In fact I was a little bit nervous because there weren’t any signs that a big event would take place in the nearest future. Meanwhile, we saw rare pedestrians walking along the road. I tried to find out where the festival would take place but they gave me rather indefinite and not very helpful information. It was rather strange that the folks didn’t know much about the festival.
We said good bye to the old signora and headed to the town center. Eventually, I asked a young man where the bar was and he showed the way. We continued walking along the main road and finally came into the main square. Surprisingly enough, the small town hosted a brand new municipal building which resembled very much the City Hall of Pescara. Opposite the Commune, there was a bar which was crowded by visitors. Definitely, a big event was about to start! There were also some people around the square. At this very moment it began to drizzle. Luckily, we found a shelter under a balcony. After waiting half an hour, we heard remote and discordant sounds of music.
To say the truth, I didn’t know at all what to expect. I guessed that “Palio delle Pupe” would be a sort of competition of dolls presented by 15 “rioni” and “contradas” (districts and streets) of the town. To our great joy and amusement, each team presented an open vehicle with live scenes of the first half of the XX century. The carriages were driven by high-powered tractors. The majority of stages were dedicated to rural life and agrarian works. We could see people shearing sheep, milking cows, making cheese, tedding the hay, shepherding and so on. We could observe the interior of a rural house, a pottery, an animal building, and so forth. Some rather grotesque stages showed apartments of petty bourgeoisie. The final scene was dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy. We also saw some very strange looking gigantic dolls. They were made from gaily coloured carton and had definitely bellicose look. Moreover, they were encircled by threatening fittings consisting of wooden sticks and many big petards.
Besides, there were all sorts of domestic animals. My little friend Amy was very happy to take photos of them. There were dark brown hairy donkeys, white sheep, many-coloured cocks with gorgeous tails, horses, rabbits, goats, ducks and geese. My favorite one was a small dark grey boar with a white strip on his neck.
The audience greeted generously each cart. Women and children who accompanied the cortege distributed among the crowd very tasty homemade snacks – biscuits, tarts, cakes, sweets, tiny pizzas etc. Meanwhile some men treated to young wine and beer straight from the carts. One mischievous youth held in his hand a very beautiful cock and was forcing him to drink red wine from a plastic glass. The atmosphere was very ingenuous and friendly. The amateur actors posed before the camera with obvious pleasure.
I was amazed by the fact how skillfully the drivers managed the monstrous tractors with carts in the small crowded space. I asked a man who was driving a powerful tractor together with his little son, if the machine was his own. He answered proudly “yes”.
The show lasted about one hour. We made lots of photos and ate tons of snacks. The carriages headed to the stadium where the palio was to be continued.
Unfortunately, we had to go home because the transport didn’t function well in the time of Ferragosto. In fact, we didn’t observe “Palio delle Pupe” as such. Nevertheless, we were rather energized by the festive spirit and natural gaiety of the show.

Further reading
Il ballo della Pupa
Ferragosto:Dolls Dance and Sparks Fly in Cappelle Sul Tavo (PE)
A Few of My Favourite Abruzzo Things – Noel McCarthy
Una delle “Pupe” di Cappelle sul Tavo
Cappelle sul Tavo


7 Responses to “A Very Merry Ferragosto in Cappelle sul Tavo”

  1. Вот бы наши крестьяне так жили, работали и отдыхали! Это же совсем другой мир! Не будем завидовать и пожелаем героям этого представления успехов в труде и в дальнейшем саморазвитии. А Санте спасибо за съёмки и комментарии. ВСФ

  2. Dear Tatiana, this was one of my favourite days of our three weeks in Abruzzo! Thank you for bringing us to see this wonderful festival. Amy loved all the farm animals, especially the baby goats. The homemade snacks made by the local women were delicious. Watching how cheese was made was my favourite part. It would have been fantastic to have been able to stay to see the fireworks. Your YouTube clip at the end brings back great memories. Best wishes, Nora

  3. Thank you very much, Nora! Glad you like the post. Yes, it was a great day. In Abruzzo, you can meet wonderful things around every corner. Tante belle cose a tutti!

  4. […] About A Very Merry Ferragosto in Cappelle sul Tavo […]

  5. Hey there, my name is Stephanie and I’m a fellow blogger out of Haimburgerberg, Austria. I’m glad to see the work you’re doing on this site. Coming upon A Very Merry Ferragosto in Cappelle sul Tavo | Italian Slow Walks was refreshing and helpful in terms of writing and work. Carry on the good work guys: I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I believe it will increase the worth of my own blog.

    • Thank you very much, Stephanie, for your kind comment and for incorporating my blog in your blogroll!
      I wish you come to visit Abruzzo at the time of Ferragosto. You’ll have a lot of fun!

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