An Evening of Feasting and Bonfires
A Tradition both Sacred and Profane
The small town of Giovinazzo
, located on the Adriatic coast 20 km north of Bari
, celebrates Saint Anthony in a big way each January with an ancient festival
that combines local history, the sacred and the profane.
Saint Anthony is a much loved figure throughout Puglia, and heel of Italy, whose feast day is celebrated in mid-January. He is considered to be the patron saint of fires and fireworks, a healer of plagues and, in particular shingles, better known as “Saint Anthony's fire.”
Credits: Molfetta Daily Photo
His feast day marks the beginning of the carneval season and also serves to remind the townspeople of the end of a difficult historical period. Its origins lie in a celebration held to mark the death of Giulio Antonio Orsini (1463), Prince of Taranto, who had raided and plundered the town, destroying the olive groves and even bombing the town, causing long periods of famine.
are set up in the squares of the old town. These burn all afternoon and into the night. Along the streets the townspeople cook large fava beans over open fires in large terracotta pots. Separately they cook “braciole,” which are rolled slices of horsemeat stuffed with garlic, parsley, cheese, pepper, olive oil and salt. The tradition is for the locals to offer visitors free plates of fava beans and green olives, along with a glass of local red wine
The evening is not only about food
and fires. As you stroll through the historical center of town, sipping your wine and tasting the local gastronomy, you will be transported back into the Middle Ages when youths donned masks and danced around the fires, playing mandolins, flutes and tambourines. A concert exhibiting traditional music and dance will be held and street performances will be offered by a wide variety of musicians, jugglers, stilt walkers and fire-eaters.
This year the festival will be held on January 23, starting at 5:30 p.m. and continuing on late into the night.
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