August in Italy: Montelago Celtic Festival

A Celtic festival of music and games is hardly the sort of thing you’d expect to find in the mountains of central Italy. But the Montelago Celtic Festival, launched in 2003, routinely attracts over 20,000 exuberant and kilted Italians and Europeans for a totally unique weekend experience.

Every year on the first weekend in August, the alpine plains of Colfiorito straddling the border of Le Marche and Umbria throb to the beat of Europe’s Celtic heavyweights, with the final act bringing the sun up on Sunday morning. This year the Peatbog Faeries headline the festival at 1:00am on Saturday night/Sunday morning (August 4th-5th), following in the footsteps of previous appearances by Hevia, Kila and Berrogüetto. The mainly under-30 crowd, who camp in a reserved area for the two-night event, are boisterous but amicable as they heave to the music, toss the caber, pulse to the thrusts of a Celtic battle reenactment, and trip through the more than 50 Celtic stalls (amongst which is a stand dedicated to Tolkein).

Set in the spectacular surrounds of the central Apennine mountains, it’s a happening festival of rare camaraderie that offers something very different for the young European music and nature lover. Within striking distance are as many travel gems as you’d like from the outdoor (the Grand Circuit of the mythical Sibillini Mountains) and the celebrated (Assisi), to the “indoor” (Frassasi Caves) and the unheralded (the art and architecture of almost any village/town you happen into in Le Marche or Umbria). For more information in English, visit the festival’s blog. — Duncan Campbell