Editor’s Note: Castelvetere sul Calore is my ancestral hometown in the Irpinia area of Campania, about an hour from Naples, and the focus of a very special episode of the PBS series Dream of Italy. We visited this special town to celebrate Madonna delle Grazie on July 2nd. The main celebration for Santa Maria delle Grazie is April 28th. But there are many other festivals and reasons to visit during other parts of the year. I asked Danielle Abbazia, whose grandparents where born in Castelvetere, to tell me about her favorite time to visit.
The feast day of San Antonio, which falls on June 13 according to the Roman Catholic calendar, has been celebrated in Castelvetere Sul Calore on August 10 for decades since it was during the month of August that immigrants made the journey back to the town for their summer holidays.
During an evening mass, the heavy wooden statue of St. Anthony is carried through the town, leading a procession of people under arches made of tiny lights. Many make the pilgrimage to Castelvetere to have the opportunity to join the procession as members of their families have done in the past. It is an honor for the Castelveteresi to walk with the saint and some of those who carry the statue have been doing so for all of their adult lives.
The days after the feast are when the town puts on its Festival of Maccaronara. Maccaronara is a type of pasta made from flour and water and cut with a tool of the same name, and is the signature dish of Castelvetere. During the feast, women from the town get together in the main piazza and make the pasta from scratch for 5 euros a bowl.
Given a chance to peak behind the barrier, the women preparing the food can be seen and heard singing traditional songs dedicated to Saint Anthony at the top of their lungs. The louder they sing while they cut the noodles, the more devoted they are believed to be to the saint.
In addition to the maccaronara, which is served with a simple sauce of tomato and basil or with tomato and beans, there are also booths selling sausage and vegetable sandwiches, pork dishes, local desserts, Aglianico wine, and beer.
After a day of watching the procession and filling up on maccaronara, the real party begins in the central piazza. When the sun goes down, local groups take the stage and play classic Italian hits throughout the night. Of course, this includes the Tarantella Montemaranese which is the traditional dance of Castelvetere Sul Calore and its neighboring towns. One song can go on for 30 minutes or more and despite the cool night temperatures of this mountain village, the townspeople and visitors fill the piazza and dance until they are warm.
Castelvetere is special during all seasons and the changing landscape makes for breathtaking views any time of the year, but the second week of August, full of age-old traditions and lively music, is a sight to behold.
The feast is put on by the Pro-Loco of Castelvetere Sul Calore.
— Danielle Abbazia
San Antonio photos by Pasquale Bimonte.