Each summer at the beginning of July the town of Minturno comes together to celebrate the Festa delle Regne or the Wheat Harvest Festival. This year marked the 63rd edition. The main feast day celebrations are held on the second Sunday of July when thanks are offered to the patron of the town, the Madonna delle Grazie. Historically monks of the Franciscan order used to bake bread that was then distributed to the poor.
There is a procession throughout the old town where the statue of the Madonna and child is carried on a rustic cart decorated with wheat sheaves, and pulled by a pair of strong oxen.
There is also a parade of decorated carts and trailers, representing the harvest, that have been submitted by various neighbourhood groups. These are towed up to the main square of Minturno and a prize is generally awarded for the best design. The designs are incredibly intricate and detailed.
There is a long and colourful parade made up of various groups, these include characters dressed in elegant medieval costumes, sbandieratori or flag throwers and musicians.
The Associazione Folklorica di Minturno was formed in 1989 to strive to promote and keep alive the town’s popular traditions, culture and musical heritage. From a young age local children are encouraged to learn about their traditional heritage. There are dance classes organised to suit all ages and troupes of dancers are put together.
Throughout the year the skilled dressmakers of Minturno busy themselves by sewing fine costumes that are typical of this area.
The most famous Minturnese costume is called “la Pacchiana”. This has the characteristic elaborate head-dress made of a starched and folded white linen or muslin cloth, which is edged in lace. There is a white blouse with full puffed sleeves, made of a finely pleated material, which are gathered just above the elbow. The laced bodice is richly embroidered in gold thread, and over this a cream-coloured shawl is worn over the shoulders, once again decorated with gold embroidery.
The skirt is long and black. At the front a black silk apron is worn, while at the back there is the addition of a special fold of red material known as a “pagnuccia”. The costume wearer is also adorned with abundant gold jewellery and large earrings. Historically, these ornate costumes would have only been worn on special feast days or at weddings. Often the beautiful treasured costume would be passed down in families from mother to daughter. The men’s clothing typically consists of a black jacket, a white frilled shirt with wide sleeves, knee length trousers, a wide red band tied around the hips, black shoes and bright red stockings.
At the festival the groups perform numerous traditional dances such as the tarantella and the saltarella.
On the same Sunday evening as the Feast of the Wheat Harvest, Minturno also hosts an acclaimed International Folklore Festival. This welcomes other dance troupes from around the world to share their cultural heritage and traditions. This year there were colourful performances by groups from Chile, Mexico, Macedonia and Maldova.
In this cultural exchange dancers, singers and musicians from all around the world can meet up and share their traditional cultural heritage and ethnicity in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship, peace and harmony.
All photos are by me © Louise Shapcott (except those by Melinda Abbott above)