02 April 2008

Horse on fire!

La Festa dell’Ottava di Pasqua

There is a charming hilltop town near Ascoli Piceno called Ripatransone and we have taken most of our family visitors there to see their claim to the smallest street in Italy and the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Each time we have been there it has been a quite town with a few people going about their daily business.

Last weekend Ripatransone was a different town as they had their biggest celebration of the year called La Festa dell’Ottava di Pasqua. The weekend culminated in Sunday nights’ Cavallo di Fuoco, or “horse of fire”. The origins of this Festa go back over 360 years and celebrate the Madonna di San Giovanni, the patron saint of the town.

We went to see the Cavallo di Fuoco as we had seen many photos of it but we soon found out that photos do not capture the full feel of this event. The centro storico was packed with people and there were three areas where vendors were selling everything from porchetta panini to vino to ceramica. This being our first time to this event we did not know where the best location for viewing would be but there was a cold breeze coming off the Adriatic so our primary goal was to find an area that provided a good wind block.

We needed not worry as more people packed into the piazze and once the Cavallo arrived the crowd was in an uproar. Many of the younger people had spent the evening enjoying the local vino and they were soon pushing the crowd along to follow the Cavallo.

The Cavallo di Fuoco is a wooden horse on wheels that is covered with pyrotechnics from head to tail and also shoots firework from its back into the sky. It has spinning wheels of pyrotechnics on its head and rear and all of these spray the people as they crowd around. Many hold their hands up in attempts to catch the flying sparks.

The Cavallo di Fuoco made ten passes in the main area in front of the Duomo and each pass found us being sprayed with sparks from the sides, head or rear of the Cavallo. At the ends when they would slowly turn the beast in the crowd fireworks would shoot into the dark sky above the crowd. After the finale we found our way back to our car smelling of sulfur and smoke but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

As we watched the Cavallo di Fuoco I could not help but chuckle at the thought that you would never be able to see something like this in the US: the lawyers, insurance companies and fire departments would be in an uproar.


erin said...

this looks so fun! Similar to the Explosion of the Cart here on Easter! We always laugh about "liability" things like that and how stuff here would never be allowed back in the States ! love it.

Bryan said...

It makes you wonder how many of these unique events are there in Italy that you would never hear about unless you lived here?!

Anonymous said...

Those pictures were amazing! Sounds like it was great fun.