PANICALE, Umbria, Italy – Ah, yes, it is that time of year. La Vendemmia. Grape harvest time in Umbria. Most fruits, nuts, etc are gathered and you use the Raccogliere verb in Italian when you are gathering. La raccolta di . . . Not grapes. They have their own word: Vendemmia. And in Panicale, surrounded by vineyards they also get a parade. And a week of festivities. There is music in the air, and garlands of grapes and vines hung all through the town. Surprise bodegas of arts, crafts, olive oil and of course, wine, open up all over town in cantinas that seemingly exist only for this once a year purpose. This celebration goes back to time immemorial. And the parade sometimes surprises us with its pagan-ness. Which is a fun surprise – that here in modern Italy, that ancient rascal Baccus is very much alive and well.
Katia, our friend at See You in Italy, is a broker, but first and foremost at this time of year, she is a proud, flag-waving citizen of her hometown of Panicale. She took these pictures of this year’s parade last week. Thank you for sharing, Katia! Looks like a good time was had by all, as usual. How far wrong can you go when parade floats are required, yes required, to dispense vino? It’s a wonderful life, isn’t it? The floats are fun and full of wine and puns. My favorite combination. They say “word jokes” – Giocchi di Paroli. A play on words.
A couple shown here include vinquisisismo, versus inquisisismo, a Vino Power Fiat 500 and my favorite concept this year: a VinoMat. Which, unlike a typical bancomat (ATM) that merely dispenses filthy lucre, this one dispenses healing quantities of primo vino. Life is good. Midge says she wants one in our house.
ROUND AND ROUND WE GO
The parade is so good and the town is so small. What to do, what to do? The solution is classic. They go around the town walls once. Usually very decorous and PG. But what goes around, the first time, isn’t always what comes around the second time. If it is going to go ribald Act Two is when that will happen. Keeps the crowd on its toes. Sometimes it is obvious visually but often its just that the play on words changes for the worst sort of a one, two punch and it makes you want to have all your vocabulary at hand. And stand near your Italian friends who will ‘splain it to you. I’ve had Italian friends almost gasping for air at the audacity of some of the puns that were going right over my foreign head. But if you go, and you see someone doubled over laughing at a parade float, just ask.
Harvest festivals are just another reason to fall for fall in Italy. It is such a delicious season all around, weather is usually stupendous, summer’s frenzied crush is over, people are bubbly and effusive in the bounty of the harvest. And it’s not yet time to dig into the heavy lifting of the olive harvest that always seems to be racing the coming winter’s clock. All in all, the best of times.
See you in Italy,