Friday, August 15, 2008

A MEDIEVAL NIGHT IN ROTECASTELLO

The festa in Rotecastello has undergone some changes in the last few years. Previously the dinner had been served on the soccer field which sits below the town. There was a kitchen and a giant grill for preparing the food just above the field, and the young people who served it didn't seem to have any problems running back and forth between the kitchen and the field.

Last year things changed. Apparently there were new health regulations in force, or someone decided to enforce the existing ones...here in Italy it's hard to know. We were told that the food couldn't be served on the soccer field, but perhaps the problem was with the cooking facilities. Whatever the reasons, Rotecastello eventually got around the problem by saying "okay, we won't have a traditional festa, we'll just have a dinner for the members of our association", which must have meant that different rules apply. Again, things work mysteriously in Italy. Still, the food was not served on the soccer field, but up in Rotecastello itself.

Everyone who came to Rotecastello last year for dinner was required to join the "Friends of Rotecastello" association. You didn't have to pay a membership fee, although that was certainly appreciated if you felt like contributing. Each 'member' was issued an official membership card, and even though everyone still had to pay for their dinner, things were now legal.

The one good thing to come out of this was that people got to be up IN Rotecastello for a longer period of time. Previously if you came late to dinner then walked up into town for the entertainment, chances were that it was already dark and you wouldn't be able to see much of the town....not that there's much to see, but still, it's cute and takes less than ten minutes to see the entire village.

Tables were set up in several different spots, all near the town oven. We thought the system worked well, and were surprised when it was changed again this year. We later found out that the people who owned some of the land where the tables had been set up were unhappy with the mess that was made/left on their property. Our friends who live in Rotecastello say that there was no mess, that everything was cleaned up promptly, so maybe the landowners were just looking for an excuse to deny the use of their land. That seems a little strange to us since the entire festa is manned by volunteers, many of whom are in Rotecastello for a short time....on their vacation. It must be a labor of love, but perhaps this particular family just wasn't feeling the love.

This year tables were scattered throughout Rotecastello, a few here, a few there...a few more just around the corner or up the stairs. Food was also prepared in a variety of locations, and the servers were kept busy running from kitchen to kitchen, then table to table, and in the end there were quite a few complaints about poor (or even non-existent) service. Yes, I know it's a new system, and problems were inevitable, but this new system seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.....and it did, to quite a few people we know. I hope next year the system is a little more efficient.

On the final night of the festa, the night of the medieval procession, the dinner was a set menu, and after paying for your meal and selected drinks, you then took your ticket to a table that was set up outside the kitchen of Rotecastello's wonderful restaurant, La Locando del Borgo
. After a short wait your name was called and you received your entire meal at once....how very un-Italian!

For €12 we received generous portions of panzanella (tomato bread salad), beans with tomatoes, farro salad, foccacia bread, loads of porchetta, veal, and to end the meal, cantucci with vin santo. Jugs or bottles of wine were available along with water and soft drinks. We ordered two jugs of the red wine )€5 each!) for our table of seven and several bottle of water.

After dinner we walked to the piazza to see if there were any seats left. Luckily, we found two seats on the side, and settled in. We've discovered that the only thing that ever starts on time is lunch, and knew that the 9:30 start time for the procession wouldn't happen. As usual Anna welcomed everyone to Rotecastello and gave us a brief history of the borgo, so we knew we wouldn't be waiting too much longer.

rotecastello_0008Sometime after ten, we heard the drums, signalling the arrival of the procession. The drums faded away as the group marched around the city, then came booming around the corner as the group approached on our right. As usual every class of people was represented from the peasants on up to the nobility.

rotecastello_7028Once everyone had arrived in the piazza the main characters made their way to the stage and presented a short play. Jesters filled the piazza with music and laughter, and eventually everyone marched back down the hill, led by the drums steady beat. Everyone we spoke to agreed that the medieval procession is a wonderful way to end the festa.

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