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Feast of the Madonna del Monte (Barabbata)

May 14

This is one of the most exuberant and festive events and is one of the most interesting from an anthropological point of view. It begins with a solemn procession from the waterfront up to the Church of the Madonna del Monte.

The origins of this spring festival are Etruscan-Roman and is one of the rituals celebrated in honour of the goddess Maia, goddess of fertility in Lazio, later replaced by Ceres, Cybele and Flora. These ceremonies gradually became more refined and spectacular and were intended to attract the masses. They were practiced until the eighth century BC when the pagan ceremonies of the “Queen of Spring” were replaced by religious ones in honour of the “Queen of Heaven”.

The earliest written records are of the sixteenth century and in all these years has never lost its vitality.

Visitors know the festival by the name of Barabbata while for locals it is the feast of Madonna del Monte or of Passate.

On May 14, before dawn, a group of men go through the streets of the city to the sound of a tambourine, alternating Marian songs and exaltations to the Madonna del Monte. With the Collegiate Church bells and the bursting of firecrackers, the town will wake up. At nine men gather on the waterfront promenade, as the representatives of the categories of traditional workers: “Casenghi” (farmers), peasants (those who performed agricultural work with oxen), shepherds, peasants (farm hands) and fishermen.

Each category lines up with their carts and tractors decked up with plants, flowers, fruits, small domestic animals, fish from the lake, work tools.

The procession reaches the church flamboyantly decked extolling Madonna, between two wings of the cheering crowd. Upon arrival the wagons are arranged in the churchyard, and when the priest celebrates the religious rite they prepare the food for collective consumption: bruschetta with olive oil, fried lattarini (small freshwater fish), cheese, cottage cheese and wine at will.

After lunch, they begin the “passate”, the representatives of each category entering and leaving the church with tributes to Madonna to the cry of ‘Long live the Virgin Mary’.

During the return journey, from balconies and windows of the houses is launched a rain of broom flowers to the participants who have renewed the rite of this festival and the life of the community.


May 14


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