In each month small counties and towns around Rome are teeming with wonderful pageants. Paliano, east of Rome, continues to celebrate its prince Marcantonio Colonna and the victory of Lepanto in 1571, with a parade in fine historic costumes and a Palio of the Ring with horses running through the city.
“Countrysides around Rome have history, villas, palaces and events that are the mirror of their size and allow visitors to enjoy the unique Italian experience in the human dimension. While Romans are “addicted” to the grand historical, small towns are still excited and the whole population participates in the events showing the best of themselves “- these are the words of Antonello Campoli president of the Palio di Paliano .
“Our historical pageant is included among the 48 officially recognized by the Italian Republic and this year even among the European ones.”
The charming old town of Paliano comes alive with joy. They open the wineries and caves along the alleys and all are busy: showing some pieces of local history, offering more local food. Each winery is run by a district or a local association and among the volunteers are all “notables” of the country. For a tourist, the real result is to experience an Italian life without intermediaries and fiction.
The history of the Palio
The Palio of Paliano is inspired by the celebrations bestowed on Marcantonio Colonna (Admiral of the Pontifical Fleet) for the victory over the Turks at Lepanto. At the end of the sixteenth century the Republic of Venice, the Papal States, Spain, Austria and Genoa had created a Holy Alliance to counter the advance of the Turks and then of the Muslims.
Due to delays in diplomatic agreements between the allies, the clash was postponed for a year and this is perhaps the key to success. For once “Italian chatter” may have been the turning point of history. Time, in fact, gave the opportunity to make incredible armour to protect soldiers and for Venice to build the conceived vessel, the “galeazze”. Big and slow ships but with the distinction of being equipped with cannons around 360 degrees so that they could fire in all directions in bursts.
At Lepanto, a small Greek island in the Adriatic, the two fleets clashed and within hours the Turkish advance was reversed and the Muslim advance into Europe was stopped for many centuries to come. So great was the joy of the Pope, that Marcantonio Colonna became an absolute hero and he was allowed to march in procession through the streets of Rome, following the customs of the ancient Roman emperors.
This court, described in letters and paintings in the fortress of Paliano, is what is repeated with pageants every August, starting from the ancient fort (since 1858 a security prison) that dominates the plain of Rome and oversees all along the southeast direction.
The Associated Celebrations
In the nearly twenty years of activity, the association Palio di Paliano has expanded its activities not only in pageants, but the rediscovery of crops, dishes and craftsmanship. The downtown streets are filled with young artists and artisans displaying their creations that add value to telling their artistic and personal stories (which typically are twisted). It ranges from working in glass and ceramics to fashion with fresh creations of designers and craftsmen.
The love for the rediscovery of one’s roots has revived crops “einkorn wheat”, an ancient variety with properties suitable for gluten intolerant. While in the countryside breeding of donkeys was initiated to produce milk for food and for a line of beauty products that are the envy of the Queen Cleopatra bathing in asses’ milk. Paliano has become renowned for a breeder of butterflies who delivers them all over the world to give an unforgettable experience particularly to a wedding couple and guests.
In the best tradition, the festivities close on the day of San Rocco with wonderful fireworks that start in the middle of the old town where you feel immersed in the glorious display. Paliano in August is an Italian experience to sample and chew with satisfaction.