At the end of Part 1, the Hobbit gang had just left Rocca Calascio and were headed to Rocca di Mezzo to see La Festa del Narciso. As we live in the mountains, the roads can be very winding, so if you do decide to visit and suffer from travel sickness, be sure to take precautions. I am not a fan of taking drugs all the time, so I use Sea Bands. They are elasticated bands specially designed to press on your acupressure points and help relieve motion sickness in a natural way. I have used them since I was a child and they really do work. Some women even use them to relieve morning sickness when pregnant. Trust me – I’m no hippy and boy was I glad that I had them with me!
Rocca di Mezzo is a town of around 1500 people and I’m sure that during most of the year it is pretty quiet. However, on Sunday it was heaving! We arrived just in time to see the parade. Various floats and people decorated with daffodils who performed along the main street. These kinds of festas are all very similar in Italy – thousands of people descend upon a small town and overwhelm it. This is particularly evident in the lack of bathroom facilities – there was at least a 20 minute wait because the Town Hall hadn’t brought in any extra facilities. We had to make do with what was already there and, in a town with a population smaller than my high school, there weren’t that many bars and cafes to choose from.
The Festa del Narciso was started in 1947 by a group of energetic young townsfolk who wanted to relieve the pain left after the war and to create a fun and colourful atmosphere. The Festa is said to be inspired by the Rose Parade, held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena California. The festa succeeded in bringing joy back to the small town that had been devastated by war. Every May, small daffodils grow on the mountains around the town and, as such, have become a symbol for the town, which has held the festa for almost 70 years.
Originally, the parade consisted of just the floats, which were decorated to represent Abruzzese folklore and legends. However, nowadays, the parade also consists of townsfolk performing around the floats, including all ages, from young to old. Every year, the floats, costumes and performances become more elaborate, all with one goal in mind – winning first prize. Oh yes, this is a competition and the floats are judged on their flower arranging, structure and set design. Preparations for the festa last all month, the last week being the busiest, when the girls go out in search of their daffodils and the boys continue working on the float structure. They work late into the night, right up until the morning of the parade, to make sure that everything is as perfect as possible.
The festa attracts around 10, 000 people every year and has even included floats from surrounding towns. As the parade travels throughout the town, the story of each float and its theme is given over a loudspeaker. Past themes have included the earthquake in L’Aquila, where they wanted to show support to the city in its rebirth. This year themes included Vincent Van Gogh and Made in Italy (below).
When you have had enough of watching the parade, you can visit the typical food and gift stands that are found at every festa in Abruzzo, where you can sample the local porchetta or arrosticini, or cool down with a beer. Admittedly, the Festa del Narciso is not as impressive as the Rose Parade in California, but it shows a quaint side to local Italian life that not many tourists get to see. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area at the time.