Beautiful Bevagna: Annual festival Il Mercato Delle Gaite
Umbria, the central region of Italy, is famous for its summer festivals, most of which center around rich, savory meals. You probably haven’t heard of Bevagna, but even in the off-season, it is worth visiting as a genuine Italian small town. To see the city at its Sunday best, you’ll want to visit during the Il Mercato Delle Gaite festival, held this year from June 14-24.
Translated as the Market of the Gaite (Quarters), this large party takes over the medieval town every summer with a celebration of the history of the city and a revival of the character of its original four sections. Surely more impressive than our American Renaissance festivals, the concerts, spectacles, entertainment, shopping, and of course the food make this the party of the year in Bevagna.
If you’re more crowd-averse, you can visit at pretty much any other time of year and find a sleepy, serene hill town just waiting for the adventurous traveler. However, it’s best to double-check your schedules in the off-season, as I had one false start. From Perugia, you can get to pretty much anywhere in Umbria via bus or train (or a combination of the two). Bevagna and nearby Montefalco are easy to reach—just a quick train to Foligno, and frequent bus service up the hill to both towns.
It is all very simple, unless you try to go on a Sunday. It’s easy to forget that most small towns in Europe close down on Sundays. I arrived in Foligno only to discover that no buses ran on Sundays. I woke up a taxi driver sleeping in his car in front of the train station, and he offered to take me up the hill to Bevagna, for 25 Euros! Not to mention I had no idea how I’d find a taxi to get back down. I said “No grazie” to the taxi and headed to Assisi (which is always open!) and saved Bevagna for the next day (opting for a bus trip price of 2-3 Euros round trip).
When I was sitting in Macelleria Norcineria with a glass of Montefalco red and a plate of gnocchi in a local red wine sauce, smiling at the cat sitting outside the window and testing my Italian eavesdropping skills, I was ecstatic to have wound my way up the hill at last. I happily walked off my meal afterwards, amazing myself again at my ability to get lost in even the tiniest of towns. I wandered through parks, in and around churches, down to the river and over a small bridge, and through it all I saw more cats than people.
I had my afternoon cappuccino (blasphemy to drink it after 10 a.m., I know, but I’m a heathen) standing at a small bar, watching The Big Bang Theory in Italian with an elderly lady and her friends. Watching reruns of American shows in Italy always makes me very impressed with my command of the Italian language.
I finally found my way back to the main gate of the town in time for the sunset bus back to the train station. It wasn’t Venice or Florence, I didn’t see anything worthy of a guidebook paragraph, but I can still taste the gnocchi melting on my tongue and I feel like I saw an authentic scene from the real heart of Italy.2 comments