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Sassi and Trulli

Local Festivals

Cultural interest motivates most travellers to discover and participate in this region’s numerous festivals. During these long-standing, traditional festivals, the entire local population recognizes their origins, which are usually agricultural and pastoral.
The Madonna della Bruna festival, for example, coincides with the harvesting period. The “maggi” (the Maggio of Acettura and the Pitu of Rotonda) are propitiatory festivals for fertility and abundance. Even the cow-bells and alpha bulls, that announces the beginning of Carnival (the vigil of San Antonio Abate), has a liberating function: the passage of the old and beginning of the new agricultural year. It celebrates the end of the sterility period and of the return of proliferation.

The Bruna Festival of Matera
This festival is perhaps one of the most involving and intense events in which one might participate during a stay in Basilicata.
The legend states that during the harvesting period, upon returning from the fields in his wagon, a farmer happened upon a woman standing on the side of the road who was shabbily dressed and asked him for a ride into town.
This is the origin of the representation of the Carro (float), rich in the colour of the papier-mâché emblems and statues, which is used to transport the “bella Signora” (beautiful Lady), who is the prodigy or miracle of Matera.
The festivities in the honour of Maria SS. della Bruna have taken place since 1389. At dawn on the 2nd of July the Materan people meet up at the Cathedral to begin the “pastoral procession”. The crowd follows the picture of the Madonna della Bruna which passes through the streets of the city amidst fireworks. In the afternoon the festival continues with the “farmers procession”. Horsemen in costume ride in line down the streets of the historic centre escorting the triumphal papier-mâché float and its statue of the Madonna della Bruna until it reaches the Cathedral. The float, symbol of the festival, pulled by eight mules, is then destroyed in the final assault made as it reaches the Vittorio Veneto Piazza. This is followed by a fireworks display that illuminates the Sassi and the Moors opposite. The festival, which is held very close to the heart of the Materan people, sees a great participation of “the faithful” who come from numerous nearby towns.

The Arboreal Rituals
A mix between sacred and pagan, these rituals are still quite diffuse in various mountain towns of the Lucano hinter-land.
The most famous is certainly the “Maggio” of Acettura, an ancient propitiatory rite, representing a sort of “matrimony” of two trees: the Maggio and the Cima.
The festival begins the day of the Ascension when a group of lumber-jacks meet in the nearby Montepiano woods where they choose and cut-down the tallest and straightest tree the: “Maggio”. The day of the Pentecost the farmers meet-up in the Gallipoli-Cognato forest where they choose the fullest tree they can find the: “Cima”, which will be married to the Maggio. The Maggio is pulled by bulls, while the Cima is carried on people’s backs. Joined in the countryside the Cima and Maggio are received with great joy, with of bands playing and offerings of local food and wine. The Tuesday after Pentecost, the wedding of the Maggio and Cima is celebrated. The consecration concludes with a contest between different teams of hunters, that taking turns, shoot metal targets tied between the branches of the Cima, and with the climbing of the Maggio. He who reaches the Cima first becomes, for that day, the hero of the town. On the 13th of June in Rotonda there is a festival which represents a very strong tie between man and nature. At dawn on the 9th of June a group from the community gathers on the mountainside to cut the trees. About 50 medium-large sized trees get cut down and carried towards their destination. Waiting at the entrance of the festival site are smaller logs. The 13th of June sees the arrival of the largest log, greeted by the local authorities and the bishop, before being raised and set by hand.

In the peasant cultural tradition, Carnival is celebrated as the rebirth and revival of the earth, through propitiatory rituals for fertility and the abundance of the harvest. In medieval times it was believed that demons hid in in the dark underground, and their evil strength could leave a mark on the productive cycle. It is from this that the demonic mask arose. In Tricarico, the masks are of men who symbolize a herd driven by the lead farmer, a farmhand and three cow-herders. To the sound of cowbells ringing, boys dress as bulls and cows to symbolize the seasonal transferring of the livestock In Cirigliano the end of Carnival, is played out in the piazza the evening of the last Sunday of the festival. This is preceded by the representation of the months of the seasons and is considered as two phases of a single ritual. These rituals also serve to celebrate farm work. The twelve figures who personify the months of the year wear local costumes and carry symbols and equipment that represent the relative climactic conditions of each month. Four young men personify the seasons.

The Procession of the Mysteries
Also very popular is the “Mysteries” and the sacred plays. Barile is a town in the Vulture area. Every year its name is associated with the representation of the Passion of Christ, created as a procession with live people. The procession is said to have been imported 150 years ago by a certain Cefola, an old sexton who is supposed to have essentially copied an ancient custom from Genzano di Lucania. This custom is characterized by the unanimous and devoted participation of the town’s entire population. All feel themselves to be actors and participate directly in the drama. The sense of mysticism and mysterious charm of so much religion is moving.
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Sassi and Trulli Cycling Tour in Basilicata and Puglia
Tour Code: ZZ-BK-FV02
8 days / 7 nights ~$1,070.00
Dates: March to October

Level : Fitness Level (Click for legend)
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Local Festivals
Airport: Lamezia Terme, Salerno, Bari, Naples
Cycling, Sightseeing

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