For many, the idea of having a free and continuous flow of wine is merely a far fetched fantasy. But for the residents of Marino - a small town south of Rome in the region where Castelli Romani wine is made, it became a reality!
Each year the town celebrates the annual wine harvest - Sagra dell’ Uva in the main square. People gather eagerly around the Fountain of the Four Moors - an intricately decorated fountain adorned with grapes - anticipating an explosion of the year’s newly pressed vintage. Revellers then party into the night, with fireworks, dancing, eating - and obviously drinking from the fountain.
So began this year’s festivities - locals gathered, vessels in hand, waiting for engineers below the street to work their Jesus-esque magic and turn water into wine. But the poor people waited in vain - the wine did not burst forth - their vessels were not filled! People waited - and waited - while officials investigated the problem, desperate not to disappoint the thirsty crowd. Finally - a gurgle - the crowd stirred - then nothing. Not for them anyway. But nearby in people’s homes, where poor mama prepared the pasta, a strange alcoholic smell emerged from the taps - and lo and behold - wine on tap!
Mr Mayor - Adriano Palozzi - apologised to the rowdy crowd - those engineers had accidentally diverted the flow to domestic pipes instead of to the fountain. Thankfully the situation was soon rectified - and the crowd got what they came for - not before savvy residents in their homes filled every vessel imaginable though! Palozzi admitted that the blunder would be a hot topic of conversation for years to come.
Straw-white coloured wine has been produced in the Castelli Romani region since Roman times. The best known of the Castelli Romani towns is Frascati - and it has become the name sake for the wine, made from trebbiano and malvasia grapes. It is sold across Italy in local trattorias, usually a table wine served in a jug.
Every year, an immense 3000 litres of the bubbly white stuff is served through the fountain, which was erected in the 17th century to honour the 1571 naval victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, where Prince Marcantonio Colonna, leader of Marino, played a starring role as captain of the papal fleet.
Local Roman paper, Il Messagero, pointed out that even the poet Leone Ciprelli, who revived the tradition of the festival in the 1920s, would have been shocked at this year’s events.
Of course, there’s no pleasing everyone, as one housewife complained wine was all very well for drinking, but not really up to task when it came to cleaning the floors, washing the clothes and watering the plants!
The Sagra dell’Uva in Marino has been going since at least the Middle Ages, however records of the festival only began two years after Lepanto, in 1573. It goes on all through the day, with stalls, floats, bands, parades and coloured lights, in addition to having flowers and grapes draped over, well, absolutely everything!
Of course, being Italy, there is also a religious slant to the festival. A procession takes place through the streets, as a statue of the Virgin Mary, the Madonna del Rosario, is carried through the town in thanks for the grape harvest.
Hmm, me thinks a re-location re-location to Marino may be on the cards!