As already mentioned, the small island of Giglio initially seems devoid of entertainment, especially in winter. But, maybe for its special position in the middle of the sea, or its close contact with nature and the beauty this engenders, or the long, languid nature of its seasons, its natives have always loved all forms of art. Giglio’s streets teem with artists, singers, painters, sculptors, musicians and actors, some even disguised as merchants, innkeepers and restaurateurs. Some have moved to the mainland to build art careers working in major Italian theaters, spending their winters there but returning in summer to share their arts with the island. Various shows of great cultural and artistic interest have been produced over the years alongside amateur events evincing considerable talent.
But let’s start from the beginning, with the regular, traditional events on Giglio’s calendar tied to religion, food and wine, and sports.
The small size of the island did not prevent its tiny population from electing three patron saints for each of its towns, Giglio Castello, Giglio Porto and Giglio Campese. Not only did they want to secure the protection of divine providence through the intercession of all three, but they also wanted to retain a healthy amount of civic pride.
Their feast days — in order of chronology, not importance — are as follows:
The feast of St. Lawrence is celebrated in Giglio Porto on August 10. Festivities honoring the patron saint generally last three days, from August 8 to 10, culminating at seven o’clock in the evening on the last day with the Palio Marinaro, A rowing race that originated in the age-old world of fishermen and sailors living in Giglio Porto. Emotions run high as the town’s three districts, Chiesa, Moletto and Saraceno, face off in this competition, which has also evolved over the years. On the day of August 10, all the locals dress up and cheer for their team. Festivities include dance parties, children’s games and other smaller rowing competitions, concluding on the night of the 10th with a fireworks show over Giglio Porto.
The feast of Saint Roch is celebrated on the other side of the island, in Giglio Campese, on August 16. This newer festival always lasts three days and includes dancing in the evenings, children’s games, a foam party on the beach and a fireworks show over the picturesque Bay of Campese.
On September 15, the entire island celebrates the feast of its patron Saint Mamilian in Giglio Castello. This has always been the holiday most loved by Giglio natives, who can finally enjoy a few days off themselves at the end of the summer season. On the Feast of Saint Mamilian, we dance the quadriglia, a typical local partner dance in which a lady and gentleman link arms that everyone learns while still young. Lovers and suitors are revealed during the quadriglia, and you always hope to land arm-in-arm with the girl or guy that you like. The three days of festivities include evenings of music, games for children and adults, religious events, a fireworks display over Giglio Castello, a rabbit feast featuring one of the island’s typical dishes and the Palio degli Assini, a traditional donkey race involving the four districts of Giglio Castello, Rocca, Casamatta, Cisterna and Centro (which never wins!). The festival is also an expression of the town’s rural traditions, linked more to the land and countryside than the sea.
In addition to the religious holidays are two important events related to wine. The Festa dell’Uva e delle Cantine Aperte grape harvest festival is over ten years old and takes place on the last weekend of September in Giglio Castello.
Festivities revolve around the local Ansonaco wine, produced entirely on the island. This amber-colored white wine has a robust, fruity flavor whose tartness reflects the characteristics of the island and its residents: tart but flavorful, hearty yet smooth. For three days Castello wineries open their doors to serve wine alongside typical dishes like zuppa del bracconiere, cod with potatoes, wild rabbit, onion frittata, panficato and grape focaccia.
In the evenings you can join the local singing groups enlivening the streets with a glass in your hand. The Festa dell’Uva e delle Cantine marks the end of the grape harvest when we finish the old wine to make way for the new.
Giglio’s other main wine event, held in early June, has an artsy side.
The weeklong MuVinAr festival brings wine together with music and visual art, Uniting a longstanding local wine-making tradition with modernity and a contemporary view of the island and its ecosystem. During the week of the MuVinAr, you can taste Ansonaco wine by various local producers at participating venues, along with some heroic wines by non-local producers hosted for the occasion. Festival evenings are brightened by the exhibitions of contemporary artists letting their creativity loose and music concerts set in unique, breathtaking locations.
After the hybrid MuVinAr festival, two music festivals focus on classical chamber and opera music, both taking place in August and involving international singers and musicians from some of Italy’s most important theaters.
The artistic and organizational director of the Musical Giglio Festival, now in its 11th year, is Daniela Petracchi, who also founded the event. For three days, chamber music concerts showcasing musicians from some of Italy’s most important orchestras are held at dawn on Arenella beach, at sunset on the scenic Altura plateau at the island’s southern tip and in the historic church of Giglio Castello. FB page @Festival MusicalGiglio
The weeklong Il Giglio è Lirica Festival, held in August, also takes place in various locations, using opera music to reveal some of the most charming spots on the island. Each year the festival presents a new line-up of operas involving musicians and singers of international caliber. For the program, payment methods and to reserve tickets, see the festival’s website at www.ilgiglioelirica.com,
the Facebook page Associazione L’Arte in scena or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the summer, especially from early July to mid-September, the local Il Teatro dell’Isola P. Buttarelli theater company performs weekly at the Aldobrandesca Fortress and other lovely locations in Giglio Castello, presenting shows it has developed over the winter. Each year, local amateur actors and drama lovers try their hand at a classic by a great playwright, including Moliere, Goldoni, Shakespeare and, in recent years, Eduardo De Filippo.
The company was founded over thirty years ago by Pietro Buttarelli, a major actor who has worked with Giorgio Streheler at the Teatro Piccolo in Milan, among others, and a lover of the island who decided to spend his old age here with his wife. The two have given a voice and substance to local talent by starting the theater company and a choir on the island. The company’s Giglio-born actors are now led by Florentine director Andrea Giannoni.
The island’s various sporting events includes one that has grown steadily in importance and attracts an impressive number of participants.
The Ricciola Cup is an amberjack fishing competition held on the first weekend of October. Since launching nearly four decades ago, it has become an unmissable annual event for fishing lovers, especially enthusiasts from Rome and surrounding areas who join local fishermen in the hunt for one of the most coveted and tasty prey in our waters.
The first edition of the Ricciola Cup took place in 1985, in September, the season when the great amberjacks start looking for prey near the coast and when fishermen meet for this historic, traditional competition.
All information, regulations, dates and official communication can be found on the event’s website at http://www.ricciolacup.it/.
A number of other shows and events also take place throughout the summer including fairs, dance parties and exhibitions that change every year.