May has already been a very busy month here in Italy.
We got off to a lucky start when the forecasted rain for the Canale Fiorito Festival on May 1 didn’t materialize, and the whole thing went wonderfully until the rain finally arrived at 6 p.m.
The ancient canal in my little town, Battaglia Terme, is celebrated once a year. Flower decorations adorn its borders and bridges. The town deserves this recognition. Amazingly, it was built as early as 1289 to transport the stone which paves Venice. The volcanic hills here provided stone with a ridged, non-slip surface which was ideal for a water-based city. The quarried stone was carried along the canal to the Lagoon, but it is no longer used commercially. These days the canal is only used for tourist trips to the local Catajo Castle.
There is a little market along the banks of the canal, as well as entertainment in the form of stilt walkers, a parade of locals in medieval costumes, horse and cart rides for children, drums and flag throwing, swings and all the traditional fun of the fair. For the past five years I have joined in with my own market stall. My Italian friends have always admired my English tea sets, toast racks, teapots and willow pattern plates, and urged me to bring things from England (“Cose Inglesi”) to sell. Now I seem to have regular customers and this year I managed to sell almost my entire stock.
After a few days’ rest, there was a celebration of the Coronation to organise. As I am the only English woman here, I am constantly asked many questions about the royals. I was, at first, disappointed not to be in England, but it worked out well because I decided to throw my own party in the local bar, Vero Vino. All my guests had to come in costume (I myself had a Camilla mask, crown and sash) and we played games, and had a Royal Quiz. The prize was a genuine cup and saucer from the previous Coronation in 1953, which I had found at a ‘bric a brac’ sale at home in England. With aperitivi rinforzati (drinks and ‘nibbles’) we hovered around a long table decorated with flags. Great fun!
At the end of May, Battaglia has an extraordinary boat race, Remada a Seconda. This is a hilarious event where locals make their own boats to sail down the canal to the Venetian lagoon. Only rowing or wind power are allowed, and the ‘boats’ created are crazy: desert islands, a fire engine, a dragon breathing smoke, a double decker bus. I’m invited to join the team creating a floating café. They need no excuse to drink the only fuel for this race, Prosecco! I think maybe I will help, but leave the trip to them, even though an ambulance follows all the vessels along the tow path, so I suppose it is safe.
As I am unlikely to fall into the canal with my friends, I will be able to write my next “Letter from Veneto" for La Gazzetta!