Throughout the year, Italy is full of unique Festivals and special events. From food to wine, from music to art and religious rites, there’s probably no better way to have a deep understanding of the local culture and traditions than joining a local festival in one of the charming Italian villages.
In Cocullo, a tiny Medieval village in the Region Abruzzo, about 130 Km East of Rome, each May 1st is held one of the most unusual events across Italy, the Snake Festival, Festa dei Serpari di Cocullo.
We’re sure you’re wondering why there’s a Festival dedicated to snakes! Well, this ancient ritual roots back to the Italic population, the Marsi, who lived in this area. They were devoted to the Goddess Angizia, associated to the cult of snakes and believed to have healing powers especially against snake bites. Today, the Festival is dedicated to the Saint San Domenico Abate, who lived for 7 years in Cocullo, and who is also believed to protect against snake bites and rabies.
The rite starts around March 19th when the serpari, the snake hunters, start the hunting in the surrounding mountains. In Cocullo snakes have been loved and respected for centuries. They are controlled by herpetologists and fed until the day of the Festival when they are offered to the Saint.
On the day of the Festival, the Statue of the Saint comes out of the main church and is adorned with snakes. Undoubtedly, this is the most touching moment of the celebration. Then starts the procession along the little alleys of the village, which turns from a silent and peaceful village of a few hundred inhabitants to a lively place hosting each year around 15.000 worshippers and visitors from all over Italy and some foreign countries. More than 20.000 visitors took part to the 2017 edition, including some members of the UNESCO Commission who came to Cocullo to evaluate the inclusion of the snake Festival among the UNESCO intangible heritage.
Thanks to the Municipality and Pro Loco Cocullo we’ve had the huge privilege to take part to the ritual from a privileged point of view. No words can describe the emotions we felt assisting to this unique rite between the sacred and profane.
Watch the video (Japanese version with English subtitles)