Marche Region Traditions and Festivals

Scroll down to the Festival of Piobicco for the Ugly Fesitival story

In the Marche region traditions are still very strong, this is a region of Italy that remains true to its roots and heritage.

That said the best part of it all is that everyone here knows how to have lots of fun and it's infectious too, come along and join in.

Le Marche is in many ways one of the homes of the Renaissance—second only to Tuscany and Florence .

Many of the greatest architects and artists of the period were from le Marche. Names such as Raphael and da Fabriano are now world famous. Urbino is at the heart of this great legacy - once home to Raphael himself as well as to Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca.

The past, and the Marche region traditions, are often most evident in the festivals that are still of great importance. Nearly every town however big or small has a festa.

Ascoli Piceno and La Quintana

The Ascoli Piceno festa known as La Quintana, held on the first Sunday in August, is the most famous festival in the Marche.

The jousting tournament between the town’s various regions is the centerpiece of the festa and is taken very seriously by all Ascoli Piceno residents. The passion and emotions are intense.

La Quintana transforms the town's historic Piazza Arringo into a grand arena reminiscent of medieval tournaments. The highlight of La Quintana is the jousting competition, where skilled jousters clad in medieval attire, adorned with colorful banners and heraldic symbols, showcase their prowess. Riding at full tilt, they aim to hit a series of targets with a lance while maintaining their balance on horseback. The precision and agility demonstrated by the knights add a thrilling dimension to the event, transporting spectators to a bygone era of knights in shining armor.

The festival extends beyond the jousting competition, featuring a vibrant medieval parade that winds its way through Ascoli Piceno's cobblestone streets. Participants, dressed in elaborate period costumes, represent various historical figures, adding a touch of authenticity to the spectacle. The lively atmosphere is enhanced by drummers, trumpeters, and flag bearers, creating a sensory experience that captivates all who attend.

La Quintana is not only a display of skill and valor but also a testament to the unity and pride of the local community. Each neighborhood, or "sestiere," competes fervently to win the coveted Palio, a prize awarded to the team that demonstrates the highest level of skill, precision, and sportsmanship throughout the festival. The sense of camaraderie and friendly competition fosters a strong community spirit, bringing together residents and visitors alike in a shared appreciation for Ascoli Piceno's cultural legacy.

As the sun sets on Piazza Arringo, the grand finale of La Quintana unfolds with a vibrant historical reenactment and the awarding of the Palio. The square comes alive with music, cheers, and a jubilant atmosphere that lingers in the memories of those fortunate enough to witness this medieval spectacle.

Treia Festival:  La Disfida del Bracciale

La Disfida del Bracciale in late August stands as one of the most distinctive historical reenactments, not only in the rich tapestry of Marche but throughout Italy.

Set against the backdrop of the early 19th century, this unique festival transports Treia into a bygone era, particularly the golden age of the bracciale (bracelet), a rather unusual sport, invented, I believe, by Carlo Didimi, a noble from Treia. Honoring his legacy, the town transforms into a riot of color, painted in the vibrant colors of Onglavina (yellow), Cassero (green), Vallesacco (purple), and Borgo (azure).

Then comes Sunday, the day of La Disfida: preparations are made for the historical big game,the stars of the game are admired as highly as any football star, and the arena resonates with the cheers of fans. The winning neighborhood—the victor—will safeguard the trophy until the next edition and bragging rights for an entire year.

The culinary aspect is a vital component of La Disfida, featuring a rediscovery of recipes from that era served by the neighborhood taverns, restaurants and trattorie, which stay open until late into the night. The best part about it is that lucky passers-by get to eat some of the best traditional Marche dishes, prepared by the best cooks. It is worth turning up just for the eating.

Festival of Piobicco

One of the most unusual of all festivals is held at the end of the first week in September is the Ugliness Festival of Piobicco (the Festa dei Brutti), this festa has become a celebration that embraces the extraordinary beauty found in imperfection. This unique festival is a testament to the belief that true beauty lies not in conventional aesthetics but in the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make each individual exceptional.

Held annually on the cobblestone streets of Piobicco, the Festa dei Brutti transforms this quaint town into a kaleidoscope of colors, laughter, and, most importantly, self-acceptance. The festival kicks off with a grand parade, where locals and visitors alike proudly flaunt their "ugly" sweaters, mismatched outfits, and bold fashion choices. It's a spectacle of diversity, as participants revel in expressing their unique styles without the constraints of societal beauty norms.

One of the highlights of the Festa dei Brutti is the "Ugly Mask Contest," where artisans and participants showcase their creativity by crafting masks that challenge traditional ideas of beauty. These masks become symbolic of embracing one's true self, flaws and all, and serve as a powerful reminder that behind every facade lies a story worth celebrating.

The town square transforms into a vibrant marketplace, with stalls offering eccentric and unconventional goods. Visitors can indulge in delicious treats from food vendors offering quirky combinations, blending unexpected flavors that mirror the festival's essence—unconventional, bold, and utterly delightful.

Music resonates through the air as street performers, bands, and local artists take center stage, adding to the jubilant atmosphere. The Festa dei Brutti isn't just about appearances; it's a celebration of talents, passions, and the unique qualities that make each person beautiful in their own way.

A highlight of the festival is the "Beauty in Diversity" exhibition, where local artists display their works that challenge societal norms and redefine conventional standards of beauty. From avant-garde sculptures to thought-provoking paintings, the exhibition encourages contemplation on the subjective nature of beauty and the importance of embracing diversity.

As the day transitions into night, the festival takes on a magical ambiance with illuminated installations and a spectacular fireworks display. The town's historic buildings become canvases for light projections, showcasing messages of self-love and acceptance.

The Festa dei Brutti isn't just a local event; it has gained recognition beyond Piobicco, drawing visitors from around the world who seek to experience a festival that celebrates authenticity and challenges the notion of conventional beauty.

This is becoming a global movement and interested candidates are welcome to apply. More than 35,000 people are now members.

The philosophy is that once you accept your yourself, warts and all, and revel in who you are; you are liberated and free from preconceptions and inhibitions. You save yourself a lot of worry and plastic surgery bills too!

The club has global ambitions and the aim is for every town and country to have a club, so, break free of your chains and start it up in your town!! 

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to traditions. Nearly every town has some traditional festivals but even outside of festa time – the culinary, artistic and other Marche region traditions are very much in evidence.

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