• Cultural

San Martino: a tradition celebrated in Abruzzo

Several legends have been told over time about San Martino, the patron saint of wine in the Abruzzo tradition, celebrated each year on November 11th, a day where new wines are discovered and tasted.

One popular legend has it that Martino was a drunk and used to arrive home late and drunk every evening. One stormy night when he returned, he decided to spend the night sleeping near a barrel in his cellar not to disturb his wife who was about to give birth. It was very cold and had snowed like never before and poor Martino ended up freezing-to-death, next to the big barrel. His wife found him the next morning and noticed that a vine had grown from his mouth and had fruited grapes which became wine inside the barrel, that was miraculously always full. That’s why San Martino is the patron saint of wine. Hence the popular proverb “In San Martino, every grape must become wine ” was born.

Every year on November 11th, in the whole region of Abruzzo, there are numerous festivals, fairs and traditional rites acclaiming San Martino and they all have one common denominator: it is celebrated with new wine, chestnuts, and seasonal products!

St. Martin is synonymous with abundance and generosity. Lunch meals are quite plentiful on the day dedicated to him, even in ancient times, the tables were laid out with lavishly seasoned macaroni, pork, turkey and the so-called “Cicerchiata”, a dessert that is recurrent today during the carnival period prepared with flour, eggs, sugar and oil or butter. It was customary to tap barrels on the day dedicated to the Saint. In the town of Lanciano, a common saying is “N’zande Martine, si spìnele nove vote”, which translates to “In San Martino, the wine is tapped nine times”.

On St. Martin’s Day, the atmosphere is cheerful where laughter and joking are at the forefront. In the province of L’Aquila, it is customary to hide under a wooden tray, little piles of bran, as many as there were members of the family, putting coal or coins under each one. Those who find coins receive applause, those who find coal are mocked.

More specifically, in the town of Campo di Giove in L’Aquila, one can follow a complete food and wine itinerary through the alleys and squares of the historic center, to discover the dishes of the local tradition combined with the representative wines of the region between ancient anecdotes and traditional customs.

In Controguerra, in the province of Teramo, takes place the Corsa di San Martino, a running event most popular with locals in Abruzzo, displaying a synergy of sportsmanship, pleasure, tourism, culture, and gastronomy.

In Casoli, in the province of Chieti, the Abruzzese people celebrate with the procession of “le ciuocchele”, old jars of tin and stones, dragged through the streets of the village, accompanied by folk music, new wine and roasted chestnuts.

Among other famous festivals, there are the Fara San Martino, the Glories in Scanno and the Scampanacciata di San Martino events that, hopefully, will return to cheer hearts in the new year.