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St. Antony & Fire Festivals – Your Winter in Abruzzo

Farchie fara filiorum Petri - Experience BellaVita
Farchie fara filiorum Petri - Experience BellaVita

A Unique Cultural Experience Never Sensed Before​. Immerse yourself in the local culture and discover the most intriguing Fire Festivals of Abruzzo.

St. Anthony is considered the most-loved saint by the Abruzzesi, and below I’m sharing my experience and some information on what for me are the most intriguing St. Anthony celebrations of Abruzzo. Do not miss them!

These celebrations below usually take place in chronological order and can all be visited during the same week of the 17th of January. Along with facts and information, I also suggested towns and nearby interesting areas worth seeing during your visit. In this way, you can extend your trip during winter time in Abruzzo.

We at Experience BellaVita are very proud to support these traditions, and for this reason, we have organized for the first time, a 9 day tour through Abruzzo featuring the most famous Fire Traditions of Italy. Send us a message to get the program details.


Fara Filiorum Petri – Le Farchie 

16th of January

before the procession at Fara filiorum petri
Before the procession at Fara Filiorum Petri

According to the tradition, every 16th of January the faithful Faresi (locals) of each district, accompanied by the sound of accordions and trumpets, carry on their shoulder the Farchie to the main square of Saint Anthony’s church.

The 13 Farchie from each district are accurately assembled by the locals from a set of wild reeds (previously collected) to form a huge torch with a diameter of 80 cm and a height of 8 meters (26 feet).

Carrying the heavy Farchie

In a fascinating and dangerous ritual, the Farchie are manually raised from the ground up. By the first shadows of the evening, the Farchie begin to glow illuminating the night, and around them, the locals and visitors sing, dance, and drink wine and fried sweets in honour of Sant’ Antonio.

Raising ritual of Farchie

To fully experience the Farchie, you must arrive some days before the procession: going around the different districts (better accompanied by a local) and assist the locals in preparing the ‘Farchie’. To experience the Farchie preparation together with the locals is something very unique, where the cold night will be accompanied by traditional ballets, songs, food & wine.

Pumpkin, pepper & fried sardine offered by the local ladies in Abruzzo

”This moment for me was something magical, I felt part of the community from the first moment…and watching the Farchie glowing takes away all the tiredness accumulated for days & tension that something could go wrong. A touching moment, full of hugs, joy, wine & songs. Connections that will stay with me forever”.  Marino Cardelli



Villavallelonga – The Carnival & Dance of Puppets

17th of January

Dance of the Puppets, Villavallelonga

You will be surprised to see a weird carnival on a cold day of the 17th of January. Anthropologists from all over the world come to this unknown village to study this weird and long-lasting tradition.

During the afternoon of the 17th, accompanied by the live band, the locals wearing weird masks, costumes and inside huge paper puppets called ‘Pupe’ parade through the main street of the town, before arriving at the main piazza, where they exhibit in the traditional dance ‘ballo’. After the show, the paper puppets will be set on fire and the locals will serve drinks and fava beans from huge copper pots to everyone.

Cooking the traditional Fava beans soup, Abruzzo

The paper puppets are built weeks before the parade. They have an iron structure and then are covered with paper, glue and then painted to look like humans. The locals get under the puppets and carry them through the town.

Puppets on fire at the carnival in Villavallelonga

Last year I went there with my friends as one anthropologist I met before told me about this weird and unknown tradition. We arrived on foot to the town and we couldn’t see anybody. We were wondering if this was the right place and time. I was about to call my friend to ask for info when we saw the parade coming from the side of a little street. It was crazy! People dressed up in the weirdest costumes I have seen so far, dinosaurs, huge puppets, walking tables. The fun time began.

Last time I saw my friends
Last time I saw my friends

Two of my friends were ‘kidnapped’ from the sidewalk and thrown under the donkey-puppet. A memorable experience that ended at night with fava beans for everyone.


The Fire of St’Anthony – Tossicia

Trunk on trunk, with gestures inherited from the elderly, the pyramid of Sant’Antonio abate takes shape in Tossicia. The men move with skill and agility, raising the structure towards the sky little by little, until it almost reaches the height of the nearby church, dedicated to the saint of fire and domestic animals.

When the great pile begins to burn, after sunset, the whole community is gathered at its feet, warms up in the glow of the flames and watches it slowly burn away, on the evening of the festival and the following days. It is a devotional action that persists and strengthens the alliance between people, in the sign of a holy ally of the peasants, defender from the dangers of misery and the harsh winters of the past.


Cermignano – Lu Sand’Andonje

The weekend of the 17 of January

In this small village of the province of Teramo every St Anthony’s weekend, the locals celebrate ‘Lu Sand’ Andonje’….Ballets, folklore songs, local food & wine are warming the cold nights. This is a 26 years old celebration where folk music groups from all around the region come together to the town. 

They get together and in groups, walk and sing around the village of Cermignano. The local association who organizes this commemoration also provides food, drinks and art exhibitions to the visitors. When you go there, don’t miss to eat ‘Li cillitte’ (birds), a traditional St.’ Anthony’s dessert, that looks like a bird and filled with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo jam. The best pairings is ‘cellit’ and Vino Cotto, a traditional sweet (cooked) wine from Teramo.

Cellit, St’Anthony’s sweet pastry, Abruzzo

There is an interesting fact which was told me by my local friend is the following: if you can find the oldest dressed-up St’Anthony (usually with a long beard) and you pull his beard, you are guaranteed to find your loved one.

A picture with St'Anthony & the Devil
A picture with St’Anthony & the Devil


Why you should attend these Fire Celebrations?

These celebrations are unique opportunities for you to immerse yourself into the local culture, bond with the locals, and have such remarkable & touching experiences that will stay with you forever. 


Below I’m suggesting some itinerary ideas for you to discover Abruzzo while you will visit the fire festivals or on any other occasions.


Itinerary ideas of places to see near Fara Filiorum Petri

Skiing with sea view in Abruzzo

  • Pretoro, part of the ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’ Most beautiful villages of Italy. This stone village is fascinating and here you can visit some of the few-remaining wood artisan workshops. One artisan not to be missed is the 86 years young Mastro Tonino;
  • The medieval town of Guardiagrele and its ‘Sise delle Monache’ in English ‘nun’s tits’ a traditional spongy dessert;
  • Passo Lanciano: set your navigation to Majelletta and admire the fantastic sea view directly from the ski slopes at 1650 mt;
  • Church of San Liberatore a Majella in the town of Serramonacesca and the Alento Gorges;
  • Hermitage of Santo Spirito a Majella and San Bartolomeo in Legio.


Itinerary ideas of places to see near Villavallelonga

Alba Fucens and the Roman site

  • Alba Fucens with its Roman site and amphitheatre;
  • Celano, with its town and castle, from where you can admire the spectacular view of what once was the Fucino lake;  
  • Ovindoli, with a fantastic skiing resort;
  • L’Aquila city, also known as the Florence of Abruzzo or the Salzburg of Italy.


Itinerary ideas of places to see near Cermignano

fortress of Civitella del Tronto
fortress of Civitella del Tronto
  • Montegualtieri and its unique triangular tower;
  • Teramo city, once an important Roman city;
  • Medieval town of Campli, rich in art and history, as well as food, very famous for the ‘Scala Santa’ Holly Stairs, its Necropolis ‘porchetta’ (slow-roasted pig) and truffles;
  • Civitella del Tronto, one of the most beautiful towns of Italy with the largest fortress and narrowest street of Italy;
  • Castelli, one of Italy’s most important ceramic traditions; 
  • Church of Santa Maria di Ronzano: one of the most beautiful Romanic churches of Abruzzo erected in 1170 and built with local white stones and hand-painted;
  • Cerrano tower and its marine protected area.


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With love from Abruzzo,


Marino Cardelli

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