La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La ‘ndocciata 2018

On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…

It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though impossible to know that for sure. Hundreds of men and boys, belonging to 5 contrade (neighbourhoods), don heavy black woollen cloaks and wide brimmed hats and load onto their shoulders enormous torches made from silver fir.

Preparations start in early spring when fallen branches are collected and stacked for drying – amazingly no trees are cut down to supply the 1200 torches, and at the same time, it’s good forest management. The silver fir is cut into pieces and bound together with 5 ties to create a torch. Burning for well over an hour, and between 2 and 4 meters high, they weigh up to 7k, and are carried single, double, and upwards, in even numbers.

Some of the big ‘fans’ of torches are carried by 2 men together, but most are carried singly, including the enormous fan of 24 that I saw being prepared on the day. Dried broom, tied to the top, is set alight with petrol to start the flames. Days and days of preparation, and years of experience passed down generations are required to pull of this event – security and risk assessment being of considerable importance.

The festival’s origins are ancient. The Samnite tribe, who populated Molise prior to Roman domination, used lit torches during tribal shifts that occurred at night. Later, torches illuminated a path from the fields to town for midnight mass on the 24th, the fire and strong smell of burning resin also serving to scare off wild animals.

In honour of these ancient traditions, a festival came to be established on the 24th of December when at the end of the procession, the lit torches were piled on a bonfire symbolising the burning of rivalries and feuds. In medieval times, young men vied to make the most spectacular torch, offering it up for show under the window of a favoured girl. If she were minded to accept his advances, she’d look out appreciatively, or, if her father disapproved, he’d douse the flames (and the young man’s ardour) with a bucket of water!

In 1996 Pope Giovanni Paolo II invited the Agnonese to stage the event in St Peter’s square on the 8th of December, for la festa dell’immacolata, and la ‘ndocciata di Agnone became one of Italy’s 34 “Patrimoni d’Italia per la Tradizione”. Since then, it has been held annually in Agnone on December 8th, when thousands pile into town to witness it. On the 24th , a smaller, more intimate procession for the townspeople is still held, preceded by a presepe vivente (nativity play).

On the morning of the 8th, I joined the men of the Campamonte e Capaballe contrada as they prepared. The torches are kept carefully hidden from view until the last moment– each contrada aiming to have the biggest and best.

Porters are chosen at an early age; carrying a single unlit torch from as young as 5, moving onto a lit torch at around 9 or 10, and then progressing upwards, subject to strength and ability to remain focused and clear headed. The porters are not otherwise ‘trained’, those carrying the heaviest loads generally come from occupations whose daily toil prepares them well.

The contrada is made up of about 200, with half carrying torches, others organising and planning, and some joining the women and children as figuranti – dressed in traditional costume, carrying utensils and items from times gone by.

We all waited as it got dark and the porters assembled. Finally, at the sounding of the bell, the procession started with the smaller boys until all torches were lit and they paraded through the town, everyone lining the streets. They were really close and it got very hot – which was a blessing as we had been waiting in the cold for a fair while. The porters twirled and spun around, causing sparks to fly and whipping up excitement. The men of the contrada kept me near, which was fantastic, as I was able to follow along with the procession and end up with them as they loaded their torches onto the huge bonfire - il falò della fratellanza, symbolizing purification. Say goodbye to ‘le cose brutte’ among the community and celebrate the beginning of the New Year together. It’s impossible to convey just how special it was. I’d heard all about it, and of course knew I’d need see it one day – but I was not prepared for just how thrilling and moving it was.

A community bound by a powerful tradition, proud of its heritage, all coming together to put on a show requiring months of preparation, supreme dedication and care, and, not to mention, enormous shows of strength! When we all piled into one of the bars at the end to shared a beer, I knew I’d have to find a way to get back next year.

See more on Agnone ‘ndocciata

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Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018

The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops.

It’s a language and culture programme designed to help participants gain fluency, get lots of practise using what they kind of know, and to learn useful modi di dire. Getting out and about, communicating, losing inhibitions – that’s our focus.

This review from Joy Nash, a September 2018 participant gives a great flavour:

How do you imagine your Italian-language vacation? Dodging cars and busses in a big city, or strolling the lanes of a picturesque hill town? Elbow to elbow with tour groups and commuters, or enjoying the vista of a peaceful, ancient valley? Brief words with waiters and shopkeepers, or long conversations with local residents? Making only memories - or friends, too?

I chose Option B

Live and Learn Italian looked great online, and after some deliberation, I went for it. 2 weeks in a town where no one speaks English struck me as a great idea; ancient ruins, farm and vineyard tours, pasta making, festivals… a bell foundry - artisanal bakers, cheese-makers, and candy-makers, too.

I’ve travelled all over Italy, but I’d never heard of Agnone, in the region of Molise. Not surprising. Even some Italians have only the foggiest idea of its location, and there’s a joke going around that claims “il Molise non esiste…” Not true. Molise not only exists, it was once a vital centre of commerce, overflowing with coppersmiths, goldsmiths, and ironworkers.

Renowned for its artistic past during the time of the Bourbon kings, its history is reflected in the many Baroque churches. Home to Italy’s oldest bell foundry, since AD 1040, you can step even further back in time, and find the pre-Roman Samnites, a populous tribe who left behind some truly impressive ruins.

It’s not easy to get to, but it’s worth the effort. The Live and Learn Italian family starts with Londoner Jenifer Landor, whose ancestors hailed from Agnone, and continues with her delightful collection of teachers, guides, and residents - providing a stellar experience for participants. Everyone lends time and patience to helping students improve their Italian language skills, in and out of the classroom. Our group was small, and my fellow Italy-lovers an adventurous bunch; from the US, UK, and Canada, via birthplaces as diverse as Ireland, South Korea, and Syria.

Our daily schedule went like this: wake up to the sound of church bells, then breakfast accompanied by conversation - in Italian! - with B&B hosts. Maybe stop by the shops for lunch items (we had use of our B&B kitchen), or order a panini and/or salad at a coffee bar.

From 10:00 to 1:30, we attended fantastic Italian classes in an old monastery, with qualified native-speakers, then, for the remainder of the day, and on weekends, the schedule varied: a visit to a local specialist shop, a food artisan, or museum, a tour or lecture, maybe a festival or play, or pasta-making in a local home. Students, local guides and hosts dined together in the evening, sometimes at restaurants, other times in private homes. Meals often stretched to three hours, accompanied by excellent wine and conversation - in Italian, of course.

After two weeks, I was thinking and dreaming in Italian, and my conversation and comprehension improved immensely. I learned about all kinds of other things too: bi-yearly shepherd migration, organic farming and winemaking, the secret to perfect pasta from scratch, and how to make a church bell - to name a few. Even more rewarding were the people I encountered. When the program came to an end, I was sad to leave. Now I’m enjoying connecting with my new friends on Facebook and Instagram.

If Live and Learn Italian sounds like an experience you’d enjoy, “mi raccomando” (I’m telling you) - don’t hesitate! Do it! It’s only been a month and I’m already dreaming of going back.

Joy Nash is an architect and second generation Italian-American with a love of travel, writing, and the Italian language. Read her free short fiction at flashbynash.com or follow her wanderings on Instagram @joys_by_joy.

For further information take a look at another Guest review:

Or our Press Releases:

And Press Coverage:

 

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Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers

We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and comments – for now take a look at their histories and experience…

 

 

Alessandro Aucelli

Alessandro was my teacher when I first came to Agnone, and we’ve worked together ever since. From Isernia, he’s an excellent teacher, and our groups have unanimously praised his style and character. Alessandro is fond of saying, “Non ci sono errori, solo ipotesi…”

[ View CV ]

 

 

Filomena Caranci

With an incredibly varied and interesting CV, Filomena is from Isernia, and currently living in Milan. She has a wide experience in publishing, while continuing to teach Italian as a foreign language and working with immigrant community programmes in Europe.

[ View CV ]

 

 

Erminia Forte

Also from Isernia, teaching during the scholastic year in local schools, Erminia has an Arts degree and has completed internships in London at the Tate, and also in Canada. She’s enormous fun and charms everyone with her patience and calm.

[ View CV ]

 

 

Giovanna Di Lullo

Giovanna is from the nearby small town of Poggio Sannita. Currently working in Modena during the scholastic year, we are delighted we can grab her during her summers back in Molise. Giovanna loves working with L&LI – “meeting such interesting people and learning so much from them!”

[ View CV ]

 

 

Lucrezia Oddone

Lucrezia publishes a highly praised and award winning YouTube channel, Learn Italian with Lucrezia. From Rome, she jumped at the chance to join us in a part of Italy that was new to her. A vibrant and focused teacher, we will continue to work with her whenever her schedule allows.

[ View CV ]

 

 

Credit: Sean DuFrene / Photographer

Credit: Sean DuFrene / Photographer

 

Francesca Ricciardelli

Living and teaching at California State University in the US, Francesca is completing her second masters degree. A highly experienced Italian teacher, she also translates and contributes to publications and conferences. We will continue to entice her to Agnone during her summer breaks.

[ View CV ]

 

You can also find out more about our teachers by downloading their CV attached to each section above, or visit Our Team page. All our teachers are of the highest quality, and, no two students are the same when it comes to speaking a second language, so we are very experienced at fitting our teaching to suit your needs.

 

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Explore more posts:

La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

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In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

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Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

This review is by our guest Barbara Gentile (USA)

 

‘The Live and Learn Italian program really lived up to its name’

Having spent two weeks in Agnone in June (2018), I can say that the “Live and Learn Italian” program really lived up to its name. Weekday mornings were spent in stimulating classes, learning Italian grammar points and engaging in interesting Italian conversation, all in a very open and relaxed atmosphere, thanks to our teachers Filomena and Alessandro.

 

Meeting a fellow ceramicist and discussing technique

 

What we learned in class helped us later when we had the opportunity to listen to talks in Italian, ask questions of the lecturer, and participate in conversations with our B&B hosts and the other Italians with whom we had contact. There were plenty of “Live and Learn Italian” activities.

 

Maria showing us how it’s done - we made delicious raviolli

For example – and this is just a short list - our cooking lesson in Maria’s home had us all involved making ravioli, Italian empanadas and two fruit crostatas at Maria’s direction, and then enjoying our labours with lively conversation with her and her husband around their dining room table; the visit to the nearby archeological site at Pietrabbondante of the ancient Sanniti people (Samnites in English) featured a lecture at the site by the historian Nicola Mastronardi who has written books on the Sanniti; and the visit to the famous Marinelli bell foundry included a guided tour of the museum, an explanation of how a bell is actually made, plus a demonstration of the beautiful bell sounds by their bell ringer.

I Dragoni in rehearsal

The highlight for me, however, was the evening spent with I Dragoni, the local folk dance troupe, a group of about 30 people, some multi-generational, aged 6 to adult, who performed dances for us with such enthusiasm that it seemed the music totally transformed them.  I was struck by the number of teenaged boys in the group, three of whom played the Organetto (small accordion), which along with the tambourines and guitar, propelled the dancers in their fast-moving steps.

 

Music and dance all together

After the dance performance, we were invited as honoured guests to join them for dinner with music in the adjacent hall.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bruno, one of the principal adult dancers, who explained the stories of some of the dances they performed. One, which was fun to watch, centred around boys and girls sneaking flirtations and kisses during the Vendemmia out of sight of their parents; at the time, the only way boys and girls could meet.

Talking to Bruno and Pepé at the Dragoni dinner

In discussing costumes, which the dancers didn’t wear that night, I mentioned our visit to the museum in Isernia to see traditional Molisani costumes and jewellery and how we had marvelled at the beautiful handiwork. Bruno said he had his grandmother’s costume at home, so off he dashed to get it, and when he returned, one of the dancers put it on and paraded into the hall to model it!

Alicia modelling the costume worn by Bruno’s grandmother

Bruno explained its history and the details of its handiwork. The entire hall of people was in awe with many phones snapping photos. He said it was the first time he took the costume out in public. It was quite a special moment for everyone and, for me, of Molisana heritage, to experience the strong pride these Molisani have for their traditional culture was an unforgettable highlight of my time in Agnone.

Barbara Gentile, USA

 

Thank you Barbara for sharing your impressions, and delighted you enjoyed the local folk dance troupe so much. You can read all about our guests experiences in our testimonials here.

And you can see a video performance by I Dragoni here:

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Not Quite Beginner Holidays

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

Join a group to kick start your Italian

When we first introduced Beginner’s groups, it was obvious that participants with a bit of Italian under their belts had a much better time and got a lot more out of their stay than those who didn’t know a word. So we created Not Quite Beginner Italian language holidays; an opportunity to learn Italian and have the experience of living amongst a traditional community.

After daily class, get out and about to explore - cook and share meals in family kitchens, meet artisans in their studios, and visit family food producers.

           

Even knowing just the basics, you’ll enjoy visits to Italy so much more! Chat at the bar when ordering coffee, move beyond just a buongiorno in the shops, spend a little time with us picking up colloquial expressions - modi di dire.

Agnone is a small friendly town - and they don’t speak English - it’s the perfect place to learn and practise as your confidence grows!

           

20 hours of Italian study prior to the course will acclimatise you, and provide a good launch pad. It also creates a cohesive group, because one person’s idea of ‘beginner’ can be entirely different from the next. We can help you organise these 20 hours – we might know someone local to you, or can set up Skype lessons with one of our teachers.

What’s the programme?

The day starts at breakfast with your Italian B&B hosts. Conversation may be slow and simple, but it’s important to hear the language, and listen actively.

Mornings are in the classroom (10.00 – 13.15), and you will be given a little homework and self-study.

1.30 – 17.00 is free time for you to get some food, rest and study, wander and explore.

Between 17.00 and 19.00 you will be taken for a talk or tour. To get an idea of the kinds of things we get up to, browse the website.

Evenings might be spent in a family home cooking together, visiting a nearby town of interest or agriturismo, enjoying a film screening, or at a local festival.

Events are in Italian, with some English, and our guides are good at speaking really clearly, and creating a conversational experience.

                      

We’ll get you chatting with bar staff, asking directions, getting to know the cooks and food producers – conversation opportunities are all around you.

The community is your teacher –

Included:

7 or 14 nights B&B accommodation with en-suite bathroom

7 or 14 main meals with wine and coffee

Lessons, 3 hours per day Monday to Friday

Transit from and to Rome Fiumicino Airport

Transit for events and meals outside of Agnone

Daily sessions with an Italian host or teacher including entrance fees

Film screenings, festivals

Fill in our enquiry form or send us an email to find out more: [email protected]

Visit our homepage for more on our trips

 

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Welcome to our programme. Not so much a language school, but an experience. When I went to Agnone, no one spoke to me in English, yet everyone was willing and ready to communicate. So I had to speak Italian! It’s not so easy to meet locals in Italy and even harder to...

What to expect on our 5 night Italian cultural and culinary programme

5 nights of Italian food and culture AWAY from the tourist trail. Be immersed in an authentic community, live the slow life, discover ancient traditions.

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

EnquirePrices

Live and Learn Italian selected by Tutorful as ‘best Italian resource’

Live and Learn Italian selected by Tutorful as ‘best Italian resource’

We are thrilled to have been selected by Tutorful as one of the best places to learn Italian in Italy.

This carefully researched article - How to become fluent in Italian - Top tools to learn Italian fast - highlights helpful tools such as Best Apps, Best Websites and………

  • BEST PLACES TO LEARN ITALIAN IN ITALY

Find us 2nd on their list (Scroll to the bottom of the page).

And obviously, the article is full of good suggestions of apps you can use, and websites you can engage with to further your Italian study. When you are in Italy - practise, practise, practise is the way to go! That is what we focus on. Do take a look and leave a comment.

 

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La ‘ndocciata, Agnone’s most famous event

La 'ndocciata 2018On the 8th of December I finally saw l‘ndocciata, Angone’s most famous annual event. Believe it or not, I’d never witnessed it. High time then…It’s the biggest ‘festival of fire’ in the world, ‘una scia di fuoco’, and allegedly the oldest – though...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Joy Nash – Italian language vacations

Reflections on Summer 2018 The Live and Learn Italian immersion ‘experience’ was created completely organically, and continues to grow organically. Each year I discover new local characters and regional opportunities, and so the programme develops. It’s a language and...

Our Italian language teachers receive high praise from participants

Learning Italian with vibrant and passionate teachers We are so lucky to have a wonderful team of teachers and praise from our guests this summer has been so strong, I wanted to dedicate a page to them. Over time we will add more and include their thoughts and...

Guest Review of Live & Learn Italian by Barbara Gentile – Italian language vacations

This review is by our guest Barbara Gentile (USA)   'The Live and Learn Italian program really lived up to its name' Having spent two weeks in Agnone in June (2018), I can say that the “Live and Learn Italian” program really lived up to its name. Weekday mornings...

Not Quite Beginner Holidays

Join a group to kick start your ItalianWhen we first introduced Beginner's groups, it was obvious that participants with a bit of Italian under their belts had a much better time and got a lot more out of their stay than those who didn’t know a word. So we created Not...

Live and Learn Italian selected by Tutorful as ‘best Italian resource’

We are thrilled to have been selected by Tutorful as one of the best places to learn Italian in Italy. This carefully researched article - How to become fluent in Italian - Top tools to learn Italian fast - highlights helpful tools such as Best Apps, Best Websites...

Studying with Live and Learn Italian

Welcome to our programme. Not so much a language school, but an experience. When I went to Agnone, no one spoke to me in English, yet everyone was willing and ready to communicate. So I had to speak Italian! It’s not so easy to meet locals in Italy and even harder to...

What to expect on our 5 night Italian cultural and culinary programme

5 nights of Italian food and culture AWAY from the tourist trail. Be immersed in an authentic community, live the slow life, discover ancient traditions.

A guide to Molise, Italy’s smallest province punching above its weight

One of Italy’s smallest, and certainly its youngest province, Molise was once part of Abruzzo. Just above Puglia with 35 kilometres of Adriatic coast, ancient Apennine hill towns, and a wealth of natural beauty, it’s still pretty undiscovered. Those who do come are...

Baking bread with Mercedes

In the hills of Alto Molise, Mercedes rises at 3.30 to prepare her loaves for the wood-fired oven, using logs from her woods, and grain from her fields. Traditional bread baking for Mercedes, is all about the grain. The 'pane casaerecio' of her childhood was nothing...

Immerse yourself in Italy

Let's discuss what works best for you...

 

EnquirePrices

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