Category Archives: Festivals

Festivals from around the world are a great time for tourists on holiday to appreciate how the local people enjoy themselves. Festivals cover many activities and often include food, local, cuisine, live music, parades and fireworks displays.

Out and About at Cardiff’s Mardi Gras

Well you’ve worn a feather boa in Rio, caught beads in New Orleans and dressed with a papier-mâché head in Sydney so what LGBT Festivals worthy of note are left? Well one of the most lively and unlikely of destinations is Cardiff in South Wales. Despite having the reputation of rugby, mining and choir singing it has a vibrant and active gay and lesbian scene.

Every year on the first weekend in September, more than 40,000 LGBT revellers descend on the city for a weekend of glittering entertainment with fun and raunchy cabaret. The main party area is the massive expanse of Bute Park behind the gorgeous old Victorian Castle. Here there are marquees, stalls and stages a plenty where people perform and dance the night away.

There are also a number of gay friendly venues throughout the city that are hosting events ranging from theatrical groups, performance and sedate tea dances. There will be a selection of films on show at the Chapter Arts cinema. You are bound to have a weekend swamped with impersonations of Shirley Bassey and Lliza with two “LL’s”, this being Wales and all.

This year you missed the comparing excellence of Fanny Dazzle, Bella Endez and Kitty and Marcia. There were performances from Cardiff based group Fine Line and an exhibition of Urban Freestyle Display on their BMX bikes. As this is Wales you’d have to see the Gay Men’s Chorus and Madis Gras wouldn’t be the same without emo disco, this year provided by Bright Light was a must.

So if you are wondering where to be out, about and proud next year, put September in your calendar for a weekend of top quality free entertainment.

Italy’s Modern, Medieval Sporting Festivals

Palio di Siena

Italy is a country of festivals, many of which can trace their origins back through the centuries. There are national, regional and local festivals, villages organise their own food sagra festivals, there are music festivals and time honoured religious celebrations. You can dress up in medieval costumes or cover the streets in coloured seeds, there are festivals for mushrooms, chocolate and onions but some of the more uniquely bizarre events are some of the sporting festivals.

Florence Football 1688

The history of many of the “Sporting” festivals developed out of medieval competitions and still has a place in Italy’s modern calendar of events. Along with the central competition there is always glamorous costumed parades to heralding in the contestants, lively music and streets bedecked with colourful banners and flags. Food plays an important part in the festivals and contestants and visitors alike don’t go hungry.

The top five most exciting Medieval Sporting Festivals are:-

Palio di Siena – Held twice a year in July and August

Siena Horse Race

This horse racing festival is a competition between the 17 districts of Siena where the ten competitors (the seven who didn’t compete in the previous year and three randomly chosen ones) ride around the massive Piazza del Campo in the centre of the town. The race course is around the piazza three, heart stopping times with as many as 40,000 people crammed into the square all desperate to see the action. The event can trace its history back to the 16th century, prior to this the town held races on buffalo and donkeys before horses were settled on as the beast of choice.

The festivals winning horse is the first to cross the finishing line, even if it is riderless, while the loser is considered to be the second placed horse and not the last to finish. The race is a fierce and anything goes, including interfering with fellow riders and their horses. The winning rider receives an elaborately hand painted palio, silk banner created each year by a different artist.

Calcio Storico Fiorentino (Florentine Football) – Florence – 3rd week of June

Foot Brawl

This is the crazy 50 minute, 27-a-side football/ rugby, free for all that has taken place in Florence’s Piazza di Santa Croce since 1530. Dressed in traditional medieval costume the object of the game is to score a goal, by any means possible. The only things that are banned are sucker punches and kicks to the head.

The strange football tournament is played out between the four ancient quarters of Florence and each has its own colours, traditions and costumes. The teams are Santa Croce (Azzurri, light blue), Santo Spirito (Bianchi, white), San Giovanni (Verdi, Green) and Santa Maria Novella (Rossi, Red). The rules allow players to use their hands and feet and you are allowed to kick, head butt, punch, choke and elbow opponents in order to score.

Corsa dei Ceri – Gubbio, 15th May

Corsa dei Ceri, Gubbio

Since 1160, on the eve of St Ubaldo’s Day, the “Corsa dei Ceri ”, the great candle race, has taken place in Gubbio, Umbria. Three teams carry 25’ wooden candles weighing 900 pounds through the narrow, cobbled streets of Gubbio, up Mount Ingino to the Basilica of St Ubaldo.

There is great competition between the three teams each representing one of three different saints. The carriers all wear the same uniform consisting of a fez, white shirt and white trousers with a different coloured sash to represent the team. St Ubaldo’s crew always wear yellow, St Giorgio’s team, blue and St Anthony’s followers come sporting black.

Despite the Corsa dei Ceri’s pageantry, parades and feasting the result is always a forgone conclusion as St Ubaldo always wins and is the first to enter the basilica. However great exertions still go into the race either way and there is much entertainment for the 30,000 visitors who attend annually to see the spectacle.

Human Chess – Marostica, Nr Venice, Held every alternate years each September

Living Chess Festival

This intellectual sporting festival reputedly dates back to 1454 when two noblemen settled their love for a local girl by playing chess for her hand, with the loser getting to marry her younger sister. It was decided by the Lord that the match should be played out in the town square, below the castle as a game of living chess. He ordered that the parts of the chess pieces were to be played by real people and animals so creating a gigantic human chess game.

Every other year this epic human chess game is re-enacted with all the pageantry and glamour of the supposed original event. The performance includes over 550 people, lasts for 2 hours and is concluded with a great fireworks display. The modern version was introduced in 1923 and claims to faithfully recreate the events of some 600 years before. The next time the display is due to be organised is in 2012.

Palio della Balestra – May and September each year in Gubbio and Sansepolcro

Crossbow Festival

Twice a year there are the great Medieval Crossbow competitions between the two rival towns of Sansepolcro, Tuscany and Gubbio in Umbria that dates back to at least the 15th century. It is mentioned in the biography of Renaissance painter, Pietro della Francesco, who talks about his involvement in the contest in 1453, while the famous Florence banker, Cosimo II de Medici took part in the event in 1612.

The day itself is a colourful display of celebration and friendship with parading, flag throwing demonstrations and plenty of food. The competition itself is in the main piazzas of each town and features up to eighty crossbowmen, all taking turns in trying to get their bolt nearest the centre.

If you would like to find out more about Italy’s Renaissance Festivals and marvellous Medieval Tournaments around the Umbrian, Tuscan countryside or the many other memorable days out, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

 

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The World’s Five Most Dangerous Festivals

In today’s sanitised, risk assessed, health and safety purified world it’s good to know that you can still rely on some nations to allow you, if you so desire, the opportunity to cause yourself serious harm or injury in the name of fun. The leaders in this high energy, adrenaline fuel death rides are the Spanish and the Japanese. These two countries offer you the best in death-defying mayhem.

So if you are thinking of spicing up your holiday destination this year, what are the most dangerous festivals you can try.

El Colacho, Castrillo, Spain.

El Colacho, Casatrillo, Spain

Baby Jumping… yes parents from the Spanish village of Castrillo, voluntarily put their precious newly born babies in the middle of the village street and men dressed in devil costumes leap over the newly born children from the previous 12 months. Although the origins of the festival are unknown the festival, carried out during Corpus Christi, is believed to cleanse the infants of original sin.

Danjiri Matsuri Festival, Osaka, Japan

Danjiri Festival

The Danjiri are large ornate wooden shrines that teams pull at speed through the narrow streets of Kishiwada, Osaka in Japan. The teams prepare for months before race day on the 14th – 15th September, the 33 Danjiri teams then line up and with a shrill blast on a whistle each cart starts its run. Cornering is the most difficult part of the race, as they tend to skid around the bends at furious speeds. During the race a band and dancers attempt to play and perform without falling off, as the Danjiri completes its circuit of the town.

Cheese Rolling, Blockworth, Gloucester, UK

Cheese Rolling, Gloucester

Only in England could they turn an innocent looking cheese into a death race. For the last 200 years every late May Bank Holiday thousands flock to the village to hurl themselves down the steep Cooper’s hill in pursuit of a Double Gloucester cheese. A fleet of ambulances is always in attendance to cart the injured competitors off to hospital.

Onbashira, Tokyo, Japan
Log Riding, JapanThe Onbashira Festival has been held every six years for over 1,200 years and is a time when the temples of Suwa are symbolically renewed. The festival takes place over several months and the first part involves cutting down huge tree trunks, which are then dragged across land to the temple site. Parts of the route are through steep undulating terrain and it is here that the young men prove their bravery by riding the trunks as they hurtled down the hillsides.

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

Running with the bulls

Carried out during the Festival of San Fernier for the last 600 years bulls have been let loose through the narrow streets crowded with crazy competitors who try to avoid getting trampled or gored. Made famous in Ernest Hemmingway’s novel “The sun also rises” it is now one of the most popular and dangerous thrill rides you can voluntary take part in. It has claimed the lives of at least 15 people since 1924 and many more have suffered, cuts, bruises, broken bones and concussion.

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Five Top New Years Eve Holidays

Where are the best places to see in the New Year?

For 24 hours every December 31st there is an international party as everyone around the globe will ring in the new and see out the old. Worldwide you will find scenes of joy as happy throngs of cheerful people, sing, dance and toast in the New Year, whilst all around fireworks and live music fill the air. With such a great variety of destinations to choose from, where are the most popular and spectacular places to mix with the crowds and see in the New Year in style?

Trafalgar Square and The London Eye

Big Ben, London

For many years the image of hordes of people enjoying the lead up to the New Year packed into Trafalgar Square was a traditional sight. Everyone excitedly waiting for the booming tones of Big Ben to announce the changing of the year but in more recent times there has been a change in the air. A marvellous firework spectacular is now laid on along the banks of the Thames, with the focus on the London Eye. Since 2005 the display has lit up the capital’s night sky and entertained the crowds as with linked arms they sing along to “Auld Lang Syne”

Times Square, New York

Times Square, New York

New York with all its usual razzamatazz and glitz definitely delivers on New Years Eve. Times Square forms the centre where an estimated million people gather to watch the famous New Year ball drop down the flagpole of One Times Square. This is a sight, to which Americans have greeted in the New Year since 1906 and has become a carefully orchestrated operation. The crowd stretches all the way up to Central Park and the streets are decorated with lights and seasonal displays. As soon as the ball falls the whole city erupts and a magnificent firework show starts on top of One Times Square.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour

Australia is one of the first major centres to see in the New Year and their exuberant celebrations are a familiar scene on television broadcasts. Sydney also benefits from being in the southern hemisphere so they are celebrating in the middle of summer. There are midnight swims in the sea and beach parties, the most famous being on Bondi Beach. There are concerts and live music throughout the city and always a breathtaking firework display on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The vast natural caldron of the harbour provides the prefect setting for the display and annually over 300,000 tourists visit solely for the festivities.

Edinburgh

Princes Street, Edinburgh

While many New Years celebrations are a modern phenomenon the Hogmanay Festival in Scotland is centuries old. The most thrilling Hogmanay to be had is in Edinburgh and here they cordon off the city centre for the revelries. There is a torch lit procession on the 30th December, which goes from Parliament Square up to Carlton Hill creating a river of fire along the Royal Mile. On the 31st the air is filled with music, traditional dancing and entertainment, culminating in the firing of the cannon at Edinburgh Castle and a massive fireworks show.

1st and Last Place New Year Celebrations

If you wish to try a novel approach to seeing in the New Year, you could always visit the first or last places to celebrate. The first place on the planet to see the arrival of next year is with the 5,000 inhabitants on Christmas Island, a natural wonderland populated with rare and exotic creatures. It is famous for its unique red crab migration, turtles and colourful birds and provides a peaceful start to the year.  Should you wish to be one of the last people to see the dawning of the New Year you should head for Western Samoa, it is literally the last place on earth you can celebrate and renowned for its friendly party atmosphere.

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Top Five Shopping Holidays For Christmas

Christmas is a time when most people’s thoughts turn to stocking filling and buying unusual gifts for the festive season. This also proves a great opportunity for a romantic weekend break and a chance for some retail therapy along the way.

So where are the best Christmas shopping destinations around the world, where you can pick up those little surprises and spot great bargains and sample the real Christmas spirit.

New York – Blockbuster shopping

Rockerfeller Centre Skating

The idea of Christmas shopping is everyone’s vision of buying presents, walking around the department stores like Macy’s and Saks on Fifth Avenue, picking up special knickknacks in Bloomingdale’s and then wandering around the boutiques of Madison Avenue or searching for special offers on the lower East side.

 

Beneath the towering skyscrapers of the New York skyline Christmas is in full swing from November onwards. Shop windows are seasonally decorated, Santa’s festoon the streets with their bells and collection buckets and lights and trees are everywhere. The Rockerfeller Centre and Bryant Park pond are two particularly festive spots to visit as both have traditional ice-skating rinks to get you in that white Christmas mood.

Milan – House of Fashion

Milan - Corso Vittorio Emanuele

Milan in Northern Italy is renowned the world over as one of the fashion capitals, here you will find all the best names in style and elegance. Christmas shopping in Milan is for those who adore fashion labels Prada, Gucci and Armani can all be found in the Fashion Quadrilatero. The narrow, cobbled streets of Milan are full of shopping surprises, little courtyards with out of the way stores, known only to the locals and major fashion houses that are scattered along the Via Montenapoleone, Via delle Spiga and Via Sant’ Andrea.

December 7th is an ideal time to visit Milan as this is St Amborgio’s day and the whole of the centre becomes a giant open-air market. The streets are teeming with stalls selling antiques, paintings and books, a crowded but enjoyable atmosphere with people hunting out Christmas presents. When you are finally all shopped out there are plenty of chic Italian Cafés and gorgeous restaurants to give you back your strength.

Paris – Christmas for Lovers

Paris - Champs Elysees

The self-proclaimed city of lovers, Paris is a popular romantic destination and always recognised as somewhere to find fashion, food and memorable sights. Le Bon Marche, Printemps and the Galleries Lafayette are destinations where any serious shopper should head. During Christmas there are many traditional open-air market stalls along the streets. The Esplanade de la Defense and Saint Germain des Pris are festooned with places to buy jewellery, craftwork, pictures and traditional foods.

Those who are looking for typical French cuisine should head for the market at Montparnasse where you will find a great range of cheeses, wines, cakes and delicatessen delights. If you are looking for genuine hand made goods then the centre of Paris at the Rue de la Monnaie is the place to go. Over Christmas it is pedestrianised and full of artisans displaying their talents and skills.

Hong Kong – Mystical Shopping In East

Hong Kong Christmas

Not exactly a weekend city break but if you can spare the time Hong Kong will offer you an unforgettable Christmas shopping experience. Christmas in Hong Kong is a wonderful mixture of east meets west, with traditional decorated Christmas trees; carol singing and Santa’s grotto with a distinctive oriental feel to them. There are excellent shopping areas in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Macau and Lantau Island

On Hong Kong you will find the usual Chinese artwork, collectable and curios but also many designer labels and fashion accessories. Even many of the local labels are becoming sought after in their own right. The beauty about doing your Christmas shopping in Hong Kong is that the sales start in December where discounts of up to 70% can be found.

Munich – Bavarian Christmas Shopping

One of the enduring, Christmas card images over the years is a traditional snowy Bavarian Christkindl Markt. At this time of year

Munich Christmas Market

Munich’s town centre is full of mock wooden medieval market stalls, well stocked with German food, mulled wines, beers and pastries. If you are lucky the streets will be covered in snow and full of people wrapped up warm to create that prefect sense of occasion.

Marienplatz is the main square to head for, brightly lit, with a large Christmas tree and plenty of atmosphere and has been the home of the Christmas market since the 14th century. The attraction of the German festive markets is the unique, romantic Christmas feel they evoke and the traditional live music, played daily from the balcony of the town hall only serves to add to this special time.

 

10 Unusual Festivals in Italy

Relaxing in the Upper Tiber Valley

 

Gubbio Amphitheatre

 

The quite, peaceful and rural slopes of the Upper Tiber Valley, in the shadows of the Apennine Mountains are home to a number of unusual festas throughout the year. The area stretches from Umbertide in the south, over the Tuscan border to Pieve San Stefano the most populous village in the north. The region also includes the towns of Citta di Castello, Gubbio, Sansepolcro, Anghiari and Piertralunga.

Some of the celebrations are religious; others stretch back to the medieval period and a couple are artistic show pieces, all however prove to be pure gastronomic delights.

Corso dei Ceri – Gubbio Candle Race, May
Every May 15th the streets of this ancient town are crammed with people, colour and excitement as three 20’ wooden candles race through the narrow alleyways up to the Basilica of St Ubaldo. The whole weekend is a celebration with costumed parades, flag waving and lots of eating.
Palio della Balestra – Sansepolcro/ Gubbio Crossbow Competition, May & September
Since 1594 the towns of Sansepolcro and Gubbio in May and September compete against each with crossbows. This demonstration of skill, nerve and concentration is a two leg contest featuring bowmen in period costume, ceremonial flag throwing displays, parading and copious eating.
Lo Spino, Uphill motor race – Pieve San Stefano, May
Three days of hill racing, where the competitors blast their way a thousand metres along a twisting, winding 7Km course, against the clock. Since 1965 drivers and the crowds in ever increasing numbers have assembled for this exciting spectacle amid some of the most beautiful scenery in Italy.
Umbria Film Festival – Montone, July
Now in its 15th year the Umbrian Film festival grows more popular every year. Previous guest speakers and dignitaries have included Colin Firth, Terry Gilliam and Ken Loach who have lent their support to this picturesque hilltop town and its open-air exploration of European cinema.

Spettacoli Classico – Classical Plays in Gubbio July-August
Gubbio’s first century, Roman Amphitheatre provides an idyllic, romantic setting for a month long series of classical plays, concerts and music. A great way to enjoy the warm summers evenings in the beautiful parklands below the town.

Rione Prato – Citta di Castello Medieval Re-enactment 28-30th August
The residents of the Prato quarter in Citta di Castello’s centre turn back the clocks and take you to Renaissance Italy. Everyone wears period costumes and cantinas are converted into bars or trattoria serving gorgeous home cooked food and drink. You can witness many displays of medieval life, men at arms in mock battles, falconry and handcrafts or just wander around the torch lit streets.

Medieval Festival – Umbertide, September
September gives you another chance to get the old wimple out of the hat box and dust off your chain mail as Umbertide’s citizens stage an exciting Medieval Festival. Complete with jugglers, flag throwing, displays of age-old crafts and battle re-enactments.

Palio dell ‘Oca – Citta di Castello Goose Fair, October
This modern jousting tournament has its roots in medieval times. Today the participants, riding a cart, run a lance through the hole of a barrel of water, suspended two metres above the ground. The winning knight gets the prize of a large, fat, goose. There are also other events, such as climbing the greasy pole, and the game of cooking pots and jugs.

Altrocioccolata Chocolate Festa – Gubbio – October
Four days of debate, lectures, demonstrations but most of all four days of chocolate. In whatever form, taste or use, you may have for this much loved treat, witness the Chocolatiers art at its sweetest.

Fiere di San Florida – Citta di Castello Saint Florida Fair, November
Held in the historic centre of Citta di Castello this three-day celebration of the life of Saint Florido, turns the whole centre into one vast outdoor market. Here you will find many strange and curious buys, from food and drink to handicrafts and tools. There are literally hundreds of stalls throughout the town during this popular fair.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does give you a glimpse of the wonderfully diverse entertainment that is available when you step off the well-beaten tourist track. However with Assisi, Perugia and Florence just down the road you are never far away from the urban hustle and bustle should you miss it.

 

Further Into

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