The Barabbata Festival is held every year on 14 May on the shores of Lake Bolsena in the fishing village of Marta near Viterbo. The festival is a catholicised re-enaction of pagan rites of spring and consists of parading a portrait of the Virgin through
the town and up to the church at the top of the hill. What sets it apart from thousands of other religious festivals is the enthusiasm with which the townsfolk construct their highly elaborate floats each year. These have got so big over the years that most of them can no longer manage the narrow lanes of the old town and have to be paraded along the main thoroughfare. Despite its devotion to the Madonna it’s an all male affair, the woman are restricted to casting flowers from their balconies. The ‘modern’ festival dates back to 1563 though it probably has its origins in pagan Etruscan festivities.
They then start forming up along the lake shore from about 8 AM which is when we aim to be there, and the procession heads off through the town from 9 o’clock arriving at the church of the Madonna del Monte above the town at around noon where everyone then indulges in a well deserved wine swilling picnic surrounded by their on-looking animals. The Barabbata is a wonderful way to herald in the summer.