La Sagra dell’Uva, meaning the Festival of the Grape, is an annual event visitors in the Rome area should plan to attend. In this quaint hilltop town of Marino, the fountains flow with wine on the first Sunday of October…literally! Intrigued? Grab a cup and go!
This year marks the 90th festival, which all started in 1924. Festivities will include several days of the area’s celebrated white wine, delicious ciambella (a donut-like dessert made from grape must), costumes, local crafts and products, and plenty of the zone’s yummy traditional cuisine like porchetta (slow roasted pork). All of this will lead up the first Sunday of October, the titular “Sagra” which will be spent with processions and the famous tradition of filling the city’s main fountains with wine, which participants can drink up! But there’s more to this festival than just grapes….
What is behind this increasingly popular event?
It’s partly a Catholic feast day in honor of Madonna del Rosario (Mary of the Rosary). It’s also a celebration of the decisive victory during the historic Battle of Lepanto in 1571 when a number of Christian fleets combined and defeated the Ottoman fleet off of western Greece. The reference to Mary and a rosary come from a 13th century “victory” narrative when the Virgin Mary was said to have answered St. Dominic’s prayer by sending him a rosary to use as a tool to convert heretics. During the Battle of Lepanto, the Christian fleet was at a distinct disadvantage, so Pope Pius V called for Europe to pray to the rosary for victory, and then led a rosary procession through Rome. They later attributed their victory to the Virgin Mary and her famous weapon: the rosary.
Visitors with a good eye might notice some coats of arms (namely the Colonna family coat of arms) and triumphant battle scenes on some of the city’s gates. One of the victorious Generals on that famed October 7th in 1571 was Marcantonio II Colonna, who lived in a palace in Marino. Still called Palazzo Colonna (Colonna Palace), today this palace serves as Marino’s town hall.
What’s the procession like?
The inhabitants of Marino proudly dawn period costumes to reenact the victory procession when Marcantonio returned after the Battle of Lepanto. You’ll see men, women, and children all walk together in elaborate costumes from the Colonna Palace, meeting at the Fontana dei Mori, and then return to the palace. Only once they’ve made it to the fountain will the fountain start to flow with wine. The flag bearers you will see in this procession represented important roles in battle, by the way. They used those flags to send signals to fighters in battle.
What about the wine?
Marino has a long history with wine, reaching back to the Ancient Roman era. Since at least the medieval period, wine and wine-making has made up an essential part of Marino’s local production, economy, and culture! The very first Sagra dell’Uva was created as a way to both promote their local wine as well as celebrate Marcantonio Colonna. The date was set to coincide with the feast day of Mary of the Rosary and the victory date of the Battle of Lepanto.
Marino DOC wines are typically white and made of Malvasia Bianca di Candia. They come in dry, sweet, and sparkling variations. Wines can also be made of Bellone, Greco, Malvasia Rossa, Bombino, and Trebbiano Verde grape varieties.
See you in Marino!