One of my personal favorite weekends is the Roman Bacchanal…

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One of my personal favorite weekends is the Roman Bacchanal weekend. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a little more laid back (it’s hard to get too wound up in a toga) or if it’s just late enough in the season that everyone’s relaxed into an easy faire groove, but I look forward to this weekend every year.


One of the reasons I love Roman Bacchanal weekend is the Bocce ball contest. The World Bocce League provides a brief history of the sport: “Bocce, an ancient sport little known in the United States, has finally begun to take root in the American sports culture. Bocce is a word stemming from the vulgar Latin, ‘Bottica,’ a direct root of the Italian word ‘Bocce.’ Bocce Ball was first documented in a 5200 B.C. painting of two boys playing, which was discovered by an English scientist, Sir Francis Petrial, in an Egyptian tomb.

Bocce Ball spread throughout Palestine and into Asia Minor. In 600 B.C., Bocce was picked up by the Greeks and passed to the Romans. It was played everywhere, from the churches and castles to the city streets. People from all walks of life could play the game; young or old, man or woman.

In 1319 A.D., Bocce Ball was actually prohibited to people of lesser nobility because it was felt that it diverted attention from more important tasks, such as archery and war training. In 1519, Bocce became a public game. It was played in Flanders, Holland, and Belgium.

Greek colonists brought Bocce with them to what is now modern Italy. It became so popular that it was once again threatened with prohibition, as people who were playing Bocce in the streets were hitting the knees of passing noblemen with the Bocce balls. Although unfortunate for the humbler people who played Bocce, this problem brought widespread attention to the sport among Italian noblemen and Bocce immediately became a favorite pastime.


It was Giussepi Garibaldi, who, while unifying and nationalizing Italy, popularized the sport as it is known today. Bocce frequently lost and gained popularity throughout the ages. In 1896, during a resurgence of popularity, the first Bocce Olympiad was held in Athens, Greece. Bocce has been a part of international sports ever since.”

Our tournament is held at 11:00 near the New Market Music Gazebo. It’s hosted by our entertaining Italian Court, and the King of the Festival loves to play along. Patrons can play, or just watch and cheer.

Our daily costume contest is a feast for the eyes- toga and tunic, stola and palla, or stunning armor parade the Arena. I love the rich colors! This is, perhaps, one of our most comfortable costume days- no corsets to cinch into, so everyone looks beautiful and content!


If you plan to enter the costume contest, we’ll be looking for attention to detail, handcrafted dress, and proper footwear! This is one contest where a little historical accuracy matters, and a costume that’s been lovingly made can really shine.

If you love spaghetti (and who doesn’t, really?) come by the New Market Music Gazebo at 4:00 for the eating contest! It’s a mess. Truly, a perfect storm of sauce and noodles all slurped hands- and utensil- free by brave souls who aren’t afraid of getting sloppy.

I love the expressions on the faces of these two competitors. I think they’re having fun, but maybe not? Since no Italian weekend is complete without a plate of pasta or a meatball sandwich, visit the Italian Village food area, where Matt Basse’s staff will fix you up with hot, fresh lasagna, ravioli, or chicken parmesan.


I suggest that this weekend is an especially fun one to see the evening Royal Proclamation at the Globe Stage. The Italian Court presents a very wet ode to fountains and urns that you don’t want to miss. Follow it with our spectacular fireworks show at the Arena and you’ve had the perfect end to a faire day.

Maybe the reason Roman Bacchanal is one of my favorite weekends is summed up in this quote from  Robin Leach: “In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” I can’t think of a better way to live life. Viva l’Italia!

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