Marino is a small town of the Castelli Romani, in the province of Rome. It is located between Castel Gandolfo and Frascati, and very close to Lake Albano and Genzano. It is famous throughout the world for the "fountains that give wine." In fact, on the first Sunday of October every year, the "Grape Festival" (in Italian "Sagra dell'Uva") is celebrated, combining some historical facts that took place in Marino. The town is transformed into a festive square, with music, songs, food stands and lots and lots of wine.
The festival is popularly dedicated to the grape harvest, an important economic source for the city of Marino. The celebrations go back to the historic victory of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 by Marcantonio Colonna. This battle took place in Greece, and specifically in the Gulf of Lepanto, where the Christian fleet guided by Marcantonio Colonna won over the Turkish fleet, which was much more numerous and much stronger. The victory was dedicated by Marcantonio Colonna, Lieutenant of the Pontifical Fleet, to the Madonna del Rosario and was considered to be a miracle.
Later on, the folkloristic and popular side joined the religious celebration. When Marcantonio Colonna, Marino's historical Lord, returned from the battle, he himself ordered from Palazzo Colonna, a big party for the city. He gave instructions to offer free wine to the people attending. A pipeline was created parallel to the regular water pipes, and instead of water, wine came out of the fountains.
Since then, every first Sunday in October, the town dresses up for this re-enactment. The festival includes two distinct parts: the religious part, with the blessing of the harvest and the procession of Madonna del Rosario; and the folkloristic part, with a folk festival, a historical parade with ancient costumes, and a parade of allegorical wagons.
The famous festival generally coincides with the beginning of the local harvest. The Marinesi wait typically for the Grape Festival to start harvesting in the vineyards. The wine production in this area finds its roots already in Roman times. The ancient authors already knew and appreciated the white wine produced in the area of the Colli Albani. During the Middle Ages and up until the modern age, viticulture represented the primary source of employment for Marino.
It is said that in 1536, during a visit to Rome, the Emperor Charles V of Habsburg had the opportunity to taste Marino's wine during a banquet, and expressed great appreciation for this local product.
The idea to create a festival to spread the knowledge of Marino's wine was created at the beginning of the 20th century. The goal was to attract visitors from Rome, who could arrive there, thanks to the construction of the Rome-Albano railway, and the tramway, that connected almost all the Castelli Romani cities.
There are many anecdotes and stories related to each edition of the festival. We report only a few:
During the fourth edition, in 1928, the parish priest decided to bring the original Turkish shield for the first time in the religious procession. Until that moment, it was preserved in the Basilica of San Barnaba, as loot of the battle of Lepanto.
In the difficult years of World War II, the celebrations for the Grape Festival were minimal. Marino was repeatedly hit by bombing, starting with the devastating attack of the 2nd of February 1944. Bombs destroyed palazzo Colonna and the Fountain of the Quattro Mori, and the Basilica of San Barnaba was severely damaged.
For the 1961 edition, the mayor of Marino invited as guests of honor the actress Sophia Loren and her husband, the famous film director Carlo Ponti, who owned a villa along the Via dei Laghi, in Marino municipality.
For the 1996 edition, 5,000 liters of wine and 12,000 tons of grapes were given away. According to the estimations of the Rome Police Headquarters, the number of participants was a record number: 70,000 people arrived to participate in the festival.
In 2008, the eighty-fourth edition of the festival went down in history due to a mistake. For a few minutes, the wine started coming out from the taps of the houses in the historic center and not from the Fontana dei Quattro Mori as it was supposed to. This error has had a great deal of media coverage- so much so that The Times has also dedicated an article to the unusual episode!
A town where wine gushes from an ornate fountain in the main square is the ideal place to live for many people. But a town where it pours out of the taps and into the kitchen sink is a place not very far removed from heaven. (Richard Owen, Bungling Italian authorities turn water into wine - The Times, october 8th 2008)
Marino is undoubtedly the only place in the world where fountains turn water into wine. If you plan a visit to Rome between the end of September and the beginning of October, do not miss the opportunity to participate in this unique festival. This is a strange celebration where the sacred and the popular aspects of the traditions are combined. Marino is waiting for you!
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