Anne's Blog

Assisi Saturday Nights: Eating and Dancing with “the Locals”

Date: May 9, 2012 - categories: - Leave your thoughts

Michelle and I feast with the locals

The Saturday night ballroom dancing season up at Catecuccio, mountain area behind Assisi, starts in mid-October and goes on until late spring.

Our farm neighbors gather for banquet dinners of Umbrian rural cuisine, followed by ballroom dancing to a live orchestra. The very elderly to the very young animate the dance floor.

There is no better way to experience superb food and the Umbrian rural people than at Catecuccio. I’ll be there many a Saturday night as my farmwoman friend, Peppa, is thrilled if I take her out dancing.

The piece I wrote on a Saturday at Catecuccio one January might entice you to join us (as Michelle and Raquel did one night!):

Raniero teaches me new steps

Carnevale, the celebratory period of dancing, feasting prior to Lent (which starts here January 17th with the Feast of St. Anthony Abbot) is in full swing now. And I do mean “full swing”: the rural people exuberate in ballroom dancing (after banquet meals!) every Friday and Saturday night.

Ballroom dancing has always been such an integral part of rural life that I finally decided that I had to take lessons, after years of stepping on the feet of my gentlemanly (so brave of them to ask me to dance!) neighbors at our rural gatherings and at the local sagra evenings.

Result: I have become an appassionata of ballroom dancing – but without a partner (husband Pino does not dance).

Fortunately, our widowed neighbor, Peppa, is another appassionata, so on many a Saturday night in the fall and winter, we twohead up to the ballroom/restaurant on Mt. Subasio (near Assisi) at Catecuccio where “the locals” gather to feast and dance.

Everyone dancing

Families and younger couples (working and rural people as the university students do NOT generally learn ballroom dancing nowadays: they are at the discos) arrive earlier and enjoy the banquet dinner served prior to the dancing.

The older people usually arrive about 9 pm, just for the dancing, as the orchestra warms up.

Entire families spend Saturday nights at Catecuccio. While the parents dance, the younger children play together – or dance, too. Pairs of little girls dance together, following their parents (or grandparents!) around the dance floor.

Grandparents and parents dance with the little ones, holding them by their hands and moving them to the music – or if younger, holding them in their arms.

Michelle with Sig. Ferroni (age 83!)

At midnight: pasta is served to all – and the dancing goes on til about 2: 00 a.m.

Last Saturday, the Umbrian Carnevele sweet, strufoli – dripping in honey – followed the pasta. “Strufoli” derives from the Lombard (Germanic) word meaning (roughly) “cotton ball”, which aptly describes their appearance. Their flavor? Similar to – but better than! – – a cake doughnut.

On Saturday, Peppa and I left soon after the strufoli… but we hear that Signor Ferroni (age 83 – and he never sits out a dance!) went on til 2:30 a.m

A couple times, I have taken friends to Catecuccio for a truly “inside” Italian experience.

Michelle and Raquel danced all evening – and Signor Ferroni cut quite the figure while dancing with each of them.

Raquel and Sig. Ferroni

As Raquel wrote to me afterwards, “The ballroom dancing evening was truly delightful ! – good healthy fun in a family environment.

The locals were kind and welcoming and eager to include us as dancing partners, which was great as that’s exactly why we were there.

The midnight pasta meal ensured the evening kicked on into the early hours – it was a truly unique ‘Italian’ experience, one that I will be forever grateful for.”
Raquel Ryan, Australia

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)