It’s a warm summer night with a light breeze in Umbria, Italy and you are seated in the medieval town square of Saragano, listening to traditional Pizzica folk music; passionate vocals paired with the accordion, tambourine, mandolin and violin. The folk dancing that accompanies it is high energy, matching the fast-paced rhythm of the music. A murmur of laughs, conversation and rhythmic clapping by other guests compliment the scene. As you look around and take in the enchanting ambiance, your glass of local red wine is refilled, and your first course of antipasti arrives, a proper display of Aethos restaurant Ceci’s seasonal and locally sourced delicacies.
Pizzica originated as a folk dance in the 1400s in Southern Italy, specifically the Salento peninsula. Though there are several different theories about its origin, the most accepted story is that this dance, also called “taranta,” along with Pizzica music, could fight off the poisonous bite of a tarantula. Pizzica comes from the verb pizzicare, which means bite, sting or pinch, referencing a spider’s bite. The repetitive banging on the tambourine and frenzied dancing was believed to drive venom out of the body. So they danced to save their lives.
Tarantulas shared the land with those working in the fields. Imagine a woman harvesting a crop when she feels a burning sensation on her foot. She looks down to see the bite of a tarantula. She runs to the house without hesitation, grabs a tambourine and dances and sings with great intensity until the poison has left her body. It was used as a ritual for centuries but has evolved into an event of fun and freedom.
Today, Pizzica events are happening throughout Southern Italy and possess the same passion as they did centuries ago. These events are held outdoors with delicious local food, traditional music, dancers who are adorned with long skirts, flowing red scarves and often barefoot.
There are two types of dances commonly seen at Pizzica events; the taranta and the pizzicarella. The taranta tells a story consisting of a woman dancing to the rhythm of the tambourines until she collapses. The pizzicarella is considered a couple dance where two people dance together. Its popularity with locals and its role in local tourism has led to the creation of several large pizzica events and its presence at local weddings.
Attending a Pizzica event will make your vacation one to remember. Witnessing and participating in this cultural festivity at Aethos Saragano will ensure your travel plans are rich in luxury, culture and fun. These events are held throughout the summer, where guests enjoy a delicious four-course meal designed by CECI’s head chef, specifically for this special event. For an evening of joy, liberation, music, food and wine – dance the pizzica!