Many of the great Italian festivals occur out of the sight of most tourists. The best tend to be held in rural outposts, many in the south, where spirituality and—dare I say it—superstition trump the commercialism of the north.
It’s a shame, really. While tourists invade Florence, Venice, Rome, and wherever Rick Steves tells them to go, it’s really Italy’s rural areas that keep the spiritual flow going. It’s not that you can’t reach these areas, or stay in hotels and Agriturismi in the vicinity, it’s just that nobody does, and few writers write about it because, well, the foreigners who attend these things are too few to make a buck off of.
Take the Feast of Sant’Antonio Abate. Sant’Antonio is, Italy Magazine tells us, “the patron saint of butchers, domestic animals, basketmakers,and gravediggers; he also protects against skin diseases, especially shingles known as “Fuoco di Sant’Antonio” (Fire of Saint Anthony) in Italy.”
The celebrations for this saint of diversity are wild affairs, with lots of drumming and the resulting buttock-swinging that such music provokes. You need that on the winter feast day, January 17th.
So heck, if you’re in Campania or Puglia in January, ask around. Or listen to the drums and the moorish-sounding music. You can see and hear some on the excellent Italy Magazine post: Feast of Sant’Antonio Abate