When I was a child, for me and my friends “Festa de l’Unita'” was synonymous with: summer, evenings out, food and dancing.
Despite its political connotation – it used to be organised by the Italian Communist Party, and now by the Democratic Party – the Festa de l’Unita’ is seen by most as a big annual social event. Together with the myriad of festivals that characterise Italian towns in summer.
In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy all towns and villages seem to have their own Festa de l’Unita’ during summer, and all local events culminate in a main final event that takes place in one of the major cities (like Bologna) in late August-early September.
But for us children, politics was of no interest. All we were interested in was the opportunity to be out until late (well, later than the usual 6-7pm), eat lots of traditional food like crescentine and tigelle, perform our own version of polka, mazurka and waltz at the live music events, and buy raffle tickets in the hope of winning those nice toys that were on display.
During a recent visit to Italy I went to a Festa de l’Unita’ with some friends. It must have been at least ten years since the last time I attended one of such events. The village hosting it was small. The event was quite large. Nothing seemed to have changed since the 80’s.
Two ladies handing out stickers welcomed us at the entrance. They always give you a sticker when you enter a Festa de l’Unita’. You get labelled.
Next was the funfair. Not a big one but enough to keep kids and teenagers entertained for a bit. I was tempted to pay a couple of Euros and throw plastic rings around the necks of very colourful plastic swans, but the idea of using my money to buy food seemed more appealing…
Food. One of my main priorities during any visits to a Festa de l’Unita’ as a child. This has not changed with time. Who can resist some crescentine fritte, freshly made in front of you? They may almost drip with oil, but they are delicious! So of course I had a couple.
And then there was the live music. There was a large dancing area, a stage and a band playing. The female solo singer was pretty good. But the music was the same as 30 years ago. Ballo liscio, with its polka/mazurka/waltz, dominated the scene. Some group dance songs from the 60’s featured too. The dozens of people dancing seemed to have loads of fun, though!
Looking at how well prepared they were, how in synch they moves appeared, and how no one ever seemed to miss a step, I wondered if the locals spend the whole year taking dance classes with the only purpose to show their abilities at the Festa de l’Unita’ over one week in summer…
We left before the end of the evening, with the feeling that some things have never changed and probably never will.