Castelbuono has a busy annual calendar of cultural tourism filled with occasions not to be missed: opportunities to sample local food, summer concerts, craft, antique and collectors fairs, exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, as well as the artistic culture of the Madonie. The town also has seasons of choral music and theatre, jazz concerts and a programme of medieval theatre.
August, from the 2nd to the 6th: SS: Salvatore: These five days witness Cefalù’s most important festival, dedicated once again to SS. Salvatore, who is in fact the city’s patron saint, and after whom the Cathedral is named.
During the afternoon of the 2nd of August a flag of SS. Salvatore is run up a flag-pole stuck on the roof of the cathedral, accompanied by banging of firecrackers and the playing of a band. There is no lack of festivity in the procession and the Solemn Mass in the Cathedral, two events in which not only citizens and the clergy take part, but also the military and civil authorities. Over this period the city is animated by a series of concerts and sporting events as well as the famous fireworks and festive street lights.
On the closing day of festivities, the 6th of August, a profane ritual linked to the sea takes place, the so-called 'ntinna a mari (“antenna on the sea”). A long pole – the “antenna” – is suspended over the water from the edge of the dock, and Cefalù’s best-balancing sailors compete to grab a flag hung from its furthest end.
The most particular dish of the event is the pasta a tianu (“al tegame” in Italian, “pan-fried”) flavoured with meat sauce, fried aubergines, abundant basil and pecorino cheese.
From the 7th to the 15th of August the Cheese Festival is held, with a variety of typical local produce on display.
The Sagra della Spiga is a rural folkloristic event, created on the worthy initiative of Gangi’s tourist office, and has become a focal part of events in the Madonie mountains and, indeed, the entire province. It re-evokes the costumes, traditions and culture of the peasant life of the past, mixed with pagan mythology, in particular the celebration of the myth of the Goddess Ceres, the goddess of abundance and crops. The event is multifaceted:
- "A Vanniata da Festa" where u Vanniaturi (the town crier) in his old costume and his typical drum roams the streets of the village announcing that the event is about to start, and its programme;
- "International Week of Folklore" where folkgroups from all over the world display the songs and dances typical of their homelands;
- Performance of the folk group “Engium” along the town’s streets, and in the Piazza del Popolo in the evening (Friday);
- "U Corteo du Zitu", a procession of figures from a bygone age on horse-back through the town; re-enactment of the ancient custom of the groom’s family paying a visit to the bride to ask for her hand in marriage (Saturday);
- "A Zuccatina da Zita", a play by a local playwright performed in dialect showing the ancient custom of asking to marry a girl (Saturday);
- "A Manciata di novi cosi" a characteristic cooked mixture of legumes and cereals offered to the crowd (Saturday);
- "Il corteo di Cerere" is the central and most spectacular of the events linked to the Sagra della Spiga, and it takes place on the second Sunday of August. Its symbolic significance has been enriched by its ongoing evolution, supported by the figurative representations. In recent years its figurative and evocative elements have fully matured, and though some details vary, it still holds true to the reasons which inspired the birth of this event. Divided into sections, its various themes find their meaning in tradition and myth, whilst gathering together the sense and spirit of peasant culture and popular traditions in its various forms: communicative, representative, figurative and evocative.
There is another custom known as a ’ntinna: this is a kind of recreational part of many religious festivals. This race takes part in the early afternoon in the church’s square when a number of terracotta pots (i pignati), well-covered to hide their contents, are hung on the end of a long rope and which the blindfolded competitor tries to break with a stick to win its contents. The pots are mostly filled with biscuits, rabbits, sausages and various sweets, though amongst them is one filled with just water, or worse still soot, so that the unfortunate becomes as wet as a frog or as black as a chimney-sweep. A local musical band play throughout the event.
Furthermore, there is no lack of gastronomic activity, for example the a manciata di vicchi which takes place during the festivities of S.S. Crocifisso, when the local tradition was to offer a meal to the town’s poor. This tradition has been passed on, even though today the meal is really just for children. The meal is prepared in the house of the Treasurer of the confraternity of Salvatore, and is then accompanied by the band to the piazza outside the Church of S.S. Salvatore on a well-laid trestle table. The meal itself is of macaroni with tomato sauce, placed in the maidda (a rectangular wooden container), meatballs and fruit
The Festa di San Giacomo Protettore of Geraci takes place on the eve of the second Sunday of August. Led by the Confraternity, the faithful take the wooden statue of the Saint found in the church of the same name, and carry it to the Mother-Church where it stays until the 24th of September. The statue represents Saint Giacomo with a book in one hand, symbol of the gospel, and a staff in the other signifying pilgramage. On the day of the festival the Saint is dressed with a richly embroidered stole and processed through the town accompanied by the confraternities, clergy, police, military and lots of faithful. It is said that many years ago, on the day of San Giacomo live cockerels were tied to the main wall of the church where people would make an offer and a less than edifying spectacle took place. Locals would throw stones at the cockerels flapping on the wall, and those they hit they would take home to eat. Thankfully this custom has disappeared.
On the morning of the 23rd of August, the statue of S. Giacomo is guided by the clergy, faithful, and confraternities to the Church of S. Bartolo to ‘take’ the statue of the Saint. Here they make the statue of S. Giacamo mime a bow to S. Bartolo, the town’s patron saint, and the two statues are carried in procession into the Mother-Church. The solemn procession takes place during the late evening of the day of the festival, the 24th of August, in a jubilant mixture of emotions, music, firecrackers, and stalls. The confraternities file through town followed by the committee, S. Giacomo, San Bartolo richly adorned with a precious stole decorated with gold, the clergy and a throng of the town’s faithful. After the procession the two statues are carried back into the Mother-Church where they remain until the 24th of September. On this occasion it is the statue of S. Bartolo which accompanies S. Giacomo, greeting him with a bow before being taken into his church greeting him with a bow, before being taken into his own church.
The first week of August, renamed ‘Settimana Medievale’ (“Medieval Week”), is dedicated to the Giostra dei Ventimiglia. It’s a historical re-enactment which is part of a cultural tourism project called "Progetto Contea dei Ventimiglia" (The Ventimiglia Earldom Project). Through a series of cultural, social and economic initiatives, the project aims to promote and recuperate the historical memory of all of those communes (around 30) that used to be part of the prestigious Contea di Geraci, a genuine state within a state during the period of the Kingdom of Sicily. The re-enactment involves a procession in XIV century dress, jousting, displays of dressage and falconry, medieval cuisine, music and plays, cultural events and the ressurection of the old money of the Ventimiglia Earldom. Its success hinges on the rediscovery of the medievalness of these town centres, still to be found in their architecture and lay-out, on the reconstruction of the environment and the display of typical produce in medieval tents.
La Sagra del Salgemma is held in summer in the area of Raffo and is dedicated to the salt mines which are in this area. During the month of August there is the Matrimonio Baronale (the Baronial Wedding) with horses, cavaliers and noble ladies in period costume recalling the aristocratic weddings of the 17th century who parade through the streets towards the town square. After the ‘wedding’ the extremely choreographic Ballo della Cordella (Sicilian version of the English maypole dance) is performed together with a group of flag throwers.
The Sagra delle nocciole (“Feast of the Hazelnuts”) is a characterisitic popular event which occurs on the third and fourth Sundays of August, dedicated to that typical produce of Polizzi, the hazelnut. Processions of carts and both local and international folk groups take over the Piazza Trinità, the real heart of the festival. Here angles of country life such as the a' pisata, u' pagghiaru, a' mannara are reconstructed, as are those of peasant life such as a' putìa du varvieri, du scarparu, and a' forgia. Also part of the feast are a series of cultural events, such as exhibitions of paintings, conferences, guided excursions in the area and gastronomic tastings of local dishes as well as the distribution of free hazelnuts.
On the 15th of August they celebrate the Acchianata ‘a Madonna (“Kneel to the Madonna”). This festival aims to represent the Virgin Mary’s assumption to heaven. It takes place on the evening of Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) in the Church of Santa Maria de’ Francis. Through a complex series of pulleys, ropes and winches the statue of the Madonna is made to rise symbolically into the heavens. During the service a choir sings traditional hymns accompanied by a 17th century organ.
Ferreagosto - On the 15th August, Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated with morning mass and evening entertainment including food, music and dancing.