Arenaria Festival in Crotone: alive with the sound of music

Who says traditions are boring, has never heard the sound of the tarantella. Who says, the south of Italy has nothing to offer, has no idea of how rich the culture is. Who says, it’s poor and agricultural and therefore not worth touristic attention, the answer is yes – it is poor and agricultural, this is who we are, where our culture, music, and art comes from. As Pierluigi Virelli said at the festival opening – “I know who I am, I am not ashamed of it, and I am better this way”. The festival has delivered this message with every activity presented – kind of a cultural pride if you will.

Not only the music there was: over these days the seafront of #Crotone turned into a concert and performance stage, arts and crafts lab; every passer-by became a festival guest and it was heartwarming to see how much people enjoyed dancing, singing, participating in art master-classes and just enjoying themselves.

The art labs at the seafront of Crotone were open since early morning, decorating the area with paintings and mosaics. In particular, the mosaic lab led by Leo Laino, a mosaic artist from north Calabria became a live performance, and everyone could take part in putting some tiles together to create a beautiful decoration. The tiles were handcrafted on the spot – from the arenaria sea sand (which have its name to the festival). At the same time, the painter from Girifalco, Dorotea Li Causi created beautiful music-themed paintings on the walls around the seafront.


The official opening of each the day was given by the “parade of the giants” – two double human size dolls, representing the characters of the Italian legend, Mata and Grifone. This legend roots into Calabrian, Sicilian and Spanish cultures. The parade was followed by the Tarantella lab – a traditional dance workshop, street performance (dedicated to the history of the unification of Italy) by Nicola D’Imperi and free bike tours around the historic center of Crotone, organized by a crew of Ciclofficina TR22o (bike repair garage).

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Over the last three days, Arenaria Festival has brought us on a journey through the three very peculiar and little-known areas of Calabria. The first day was dedicated to the region of Greek Calabria – the very south of the peninsula. Today it is the only part of the peninsula, where people speak a Greek-based dialect – an inheritance of the Ancient Greece times. Day two was dedicated to Ionian coast – Marchesato Crotonese. The third and the last day was dedicated to Reventino, the hill area between the three cities of Catanzaro, Cosenza and Lamezia Terme. 

On the last day, the guests of the festival were entertained by the Tarantella class in the afternoon – thanks to the energetic and positive crew of Andrea Bressi, Giuseppe Muraca, Fabrizio Marà, Francesco Denaro and other talented musicians. The program continued with dialect poetry readings (Palma Barletta), puppet show (Angelo Gallo, Teatro della Maruca) and Festa all’Abballu – tarantella dance, led by experienced calabrian dancers.

Festival ended with one of the peculiar traditions of Calabria – Ciuccio Pirotecnico – a “firework donkey”. It is a performance, during which a man dances to a Tarantella rhythm in a papier-mache costume that resembles a donkey; this costume is covered with fireworks which explode during the dance.

Although Arenaria has faced weather challenges, which have slightly affected the program, the artists and organizers have shown an amazing capacity to adapt quickly to changes and to keep the show on the track. The atmosphere of the festival has not been spoiled at all! The city of Crotone was truly fulfilled by the festival spirit, thanks to the work of the artists, organizers and the joy of festival guests.

The only thing left to say is that not only external visitors but also the locals have to break the stereotypes in their minds about the south of Italy, and this is why events like Arenaria are fundamental – maybe small, very local, but real, raw, beautiful celebration made by people and for people – a celebration of who we are.

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