The Festival of the Snakes at Cocullo in Italy is a strange mix of Pagan and Catholic ritual celebrated to venerate St. Domenic, known to have cured numerous cases of snake bites. Snake-lovers and other locals march to the streets for a one-and-a-half hour procession of the image of St. Domenic covered with live snakes. Cocullo’s Snake Festival begins in March when serparis (local snake charmers) begin to gather non-poisonous snakes from surrounding areas. They remove their fangs and keep the snakes in captivity for the snake festival in May. Townsfolk have participated in the Festival of the Snakes at Cocullo for many years, and it is said to bring luck to those people who throw snakes at St. Domenic.
The procession of St. Domenic's statue starts at noon, and the atmosphere is a mix of excitement and tension. While the image of St. Domenic is being covered with snakes, the crowd falls into a hush and everybody is wary that not one of the snakes should fall from the statue or else it will cause bad luck. The Processione dei Serpari includes young girls wearing costumes and carrying traditional sweet meats called “ciambelli,” as well as local doughnuts to give away to spectators. Snake charmers playing oboe and clarinet are also present to "tame" the snakes and thus prevent them from falling off St. Domenic's image. To top it all off the festivities come to a close with a beautiful fireworks display, best enjoyed with some local wine and new friends.
If you enjoy quirky and curious things, or traditions that let you see a hidden side of local life, then you'll love Cocullo's snake festival. Cozy up with native residents and enjoy some of the most amazing photo opportunities, maybe even you holding one of the star attractions!
The best time to go to the festival of the snakes at Corcullo, Italy, is on the final day of the feast on the first Thursday of May. The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to bring rain gear to this Italian snake festival.
Odds n' Ends
If you are keen on visiting the Festival of the Snakes, as a tourist it is probably best to watch from a distance if you are not comfortable with snakes. You can watch on top of the piazza for a good view of the procession. Care should be taken in going on top of random buildings as they were badly affected by a major earthquake in 2009 when the Festival of the Snakes was cancelled for the first time. If it's already impossible to squeeze in, do not force your way up the buildings. It is said that St. Domenic is also the patron saint of toothaches.
There is no accommodation at Cocullo’s snake festival, although towns near the festival offer a wide range of places that you may stay in. You can choose from a bed & breakfast, hotel, or even a villa in nearby Sulmona or Pescara. To get to the Festival of the Snakes at Cocullo book a flight to Pescara International Airport and rent a car. There are lots of good hotels in Pescara, but a good bed and breakfast that is 55 minutes away from the airport is La Grande Quercia Bed and Breakfast.
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