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I’m happy to report that some things turn out to be every bit as good as we hope. I’ve waited years to be in Scurtabo for the first of May to celebrate Cantamaggio, a tradition that dates back, according to my sources, ‘since forever’.

Finding it was a challenge. The conversation went something like this:

I’d like to go to the Cantamaggio celebrations. Do you know if they’ll be on today?

Yes, certainly they will be.

Do you know when?

They started this morning.

How long will they sing?

All day. But not right now. (it was close to noon)

Later, then?


Do you know where?

(gesture) All around.

Will they be at Scurtabo this afternoon?


So if I go up there now and wait, they’ll show up?

Yes. But why would you go up now? They won’t be there.

One of the singers.

It was about then the penny dropped and I realized the event was like Mummering – you can’t possibly predict when or where, you can only put yourself in their general path and keep asking and waiting. The whole valley celebrates, with several bands of roving troubadours moving from house to house – and bar to bar – throughout the day to sing traditional songs, play the accordion and spoons, dance with whoever is willing, and generally have a rollicking time of it.

A super fancy tour bus for the band – yes, they pile in the back.

They did indeed arrive at the bar in Scurtabo, much later in the afternoon. It was pouring rain so everyone was packed inside. A large, covered truck drove up and out piled a dozen men in varying states of wobbliness. They’d already been going since 9:00 in the morning, drinking and singing, so they were in fine form.Spumanti was passed around, the accordionist started up, and the classic first of May song was belted out by the whole crowd. There’s a part about a donkey where everyone is supposed to jump up and down; my friend Marcia and I were instructed in this crucial bit and hauled into the throng to hop along. That was just the beginning.

One of the ‘band’ members played the spoons – really well. He solemnly swore to me that his instruments had been given to him by the Conservatory in Piacenza…

It’s not Italian without an accordion.

Willing, if not quite able, to try a whirl on the dance floor.

Somehow space was made for dancing, we were crazy enough to say yes to various wild-eyed singers looking for a partner, and they were uncaring enough not to be fazed by our total ignorance of the dance steps. We proved beyond a doubt that while Canadians may be good sports, they’re no match for Italians –even tipsy ones – on the dance floor.

So much fun. I’ve left out the more embarrassing photos, and the ones I have are poor due to the light, but I think you can get the idea!