Coming Home to the Carpino Folk Festival

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Carpino, Italy

August is a sacred month to Italians. It’s tradition to take the whole month off — unless you work in, say, the hospitality industry, as someone needs to serve copious scoops of gelato to the ridiculously good-looking, speedo-clad Italians who use this time off as a reason to flock to the seaside.

But there’s more to August than just holidays. For many Italians living far from home, August is a time to return and reconnect with family. And every August, the town of Carpino in the region of Gargano celebrates this time with a full-fledged folk festival that takes over the city.

Carpino, Italy

Let me tell you about Carpino and its Folk Festival.

Carpino, Italy

If Puglia is the heel of the boot, Gargano resembles the swollen and misshapen ankle bursting off the side. Puglia is one of Italy’s 20 administrative regions; Gargano is a local region within Puglia. Yet as ugly as this metaphor is, both Carpino and Gargano are an absolutely beautiful part of Italy.

Take in this city:

Carpino, ItalyCarpino, ItalyCarpino, Italy Carpino, ItalyCarpino, ItalyLittle Boys in CarpinoPugliese FoodCarpino, Italy

To me, the best of view was when driving into town on the highway. After half an hour off the autostrada, surrounded by green and blue, a white and gleaming city rose up on a hillside, surrounded by nothing but solid green farmland.

My mouth fell open. Was that Carpino?

It was.

And I wished more than anything that I was the passenger and not the driver so I could photograph that incredible view.

Carpino Folk Festival

Festival Time

The Carpino Folk Festival takes place over ten days in August and features enormous folk music concerts on the piazza as well as gatherings, food displays (including free sample plates of several different Puglian cheeses!), smaller performances, and an incredible amount of socializing among the locals of Carpino.

The performances were anchored by an accordionist who sang and played and danced so hard for so many hours straight, I’m shocked he’s even human.

Carpino Folk Festival

In addition to the accordion, there were typical woodwinds and strings as well as more outlandish bagpipe-like instruments and traditional drums.

I loved the costumes!

Carpino Folk Festival

Every performer was incredible to watch.

Carpino Folk Festival

And while the pros ruled the show, some talented amateurs joined in as well — like two little old men with their castanets.

Carpino Folk Festival

Here are some short Instagram videos of the performances (click through if you can’t see them):

Here is proof that accordions can rock! (And this song has been stuck in my head since the festival ended…)

At one point, the nonnas sang. If your grandmothers got together and performed, would they sound as good as this?

And my favorite — the nonnos! These two little grandfathers were adorable and sang beautifully:

In this summer of festival-hopping for the #MustLoveFestivals campaign, I’ve primarily been at events that attract an international audience. Carpino Folk Festival? The opposite. While there were a few foreigners here and there, this festival was primarily for locals.

The benefits of this? You get to see a snapshot of this small town community and a side of Italy you’ll never find in guidebooks.

Carpino Folk FestivalCarpino Folk FestivalCarpino Folk Festival

That, and you can buy a beer at a bar off the main piazza for just two euros ($2.50). Try doing that at Oktoberfest!

What struck me the most was how virtually every age group was represented at the festival. Kids ran around and played without a helicoptering parent in sight; teenagers and young adults modeled Sam Smith- and Macklemore-esque haircuts and swigged beers on the sidelines; couples of all ages nuzzled each other or danced wildly; elderly folks sat together and gossiped at the surrounding bars.

This festival was for everybody, and this out-of-towner was delighted to be part of it.

Gargano

The festivities took place in the evenings, which meant there was time to explore the region of Gargano during the day.

As small as Gargano looks on the map, it’s deceptively large. I only had time for the briefest taste of Gargano, but I know there’s a lot more to see.

I loved the Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, a chapel built inside a cave.

GarganoGargano

Driving through the countryside at golden hour brought out so many colors.

GarganoGarganoGargano

Later in the evening, I saw one of the best sunsets of my life. Not the best — that one was still in Boracay — but I’ve never seen a sunset so blue and so pink, simultaneously.

Gargano Sunset

With a few Carpino locals in tow, I found myself on the shores of Lago di Verano, one of Carpino’s largest lakes, watching the sun sink into the distance.

It was a perfect spot — an olive grove. A place with a perfect view. A place that nobody but locals would know (but I happened to tag it with GPS here on Trover!).

A place where trees glowed magnificently.

Gargano Olive Tree

A purple place.

Gargano Sunset

A short drive from the olive grove is a crucifix that appears to be floating in the middle of the lake. (Though at first glance I thought it looked more like a dangling skeleton. Sorry, Jesus.)

Gargano Jesus

The Takeaway

It’s so easy to get sucked into the most visited parts of Italy, fighting through crowds in Venice or Florence. I’ve spent a lot of time recommending smaller, less-visited towns in Umbria and especially Emilia-Romagna, but Carpino is far less touristed than those. And that was very special. I’ve never felt so much like a part of the community than I did here.

As I drove off into the midday sun the next day, off to explore the Puglian countryside before catching my flight that evening, I knew that I would never forget my time in this musical, and beautiful, and welcoming part of southern Italy.

Essential Info: Carpino Folk Festival takes place for ten days every August. The best way to get there is via Bari Airport, a two-hour drive away, and I highly recommend renting a car, as it will make your visit so much easier.

I stayed at Hotel de la Ville, about a 10-minute walk from the center of town., where rooms start at 60 euros ($77 USD) per night. Keep in mind that it books up around festival time. You can find the best prices on other hotels here.

Remember to get travel insurance before your trip. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

Must Love Festivals is brought to you by the Budget Traveller with lead partner Expedia and in association with Puglia Tourism. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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14 thoughts on “Coming Home to the Carpino Folk Festival”

  1. I don’t feel like missing any of your Italy posts, no matter how much I am rushing through things. It feels as if I am walking the streets with you and feeling the vibe in the air…well, it can’t be true unless I make it there on my own. But, someday…

  2. Italy has a truly baffling number of small town festivals that attract a crazy amount of people! I spent a summer in a tiny town in Le Marche and in the two months I was there, there were at least six different festivals in the surrounding villages. And those were just the cultural events like this: there were at least a dozen food festivals too. It’s utterly bizarre to see hundreds of people in a tiny town, ask what’s going on and be told it’s the “festival of the roast rabbit stuffed with fennel”.

    Carpino looks gorgeous though, I love the colours of the houses. You got great weather too, by the looks of it- the lighting is perfect!

  3. I got my first taste of Italy last week in Torino, so it’s especially great to read something about Italy coming off the heels of my trip. This looks like so much fun! I can’t want to get back one day and explore more. I love small local events like this!

  4. Great post Kate. I love that in Italy, well, in many countires in Europe you can stumble across these small festivals, whether they be about music, food, or culture, that open you up to a totally different and unexpected experience.

    In Spain there are so many festivals that I can’t keep track of them. It has happened to me more than once this summer that I have turned up somewhere (as I am travelling all around for work and moving every couple of days!) not even realising there is a festival or something on in the town. But these are often the best surprises as you are usually the only foreigner and you see a totally different side ot a place that can often seem unexciting or quiet at other times.

    I haven’t actually been to Puglia but I am planning to take a bit of time out next year to travel around Sicily, Pulgia, Basilicata and Calabria.

  5. Thank you for writing about this. Part of my ancestral family was from the region so it was fun to learn about the festival.

    FWIW, many Italians refer to the “swollen and misshapen ankle bursting off the side” as the SPUR of the boot. You’ve got to agree that this conjures up a visual that is more pleasing and, perhaps, more accurate.

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