The arrival of the summer solstice, complete with rites and rituals of all sorts, has been widely celebrated across cultures since pre-Christian times. This astronomical phenomenon was greeted by lighting fires, which were – at least in Italy – meant to increase the sun’s potency in its journey towards the celestial equator. With the arrival of Christianity, Janus, the two-faced god who represents past and future, as well as the spirit of doorways and gates, was “forced” to hand over control of the solstice to two Johns. The first was St. John the Baptist, patron of the summer solstice; the other was St. John the Evangelist, who presides over the winter solstice.
The festival of St. John the Baptist in Zollino is a magical celebration that brings spectators back to the ancient rituals of times past. One of our favorites is that of writing down a negative thought or something you’d like to rid yourself of on a piece of paper (or even a scrap of cloth), which is then tossed into a specially prepared bonfire. Flowers and herbs are also burned afterwards, in a commemorative act of releasing the old and preparing for the new.
And what Italian celebration could be complete without a typical dish or two? Leading up to the nocturnal festivities guests are invited to participate in the legume harvest, specifically that of the “mini pea” and the fava bean, for which this village is known. Afterwards, a local chef demonstrates how the legumes are cooked and prepared to be sold at the festival’s numerous stands.