11th of November: Estate di San Martino

Ilaria D'Onofrio Program Assistant, Rome Center


November 9, 2018

"L'estate di San Martino dura tre giorni e un pochinino.”
“The summer of St. Martin last three days and a little bit more.”

This is a popular Italian saying, which alludes to the unseasonably warm period (a few days) that occurs every autumn in the whole Northern Hemisphere. Usually, after the first weeks of cold weather, there are some days of sunny weather where temperatures raise mysteriously above average. In English countries this phenomenon is called Indian Summer, while in Italy is called Estate di San Martino, literally translated as The Summer of St. Martin. The origin of this unusual name came from the popular Legend of the Cloak. During a raining day, Martino di Tours, who have then become St. Martin, saw a half-naked beggar in the street who was freezing during a storm and decided to donate to him half of his cloak. Then he continued walking and he saw another suffering beggar and he gave him the rest of his cloak. A few moments later, the sky become clear and the temperature raised as if it was summer, and this good weather lasted for 3 more days. This belief has been always passed down through Italian families and every region has found a way to celebrate these days (the days around the 11th of November) in multiple ways. In the past, the folk was used to celebrate the end of agricultural crops season, but nowadays is mainly the celebration of the first wine tasting of the season, of our vino novello (young wine), usually matched with the first chestnuts. That is the reason why you should not be surprised, knowing that in a Sicilian old village called Castell’Umberto, people organize every year a food festival during these days where you can taste delicious mushrooms, chestnuts, sausages and other typical dishes of the season. But the primary event of the festival is definitely the Palio of Castell’Umberto, where there is a race through the village in which competitors have to roll massive wine barells as quickly as possible.