On 26 July, Rob and I went to the Straw Hat Festival in Montappone, about 40 minutes from La Mela Rosa. It's a lovely old village, situated on a hill like most of the medieval villages in the region. With the help of some young and enthusiastic Montapponese, we learnt about the life of the contadini (peasant farners), the factotum, who stood between them and the powerful landlords, and how the farmers started making the straw hats in the 1800s to augment their meagre living.
We then moved on to see the various stages of making the hats the old way, including the machine for dividing the straw according to size and the chest in which the straw was laid with some smoking sulphur to whiten it. At one stop, we were given what looked like red wine but which was 50% red wine, 40% cherry syrup and 60% lemonade. It was cool, sweet and refreshing and, being unsophisticated drinkers, we loved it!
There was traditional music as well as a live, modern concert later in the evening. Lots of good things to eat and some great hats to buy.
Montappone still makes straw hats - all the population (1,200), except for those who are retired, work in the industry.