Ottobrata Romana

October 13, 2014 / Local Interest
Rome, Italy

To this day people refer to the ottobrata romana (Roman October) when speaking of a mild, still warm autumn day. Little do people know that while it basically has the same meaning as “Indian summer”, the origin of the term is only indirectly related to the weather.

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Up until about one hundred years ago, the ottobrate romane were peculiar Roman October Sunday celebrations. Seven or nine women from an extended family and/or group of friends would climb into a horse drawn carriage, with the men following on foot carrying drums and other musical instruments. The entire cacophonous party would head fuori porta (outside the gates/doors) to the Roman wine-growing countryside for a day at the osterie (taverns) together… for a day of eating, drinking, singing and dancing the saltarello (the little hop). The excuse was that vendemmia (the grape harvest) was around the corner, and the osterie needed to get rid of last year’s wine to make space in the barrels for the new wine.

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Little did they know that they in turn were carrying on the Ancient Roman religious celebration of the Salii, the “jumping priests” (hence the dance’s name) of Etruscan origin that paraded and then banqueted around the walls of the city.

Old stories lost in time, of course, but a fun tidbit to think about while enjoying those still-sunny enjoyable October Sunday picnics when someone says “Ma che bella ottobrata romana!” (What a pleasant Roman October!)

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GB

by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

7 Responses to “Ottobrata Romana”

  1. I just learned this lovely phrase a week ago. How could I have lived here for 3 Octobers and only now learned it? I described it to my Italian friend as “Come l’estate indiana.” I guess I was close. Isn’t it divine to be in Rome now?

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  2. How beautiful these autumn days have been. No idea that it’s the Etruscan priests that started it all. But, then, who would want old wine! The 1st picture captures the wonderful autumn glow so well. Thanks, GB.

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  3. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks for this note on a tradition I had never known.
    And what an October this year, vero GB? 75 degrees today in Umbria / wish I could head to the sea!

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  4. May the Ottobrata Romano last a little longer this year; we’re heading your way at the end of this month! Thanks for the history lesson, GB; I always learn something lovely from your essays.

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