Italian Snake Festival
Cocullo, a small cluster of houses high in the Abruzzan hills, honours its patron Saint Domenico in a somewhat unusual manner. After a church service, the serpari (snake catchers) drape his statue with live snakes and other reptiles.
Where the snakes go is crucial: if they twist around the head of the statue, it is a good sign, if they slither towards the statue's arms, the interpretation gets rather more free. The braver visitor can even have a picture taken with snakes draped around his head and neck.
Saint Domenico is said to protect Cocullo's inhabitants from snakebites and toothache. Up until 1940 the snakes were then burnt in a rather gruesome pyre set up outside the village church, but these days they are merely set free in nearby fields.
WHEN-1st Thursday in May every year
WHERE-Cocullo, Abruzzo, Italy
HOW TO GET THERE-BY AIR: Pescara International Airport. BY TRAIN: Direct Sulmona-Cocullo. BY CAR: Autostrada A25 Pescara-Roma