Montelago Celtic Festival: When Ireland Meets Le Marche

I lived three days surrounded by the landscapes of Le Marche, but immersed in the sounds, smells and sights of Ireland.

Music at the Mortimer Pub. Photo courtesy by M.S.

From the 3rd to the 5th of August 2023, the Altopiano di Colfiorito (Taverne di Serravalle di Chienti, in the Marche Region) hosted the 20th edition of the Montelago Celtic Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Italy entirely dedicated to Celtic and Irish culture.

The shortened name Montelago comes from the original location of the event, established by Maurizio Serafini and Luciano Monceri, two friends united by their passion for Celtic and Irish music. Music is, indeed, at the heart of the festival — the lineup is rich and the festival also provides the stage for the final of the ECC, the European Celtic Contest, a Celtic music competition.

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Part of the camp. Photo courtesy by M.S.

On the first day, I was at the entrance of the festival area. With me, the Popolo di Montelago (the People of Montelago), which is the perfect way to address the thousands of merry folks who live together in the parallel world of the festival for three days — set foot in the plain with their backpacks, tents, kilts, food and drinks, and in record time the camp came to life.

The first Celtic weddings took place, some people started to stroll leisurely along the myriad of stalls selling all kinds of Celtic jewellery, clothes, drinks, and food, while others packed in the Tolkien tent to listen to talks.

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The Tolkien tent. Photo courtesy by M.S.

Activities and workshops

The festival had a lot of workshops for everyone, kids included: you could take classes in various Irish instruments, you could learn Irish, English and Scottish dances, how to make arrows, how to cook medieval dishes, how to weave with different techniques, to name a few.

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“Do not disturb the dragon”. Photo courtesy by M.S.

Many other activities and Celtic games filled the days in Montelago: there were guided tours of the surrounding archaeological site of the Condotto Romano and Botte dei Varano; you could challenge yourself with archery; play D&D and several other games at The Riddle Pit; and you could also sign up to participate in the Celtic games which consisted of tug-of-war, stone-throwing and caber toss competitions.

Caber toss. Photo courtesy by Alessandro Plescia (Montelago Press)

Live music

Another major part of the festival was, of course, live music. Twenty-nine live concerts ignited the afternoons and nights of Montelago. The Italian and international artists encompassed different genres, such as Irish folk, rock, and metal, among others.

Live music at the Main Stage. Photo courtesy by Leonardo Traini (Montelago Press)

The music combined with the generous range of beers from Ireland and local breweries in Le Marche made the atmosphere perfect. Not even the pouring rain, which hit the festival on the afternoon and night of the 4th and the 5th, prevented the Popolo di Montelago from enjoying the music and their time at the festival.

Corvus Corax. Photo courtesy by Alessandro Plescia (Montelago Press)

Il popolo di Montelago (The people of Montelago)

It was my first time at the festival and, although I had heard about it, I didn’t know what to expect. I must say that the people and the joyous and relaxed atmosphere are certainly what made Montelago Celtic Festival such an unforgettable event for me.

The Montelaghisti (another name for true lovers of the festival) are respectful of the environment — the festival has, indeed, been awarded the Ecoevents certificate by Legambiente — and of each other. I met people from different parts of Italy and from abroad: some of them were in Montelago for the first time, while others had lived many other editions and witnessed the festival changing and getting bigger and bigger.

Weaving. Photo courtesy by M.S.

I could live three days surrounded by the landscapes of Le Marche, but immersed in the sounds, smells and sights of Ireland; under the scorching sun of the day and the biting cold of the night; exchanging a few words and sharing moments with strangers that strangely felt like a big family.

With memories and images still fresh in my mind, I cannot help but conclude by repeating something I told others and I was told as well: “See you at the next Montelago!”

Montelago 2023. Photo courtesy by M.S.