Festival of the snake-catchers
Early in May you meet the serpari or snake-charmers carrying sacks of vipers into town. By the power of their arts they draw snakes from dark crevices and nests in the bracken. Waiting for the saint to be brought out of church they offer to inoculate you against snake-bite with the scratch of a fang. It is unnecessary: on San Domenico’s Day (first Thursday in May) the reptiles declare a truce. (More likely the vipers are drowsy after hibernation.) The saint’s statue, crowned with roses and clothed in snakes, tours the village whose cottages fit into the slits of the mountain side like pieces of an interlocking puzzle. Then, on a tiny piazza adorned with gladioli in olive-oil drums and ankle-deep in snakes, Cocullo prepares for its annual supper dance. Cocullo is quaint at any time, but San Domenico’s day is a day to remember. He lived in the Sagittario gorges (see below) and like St Francis had a way with birds and beasta. Like many saints he also had a short fuse. He stopped at Cocullo to have his mule shod. When the farrier asked for payment he struck him dumb for his impudence and the mule kicked off its shoes in disgust. Anyone who doubts this story can see one of the horseshoes in the parish church.