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An amazing ritual, which every year makes its way around the world


22 maggio 2023

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3 min

  • Comuni d’Abruzzo
Cocullo, Ph. Luca Aless. CC BY-SA 4.0


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If you are in Abruzzo on May the first, you should go to Cocullo, a small town in the Peligno area in the province of L'Aquila.
On this date, usually dedicated "to workers", the village celebrates the ancient "Rite of the Serpari". It is linked to the figure of San Domenico Abate, who is the protector against snake bites and accidents in the countryside, and a point of reference for studies on Abruzzo folk traditions.
It is a one-of-a-kind that you cannot miss, assuming reptiles are your favorite animals.

Look for a spot in the main street of the village and wait for the statue of the Thaumaturge to parade in procession with living, slimy snakes tangles around its figure: they are the snakes that the people of Cocullo have been picking, guarding and feeding for months in preparation for the event.
Look around. Many of the participants show snakes of all sizes, which are hanging carelessly from their arms.
They look like rubber, but they are alive.
The devotion and ostentation of animals has passed to the Holy Abbot of Cocullo, the new patron of snakes and all venomous animals, around 1000. It was inherited from the pagan rites of the Marsi, an Italic population living in these parts.

The Rite of the Serpari is an opportunity for you to visit the medieval-era town.It was fortified in the 12th century and is still well-preserved in its current urban planning and architecture, with the earliest nucleus having a "defensive" character, recognizable by the perimeter pattern of some of the streets and buildings.
Admire the church of San Nicola, already mentioned in some 14th-century documents, whose facade shows a stone engraved with the coat of arms of Duke Sarchia, legendary lord of Cocullo, who was killed by the inhabitants. Its imposing bell tower, made of large stone blocks, was originally a medieval tower, which was built in the 12th century at the highest point of the village to meet the population's need for sighting and defense.

You can't miss a visit to the sanctuary church of San Domenico, which stands on the site of an older church, already recorded from the 17th century, and rebuilt almost completely during the last century. Every year here, thousands of the faithful and devotees invoke the Saint's protection, especially from the bite of poisonous animals.

When it comes to the table, you should consider rich and varied fresh pasta, with the inevitable maccheroni alla chitarra topped with lamb ragout, potato gnocchi, and sagne e fagioli soup. Very appealing are the local productions related to pastoralism, like ricotta cheese, sheep salami, liver salami, schiacciata, and arrosticini. Particularly valued is the baking of "ciambellati": they are ritualized breads that are carried in procession for the feast of St. Dominic inside baskets decorated with veils and flowers. They are carried by girls dressed in traditional costume, in memory of a miracle of the Saint who, according to the believers, multiplied flour from a mill.

What else to see:

  • The church of Madonna delle Grazie
  • The church of Santa Maria in Campo a Casale di Cocullo
  • The medieval Fountain
  • The Study and Documentation Center for Popular Traditions


  • Villages
  • Comuni
  • Rito

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Location of the Destination


42.033484342945, 13.774666786194

Last updated

11/01/2024, 13:21

Published by AbruzzoTurismo