Having attended Las Fallas in Valencia on five separate occasions, I decided that for a change I would go to Italy in order to experience their fireworks festivals. Whilst Spain is well known for it’s very rhythmic and strictly choreographed fireworks, Italian fireworks are all about the celebration of masculinity.
Even though they are well organized more than NOT in Italian displays one gets the impression that things are getting out of control. A lot of the videos that I watched as homework, to prepare me for the ‘Diurna’s’ and ‘Baterria’s’ was that they had a high ‘escalation’ level! This term I gratefully borrow from a group of friends and party animals originating mostly in the Eastern part of my little country.
During preparation for San Trifone 2013 in Adelfia it became clear that the 100th edition of this religious feast was celebrated with some extra additions to the festival, in the shape of a ‘Baterria sanseverese’ from ‘Guiseppe Chiarappa’ and a ‘pyromusical from ‘Pyroemotions & Pyrodigit.’ Previous ‘Pyromusicals’ from this team led to high expectations on my part, especially since viewing the show that won them the ‘Gold Jupiter Award in Montreal.’
The reminiscences of ‘veterans’ made me curious and full of excitement, I started thinking about barbequing in the middle of vineyards with Italian families, accompanied and entertained by some of Italy’s greatest pyrotechnic artists and their creations.
Having flown into the Airport of Bari my friend (a veteran) and I drove to Casamassima to go shopping for Adelfia ‘essentials’ such as a barbeque, charcoal, meat and some beer to alleviate the pain of the waiting in between the displays. The hacienda where we planned to rest our heads for the night, looked like a throwback to the 1950’s. Only the ‘Wifi’ sign gave away that is was not a time capsule from the past.
Now we received the keys and settled in we received some instructions we finally went off what was to become our beloved soil. Parking the car so close to the fireworks and the vines at first feels a little strange, but it is practical and very normal in Italy.
The first thing we did was a brief inspection of the shooting sites in twilight. The ‘pyromusical’ set-up already looked immense, and the daylight set-ups also looked very big. It was clear we were going to see lots and lots of fireworks.
The biggest caliber was 19” which is impressive when you see it for the first time
Setting the barbeque was easy, and soon after we indulged in some fine grilled meat. Soon after the other pyromaniacs from Holland, who were staying in the same hacienda, arrived and we all waited for the first show began. The first show from my Italian adventure was fired by ‘Celestino Ponte.’ I realized quickly that I was standing too far away to really experience fireworks the Italian way. It was not shot from the site we just visited, but closer to the city. Although I didn’t experience the show as I would have liked on the film shot by one of my colleagues I could see that the show by Celestino Ponte was very good.
That was it for the night or so we thought, as we drove to our house for the weekend after 2 or 3 km we heard and saw fireworks being shot from the area that we just left, so we quickly turned around and raced back as fast as we could. So from the side of the road and sadly still quite some way away, we saw this show by Bartolomeo Bruscella.
The show was still really rather good, although you really shouldn’t experience displays like this in Italy. You need to be up close in order to be overwhelmed by it all, especially because you can get so close to the smoking mortars there. Finally we laid our heads to rest having discussed the day’s events with our fellow Dutch fireworks enthusiasts, who also shared the same hacienda with us.
Early the next day we drove towards to the firing site, it was soon obvious that today was going to be a busy day. The traffic jams around Adelfia were friendly and cosy, with lots of people sitting along the roads in the vineyards spending time with their families. Eating, drinking, talking and just celebrating this most important of days in the fireworks program. Even though Italians apparently like to shout at each other when trapped in a traffic jam, they remained happy on this festive day, and I started to realise that shouting in traffic is perhaps more of a tradition than really hateful.
Having parked up we went directly to the shooting site to see the colossal amount of mortars ready to fire. The biggest caliber was 19” which is impressive when you see it for the first time. It was also nice to see the single-shots set up for the daylight show. The atmosphere was really great on the shooting site with lots and lots of people laughing, talking and taking photos, to see all the big guns in the sand-filled oil barrels, in real-life for the first time, felt really good.
It’s hard to compare the ‘Baterria’ to a ‘Mascleta,’
From the main shooting site it was only a short stroll to the place where the Baterria Sanseverese by ‘Chiarappa’ was in place. The procedure to get the road free and fully accessible for the emergency services was actually really funny to watch. Everything goes in the exact way you’d expect in a Mediterranean country. Slow and with a lot of acted frustration. The finale looked like just a lot of ‘Cipolla’ linked together with ‘Quickmatch.’ Impressive to see, and a good precursor of what we were about to experience. In truth, I expected less noise than a ‘Mascleta’ in Valencia’s central square, because between the vineyards are in the open, the sound can go anywhere, whereas in VLC, with the hard and flat surface the sound is echoed at least twice.
It was my first ‘real-life’ ‘Baterria,’ and it began quite relaxed and simmering. It is really just a long ‘traca’ (petards linked with quick match) with all kinds of delays, effects and mortars linked to it. The central line never stops and initiates all kinds of different fireworks. I especially liked the parts with ‘hummers and whistles to salute’ in the slow part of the ‘Baterria.’ Two minutes before the end the ‘Baterria’ it shifted into 5th gear, and for the last 30 seconds the gas pedal really was floored! Wow, what a discharge!
It’s hard to compare the ‘Baterria’ to a ‘Mascleta,’ but for me the ‘Mascleta’ is all about order, with a strict choreography and defined stages, never out of control. Whilst ‘Baterria’ is less designed and choreographed, it is harsher more Brutal. Perhaps it’s the ultimate pyro celebration of masculinity! ‘Mascleta’ to ‘Baterria’ is like figure skating is to ice-hockey, Volleyball to Rugby, Armin van Buuren’s melodic trance to Angerfist’s Hardcore, Judo to K1.
I like them both of course, but I can’t stop thinking about the ‘Baterria’ in this form on Valencia’s central square. That would be mayhem!
After this pure thrill and the intense high from the smell of gunpowder, it was good to have some time off before the first ‘Diurnal.’ The BBQ was used again to while away the hours waiting for the first daylight-show.
The ‘Diurna’s’ were quite different from the other displays. More varied than I expected after seeing the videos. First to fire was ‘Di Candia.’ For the first time in real-life I saw these ‘carpet rolls’ or ‘cylinder shells’ go airborne. There were various themes; smoke, crackling and big multi-breaks alternated with each other to make a great show, the big cylinders are fired separately in order to allow the crowds to appreciate all the craftsmanship that went into them. Sometimes the sequences of exactly the same single shells got a little bit boring, because it is mainly big bangs, but soon enough the bangs form a different rhythm or pattern. With the big cylinders it is a challenge to have the last bang (Contrabomba) go off as late (low) as possible. On one occasion it went on the ground during Di Candia’s display. Not a problem as the shooting site is cleared from personnel, but as a spectator it’s wise to note in which direction the wind is blowing, and never get in line with the wind and the fireworks.
Displays follow each other in a relaxed fashion, so there is plenty of time to open a beer, grill a burger and chat a little about the past show.
Next in line as second to shoot was ‘Del Vicario.’ During the set-up we saw a big gun of which we heard later that is was measuring 19” in diameter. Full of excitement we waited for the huge lift necessary to lift a Skippy ball this size. After a great opening he shot a bunch of Italian ‘tricolore’ smoke shells that were truly amazing. 3 colors of smoke separately out of one shell! Lots of testing and skill must have gone into that particular type of effect. I also liked the part with yellow, white and black smoke. The ‘Skippy’ ball was launched near the end of the show and went alright with a big spread! After the great finale a dense series of ‘lampare’ shells were fired! A great dessert for a show with some very innovative shells!
The third show was fired by ‘Toscano.’ The tempo in the beginning of the show was very bad. The breaks between the bomba de tiro’s were just too long. The show was the least interesting one for me, perhaps also due to some daylight fireworks saturation.
Fourth up was ‘Bruscella’ to present his display. Bartolomeo Bruscella who we know from his appearance in this episode of Pyros on Discovery channel. Starting off strong with ‘lampare’ shells as part of a great opening. He also put a show together from daylight fireworks with lots of interesting explosions in the sky.
During the fourth display the wind looked to be changing direction a bit, so I moved towards the display to sit on the same line as the shooter. There the view is excellent, and the wind was better, but no change in bombettes exploding right above your head. I can only encourage you to go as close as possible towards the fireworks in Italy. Obviously not from a safety point of view, but if you really want the full experience it’s THE way to go.
‘Paolelli’ is the one I clearly remember from videos of the earlier editions of Rotello. Especially the finale in that display could be described as plain brutal!
The quality of the aggressive multi-breaks, show-elements and tempo of the opening were all top-notch in this long display with a sizzling finale. The Italian tri-colore was present in smoke again, but in a different way. Very nice. The finale was a crazy 4 minute build-up of bigger and bigger inserts and salutes. In the end it’s really ‘controlled’ chaos, because so much is going off at the same time. I really liked the effect at the end with the red mines underneath the cloud from exploding salutes. It gave a warm red glow in contrast to the grimly clouds. To me it was clear that day ‘Paolelli’ was king of the ‘diurna!’
During the display the grass surrounding some of the parked firework vans set on fire. Two guys reluctantly walked towards it to put the fires out. One of them stayed to control it, but the other one gave priority to watching the big shells go into the air. Understandable when you realize he probably built or helped to build the shells himself.
After the show we went into the busy little town called Adelfia, to eat some good Italian food. The wine and pizza was great and for a very reasonable price. During dinner we heard some rumors that Pyroemotions were not going to wait to fire their pyro musical unto 10.00pm, but were going to fire at 8.00pm. We quickly went to the firing site where the show actually started approximately 8.30pm.
The show from ‘Pyroemotions’ started off with some big shells, after which the show proper began. The soundtrack was the same as in Montreal and the show also looked very similar, but I didn’t mind at all. Lots of good material from ‘Padre Pio’ and impeccable timing were the main ingredients of this fantastic display. Unfortunately a mortar burst caused the left shell positions unable to fire sometimes, but this happens. The single-shots were used so much, that automatically you become critical concerning their quality. Single-shots with bombettes I don’t like really, but they didn’t use a lot of those. Also in some parts you might want to argue that instead of a new load of single-shots you also can use a few shells. However, I like ‘Pyroemotions’ choices for their single-shot work it makes them rather unique. And, as a single-shot fanatic myself, I can only encourage their use more.
In my opinion the end of the show was not marked clearly enough and the crowd responded with a weak applause, that or they are just to spoiled in Italy, or the pyromusical is just not part of their firework culture that is mainly filled with daylight shows. I don’t know. All I can say it is a tradition certainly worth repeating.
After this great display we walked back to the cars parked in the middle of the vineyards. The last show by ‘Boccia & Nappi’ was planned for 11.00pm, but it’s never a bad plan in Italy to arrive a few hours before, because a planning, is just a planning here. We brought the chairs and went looking for the display to be able to sit as close as possible. It was more in the direction of the town. Probably the same place they shot the two displays from the night before. This show fired an hour after the originally planned time, but who cares! It’s Italy!
The last show of my first Italian fireworks trip began in typical Italian manner. A fast stepper sequence followed by some multi-break cylinders. All the materials used were of excellent quality with amazing pure colors (no traces). Probably 100% Italian pyro. The show itself was not really shot like a typical Italian display, but that actually was really refreshing. More focus on themes, and I have to say I really enjoyed this mix, a good show together with high quality fireworks.
I liked it a lot more than the shows from the night before, but the distance to the fireworks might have had something to with that, I suppose. ‘Diurna’s’ are nice, but in the end I prefer a high quality illumination of the sky with various colors and effects. So for me it was the perfect finish to an already superb weekend.
Thanks to Chris, Rob, Roeland and Elmar and a lot of other people for the good times together. The attraction of repeating this experience is rather high! •