On 16th January the dull but deafening sound of “cowbells” (‘Campanacci’) breaks the quiet of the village in the province of Matera during Carnival, resounding along the streets and alleys, to the Norman Tower, in an atmosphere of captivating mystery.

The ancient rite coincides with the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate, and large groups of men gather here wrapped in cloaks, wearing straw hats and carrying large “male” and “female” cowbells for this symbol of fertility.

Many of the instruments are made by local artisans and, according to popular belief, have apotropaic function and propitiatory properties, to ward off evil and promote good a harvest.

The noises soften when the wanderers stop at the cellars and dining stands set up in the town to enjoy good wine, fresh sausages and other typical products derived from killing the pig – a tradition in San Mauro Forte, and other towns in Basilicata, that is inevitably intertwined with Carnival celebrations.

The Festival comes to an end with the funeral and the lament of the Carnival puppet, which is burned in the town square.

And then, quiet is restored!