The famous “Ottobrate Romane” were outings that took place mainly on Sundays but often on Thursdays in Rome during October (‘ottobre’ in Italian), the month of harvest. Some say the custom came from the ancient Roman Bacchanalia feasts related to the cycle of the seasons.
A popular destination for excursions was Mount Testaccio, although the orchards and vineyards situated around the city gates of Rome encouraged people to travel to the Milvian Bridge and the vineyards between Monteverde and Porta San Pancrazio, Porta San Giovanni and Porta Pia.
Trips would begin early, seated on festively adorned carts pulled by decorated horses. Great care was taken over clothing, documented in prints of the time showing women bedecked with feathers and flowers and stylish men aiming to impress the pretty ladies.
The saltarello was danced to the sound of drums, guitars and castanets. Games played included bocce and ruzzola using wooden wheels, and there were also swings and a greasy pole. Of course the wine flowed freely, and there was never any shortage of gnocchi, tripe and suckling lamb to eat.
The tradition of “Ottobrate Romane” remained alive until the early 1900s, having survived the Papal State. Even today, when October has sunny days, it is customary to say, “Che splendida ottobrata” (‘what a magnificent Ottobrata’).