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Weird way Italy’s single ladies find love

All the single ladies, all the single ladies ... dress up in ancient clothes in the hope their name gets pulled out of a hat. Picture: Francesco Biganzoli

Silvia Marchettinews.com.au

IN ITALY, ancient traditions still come to the rescue for single ladies looking for a man.

Each year a Spinster Festival takes place in two picturesque towns near Rome where “old maids” dressed in medieval clothes get to show-off in a peculiar procession, walking across a maze of ancient Etruscan tombs while they pray a saint to find a partner.

Their fate depends on fortune. The names of all single girls are cast in a spinning lottery box but only one is drawn out: Miss Spinster.

The lucky maiden gets a double treat. Together with a dowry of 800 euros, she also wins the chance of having all the village boys at her feet with various dating proposals.

Then it’s her choice. Italians have a saying: “If they’re roses they’ll bloom”. If it’s true love, it will find its way.

The lucky spinster gets her named pulled out of a lottery box. Picture: Francesco Biganzoli

The lucky spinster gets her named pulled out of a lottery box. Picture: Francesco BiganzoliSource:Supplied

In Ponzano Romano this regularly happens. The men queue up to place their eyes on the cutest bachelorettes, hoping that at least one of them will turn out to be the winner.

“The boys are just as excited as the girls to see who wins, they crowd the public council room when the name is drawn and go utterly crazy. It’s great fun and such a success that disco clubs in Rome invite us over to celebrate our misses,’’ says deputy mayor Umberto Mascioli.

The outcome has so far been positive. “All our Miss Spinster winners have tied the knot. The festival is a good-luck charm and that’s our goal: showcase our ladies still looking for a husband and shake sleepy single men to step forward”.

A lot of preparation goes into the day, with the girls parading around town in ancient dress. Picture: Francesco Biganzoli

A lot of preparation goes into the day, with the girls parading around town in ancient dress. Picture: Francesco BiganzoliSource:Supplied

Once the miss is drawn, a religious procession unwinds through the cobbled alleys in honour of patron St. Nicholas — Santa Claus — protector of “old maids”. Legend has it that the saint once defended three sisters from the wrath of their desperate father who wanted to force them into prostitution for lack of money, and for having failed to marry. Since then, all spinsters prey to Father Christmas for a “gift-husband”.

“It was hilarious when I won the title: the entire town came to my balcony with trumpets and drums to announce that I had been selected Miss Spinster. It felt like a serenade or collective marriage proposal,’’ says Oriana Pace.

She made the best out of it: “I was in the spotlight for a whole year and, boy, I gave my best and exploited the situation. Television networks and clubs invited me to give advice to singles. I still brag about my victory, which brought me luck: now I’m happy and settled down with a nice guy”.

The lucky winner parading around town. Picture: Francesco Biganzoli

The lucky winner parading around town. Picture: Francesco BiganzoliSource:Supplied

The Spinster Festival is an old tradition, launched by the church ages ago to reward humble and god-fearing maidens with an appealing fortune. It then fell into oblivion until the local authorities decided to bring it back to life by investing public money in the dowry.

But things have changed a little. The bag of coins once granted by the clergy to a few selected unmarried women who needed it as a “magnet” to lure a husband has undergone a “makeover” though its objective remains the same. Oriana spent her prize having fun, clubbing and holidaying in Tunisia — that is, raising the odds of finding a man.

Another former winner Fabiana Grizzi used it to change her wardrobe — a valuable asset for attracting suiters. She has the Miss Spinster genes running through her family. “My grandmother won the title 70 years ago, but back then without a dowry no man would even set an eye upon you. You simply had no chance of getting married. The war had left people poor and hungry”.

Modern times have allowed women to build a future without a man, obviously, but before, a dowry was crucial. No money, no man. Now, it lends a hand in what can be almost mission impossible, money or no money.

Women’s independence might have come a long way, but some things never chance in Italy. Picture: Francesco Biganzoli

Women’s independence might have come a long way, but some things never chance in Italy. Picture: Francesco BiganzoliSource:Supplied

However, there are sacred rules still today. Participating girls must be natives of the town, aged between 18 and 30, single and childless. In the past they also had to be chaste and pure: virgins. A requirement which has dropped across centuries for many obvious reasons.

Thanks to the festival the shame of starting-off manless has turned into pride, especially considering the outcome. “Being a spinster can be cool, we need to overcome the stereotype that it’s a loser thing for ugly, fussy and undesirable women. We’re all beautiful”, says Oriana.

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