This Mediterranean festival is bringing modern Italian food, music and culture to Melbourne

This Mediterranean festival is bringing modern Italian food, music and culture to Melbourne

Tarantula Garganica
Words by Amber De Luca-Tao

A five-day Italian and Mediterranean festival celebrating music, dance, visual arts and food is hitting Melbourne in March.

Taranta Festival’s program spans across five days, with performances, exhibitions and workshops taking over a range of locations including Darebin Arts Centre,  Brunetti, Meat Market, Oliva Social and more.

For Festival Director Salvatore Rossano, it’s integral the occasion is consistent with current-day Italy.

“I think it’s important to do an event like this so people can experience the whole picture of what’s happening in Italy now, which is more contemporary and modern.”

2020 marks the second incarnation of Taranta Festival, following the everlasting impression Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino left on Melbourne in 2019.

“From the beginning we said we are also opening the festival up to other cultures,” Rossano says. “Melbourne is such an amazing place and we need to create the opportunity to collaborate and share something new.

“As part of the first Taranta Festival we had a lot of events so people could experience not only the music, but also the bands, the culture and the stories behind the songs and music.

“In Melbourne the Italian culture here is mostly to do with food and art, but not much about music, in particular contemporary folk music which is very big in Italy especially in the last 15 years. And now there’s been a huge revival of people playing it.”

Like its first year, Taranta Festival will feature both international guests and local performers from Melbourne.

One of the biggest highlights of the event comes via an exclusive performance by Enza Pagliara & Dario Muci. They’re deemed to be one of the most representative voices of the Puglia region and they’ve played a huge role in southern Italy’s folk revival.

You’ll be able to catch them at the Festival Gala Concert set in North Melbourne’s Meat Market, alongside local talent Santa Taranta and Arte Kanela as well as Tarantula Garganica, Italy’s acoustic connoisseurs from Gargano.

“Music is always changing and it’s important that we keep up to date. A lot of young musicians are going back to the roots and changing and making it more to their taste, which is happening in Australia too – they’re doing something new from a different perspective,” Rossano continues.

Other must-sees on the calendar include Rustica Project, Delyrium, Banda Bellini and more. The launch of our city’s very own Melbourne Taranta Orchestra is also a show not to be missed.

As much as the festival is about celebrating the new wave of Italian folk music, it’s also about celebrating the culture and art that goes with it, hand-in-hand. To represent the notion, you’ll find an array of workshops and exhibitions you can experience as part of the festival too.

You can learn tarantella, a dance deriving from the bite of a tarantula, or participate in a traditional singing workshop with Muci and Pagliara which will see you learn how to harmonise in a southern Italian fashion. Those interested in the tambourine can learn specific techniques from Tarantula Garganica in another workshop. 

On the art front you can expect a healing-inspired exhibition by visiting artist Laura Cionci at the Darebin Arts Centre. ARIA-winner and choir leader Kavisha Mazzella will lead four singing workshops to create the Taranta Festival Choir performing at the Festival Finale on closing day.

There’s also multiple opportunities to immerse yourself in the traditional culinary delights of southern Italy, with a prime example being the traditional Pugliese lunch on the Saturday at Darebin Arts Centre. Here, Luciano Castelluccia will present his gastronomic music show which showcases the traditional Puglia region.

Taranta Festival kicks off on Wednesday March 11 and runs until Sunday March 15 at venues all across Melbourne. For tickets and all the details, head to