Writer Shannon Severson
Photography Courtesy of Italian Festival

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince Medieval and Renaissance times, colorfully dressed flag throwers known as sbandieratori have been a highlight of Italian festivals. As drums and trumpets provide the rhythm, flag throwers dance, tumble, and spin, skillfully and artistically twirling flags emblazoned with the coats of arms and symbols of the various cities and regions of the country.

The tradition lives on in Sbandieratori di Asta, a group direct from Italy that will add to the many sights, sounds, and tastes of the 6th Annual Italian Festival.

The City of Scottsdale–sponsored event will transform Old Town Scottsdale’s waterfront into a lively Italian village Saturday, Feb. 23 and Sunday, Feb. 24.

“We are excited for people to come down and experience the entertainment, food and culture of Italy right here in Scottsdale,” says executive director of the Italian Association of Arizona (IAA), Frank Guzzo. “The Phoenician Tenors will be our headliners again this year and they’re just fantastic. All of the entertainment is included in the cost of the event. We also partnered with a great cause, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP), which helps so many people here in the Valley.”

Guzzo, a native of Calabria, Italy, and his team of volunteers from both IAA and SVP expect to sell out the two-day event, hosting more than 10,000 attendees. “Piazza del Southbridge” will be the center of the action.

At the center of any great Italian celebration is food and wine. Attendees will enjoy some of the best Italian food the Valley has to offer, including gelato, pizza, hand-made meatballs, sausages, pasta, wine, beer and other delicacies. An Italian martini bar will be shaking and stirring cocktails with exclusively Italian alcohol.

“All the local vendors are so important,” says Guzzo. “The Italian culture is very entrenched here and we want to maintain that integrity in everything we present. Even if an organization goes by an American name, they’re still making something that’s Italian and we are happy to include them.”

A marketplace will be stocked with products to take home, and if you need to know exactly how to make best use of them, there’s a chance to learn how to cook like the pros—or an Italian nonna—with cooking demonstrations, including one by celebrity chef, Marco Sciortino, on the Galbani Cheese-sponsored stage.

Visit one of the two espresso bars for a caffeine jolt and head to the festival’s pop-up Italian cultural museum with expert presentations, including a spotlight on the history of Italian filmmaking from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Los Angeles.

There are approximately 10,000 native and first generation Italians living in Arizona. The IAA strives to provide a place for members to communicate, share resources and promote Italian culture.