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Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 12:20 UK

Italians 'turn water into wine'

A fountain in the town centre of Marino
Marino's Sagra dell'Uva is one of the oldest grape festivals in Italy

Wine started flowing through taps in dozens of homes during an Italian grape festival in Marino, south of Rome.

At the heart of the town's famous Sagra dell'Uva, or Grape Festival, is the moment when sparkling white wine flows from the fountains in the main square.

But this year locals and tourists had to make do with water, as bad plumbing meant the wine supply was switched by mistake to local homes.

People come from as far away as France and Germany to watch the display.

"Every year, during the Grape Festival, we interrupt the water supply to the main fountains in the town centre and we channel wine into them instead to re-evoke a famous victory," Mayor Adriano Palozzi said.

Accidental supply

"But this year," Mr Palozzi said, "Due to a technical error, instead of connecting wine to the fountains, we accidentally channelled it into some local homes.

"Apparently the people living around the square who got the wine coming out of their taps were very surprised, they thought that it might be some kind of present from the local council! It only lasted three minutes, we corrected it straight away."

About 10 to 12 houses were affected, and the main bar on the town's square also had wine instead of water.

Procession in Marino commemorating the Battle of Lepanto
Commemorating the Battle of Lepanto, October 1571
Each year, they hand out 150 tonnes of grapes and provide 3,000 litres of the local white wine during the four-day festival.

The grape festival, which is one of the oldest in Italy, commemorates the return of Admiral Marcantonio Colonna to his home in Marino after his victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in October 1571.

The town sent more than 250 sailors to the battle. The sagra is celebrated on the first Sunday of October to give thanks for their safe return.


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