Music, Food & Art at the 2022 Porretta Soul Festival

Soulful street art at the Porretta Terme by Riccardo Fornasini – Freeolys

The multisensory Porretta Soul Festival is hosting some of the best soul musicians in the world this summer. The festival starts on July 21 and ends during the late night hours on July 24. The focus is music, but the event has so much more to offer. Visitors can grab food and view art while listening to hours of soul. 

Bringing over 30 street food vendors to the small Italian town known for rhythm and blues, the Italian Streetfood Association is collaborating with the Porretta Soul Festival. Vendors from all over Italy and even around the world are coming together to add flavor, spice and culture to the annual music celebration. 

“Ever wonder what to do on summer vacation? Wanna visit Europe but not do the typical tourist stuff? Do you love music? You can start by heading straight to the Porretta Soul Festival in Porretta Terme, Italy. Fly to Milan or Bologna and take a train to Porretta and you’ll find the most welcoming and beautiful little Italian town taken over by the greatest soul musicians and soul music fans from around the globe. Eat great food, drink wine, relax and hang out with the musicians and make a whole bunch of new friends,” said professional saxophone musician, Gordon Beadley a.k.a. Sax Gordon, who hails from Boston.

Over 200 artists will take the stage during the rhythm & blues weekend. From long-time professional musicians to first-time appearance soul artists, a wide range of soul will fill the Rufus Thomas Park. 

Known for being one of the artists who best interprets the spirit of Otis Redding, Curtis Salgado will be performing alongside Soul Shot and Burundi J.P. Bimeni & The Black Belts on July 23 and 24.  Headlining at Porretta Soul for the first time and making their Italian debut on July 24, Uran Thomas & The Pain are multi Blues Music Awards winners. Uran Thomas is a historic African American musician of the 60s who has had a long solo career and has been a part of countless collaborations, including touring with James Brown. The Pain will share the stage with Thomas for the weekend.

Street food will be available from 11 am to the end of the night concerts near the Piazza della Libertà, which is right next to the Rufus Thomas Cafe Stage. The stage is hosting rhythm and blues bands from 11 am to 7 pm, where visitors can grab a plate of over 50 specialties from all over Italy and the world, while listening to the concerts. 

The collection of gazebos will create a Street Food Village, filling the heart of the city with traditional and genuine dishes that accurately represent the origin of the each recipe made by the many producers of the association, “which is the only one in Italy that certifies its quality and tradition,” said Massimiliano Ricciarini, president of Streetfood.  Over the four day event, visitors can explore offerings of the food trucks and try something new every day. The Street Food Village will provide a place to grab a bite of food made from the soul.

The day can be started with Sicilian bakery specialities, including ca meusa bread, panelle (chickpea flour fritters) and arancine (stuffed and fried rice balls). For snack or light lunch, grab a Romagna piadina or the Apulian bombette specialty of Puglia. After listening and grooving to soul music for a couple of hours in the Piazza, visitors can expand their taste buds and try Spanish paella, souvlaki from Greece or any new dish from over 30 food carts. Between meals and during times to cool off, there are Emilian, Tuscan and Friulian refreshments, including craft beer and wines. 

In between meals and listening to soul-filled tunes from around the world, visitors can check out all of the colorful murals and street art of Porretta. Adding a sensory part to the event, the Porretta murals create a path that allows visitors a place to discover visuals and connect them to song. 

With 13 soul artists painted on the walls of the small Tuscan town, some of the artists represented are the Soul Men (ensemble with Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, James Carr, Eddie Hinton) painted by Antonio Cotecchia, The Memphis Horns and Dan Penn by Ermanno Mari, Otis Redding depicted by Annalisa Fusilli and Rufus Thomas and Sam Cooke by Alice Palmieri.

The Porretta Festival website has an in-depth map that includes the locations of every soul-related mural in walking distance, making it easy for festival attendees to enjoy every aspect of this grand town tradition.  (allie noland)