It's a different type of horse race in Cuccaro Vetere! In fact, there are no horses in their annual Palio event: the race is run with mules! The medieval village in the mountains of the Cilento National Park pays homage to the humble beast of burden with this fun run that takes pack mules and riders through the streets of the town to win the coveted Palio prize.

Mules were an essential part of peasant life in this part of Italy up until World War II. They were used in the fields, as a mode of transporting goods, as well as human transportation over the rough terrain before automobiles were common. There was a network of mule paths that connected mountain towns and brought merchandise up from the sea ports. The mule paths were also well maintained for foot traffic, for people to be able to visit nearby villages.

They were so important to farming life that the town of Cuccaro Vetere thought they merited some attention, and this annual event was born. There is a parade through the charming stone streets with townspeople in peasant costume, proceeded by the high-spirited race of packed-out mules ridden by municipal delegates. The two-day event has all the markings of a typical town party, with games for the kids, artisan crafts showing off their goods, and of course food stands to provide regional specialties and local wine. Folk music and dances from the by-gone era are resurrected and enjoyed by all. It is, in short, a return to simpler times of small-town traditions and culture.

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