The interregional match of offhand poetry in ottava rima

From 2006 onward, on the eve of Saint Isidoro the farmer celebration, the Museo della terra has organized an interregional match of offhand poetry in ottava rima, at the initiative of the then director, Fulvia Caruso. The event, which embraces a tradition that despite being well kept in the memories of the people of Latera, no longer has participants to carry it forward, sees as protagonists many poets from Lazio, Tuscany and Abruzzo as well as a large audience of local and foreign aficionados.

The ottava rima is impromptu poetry based on the form typical of Renaissance chivalric poems. Each ottava (or “stanza”) is made up of eight 11-syllable lines that follow the rhyme scheme ABABABCC: the first rhymes with the third and the fifth, the second with the fourth and sixth, while the seventh and eighth rhyme with each other.

The topics typically touched upon, called “contrasti” (contrasts) are of epic, lyric or current nature. The public suggests a theme that the poets (usually two at a time) are called to improvise on, creating a sort of duel in poetry and song (the ottava rima is sung according to melodic forms that vary depending on the territory and its traditions).

The area chosen for this performative art is central Italy, especially the Maremma region (which includes territories from both Tuscany and Lazio), the provinces of Viterbo, Rieti, Castelli Romani and Abruzzo. Latera boasted a great number of improvisational poets, although over the years this particular tradition has been abandoned.

Audiovisual documents


2006 – video excerpt of the second match of offhand poetry in ottava rima with poets Mario Monaldi, Mauro Chechi, Donato De Acutis, Pietro De Acutis and Enrico Rustici.


Photo selection of past editions of the event