The Italian tamborello is an integral part of Italian folk music with history over 2000 years old. Also called tammorra (a slightly different design) and tamburo, this hand drum (a fore-father of the tamborine) holds a prominent role is in the accompaniment of the tarantella, which is an old hopping dance allegedly related to ancient Dionysian ritual dances. The name references the hopping of the tarantula spiders during their mating dance.
As varied as the landscapes, dialects and cuisine of Italy, many variations exist in both the tarantelle and the playing techniques of the tamborello instrument. All techniques allow virtuoso triole-playing (rapid, triple strokes) by using different rotation techniques, where the hand rotates either over the horizontal or the vertical axis of the drum. This can also be accomplished by a stiff finger dragging and jittering forwards across the drum head--a very difficult technique only masters of the instrument achieve.
Cheap, painted tamborelli made for tourists
Traditionally, a tamborello would be made by the same artisans that made household and farm sieves. The technique used steam to bend the shape of the frame for each drum. Skins can be dog, cat, kid (goat) or even donkey. In Calabria, often the hairs are left on to give a deeper, more mellow sound. In Sicily the skins are highly refined giving a more bright, crisp sound. Many modern tamborello are made using synthetic drum heads which keep their pitch, unlike natural skins which change their pitch depending on humidity.
Even today the tamborello can be heard on every street and folk dance festival in Southern Italy. The culture and music have been passed on over the many centuries with considerable changes. Nowadays fusions of tarantella with Heavy Metal, Ancient Music, Jazz, Pop etc. are very popular.
In the United States, May Day isn't really a holiday at all. All we know about it is when people with roots from Germanic countries celebrate the return of summer with children dancing around the ribboned May Pole. We also know it as a day of marches for left-wing or worker political parties promoting their agendas for various worker's rights, similar to how workers in many countries treat May Day.
In Italy, the 1st of May is called Festa dei Lavoratori (Workers' Day), similar to American's Memorial Day or Labor Day. While there might still be workers marching and holding protests depending on which way the the political and economic wind is blowing, for most workaday furbo Italians, it's simply a day off from work and a long weekend to go to the beach, attend one of the many rock concerts, have a barbecue or rent a holiday cabin in the mountains. After all, it's a lot of work to organize and protest on hot city streets, isn't it? Easier to just go to the beach and throw some steaks on the grill.
Most museums are closed as well as many other shops for the entire holiday weekend. This is perhaps not the best weekend to visit major tourist destinations in Italy simply because this is one of the holiday weekends where Italians do the tourist thing... just the way Americans might visit tourist sites in the States during Memorial Day or Labor Day weekends.
Red flag raised on maypole at Appignano del Tronto
Still, in some parts of Italy (southern Marche, for example) a red flag is placed at the top of a poplar tree as a Socialist party symbol. If you're overly anti-communist, don't get paranoid... Italian socialists--and communists--mix well with other Italians and tourists alike. You might meet them later on during the weekend at the beach...