Ruttosound: Inside Northern Italy's big burping festival and contest

Hundreds turn out every year to celebrate the country's biggest belchers, but embarrassed women participants often wear masks

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Every June for the last 18 years, hundreds of Italians have flocked to the northern province of Reggio Emilia to enjoy one of the world's largest burping festivals.

That's right. A burping festival.

It's called RuttoSound. It's a wild, good-spirited competition where passing gas passes for sport — and it's happening this Tuesday.

The event's founder Stefano Morselli calls it "the Italian burp league" and his website suggests he's frustrated that local media ignores it; they're probably a bit embarassed.

Certainly the female contestants are. It was only at last year's event that a woman first competed without wearing a mask.

On stage, Nicoletta, a 19-year old student from Morena, becomes Lady Eruptive (roughly translated) — a true champion who can belch with the best.

Following her standout 2014 performance, she described her burping training: "When I could, I would practice in places where there were no people.

"I can usually burp without drinking. But tonight, so I didn't lose face, I drank a lot of Coca Cola".

So, how does the RuttoSound competition work?

There are three categories: Power, Length and Words.

For the first, belchers take to the stage, swallow some air - they are also allowed to drink water - and release it into the microphone as loudly as possible. The decibel level is measured and the crowd goes wild (apparently).

The site says the best ever power burp belongs to Paul 'Ciopa' Onfiani of Reggio, who has registered 136.6 decibels.

It's one of three Guinness world records set at the RuttoSound, according to the site.

RuttoSound has become a hit in Reggio Emilia, Italy (RuttoSound)

Then there's length, which means exactly what it says. To give an indication of the time we're talking, last year's winner Luca Augelli from Suzzara held his burp for an astonishing 6.3 seconds.

And finally there's the specialty one: Words. This one isn't so quantifiable. There's a panel of 5 "specialists" who determine the best phrase or song expressed via burp.

Some say "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and some simply tell their mom they love her.

But ultimately the day is about being a champion. Onfiani, that power-burper from the turn of the century, back when the show was in its infancy, said this:  "As a young man I wanted to sing, and then I realised I could burp better.

"These people are only here to see fools belch. And I can live with them."