William Caetani returned to his hometown of Sermoneta in 1503 after the death of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI and exile in Mantua and America. He brought with him maize (corn) seed, beginning a long history of polenta production in Italy. If you’ve ever made polenta, you are familiar with the long, continual stirring while cooking to prevent lumps from forming. It can be eaten hot like a porridge or allowed to cool and solidify. Once solid, it can be sliced and then grilled, fried or baked.
The local Polentara are polenta professionals with years of experience (and strong arms from all that stirring!). Though there are different varieties of polenta preparation and combinations with other foods throughout Italy, here in Lazio, the two most popular are topped with a tomato-based sauce enriched with pecorino cheese and a white sauce with garlic, olive oil, sausage, chiles, and bacon.
Sermoneta’s annual celebration of polenta occurs on the weekend closest to Sant Antonio Abate day (January 17th). This last Sunday, the 22nd, was the big day in Sermoneta and Droganello, but the festival moves to nearby communities of Pontenuovo on the 29th of January, Sermoneta Scalo on February 5th and Tufette on February 12th.
Lisa M. Vogele is the author of Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals, a travel reference guide that “helps you go local” by incorporating festivals into your travel planning. You can find out more information about Lisa’s books, custom itineraries and small group tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides.
MAKING POLENTA IN SERMONETA Erik il Rosso via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
SAGRA DELLA POLENTA IN SERMONETA Erik il Rosso via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
CASTELLO CAETANI IN SERMONETA Erik il Rosso via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
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