Go Nuts at the Almond Blossom Feast of Agrigento

5319289953_a7b32f51c6_b (2)Spring has already sprung in Agrigento, Sicily. Originally founded as a Greek colony in 581 BC and called Akragas, Agrigento has been, at various times, ruled by Byzantines, Romans and Arabs. The Greek presence is perhaps most felt at the Valle dei Tempi, home to five temple ruins that draw visitors from around the globe.

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The Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiori celebrates the almonds of the area. Today is the last day of the festival celebrations in 2017. Various restaurants participate in fixed menus that incorporate the use of the almond as the highlighted ingredient. Today at 10:00 AM (the last Sunday of the celebration each year) there is a parade of folk groups, Sicilian carts, and both Andalusian and Friesan horses.158866175_c32dd433b4_o (2)

Eager for more local dancing and entertainment? Not only is this the 72nd Feast of the Almond Blossom, it’s the 62nd International Folklore Festival. This is the last weekend of three.

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Sagra del Mandorlo Official Website

Visit Agrigento Tourism Website

#italyfestivals #sagradelmandorlo #agrigento #sicily

Photo Credits:
Temple of Concordia:  archer10 (Dennis) (67M Views) via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Sicilian Horse Cart on Parade:   cL4uDj via Foter.com / CC BY
Piazza Municipio at Night, Agrigento:   cL4uDj via Foter.com / CC BY
Almond Blossoms:   beamillion via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

 

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The Great Italian Food Fight

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Battle Aftermath

Oranges are the ammunition of this battle royale in the northern Italian town of Ivrea. Referred to as the “largest food fight” in Italy, the Battle of the Oranges engages over 5,000 participants inflicting pain by hurling 60 tons of blood oranges at each other. Ivrea, north of Turin and west of Milan, imports an entire train full of oranges from Sicily each year for the event.

The Battle is based on stories of real people from the rebellion 900 years ago. At this period in time, the “right of the first night” or jus primae noctae allowed the local Lord to sleep with a bride the night before her wedding. As the story goes, the mugnaia (miller’s daughter), went to the castle the night before her wedding, wielded a knife, murdered the Lord and cut his head off. The locals then started a three-day rebellion which is represented by the throwing of the oranges.

398726005_a7c96d4e35_bActivities for this Carnival period celebration started in January and culminate today and tomorrow with historical parades, feasts and of course, the famous orange fight this afternoon. Aranceri (orange handlers) on fifty carts battle the aranceri from the nine pedestrian teams. Spectators are strongly advised to purchase and wear at all times the beretto frigio; this red stocking cap identifies the innocent onlookers hoping to escape errant oranges. Nets are strung throughout the parade route with designated areas for spectators to gather beneath for protection. The orange throwing spectacle can be seen on Sunday (last night) and Monday nights (today) before dinner, refer to the full program schedule below for parade map and times.

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Castello di Ivrea

Historical Carnival of Ivrea – Information

Photo Credits:

BATTLE AFTERMATH – SEBASTIANO ROSSI VIA FOTER.COM / CC BY-ND
ORANGE THROWERS (LEFT) – SEBASTIANO ROSSI VIA FOTER.COM / CC BY-ND
ORANGE THROWERS (RIGHT) – PIGLIAPOST VIA FOTER.COM / CC BY-SA
SBANDIERATORI (FLAG THROWERS)- GIÒ-S.P.O.T.S. VIA FOTER.COM / CC BY
CASTELLO DI IVREA – GALLI LUCA VIA FOTER.COM / CC BY

 

It’s Gnocchi Friday (& More) in Verona!

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Carnevale Parade in Verona

If you are looking for an alternative to the carnevale crowds in Viareggio and Venice, Verona may hold the ticket. Gnocchi Friday in Verona is kind of like Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. It’s the first of FIVE days of celebration as the fun carnevale period ends and the Christian abstinence period of Lent begins. Verona is a city in the northern Italian province of Veneto, often thought of when Romeo and Juliet are mentioned.

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Il Papa del Gnoco

GNOCCHI FRIDAY  “Venerdi Gnoccolare” Starting around noon on Friday floats start to gather for their journey through downtown, starting around 2pm. Led by “Il Papa Gnocco” (the Father of Gnocchi), 70 floats participate along with bands and entertainers in front of 100,000+ strong crowd. The 6 km parade ends at Piazza Bra, but head over to Piazza Zeno where the real fun begins in my opinion (FOOD!). Gnocchi is made by mixing potatoes and flour, cutting into small squares and then boiling in water. It can be served with a variety of toppings; the Veronese eat it with a meat ragu and even have their own word for the after-effect of eating too much, GNOCCOLONITA!

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Arena di Verona

The best of the rest:

HISTORICAL REGATTA (SATURDAY)  “Regata Storica Sull’Adige”  Since the fifteenth century, Prince Reboano arrives by canoe on Saturday afternoon and leads a masked carnival procession through the Filippini district and ending in Piazza Bra.

CARNIVAL ON LISTON (SUNDAY)  “Carnevale sul Liston”  A Carnival party begins in Piazza bra late in the morning and moves through the other districts of the City in the afternoon.

FEAST OF SANTO STEFANO (MONDAY)  “Luni Pignatar”  Traditional soup and plenty of music are on tap Monday afternoon in the Santo Stefano District of Verona.

FAT TUESDAY  “Martedi Grasso”  An afternoon party in the Porto San Pancrazio district on Shrove Tuesday begins at 2:30 pm and carries into the night.

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Gnocchi with Ragu

INFORMATION

Carnevale Verona Official Website (Italian)

Verona on Google Maps

ABOUT

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. The second book in her Food & Folklore Series on Festivals of Spain will hit the shelves in 2017. You can find out more information about Lisa’s books, custom itineraries and small group tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides.    BROCHURE: Fun with Food & Festivals Tours!

PHOTO CREDITS

Arena di Verona   rick ligthelm via Foter.com / CC BY

Gnocchi with Ragu    I am Jeffrey via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

All other photos from Carnevale Verona Official Committee

 

A Traveling Polenta Feast in Lazio

 

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Making Polenta in Sermoneta

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.

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Sagra della Polenta in Sermoneta

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.

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Castello Caetani in Sermoneta

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.

INFORMATION

Official Program Sermoneta Polenta 2017

Google Map of Sermoneta

ABOUT

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.

PHOTO CREDITS

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
 @SermonetaTurism @Sermoneta_ @visit_lazio

 

NERO NORCIA: Black Truffles in Umbria

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View of Norcia, Umbria

The Umbrian town of Norcia sits at the foot of the Monte Sibillini in the Valnerina River Valley. It’s about 45 minutes east of the famous music festival town Spoleto and near the Umbrian border with the Lazio and Le Marche regions. An ancient settlement, Norcia has found traces of human occupation from the Neolithic Age (approximately 10,000 BC – 2,000 BC). It’s a great base for hiking mountains and walking through the beautiful natural scenery of the Santa Scolastica plain.

 

Piazza San Benedetto has been the center of the town since the middle ages and includes the historic Palazzo Communale (14th century) and church of San Benedetto (Middle Ages). It serves as the base of operations for the 53rd Nero Norcia celebration of winter black truffles that began this morning and continues this weekend and next. Aside from the usual festival treats of food stands, music and children’s activities there’s a magician, photography exhibit and speakers about truffle production in the area. Tasting tours via horse drawn carriages, are organized by dairy company Gruppo Grifo both Sundays and include local chocolate and dairy products (purchase tickets at their festival stand).

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Piazza San Benedetto in Norcia;   Left: Palazzo Communale;   Right Church of San Benedetto

The shade of trees in the forests nearby harbor these fragrant and expensive mushrooms. Used raw or cooked they are often tossed with rice or pasta. Norcia’s foodie highlights are more than just it’s truffle production; the famous Norcinos (butchers) and their salumerie shops are not to be missed for further tastebud exploration.

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Nearby Castellucio di Norcia

#neronorcia #eventiumbria #umbria #italyfestivals #norcia

53rd Nero Norcia Information

Umbria Tourism

@umbriatourism

Umbria Tourism on Facebook

Photo Credits:
View of Norcia from Field:   LaValnerina.it via Foter.com / CC BY
Black Truffle:   moedermens via Foter.com / CC BY
Egg with Shaved Truffle:   nociveglia via Foter.com / CC BY
Tagliatelle al Tartufo Nero:   UmbriaLovers via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Piazza San Benedetto:   stevecadman via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Castellucio di Norcia:   Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

Go Nuts at the Almond Blossom Feast of Agrigento

5319289953_a7b32f51c6_b (2)Spring has already sprung in Agrigento, Sicily. Originally founded as a Greek colony in 581 BC and called Akragas, Agrigento has been, at various times, ruled by Byzantines, Romans and Arabs. The Greek presence is perhaps most felt at the Valle dei Tempi, home to five temple ruins that draw visitors from around the globe.

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The Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiori celebrates the almonds of the area. On Saturday at afternoon at 4:30 PM, a parade of folk groups kicks the evening off. Starting at 7:00 PM Sicilian street food will be served in Piazza Marconi. If you‘d like something more formal, various restaurants participate in fixed menus that incorporate the use of the almond as the highlighted ingredient. On Sunday at 10:00 AM don’t miss the parade of folk groups, Sicilian carts, and both Andalusian and Friesan horses.158866175_c32dd433b4_o (2)

Eager for more local dancing and entertainment? Not only is this the 71st Feast of the Almond Blossom, it’s the 61st International Folklore Festival. This is the second weekend and it continues each weekend through March 13th.

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Sagra del Mandorlo Official Website

Visit Agrigento Tourism Website

#italyfestivals #sagradelmandorlo #agrigento #sicily

Photo Credits:
Temple of Concordia:  archer10 (Dennis) (67M Views) via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Sicilian Horse Cart on Parade:   cL4uDj via Foter.com / CC BY
Piazza Municipio at Night, Agrigento:   cL4uDj via Foter.com / CC BY
Almond Blossoms:   beamillion via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

 

Viareggio’s Carnevale by the Sea

8689955524_8d87d508c3_bIf you didn’t make it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans to celebrate Fat Tuesday, hop over to the Tuscan Coast of Italy for one of four remaining carnival parades. Multiple carnival celebrations take place throughout Italy at this time each year. What makes the 143 year old #CarnevalediViareggio special is its size and artistic pageantry. Over 200,000 spectators attend the month-long series of events showcasing fabulous floats along 3 kilometers of the palm-tree lined promenade by the sea.

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Since 1873, when the parade began with decorated carriages along the Via Regia, this carnival parade entertains with effigies of (in)famous people, sports athletes and politicians who are sometimes in attendance to view the spectacle. There are a total of five masked parades; the next three Sundays and the first Saturday in March are the remaining dates in 2016. In addition to the parades filled with larger than life floats, there are daytime and nighttime festivities including parties and masked balls. On the final day judges award the best floats and cap off the event with a large fireworks display.


Preparing for this $5 million event involves a lot of planning and preparation. “La Cittadella” is a building and event complex housing 2 museums and 16 warehouses; the warehouses are utilized by masters of paper-mâché to create the gigantic floats. One museum displays the history and pageantry of the carnival celebration, the other, ”Carnevalotto”, displays a collection of valuable works of art.

Viareggio is located north of Pisa on the Tyrhennian coast and is a relatively short train ride from Pisa, Lucca & Florence. Daily tickets are 18 Euros for 12 + over, 13 Euros for ages 7-12 and children under 7 are free. Reserved seating is available for an additional 10 Euro per person.

Carnevale di Viareggio Official Website

#CarnevalediViareggio #carnevale #viareggio #lisalovestotravel @travelwithlisa

Photo Credits:

Carnival Float Heads: alexandraalisa via Foter.com / CC BY
Carnival Float Clown: joolia. via Foter.com / CC BY
Carnival Float Pig: joolia. via Foter.com / CC BY
Carnival Float Faces: sfmission.com via Foter.com / CC BY
Carnival Float Dinosaur Skeleton: sfmission.com via Foter.com / CC BY
Carnival Float T-Rex: Lorenzo Bl via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Carnevale Enthusiasts: Visit Tuscany via Foter.com / CC BY
Burlamacco: HHA124L via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Italian Food Fight

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Battle Aftermath

Oranges are the ammunition of this battle royale in the northern Italian town of Ivrea. Referred to as the “largest food fight” in Italy, the Battle of the Oranges engages over 5,000 participants inflicting pain by hurling 60 tons of blood oranges at each other. Ivrea, north of Turin and west of Milan, imports an entire train full of oranges from Sicily each year for the event.

The Battle is based on stories of real people from the rebellion 900 years ago. At this period in time, the “right of the first night” or jus primae noctae allowed the local Lord to sleep with a bride the night before her wedding. As the story goes, the mugnaia (miller’s daughter), went to the castle the night before her wedding, wielded a knife, murdered the Lord and cut his head off. The locals then started a three day rebellion which is represented by the throwing of the oranges.

398726005_a7c96d4e35_b

Activities for this Carnival period celebration started in January and culminate in the coming week with historical parades, feasts and of course, the famous orange fight. Aranceri (orange handlers) on fifty carts battle the aranceri from the nine pedestrian teams. Spectators are strongly advised to purchase and wear at all times the beretto frigio; this red stocking cap identifies the innocent onlookers hoping to escape errant oranges. Nets are strung throughout the parade route with designated areas for spectators to gather beneath for protection. The orange throwing spectacle can be seen on Sunday and Monday nights before dinner, refer to the full program schedule below for parade map and times.

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Castello di Ivrea

Historical Carnival of Ivrea – Information

Historical Carnival of Ivrea – Full Program

#‎CarnevaleIvrea‬

Photo Credits:

Battle Aftermath – Sebastiano Rossi via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Orange Throwers (Left) – Sebastiano Rossi via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Orange Throwers (Right) – pigliapost via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Sbandieratori (Flag Throwers)- Giò-S.p.o.t.s. via Foter.com / CC BY
Castello di Ivrea – Galli Luca via Foter.com / CC BY

 

Transported Back in Time: Venice Carnival 2016

16059773743_504b2143b2_bThe Venice Carnival festivities begin this weekend.  Over a period of two weeks there will be costumed parades, masquerade balls and costume contests. There are more than 50 related events in Venice and nearby providing entertainment, live music and theater. The 2016 Carnival theme is “Creatum -introducing Arts and Traditions”; honoring the craftspeople that have kept traditions alive. The amazing colorful costumes and elaborate masks are a feast for the eyes. Traces of the festivities we see today began as early as 1192. The modern-day Venice Carnival was instituted in 1979, after many periods of stop and start, including being banned by the fascist regime of Mussolini in the 1930s.12850358855_af1e71a3aa_bThe mask-makers, called “mascherari”, traditionally had their own craftsmen guild and set of laws. One of the main highlights is the beautiful mask contest “la maschera più bella”. Held the last weekend of the carnival celebrations, entrants are judged by a panel of international fashion and costume designers. 13444009994_26031bb62f_b
Venice will play host to over 3 million visitors during the Carnival period. Depending on the size of your wallet, you can choose how much or how little to participate. Spending only your time, you can view the costumed boat parade through the Grand Canal, great people-watching, and mask or costume contests. Tickets were still available to some of the masqueraded ball events next week; they range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on which ball and which level of ticket you purchase. Costumes and accessories are rented by the day and range from a couple hundred to a thousand dollars depending on the type of character you want to portray, how fancy you prefer to be and if you want to pay for professional makeup. 14219240489_e2e082a5bc_b
If the Venice Carnival is on your bucket list, you will feel transported back in time to an age when putting on a dress took more than one person and your position in society was literally worn on your sleeve.

Official Venice Carnival Information

Photo Credits:

1 – Three Blue Costumed Participants: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/salvatore_gerace/16059773743/”>Salvatore Gerace</a> via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>
2 – Costumed Couple on the Grand Canal: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/stemonx/12850358855/”>Stefano Montagner – The life around me</a> via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>
3 – Parade of Costumed Participants: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/17989497@N00/13444009994/”>Monika Kostera (urbanlegend)</a> via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>
4- Gold and Blue Costumed Participants: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/9284966@N07/14219240489/”>guyjr1136</a&gt; via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-ND</a>