National Lasagna Day: My Favorite Recipe & Where to Find Lasagna Festivals in Italy

In honor of National Lasagna Day in the United States (July 29th)!

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Lasagne Romagnola

Just looking at a picture of lasagna makes my stomach rumble! It ignites my savory cravings and when I eat it, rarely can I stop at just one serving. Made of sheets of pasta layered in a baking dish with different ingredients and sauces, the classic lasagna version hails from Bologna in the Emilia Romagna but the Naples version from Campania is just as famous. The variations are endless!

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Baked Lasagna (Lasagne al Forno)

While traveling throughout Italy, I noticed that lasagne (Lasagna in Italian) is different than what I have experienced in your standard, run-of-the-mill Italian-American family restaurant. It’s probably closer to what you find when invited to the homes of friends and relatives of Italian descent. I prepare lasagna several times a year, typically when I have a large group for dinner at my home. (Friends, I reveal my secret recipe below!)

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Making Spinach Lasagne Pasta

In 2011 my husband and I were dinner guests at the family home of our friend Andrea in Forli, Emilia Romagna. We had been traveling in Italy for several weeks and eaten some fine lasagne in restaurants. We were delighted when Mamma Pasini served up her personal lasagne recipe. In an attempt to determine why what we were tasting was so different than what I had encountered back home, I took the opportunity to ask about the ingredients (with Viviana translating). Mamma Pasini’s recipe differed in four key ways: it was light on tomatoes, had no ricotta, didn’t have as many layers of pasta sheets, and, perhaps most importantly, it was made with bechamel sauce. (Note: southern Italian recipes tend to be heavier on the tomatoes, so if they are a problem for you try a central/northern Italian recipe like the link below, instead).

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Serving up Lasagne

Upon our return to States, I feverishly searched for a recipe I thought resembled what had been discussed in the kitchen back in Forli.  (Que drumroll…)  I zeroed in on one called “Giorgios Tuscan Lasagna” (see link below).  So now my secret is out! The lasagna friends have been enjoying at my home for several years is a fantastic recipe I found online. Whether it’s a group of friends or family, lasagna is always a winner in my book – Happy National Lasagna Day USA!

LASAGNA FESTIVALS

To sample Lasagnas from different regions of Italy, attend one of these festivals dedicated to Lasagna throughout Italy:

May – Oricola, Abruzzo

May – Montenero d’Orica, Tuscany

May/June –  Arci di San Lazzaro, Bologna, Emilia Romagna

June/July – Bosio, Piemonte

August – Mercato San Severino, Salerno, Campania Lasagna & Meatballs Festival!

NOTE: dates/months may change each year – always confirm!

TIP: To find your own, search on “Sagra della Lasagna”

#NationalLasagnaDay #lasagna #lasagne #italyfestivals #italianfood

INFORMATION

Giorgios Tuscan Lasagna by Squirrel_Nut from Austin, TX

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, travel services, custom itineraries, and small group tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides or lisa@lisastravelguides.com

BROCHURE: Fun with Food & Festivals Tours!

PHOTO CREDITS
Lasagne Romagnola   by Sambawamba via wikimedia commons
Baked Lasagna   WordRidden via Foter.com / CC BY
Serving up Lasagne   by Roger469 via wikimedia commons
Making Spinach Lasagne pasta  manu flickr2010 via Foter.com / CC BY

PALIO – The Famous Horse Race of Siena

Last year I attended the July Palio in Siena. Steeped in tradition and excitement it was an unforgettable experience! This year’s race is tomorrow Sunday, July 2, 2017. Enjoy my experiences from last year and this excerpt from my book Food and Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals (currently available through my website http://www.lisastravelguides.com, your local bookshop or on Amazon.com). The Palio is the culmination of a series of historical activities over a 4 day period filled with much more pageantry and history-in-the-making than can be covered in a simple blog post. Enjoy! @paliodisiena #palio @EnjoySiena #Tuscany #Siena

horses and fantinos

While many folkloric traditions continue as a draw for both tradition and tourism, the Palio of Siena is by the Senese for the Senese. The Palio is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, but on the minds of every resident each day of the year. There are seventeen contrade (districts) and each is a community within a community of extended family with its own leaders, headquarters, flags, colors, museums, churches, patron saints, allies and sworn enemies. The seventeen contrade are named Caterpiller, Conch Shell, Dragon, Elephant, Forest, Giraffe, Noble Goose, Leopard, Owl, Panther, Porcupine, Ram, She Wolf, Snail, Tortoise, Tower, Unicorn and Wave.

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Each contrada fields a fantino (jockey) and a horse for the race. Since space is limited and the course dangerous, only ten horses and fantini run each race. The contrade selected to run will always be the seven that did not race the previous Palio and three additional selected through a lottery. They race to win the Palio, the unique, silken banner created for each race. (Note: contrade is the plural for contrada in Italian)

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One month before each race the lots are drawn for which contrade will race. The week before the race, soil is brought in from the countryside to lay the dirt track over the cobblestones around Piazza del Campo. The main festivities start three days before each Palio when the horses for each contrada are selected; it is not until then that the contrade and fantinos know which horse their jockey will ride. The process looks a lot like bingo and kicks off the next part of the Palio precursor, strategy.

After it is known which horse each fantino will ride, the representatives for the contrada begin negotiating with each other. Horses and their jockeys are guarded by several members of the contrada to avoid foul play and contact with other contrade. Participating contrade will even go as far as paying another contrada to defeat its sworn enemy; some will try to bribe the jockeys. The days that follow include trial runs in the piazza, drummers, and flag bearers practicing and parading in the streets. The night before, hundreds of people sit at tables that seem to stretch on for miles in each contrada for dinner. Everyone is wearing their colors and passionately shouting the fight songs of their contrada.

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On the day of the race, each horse is taken into the church of its respective contrada, sprinkled with holy water and blessed. About mid-afternoon a procession lasting several hours winds its way through the city and into Piazza del Campo. About 60,000 people are in the Campo waiting for the horse race to begin. The starting lineup is selected, they lineup at the starting line and once there are no false starts, they race to the finish whipping each other and their horses in an effort to gain position. The jockeys ride bareback through the dangerous course, which lasts about ninety seconds. It’s the only horserace in the world where the horse wins the race, whether the rider is still on it or not. In the end, everyone celebrates except the team that comes in second, they turn out their lights and become the quietest corner of the city.

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The August race is the most important but no less anxiety-ridden than the July one and just as exciting for anyone lucky enough to attend. Tickets can be hard to come by so plan well in advance or arrive very early to claim a spot inside the interior (where there are no facilities provided). If you arrive in Italy prior to the July Palio, you should also look into attending Calcio Storico Fiorentino in Florence held about eight days prior.

If you are interested in streaming the Palio live, this is a link to Siena TV (cell phone signals appear to be blocked during the events in Piazza del Campo). The race is scheduled to start at 7:20 PM local time (London 6:20 PM, 1:20 PM in New York, 12:20 PM in Chicago, 11:20 AM in Denver & 10:20 AM in Los Angeles). The start time is sometimes delayed due to the heat, the historical processions and the time it takes to line up the horses (quite difficult with no stalls).  Siena TV linkSiena TV link

IN THE KNOW

  • if you are seriously thinking about attending NEXT year in July or August, reserve a room or apartment ASAP if you want to stay within Siena and/or consider a package through an event operator
  • Ask your host about tickets (the inner circle is free, but seats in stands or in the windows of private homes must be reserved)
  • If you decide to watch from the inner circle, get there four hours ahead to stake your claim (about 3 PM)
  • There are no facilities provided at the free inside ring of Piazza del Campo; plan ahead for bathrooms, water and sunscreen since you will be there for several hours

FOUR DAY SCHEDULE OF THE PALIO  Italian*  English

FURTHER READING & VIEWING

Feature Length Documentary: PALIO (2015)

Palio History: PALIO by John Hunt (several books available on the history of the event and the contrade)

Historical Fiction: The Shepherdess of Siena by Linda Lafferty

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  at Lisa’s Travel Guides

PHOTO CREDITS

Palio Horses & Fantinos: Janus Kinase via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Palio Horses in Action g.sighele via Foter.com / CC BY

Carrabinieri Charging on Horseback g.sighele via Scandinavian / CC BY

All other photos by Lisa M. Vogele

* use google translate, websters.com or another translation assistance site

 

 

Cordoba’s Colorful Battle of the Flowers

IMG_2099[1]The last weekend of April each year, Cordoba rings in the spring by throwing thousands of carnations in a spirited procession known as the Battle of the Flowers. At high noon, a cannon sounds as 20 floats decorated in colorful paper flowers are led by a local band, parading down the Paseo de la Victoria in Cordoba, Spain.

IMG_2110[1]The participants on the floats hurl carnation flower heads at the spectators stacked several deep lining the sides of the wide boulevard. The colorful “Battle” ensues and the spectators return the flowery shots back at the floats. The “Battle” started in 1940 but has been taking place consistently since sometime in the 1980’s.

INFORMATION

Tourism Cordoba Website

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: Lisa M. Vogele

 

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

 

Savory Salame & Gnocco Fritto Fantasy

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Gnocco Fritto with Salame and Lard Appetizers

Gnoccho, Salame e Fantasia” is a savory food feast dedicated to the gastronomic delight of salame on gnocco fritto (batter fried into a cracker). Rubiera hosts this food event as part of their December-long calendar of holiday events. When you see the word Gnocco your mind may travel immediately to gnocchi, the potato filled pasta. However, what we are talking about here is Gnocco Fritto, a crispy, fried dough in the shape of a cracker or pillow served as an appetizer with meats or lard. It has different names with slight recipe variations throughout the region: Gnoccho Fritto in Rubiera, Pinzino in Ferrara, and Chisolino near Piacenza. Flour, bacon fat or oil, milk, water, yeast and salt are mixed together to form a dough that rises over time. It is then rolled into a sheet, cut into triangles and rectangles and boiled in lard. The results are small pillows or crispy, cake-like crackers.

 

Rubiera is a town set in the countryside of the Emilia province of Emilia-Romagna with beautiful, portico-lined streets. Its original name was Corte de Herberia translated as “in the middle of the plain” in Celtic. Located along the ancient Via Emilia, it is about 30 miles northwest of the University city of Bologna. The Via Emilia is an ancient Roman trade route running from Piacenza to Rimini on the Adriatic Coast, where in ancient times, it connected to the Via Flaminia route to Rome.

Rubiera can easily be reached by car off of the A1 motorway that runs between Parma and Bologna off the Modena Nord exit. Consider visiting some nearby balsamic vinegar producers or visiting the Ferrari Museum in Maranello.

LINKS

Gnoccho, Salame e Fantasia Event Link

Rubiera, Reggio Emilia, Emilia Romagna Region on the map

Emilia Romagna Tourism site

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 and “Fun with Food & Festivals” Tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

Gnocco Fritto with Salame and Lard Appetizers   artnbarb via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Rubiera Porticos   Turismo Emilia Romagna via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Rubiera Street  Turismo Emilia Romagna via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Gnocco Fritto, Salame & Wine   thepinkpeppercorn via Foter.com / CC BY

Gnocco Fritto, Salame & Olive Oil   hotelrealfini via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Forte di Rubiera   By I Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

Piazza Padella, Rubiera   I Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

 #Rubiera #TurismoEmiliaRomagna @ComuneRubiera @turismoER

 

Dreaming of a Trip to Italy? Virtual Bookstore SALE & Signing – Order Now!

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Know anyone dreaming about a trip to Italy? Or perhaps you know someone that has been to Italy before but wants to experience something local and different?  Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals makes a great gift, stocking stuffer or addition to your travel bookshelf.

To celebrate the first anniversary of my Lisa Love’s to Travel blog, I’m having an online book signing event now through the end of December, 2016. All copies will be personally signed and shipped* at reduced prices in an all-inclusive flat rate.

One for $11   OR    Three for $22 (Buy 2 get 1 Free) 

Buy two for friends and get one free for yourself!

Click Here for Online Sale Details

*shipping to continental US destinations only via USPS media mail

Honey in the Italian Mountains

While other towns and regions are busy with their fall chestnut, apple, and truffle festivals, the community of Chatillon in the Val d’ Aosta Region of Italy is celebrating honey in all its sticky sweetness. Stands featuring local honey, honey products, and a honey competition highlight the event. The festival began on Thursday and runs through Sunday, October 29th. Tonight features a Castle of Honey tour in the Castello Gamba with food & wine tastings and a fundraiser for Italian earthquake victims. Tomorrow at 11:00 AM you can enjoy a local parade and at 2:00 PM enjoy a walking tour that combines town history and local honey.

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Castello di Ussel, Chatillon, Val d’Aosta, Italy

Chatillon is a town located just east of Aosta in the Val d’Aosta province, near the Italian border with Switzerland and the famous Matterhorn peak. The Castello di Ussel was built in 1350 and dominates the skyline. Once you’ve enjoyed your fill of honey, head over to the nearby spa town of Saint-Vincent for some rest and relaxation.

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INFORMATION

Honey Festival Info at Official Val d’Aosta Tourism Site

Comune di Chatillon

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 and “Fun with Food & Festivals” Tours at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

Castello di Ussel in Chatillon   Jelle Drok via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Church View Chatillon   Sergio & Gabriella via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Shades of Honey   http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Dripping Honey   https://www.flickr.com/photos/hillarystein/2751693052/

#explorevalledaosta #valledaosta #chatillon #italia #italy

@AostaValley @ValledAosta @Italia

The Chestnut Train to Marradi

 

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Arriving in Marradi

Marradi is a small village of 3,500 located 28 miles northeast of Florence and quite near the Tuscan border with the Emilia-Romagna region. Several trains will transport you to the Sagra delle Castagne (Chestnut Festival) in Marradi over four Sundays in October. Trenitalia runs additional trains from Florence (Firenze) on these Sundays and a special, historic steam locomotive runs (treni a vapori) from select cities on different Sundays.

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Chestnut Festival in Marradi

The festival has activities spread throughout the town in seven different locations. There are stands selling different types of delicious pasta, food, cakes and jams made with chestnuts and chestnut products.  This year, the post office has commissioned a special cancellation stamp for everything mailed from Marradi during the festival period. So if you decide to give this festival a try, bring your postcards to mail for an extra special touch.

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Roasting Chestnuts

Free from the tourist crush of nearby Florence, the Mugello region is north of Florence and was first settled by a Ligurian tribe named Magelli, hence the name Mugello.  The countryside is a lush valley of rolling hills and home to many Villas, including Villa Demidoff in Vaglia, Palazzo dei Vicari in Scarperia and the two historic Medici Villas: Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo in Barberino di Mugello and Villa Medicea del Trebbio near San Piero a Sieve.

INFORMATION

Marradi Pro Loco Event Information

Strada del Marrone

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 at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

Roasting Chestnuts  Adolfo Monti via Foter.com / CC BY

Arriving in Marradi   Antonio Martinetti via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Chestnut Festival in Marradi   NeeextVJ via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Chestnuts in Boxes   Zebra48bo via Wikimedia Commons
Chestnut Products   Zebra48bo via Wikimedia Commons
@visitmugello

August Festivals in Ascoli Piceno

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Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche, Italy

August is full of food and folklore festival opportunities throughout Italy. In Le Marche region of Italy, Ascoli Piceno is home to two festivals highlighted in today’s blog: Quintana di Ascoli Piceno and Ascoliva. Ascoli Piceno is surrounded on three sides by mountains and sits on a landscape where two rivers meet at the southernmost part of the region. The town’s historical center is built of travertine marble from the nearby mountains.

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Mountains over Ascoli Piceno

QUINTANA di ASCOLI PICENO – Medieval Tournament & Fun – August 7, 2016

The Quintana di Ascoli Piceno includes two Quintanas (tournaments) taking place on the 9th of July and concluding tomorrow on August 7th with various other medieval-related events in between. Tomorrow’s final event is preceded by the Saint Emidio historical parade beginning at 2:30 PM with over 1,500 costumed participants from the town’s six districts. The Quintana follows at 3:30 PM when the districts will compete for the coveted palio (victory banner). A knight from each district tries to hit and destroy an effigy of an enemy warrior using a jousting lance.

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Flagthrowers in Piazza Arringo, Ascoli Piceno

ASCOLIVA – Stuffed Ascolana Olives Festival – August 10-21, 2016

Ascoli Piceno is the self-proclaimed “world capital of olives.” Over twelve days of tastings and workshops in and around Piazza Arringo you can satisfy your olive cravings and sample 16 other dishes typical of Ascoli Piceno and the region. Olive all’Ascolana are the highlight of this food festival; they are stuffed, large olives that are breaded and deep fried.

 

#destinazionemarche   #QuintanaDiAscoli2016

MORE INFORMATION

Ascoliva – Stuffed Olives Festival

Quintana di Ascoli Piceno – Jousting/Medieval Festival

MAP: Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche, Italy

Le Marche Tourism Website

FOLLOW ON TWITTER

@MarcheTourism @iLoveMarche @Marche_Notizie @MarcheTourismN

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 at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno   modbob via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Mountains over Ascoli Piceno   Giorgio Tomassetti via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Flagthrowers in Piazza Arringo, Ascoli Piceno   Pietro Valocchi via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Fresh Ascolana Olives   Toprural via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Curing Ascolana Olives   eekim via Foter.com / CC BY

Olive all’Ascolana   Roxelo Babenco via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

A Magic Night of Clams!

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

Seafood festivals bring summer to life. The sand, the sea, the sunburn… The last Saturday in July the town of Cattolica struts their seafood stuff with their “Magic Night of Clams” festival. As an ardent spaghetti alle vongole eater, this festival caught my attention and made me hungry! Clams are served “a thousand ways” at the Port of Cattolica from about 8:30 PM – 10:30 PM accompanied by local wines and a display of the “longest fountain of the world”(a nighttime lights and water display by the local fishing boats).

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Clamming in the Sea

Cattolica is located along the Italian Adriatic coast on the southern tip of the Emilia Romagna region south of Rimini. On an original pilgrim route to Rome, fishing became a major industry in the late 1800’s and tourists have been drawn to it’s shores and beaches since the mid-1900s.

MORE INFORMATION

La Notte Magica delle Vongole

Google Maps Cattolica, Rimini, Emilia Romagna

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 at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

PHOTO CREDITS

Spaghetti alle Vongole   Richard, enjoy my life! via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Clamming in the Sea   Mario Fornasari via Foter.com / CC BY

Beaches of Cattolica, Italy   (left) schatz via Foter.com / CC BY-SA and (right) miguel.discart via Foter.com / CC BY-SA