PALIO – The Famous Horse Race of Siena

Since I am currently in Italy enjoying the festivities surrounding the Palio and attending the event on July 2nd, enjoy this excerpt from my book Food and Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals (currently available through 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

horses and fantinos
Palio Horses and Fantini (Jockeys)

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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Cena Provale Generale – The Prova Generale Dinner with Contrada della Torre last night
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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Piazza del Campo – Anticipating the Provale – The test the night before the Palio
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.

Children from each Contrada in the race singing their fight songs before the Prova Generale last night (the second to last test before the race)

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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The carabinieri on horse back charge with sabres prior to the Prova Generale

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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Palio Horses in Action

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.

 

Jockeys (Fantini) and horses leaving Piazza del Campo this morning after the Provaccia,  the final test run, before tonight’s Palio at about 7:20 PM local time (1:20 PM ET)

LIVE

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

 

 

These aren’t your father’s anchovies!

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Fried Seafood in a Cone from Take Away Friggatoria il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore

Every third Saturday in June is the Sagra dell’Acciuga Fritta in Monterosso al Mare, Liguria. Yesterday was the scheduled event, however due to bad weather and lack of fish, it was postponed. Bad news for locals and travelers who were hoping to attend, but mother nature could be working in my favor since I will be there next weekend and I am hoping to “catch it.”13307192_653649474786560_6643499018188605037_n

If you’ve grown up in the United States, like I have, your idea of anchovies is a bunch of salty, smelly fish packed in oil and stored for god knows how long. They come on top of your pizza or caesar salad and that’s about the only time you see them. On the Ligurian coast of Tuscany, anchovies are a whole lot different. I discovered this last year when I participated in the Mangialonga Levanto with friends Ann & Robin. Anchovies were one of the menu items and it was the food I thought I would like the least, but much to my surprise, enjoyed the most! They are served a variety of different ways but the local friggatorie shops make enjoying them a quick and easy meal mixed with other seafood and french fries.

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Take Away Il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore

Monterosso al Mare is part of the chain of five, seaside villages known as the “Cinque Terre.” Located in the Italian province of Liguria, the population of the Cinque Terre swells in the summer when tourists from all over the globe come to view it’s charming villages and natural beauty. Liguria boast 25 “blue flag” beaches (blue flags are used to designate a high quality, clean sea). The Ligurian coasts is dotted with many seaside villages accessible by train or car and also home to the area known as the Italian Riviera.

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Sharing Seafood and Wine with Friends

Excellent “Take away” Friggatorie (fried food shops)dot the Ligurian Coast and serve freshly caught and fried seafood in a cone. Go on, give ’em a try; these aren’t your fathers anchovies!

Check Pro Loco Monterosso Facebook for updates on the rescheduling of the festival.

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:

All Photos by Robin Russo

Il Pescato Cucinato – Via Colombo 199
19017 Riomaggiore, Province of La Spezia
Italy

Amalfi Hosts Historical Regatta this Weekend

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The Regatta when held along the banks of the Arno in Florence

This Sunday June 12th will be the 61st Regatta of the maritime Republics (la Regata delle Repubbliche Marinare). Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice compete each year to win the gold and silver trophy made by the Goldsmith School in Florence (Scuola Orafa Fiorentina). The regatta rotates between each of the four ancient maritime powerhouse cities, with Amalfi hosting in 2016.

Venice has dominated in the most recent competitions, winning the last three years in a row. Venice also won the first one in 1956 in Pisa. The race consists of one team from each city with eight rowers and a coxswain. Half of the eight person team must be residents of the city they represent and the other half must be residents of the province in which the city is located. They race along the Tyrhennian coastline for two kilometers to the finish line. The Tyrhennian Sea is the area of the Mediterranean along the west coast of Italy.

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The Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi

A parade through Amalfi including each team will precede the race event. The parade includes a group from each city with medieval-clad flag bearers, noblemen, commoners, drummers, and of course, the rowers. The beautiful Amalfi Coast is a popular tourist destination in the Campania region of Italy that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and classified as a cultural landscape.

Lisa M. Vogele is the author of Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals; available now through your local bookstore or amazon.com (Amazon Link to Book).  More information on Lisa and the book can be found at Lisa’s Travel Guides.

Photo credits:

The Race in Florence: https://www.flickr.com/photos/efandorin/3593288188/
The Banner of la Regata delle Repubbliche Marinare: ell brown via Foter.com / CC BY
The Woman in Black: https://www.flickr.com/photos/efandorin/3593298066/
The Woman with Flowers: https://flic.kr/p/6twpiQ
The Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi: jimmyharris via Foter.com / CC BY

FOOD & FOLKLORE Now Available!

I am very happy to announce that the first book in the Food & Folklore series is now available in paperback on Amazon.com. A kindle version will be available shortly.

Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals is available by ordering through amazon.com.  Click here to buy it on Amazon.com nowA great buy if you are planning a trip to Italy or as a gift for someone else who is. $9.95 + applicable taxes and shipping.Food & Folklore   A Year of Italian Festivals (Front Cover)

Food & Folklore:   A Year of Italian Festivals

This fun travel reference guide helps travelers incorporate local Italian food & folklore festivals into their trip planning and enjoy local, authentic experiences. Whether you have traveled to Italy before or looking forward to your first trip, this guide will make you positively hungry for Italy!

A listing of over 450 festivals focusing on local foods and historical folklore is provided as a starting point to a local adventure. Learn some fun facts about each region of Italy, how to effectively search for festivals, tips for attending festivals and a highlighted festival for each region. A simple glossary of keywords and a cross reference index of food festivals are included.

The Lisa’s Travel Guides website is up and running as the home for publications and events. I will continue to write Lisa Love’s to Travel (almost) weekly as the companion blog to the travel guides filled with fun festival ideas. If you’d like join the mailing list for announcements of events and future publications you can sign up HERE, follow me on twitter @travelwithlisa or watch my blog!

Enjoy!

Lisa’s Travel Guides

Order Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals on Amazon.com

 

A Different Kind of Food & Wine: The Mangialonga Levanto

VOGELE Approaching Legnaro

Last year was the 33rd year of Aspen Food & Wine; for Levanto’s Mangialonga it was a 20th anniversary. Aspen’s Food & Wine is attended by 5,000 foodies from around the world and celebrity chefs. Levanto had one day of 1,200 hikers, a lot of Nonna’s in the kitchen, and local Ligurians enjoying food, hiking and occasional dancing with friends, family and strangers.

Levanto is a gateway to the Cinque Terre, Italy’s famed five towns clinging to the cliffs and coastline in the Liguria Region. It’s the first train stop just north of the Cinque Terre, has a larger town center and feels a little less touristy. Like its Cinque Terre neighbors, it’s both a coastal resort town and great base for hiking. It boasts a large beach you can surf at, is surrounded by 16 medieval villages and plenty of trails for exploring.

I found the Mangialonga Levanto while researching festivals and planning a trip with my friends Ann & Robin. When traveling I like activities that are a bit off the beaten track providing a deeper cultural and local food experience. I suggested we participate in this festival, they agreed it was not to be missed and a great way to cap off our 10 days in Italy. We bought our tickets the first day they went on sale and two months later we were in the second group departing Piazza Cavour donning our official blue handkerchiefs while heading for the hills to begin our food & wine odyssey.

The groups were spread 20 minutes apart but by the second and third stops they had blended in a slow-motion trek through the valley above Levanto. The brochure published by Consorzio Ochhio Blu listed the official distance of the trek at approximately 15 km. The well-marked path was strung together by a combination of local roads, cobblestone streets and lush wooded paths filled with wildflowers and even wild asparagus. We walked through lemon trees, olive groves and grape vines; past donkeys, gardens and a farmer hard at work. Every turn of the path revealed a different, beautiful vista of the sea, charming villages and verdant hillsides.

VOGELE Legnaro to San Bartolomeo2Each May this festival alternates between 2 paths connecting different combinations of 16 medieval village communities. The menu is published several weeks ahead of time, each village offering one part of the 9-courses served by locals. The anchovy soup was the biggest surprise; it was a thick combination of anchovies, tomatoes, olive oil and fresh herbs. As tasty as the soup was, the ravioli with meat sauce and stuffed lettuce leaves tied for my first place vote. We also enjoyed the other offerings of focaccia with sage, bread with minced lard, chickpea fritters (all agreed the best we had during our stay on the Ligurian coast), fava beans with salame and castagnaccio (a very dense and not particularly sweet chestnut desert).

VOGELE Stuffed lettuce leaves in PastineDJ’s and singers accompanied the food at each stop spinning everything from the 70’s hit “Gloria” to current favorites like PitBull and traditional folk tunes. In total we visited 8 villages working our way back to the Levanto grand finale complete with espresso, cookies, liqueur and a DJ to bring the party full circle into the night. The walk was estimated to take 3.5 hours of actual hiking time; with additional time to eat, drink, enjoy the music and great people watching it took us 5.5 hours start to finish and was well worth the effort.

VOGELE Ravioli with Meat Sauce LegnaroSometimes called Mangialunga (Long Eat), sometimes Mangialonga, it’s a bit like “tomayto” or “tomahto”. Both are correct. Levanto isn’t the only town in Italy to host an event like this, or Europe for that matter. Similar Italian events occur in La Morra, Val Graveglia, Recco, Fivizzano, Badia Prataglia and Paspardo each year. Mendrisio, Switzerland hosts both a spring and winter version. Walking wine and food events in the United States include the “Tahoe City Wine Walk” (California), “Food & Wine Walk of Red Bank” (New Jersey) and “Vintage Redlands” (California); each offering a more flat, condensed version.

Though a newcomer to this type of event, it won’t be my last. Food. Wine. Hiking. It’s the Mind Body Spirit ideal of Aspen & life balance exemplified.

Visit Levanto: Visit Levanto Tourism Site

Mangialonga Information: Consorzio Occhioblu

(Tickets go on sale approximately two months before the event)

Four Fabulous Food & Folklore Festivals

P1030040You have your pick of festivals to attend this weekend in Italy: lemons or fish on the Ligurian coast, rowing in Venice or running in Gubbio. Rather than choose between them, I decided to give you a taste of each.

This Saturday, food is the focus on the Ligurian coast. Monterosso al Mare is the northern most stop of the Cinque Terre (five lands) full of picturesque pastel-colored houses along the Mediterranean coastline.  The Festa del Limone in Monterosso highlights the lemon in food offered by vendors throughout the old town. Each year a special gastronomic walking tour is also offered and you can eat your way through each course at different stops in the old and new town, including a visit to a fragrant lemon vineyard. There is yellow everywhere as residents compete with elaborate window displays using lemons, children run lemonade stands, folk musicians stroll and street food to eat, including some awfully yummy porchetta! My friend Robin and I took the tour last year and weren’t disappointed in the quality of food or atmosphere; our group was expertly lead by Kate Little of Little Paradiso Tours and the plucky Valentina (the namesake of Villa Valentina in Levanto, a high-end B&B).

Also this Saturday, The Sagra del Pesce in Camogli has been held since 1952 and is a highly anticipated event. A huge quantity of fish is fried in a gigantic frying pan then shared with locals and visitors. The locals hope it will bring the generosity of the sea to the local fisherman. Retired frying pans are kept and displayed on a wall near the harbor.

Every May 15th since the year 1160, the City of Gubbio, deep in the green valleys of Umbria, holds the Corsa dei Ceri. Three guilds challenge each other to carrying three towering candlesticks, each weighing in the 800 pound range, on their shoulders up to the basilica of Sant’Ubaldo.  There are events for several days leading up to this grand finale.

7300023284_f1b26f15e5_bVogalonga literally means “Long Row”.  It’s a boat race from Piazza San Marco to Burano and back (20 miles/32 km roundtrip). Hundreds of boats take part with many participants in historical costumes. It is held each May 15th and this year is its 42nd celebration.

 

Pro Loco Monterosso (office at ground level of train station – tickets for gastronomic walking tour)

Kate Little of Little Paradiso Sommelier & Tour Guide

Villa Valentina in Levanto

Vogalonga Official Information

Corsa dei Ceri Information

Photo Credits:
Monterosso al Mare Festa del Limone all photos Lisa M. Vogele & Robin Russo
Retired frying pans of Sagra del Pesce: Jukk_a via Foter.com / CC BY
Fisherman in Camogli, Liguria:  Sangre-La.com via Foter.com / CC BY
Harbor of Camogli at Sunset: Sangre-La.com via Foter.com / CC BY
Corsa dei Ceri, Gubbio, Umbria: GregTheBusker via Foter.com / CC BY
Vogalonga, Venice, Veneto Participants: Old Fogey 1942 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Vogalonga on the Grand Canal, Venice: dalbera via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

Serremaggio in Tuscany

Last year I attended the Serremaggio festival held in Serre Di Rapolano, Tuscany with my friends Ann and Robin. This annual festival transports Serre back in time to its medieval roots.  Processions in historic costumes, a medieval marketplace, traditional food and falconry all set the stage as a 14th century recreation of village life. There are food stalls and entertainment in each neighborhood of the village, excellent dinners are held in historic structures and musicians blowing horns and beating drums into the night.

We attended the “Cena Povera” on the last night of the festival.  A delicious buffet of traditional food at more than reasonable prices, served in the Antico Granaio (antique grain storage warehouse) and we even got to keep the pottery dinner was served in.  While enjoying our candlelit meal in this unique setting, we were serenaded by the musicians as a procession literally circled the hall while we were eating.

Located in central Tuscany at the intersection of Siena, Chianti, Arezzo and Montepluciano, Serre di Rapolano is a small village full of charm and history.  While not as famous as its spa-town neighbor Terme di Rapolano, Serre is set on a hilltop with amazing views, basic necessities and can serve as a great home base for exploring the local area.

Serremaggio Event Information

Serre di Rapolano, Tuscany Map

Photo Credits: All Photos by Lisa M. Vogele

gelato! Gelato! GELATO!

If you missed out on Rome’s big birthday bash yesterday, never fear, Gelato is here!  What a more perfect way to ring in spring than a stroll through Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence with a gelato in hand.  This weekend is the start of the traveling Gelato Festival.  Held at various locations throughout Italy and Europe, it’s a must-do for iced treat aficionados.  The festival kicks off this weekend in Florence and then has stops in: Parma, Rome, Naples, Turin, Milan, London, Berlin and Valencia before returning to Florence in September.

Have you always wondered what the difference is between gelato and ice cream? In general, gelato is lower in fat, lower in calories and contains less air than ice cream. The reduction of air gives it a dense, creamy goodness that makes you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. The sugar content is higher than typical ice cream, one of the keys that keep it from freezing solid.  If you’re serious about gelato and would like to open your own shop, you can attend Gelato University at the Carpigiani Gelato University and museum in Bologna, Italy to get your basics down.  Serious about gelato, but not that serious, Carpigiani’s flagship store is located just outside their administrative offices and museum where you can sample a variety of flavors served up by students attending the Gelato University.  Carpigiani has also started offering week-long courses in the United States; check out the link below for their calendar and course offerings.

Can’t make it to Europe? You are in luck! A Gelato World Tour is coming to Chicago, Illinois Memorial Day Weekend.  Sixteen artisanal gelato competitors will be competing for the North American Gelato Title at Millenium Park May 27-May 29.  This is both an industry and public event where hands-on workshops will be offered.  Three finalists will also travel to Rimini in 2017 to compete for “Worlds Best Flavor”. There will also be a West Coast stop in September, location and dates are to be announced.  Follow the links below for information and logistics to attend these two tasty events.

Gelato Festival (Florence, Italy & Europe)

Carpigiani Gelato University

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Gelato World Tour (including Chicago)

Photo Credits
Gelato with Wafer: Bekathwia via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Two Cups of Gelato: B.Positive.2014 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Gelato Cone: erickgonzalez50 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
 Piazzale Michelangelo Florence View Photos (all): Lisa M. Vogele
Carpigiani Gelato Musum, Tour & Flagship Store: Aidan M. Vogele, Mark R. Vogele & Lisa M. Vogele

Nine Days of Wild Boar!

Certaldo is the epicenter for all things wild boar this weekend and next.  Cinghiale, or wild boar, is a traditional meat used in Tuscan cooking when it is not running wild and destroying the beautiful yards of villages.  This is a traditional feast offered with four courses for a fixed price.  Typical cinghiale dishes on the menu inclide: appetizers with wild boar salame; first courses of polenta, pappardelle pasta and fresh tortelli with wild boar sauce; second courses with wild boar steak or a wild boar and black olives.  Other traditional and vegetarian items are available for selection if cinghiale or meat are not preferred.  Side dishes include beans, salad or French fries.  The meal is finished with a sweet choice of cantuccini or gelato and topped off with a glass of local wine.

Certaldo is set about 35 miles southwest of Florence in the Tuscan countryside of Italy and is on the regional train line.  There are two parts to Certaldo: medieval Certaldo Alto (high) and modern Certaldo Basso (low); connected by a funicular.  The Sagra del Cinghiale Certaldo takes place on Viale Matteotti in Certaldo basso.  It starts Lunch is served at 12 noon on the weekends and dinner is at 8 pm every night of the festival at Certaldo also has a famous street art festival called Mercantia in July each year.

Cinghiale Indiano
Cinghiale

Map Location Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy

Saga del Cinghiale Certaldo

Pro Loco Certaldo

Photo Credits:

Road to Palazzo Pretorio, Certaldo bongo vongo via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Palazzo Pretorio (close-up) natureandevents via Foter.com / CC BY
Mercantia Celebration (July) Certaldo francesco sgroi via Foter.com / CC BY
Cinghiale Walter Saporiti via Foter.com / CC BY
Pici with Wild Boar Ragu Pug Girl via Foter.com / CC BY
Pappardelle al Cinghiale karen_neoh via Foter.com / CC BY