It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Marche region of Italy this weekend. The Italian medieval village of Candelara in Pesaro is bathed in candlelight 8 nights each November & December. “Candele a Candelara” (Candles to Candelara) is an Italian Christmas Market devoted to Candles. At 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM, all of the electric lights are turned off in the town and it is basked in the warm glow of candles for 15 minutes. 70 wooden houses line the streets and sell different, locally made goods and, of course, candles! There are candle-making demonstrations, jugglers, violinists and other live entertainment. Each year, their own Santa Claus band, made up of 35 musicians in Santa Claus costumes, leads a procession through the streets in honor of Santa Lucia (Santa Claus is Babbo Natale in Italian). Several restaurants also serve dinners by candlelight, to continue the festivities inside.
Candelara in Pesaro is only about 10 km from the Adriatic Coastline, in the northernmost part of the Marche region. It is an area of rolling hills that transition into the coastline and known for its terrific beaches. Candelara has several interesting churches and a castle dating back to 400 AD. If you are interested in learning more about Candelara in depth, Il Ponticello, a local tour company is offering a walking tour that begins and ends at the candle market celebrations, includes local highlights and even a wine tasting stop (see Il Ponticello below) for 15 Euro.
Street in Candelara
Santo Stefano in Candelara
“Candele a Candalara” takes place over eight days straddling the last weekend of November, and the first two weekends of December. The market is open from 10AM – 9PM on the following dates in 2016: NOV 26 & 27, DEC 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 & 11. Admission is 2.50 Euros for ages 13 and over (12 and under enter free).
Imola should be on your itinerary if you want an “off the beaten tourist track” location in the Emilia-Romagna region with good food and historical sites. Il Baccanal of Imola is a series of events within an event held throughout the month of November. Its name pays homage to Bacchus, the Roman name for the Greek god Dionysus for the grape harvest and wine. Each year there is a theme that runs through the exhibitions, wine tastings, olive oil tastings, cooking school, restaurant specials, and entertainment. This year the theme is “chicchi, grani e farine” (beans, grains, and flour). There is some type of eating, market or activity offered most days in November. This weekend the local olive oil is the focus; open from 9am – 7pm there is a local olive oil market with olive oil tastings and products.
Unless you are a Formula One or motorcycle racing fan, you may not have heard of Imola. Like many locations in Italy, Imola sits on the remains of an old Roman town. The duomo of Imola was originally erected in the 12th century and endured various renovations. It’s current facade dates to the 1850’s and inside it has a 16th-century baptismal font and 15th-century wooden crucifix above the altar. The Rocca Sforzesca (Sforza Castle) sits right in town and dates back to 1261. It is a very fine example of medieval and renaissance fortification-type architecture. in 1480 it was expanded by Girolamo Diario and his wife, the famous Caterina Sforza. In addition to walking through the castle itself, visitors can view the ceramics and weapons museums housed here.
Of course, if you ARE a Formula One racing fan, a visit to the Enzo & Dino Ferrari Autodrome is a must; in fact, for all car enthusiasts, it’s possible to take a few laps around the track in a Ferrari for 800+ Euro or attend the Lamborghini Academy on site. Whether its food, castles or cars that interest you, you can’t go wrong with Imola.
Sardinia has long been known for its extensive Mediterranean coastline of sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. In the summer, these beaches serve as an escape for the rich and famous, visitors and locals. But Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian) is more than just beaches. Like other parts of Italy, Sardinia is home to archaeology sites, fabulous sheep’s milk cheeses, and wine production.
Piazza Martiro in Milis
Villa Pernis in Milis
Milis is a village of less than 2,000 people on the Campidano plain, just inland from the west coast city of Oristano. This weekend, Milis is hosting a wine festival accompanied by the “Taste of Street Food” with stands of local foods offered at very reasonable prices. The “Rassegna Vini Novelli Sardegna” (Review of New Sardinian Wines) is an event that promises “a good opportunity to combine culture, wine, food and fun.”
One of my all-time favorite books about Italy and Italian cuisine is Fred Plotkin’s “Italy for the Gourmet Traveler” detailing specialty food, wine and fun facts about each region. It’s a must-have bookshelf item for every Italophile and foodie. Mr. Plotkin summarizes several wines/grapes in his chapter on Sardinia and recommends keeping in mind “Cannonau and Vermentino” when seeking out local vino to try. Go beyond the beach, and explore all Sardinia has to offer.
Brisighella is a beautiful town situated on a hillside about one hour southeast of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It hosts many wonderful food and folklore festivals throughout the year and in November there are four food festivals, one every Sunday to enjoy. These celebrations are collectively referred to as Quattro Sagre per Tre Colle (Four Feasts for Three Hills) referencing the hills that are part of the Brisighella landscape.
NOVEMBER 6 – SAGRA del PORCELLO – Festival of Pork Products
The market opens at 8:00 AM displaying a variety of products made with pork. Later int the morning, from 11:00 AM and until 8:00 PM, food stands serve up pork prepared in the local traditions of the Faenza Apennines (mountains). In Piazza Carducci, expert butchers will give two demonstrations (at 10:00 AM & 3:00 PM) on how to work with/butcher pork. There will be folk performers and games throughout the town during the day. Nine different restaurants are participating in the festivals via menus highlighting pork products.
NOVEMBER 13 – SAGRA della PERA VOLPINA e del FORMAGGIO STAGIONATO – Festival of Volpina Pears and Seasoned Cheese
This autumn fruit market highlights pears and cheese. Volpina pears are smaller, rounder and harder than the pears we are used to buying at our local supermarkets. They are boiled, cooked in wine, or baked before being eaten. FormaggioStagionato is a hard, aged pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese that is often enjoyed in combination with the pears.
NOVEMBER 20 – SAGRA del TARTUFO – Festival of the Truffle
Sua Maestà il Tartufo (His Majesty the Truffle) of both the black (nero) and white (bianco) varieties are showcased on Sunday, November 20th. Dishes are served up at both food stands and restaurants all around town with truffles as the highlight.
NOVEMBER 27 – SAGRA dell’ULIVO e dell’OLIO – Festival of Olive and Oil
There are two types of extra virgin olive oil manufactured in the Brisighella area: “Il Brisighello” and “La Brisighella“. The Brisighella product (ending in “A”) is a PDO Product (Protected Designation of Origin). PDO product designations guarantee the product was made in a certain geographic location and not falsely reproduced somewhere else. There are currently 138 DPO products from throughout Italy protected by this designation.
This is the second of four weekends of fun in San Miniato. During the “45th Mostra Mercato Nazionale Del Tartufo Bianco Di San Miniato”, you can sample food designed to highlight this expensive fungus. Shaved over pasta, infused in oil, truffled pecorino cheese, truffle tapenade; the variety of truffle products and dishes available practically ensures there’s a truffle in your future.
These precious white truffles command quite a price; approximately $1,200 per pound! They pack a punch of flavor in every bite and it doesn’t take much to flavor a dish. In addition to the restaurants and street food showcasing these tubers, there are cooking demonstrations, a market and parades (consult the program at the link below for schedule and locations).
Even if you aren’t a fan of these fabulous fungi, the drive to San Miniato is a scenic treat and convenient to other places you might like to visit. Sitting atop three hilltops of Tuscan fall splendor, San Miniato traces its origins back to the Paleolithic area. The Romans knew it as Quarto and has a strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes: Pisa to the West, Florence to the East, Lucca to the North and Siena to the South. The FONDAZIONE SAN MINIATO PROMOZIONE has produced and excellent brochure outlining the various attractions and highlights of San Miniato; a link is included below.