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 Festivalsmakes a great gift, stocking stuffer or addition to your travel bookshelf.
To celebrate the first anniversary of myLisa Love’s to Travelblog, 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!
August 15th is the mid-August national holiday in Italy known as “Ferragosto.” Usually the start of a vacation, or at the very least, a long weekend for Italians, there are celebrations and feasts coinciding with this weekend throughout Italy. Many shops and restaurants shut down this time of year and tourists that have not done their research find a bit of a “ghost town” feel to both small towns and big cities. A tried and true food or folklore festival is a great way to enjoy the locals and eat some great food. Below is a list of some food & folklore events this holiday weekend ranging from small to large in different regions of the country.
SAGRA della PAPPARDELLA al CINGHIALE – Gemmano, Emilia Romagna – August 12-15
Just looking at this photo makes my tastebuds water for this food! Savory and filling, pappardelle pasta with wild boar sauce is the the honored food at this festival in Gemmano, south of Rimini and inland from the Adriatic coast of the Emilia Romagna region. The Onferno caves and nature reserve nearby attract spelunkers and hikers for trekking.
FESTA dei CANDELIERI – Sassari, Sardinia – August 14
The Festa dei Candelieri was imported to Sardinia by settlers from Pisa. It is over 500 years old and takes place on August 14th of each year. Music and drums can be heard in the streets in the days leading up to the festival. There are giant candles weighing over 800 pounds each from the ten trade guilds and offered to the Madonna in memory of her ending the plague in the city in 1652. The parade ceremony starts at 5 PM and the candles begin to dance through the town at 6 PM. They are transported by the guild members dancing them in the street beginning at Piazza Castello and ending at the Church of Santa Maria di Betlem.
FERRAGOSTO SANTANGIOLESE – Sant’Angelo, Molise – August 14-15
Games, entertainment and, of course, FOOD highlight each day of this event. Grilled meat on day one, Polenta in the Sant’Angelo style on day 2 and servings of the typical Sant’Angelo dish “sagne, fasciul e cotiche” (pasta with beans and pork).
Palio Horses and Fantinos (Jockeys)
THE PALIO OF SIENA – Siena, Tuscany – August 16
One of the most famous horse races in the world and the ONLY one where the horse can win riderless, the Palio of Siena doesn’t need an introduction. The Palio in Siena occurs twice a year, every July 2nd and August 16th in the Campo. The four days leading up to each palio are filled with horse selection, time trials and excitement in the contrade (neighborhoods). I attended the July Palio this year and was not disappointed with the days prior or the event itself. For further information on this race, including the video of my live facebook broadcast, check out my blog post Palio – The Famous Horse Race of Siena.
It’s a fun-filled day here in Florence with history, pageantry and spectacle! This morning started with the religious procession honoring St. John the Baptist. Beginning in Piazzetta di Parte Guelfa to the Duomo to pick up additional participants, then to Piazza Signoria by via Caiuroli. Part of the group entered the Palazzo Vecchio to pick up candles while the sbandieratori (flag-throwers) entertained the crowd with their skills outside. The Procession continued, tracing their steps back to the Duomo for the candle ceremony followed by Mass.
There’s another, larger parade this afternoon starting at 4pm at Piazza Santa Maria Novella and ending at Piazza Santa Croce. This parade includes the Calcio Storico Fiorentino (aka Florentine Football) players and is followed by the final match of 2016 at 5pm. While researching my book, Food and Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals, the American television shown 60 minutes on CBS featured a clip on this historical and brutal sport (scroll down for a link to the clip). It’s called Calcio, the Italian word for soccer, but is it really? It looks more like a mix of soccer, football, rugby and mixed martial arts slugged out on the sand-filled square of Piazza Santa Croce
Originating in the 16th century, it was once the sport of rich nobles who played every night between Epiphany and Lent. Official rules were drafted and recorded in a Florentine court in 1580 by Giovanni de’ Bardi. Team members from four quartiere (neighborhood) in Florence take this quite seriously. The neighborhoods and their colors are:
Blues (Azzurri) – Santa Croce
Rossi (Reds) – Santa Maria Novella
Whites (Bianchi) – Santo Spirito
Greens (Verdi) – San Giovanni
Twenty seven players on each team are half-clad in historical uniforms for the occasion. Each neighborhood is allowed to recruit players from outside the neighborhood and even outside of Italy. There are two semifinals played two weeks before the final on June 24th of each year, which coincides with St. John the Baptist day. Who plays who in the semifinals is decided Easter weekend when colored balls are drawn to determine the semi-final match ups. This year’s final (tonight) features the blues (azzurri) against the whites (bianchi). Tickets sold out in 10 minutes flat!
Hands and feet can be used, anything goes except sucker punches and ganging up on your opponent; strictly one on one combat – and if you are kicked out – no replacements are allowed, your team plays short of members. A goal (caccia) is scored by hurling the ball over the netting at each end of the sand playing field through a narrow opening guarded by 4 goal tenders. At the end of 50 minutes, the most goals wins! What does the winning team get for their blood, guts and glory? A palio (banner) and a free dinner; in the past it was a Chianina cow. There is no monetary compensation for the winners, only bragging rights for a year. The festivities will conclude this evening at 10 pm with a spectacular fireworks show over the Arno.
A film to be released on September 16, 2016 Lost in Florence (working title was The Tourist), featuring actor Brett Dalton of the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He plays a college football player who joins in on the action of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino and becomes embroiled in both love and love of the sport.
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 now. A 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
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!
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.
Nestled in the hills west of Sulmona in the Abruzzo region, Cocullo has a population of 250 on any given day. That number swells to thousands every May 1st when pilgrims from other provinces and people interested in this 985-year tradition converge on the village. The official name of the festival is the Festa dei Serpari di San Domenico (Festival of Snakes of San Domenico). Why snakes? San Domenico is honored for ridding the village of snakes in the 11th century and his statue, draped with these serpents, is paraded through the town for about 1.5 hours.
The snake handlers (serpari) start gathering them in March for the May celebration. The snakes used to be housed in clay pots but are now kept in wooden boxes and fed mice and hardboiled eggs in the days leading up to the festival. There are four types of non-venomous snakes used in the procession. The statue with the snakes and its escorts are accompanied by two women dressed in traditional costumes carrying breadbaskets on their head that contain five ciambellati. Ciambellati are local, sweet, round breads that have been blessed by the parish priest and given to the escorts carrying the statue in the procession.
Stands are set up around town to feed the thousands that have descended on the town for the spectacle. There is a fireworks display at the conclusion of the festival. Parking is quite difficult so expect to walk or be shuttled from wherever you park to the edge of town.
Since 1958 the last weekend in October is marked with pageantry, camaraderie, competition and food in the southern tuscan hilltown of Montalcino. I attended the Sagra del Tordo (Feast of the Thrush) in October, 2011 and was not disappointed. From the first drumroll and blasts of trumpets, through the parade of about 150 locals and the archery competition, there wasn’t a dull moment. It is evocative of hunting traditions of the past when hunters and falconers would go into the woods, bring back their spoils and everyone would feast, noblemen and commoners alike.
Surrounded by the golden, late fall sunshine and colorful leaves that mark autumn in this region we established our place on the parade route and watched as participants paraded through town making various stops along the way to the fortress. It was the first (and only) time I have ever been up close and personal with two ghostly Chianina bulls; they dwarfed me as they walked past pulling a cart, I don’t even think I came up to their shoulders! The Chianina produce the Bistecca Fiorentina, a massive steak served throughout the region and Italy.
Montalcino is split into four neighborhoods (quartiere) each with their own tribal colors: Borghetto (white and red), Pianello (white and blue), Ruga (yellow and blue) and Travaglio (yellow and red). During the celebration two archers from each quartiere compete in an archery competition. The losers suffer insults and jokes of the winning team for the next year. Each quartiere also has a food booth in the main park “Giardini Impero” outside of the Fortezza serving several courses of food; you can pick and choose what you buy from each and eat at the picnic tables provided. The food is great, inexpensive and best of all, local. Let’s not forget, this is the home of the famed Brunello di Montalcino, a hearty Tuscan red that’s produced with 100% sangiovese grapes. Try the wine at one of the food stands or venture into one of the many tasting rooms located around town and at the Fortezza.