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.

IMG_0564[1]

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)

IMG_0526[1].JPG

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.

16832569663_b3f993fa74_b

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.

17452959451_8187af982d_b

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

 

 

Four Fun Ferragosto Weekend Festivals

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.

5670750879_a442cb8d18_b (2)
Pappardelle al Cinghiale

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.

Proloco Gemmano Event Information

1024px-Sassari_-_La_Discesa_dei_candelieri_(La_Faradda)_(2)
Festa dei Candelieri

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.

Festa dei Candelieri Information

13912307_1786710034897878_9060764367127498889_n

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).

horses-and-fantinos.jpg

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.

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

Papparedelle al Cinghiale roland via Foter.com / CC BY

Festa dei Candelieri Gianni Careddu on wikimedia commons

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

 

 

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.

IMG_0564[1]
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)

IMG_0526[1].JPG
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.

16832569663_b3f993fa74_b
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.

17452959451_8187af982d_b
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

 

 

In Florence Today! St. John & Historic Soccer

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

9076330480_79e2e2b777_zOriginating 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

9587293798_bc95cd98fb_bTwenty 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!

P1030452Hands 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.

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

IN THE NEWS

60 Minutes Video about the Calcio Storico Fiorentino

PHOTO CREDITS

All parade photos by Lisa M. Vogele
Calcio Players Romana Correale via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Calcio Field Piazza Santa Croce alexandraalisa 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

 

 

 

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.

2287716907_095df96a89_o
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

 

 

 

 

 

Four Weekends of Fun: Truffles in the Heart of Tuscany

Tagliatelle with Truffles
Tagliatelle Pasta with Shaved Truffles; [Photo credit: jit bag / Foter.com / CC BY]

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).

San Miniato Buildings
San Miniato Buildings
[Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/comunicati/8229802350/”>Michela Simoncini</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>]

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.

San Miniato Area Landscape
View of San Miniato Area Landscape
[Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/33725200@N00/5422357559/”>anniejay</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>]

 

San Miniato Information

45th San Miniato Truffle Fair Brochure

San Miniato Brochure

The Fabulous Feast of the Thrush – Montalcino, Italy

Photo Credit: ViaggioRoutard / Foter / CC BY
Trumpeter in Costume During the Parade Procession Sagra del Tordo, Montalcino – Photo Credit: <ahref=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/viaggioroutard/22289123532/”>ViaggioRoutard / Foter / CC BY

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.

Piazza del Popolo, Montalcino - Photo credit: yashima / Foter / CC BY-SA
Piazza del Popolo, Montalcino – Photo credit: yashima / Foter / CC BY-SA

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.

Chianina Cow & Calf - Photo credit: Monica / Foter / CC BY
Chianina Cow & Calf – Photo credit: Monica / Foter / CC BY

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.

Photo credit: mava / Foter / CC BY-SA
Fortezza, Montalcino – Photo credit: mava / Foter / CC BY-SA

Pro Loco Montalcino Tourism

Sagra del Tordo 2015 Full Itinerary