Donít think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian spring vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, and sometimes sports. Italian spring holidays have several advantages: You wonít fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find, and every region has its own spring festivals. When we say spring, we mean March to May; spring comes early in much of Italy. Start organizing your Italian spring holidays now. Keep reading.
How do you like your polenta? At Piedmont spring festivals.
In the northeast corner of Italy youíll find the Piedmont region, home to many of Italyís finest wines. You can get an idea of its weather by considering that Piedmontís capital and largest city, Turin, hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. But towards the end of March or the beginning of April, spring should be knocking at the door.
We start our virtual spring tour of Piedmont at the village Monastero Bormida, population 1000, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Turin. In early March they have a Polenta (cornbread) festival to honor the openhanded Marchese Rovere who provided polenta and frittata (omelets) to ravenous coppersmiths who were trapped by a sudden snowstorm. Now, over 180 years later, the village celebrates with a huge onion frittata, polenta, and salami cooked and served in the town square, accompanied by a band and allegorical floats. On the Sunday closest to March 19th the town of Castiglione d'Asti, population 6000 some 8 miles (13 kilometers) south of Asti commemorates the signing of a peace treaty between city nobles and the Church in the year 1200. Some forty traditionally dressed townsfolk on foot and on horseback replay the signing ceremony with medieval music plays on antique instruments. This ceremony is enhanced by white chestnut cakes and hazelnut cakes soaked in Barbera wine. Talking about fine Piedmont wine, the village of Quaranti, population 200, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Turin holds a Chickpea and Barbera Festival on the 3rd Sunday of the month. As far as Iím concerned they can hold the chickpeas and bring on the Barbera wine.
Alessandria, Piedmont. All this and a Roman Fest.
Polenta festivals seem to be the order of the day in this part of the world. In the third week of April the village of Bubbio, population less than 1000, some 40 miles (sixty kilometers) southeast of Turin holds a Polenta festival involving more than 1300 pounds (600 kilograms) of free polenta plus sausages, onion omelets and local wine. Some of the polenta contains gold items and itís finders keepers. Even if you donít find any gold in your cornbread you may still enjoy the medieval costume parade. The Ponti Polenta Festival held in a village of 700 about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Turin also involves hungry coppersmiths and a generous Marquis. This time thereís a giant copper pot and the omelet contains fish.
Towards the middle of May the city of Asti, population 75 thousand located some 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Turin hosts Ancient Popular Games pitting one neighborhood against another. The month ends with the Sagra dell'Asparago Verde (Green Asparagus Festival) in the village of Valmacca, population 1000, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) east of Turin. You havenít eaten asparagus until you come to this festival. Enjoy the live music, the other activities, and even a dry Italian white wine to accompany the asparago.
For a change of pace attend the ďRoman FestĒ in the city of Alessandria, population 90 thousand about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southeast of Turin. This includes a ďSlave AuctionĒ, gladiator combats, and a chariot race, festive meals, and activities for children. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Piedmont or other Italian wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Spring events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in Piedmont