If you want to discover more about Italian food and culinary traditions while touring the country, it is a good idea to try to find out if there are any sagre, or local festivals, on during your trip. These town fests often centre around a particular food, which is prepared in many ways for people to try. They are usually fun and lively events, and can also include sporting, musical, cultural and ceremonial aspects.
One of my favourites is the Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco, or Roman-style artichoke festival, which is held in Ladispoli on the western coast near Rome every year in April. In 2016 the dates are set for April 8-10. I went last year and had a memorable day tasting artichokes cooked in all kinds of ways: fried, with pasta, with lasagne, and many other alternatives.
My friend and I caught the regional train from Rome, which took about 40 minutes. On our way into town, we browsed stalls selling strawberries, asparagus, trinkets, household goods, and of course, mountains of artichokes.
We reached a large square, where a concert stage had been set up, and further stalls were selling fried food, roasted pork sandwiches, and strawberries and cream. In the middle of the square there was a display of sculptures made out of artichokes. Here is a butterfly:
In another square we found the main stands where food was being served. We had a large range of options to choose from, including artichoke lasagne, artichoke penne pasta, artichoke carpaccio and artichoke pizza.
We opted for two suppli riceballs with artichokes, the lasagne and the penne pasta, which were all delicious, accompanied by some sparkling red wine.
After lunch we wandered around a circle of stalls showcasing the best culinary products from each Italian region. At the Calabrian stall we had a look at the jars of various sauces.
We also particularly liked the stand from the northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, which we kept returning to for a top-up of prosecco.
Later when we felt like some dessert we tried a cannolo pastry from the Sicilian stall, and then some strawberries, chocolate and cream.
The Ladispoli beach was just a short distance away from the festival. We had a walk along the dark volcanic sand in the afternoon.
In the evening, we tried some fried artichokes, and sat outside a bar by the beach listening to house music. We were enjoying ourselves so much we forgot about the time until we realised we had to rush back to the station to catch our train to Rome. I’m sure you’d enjoy it too!