madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


from Umbria with chocolate

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashonable products

the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia is a good opportunity to sample new and fashionable products

Every year around this time, mid October, I get vaguely annoyed. First of all it gets cold and wet for the first time after months of wonderful weather. It’s still beautiful all around, but one needs to get used to the sweaters.

Then, like every October in the last 10 years,  Eurochocolate comes to Perugia and so the traffic and a million chocolate wrappers.

Eurochocolate is a large chocolate festival, sponsored by the big chocolate brands. It brings more than 100 thousand visitors to our small provincial capital. The locals lock themselves up for 2 week-ends. There is not point in getting squashed when one can buy (most of) the same stuff in the supermarket.

It’s better to visit during the week if one wants to get any close to the stands.

fine Venchi chocolate from Torino

faboulus Venchi chocolate from Torino

Those who love crowds can go in the weekend to see the making of the chocolate sculptures in Perugia’s main street Corso Vannucci. Large blocks of chocolate are carved by energetic artists and all the trimmings are given out for free to the onlookers (video).

Altrocioccolato, held in Gubbio is the cozy, fair-trade, green alternative to the monster kermesse. There’s lots of organic stuff, hand knitted socks, good music and free theatre for the kids. It’s even possible to find parking space. Really, it is very friendly.

no sponsors and genuine children entertrainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

no sponsors and genuine children entertainment at Altrocioccolato Festival in Gubbio

As for myself, if I need special chocolate, I can get it year around, I have friends. I go to Barbara in Santa Maria degli Angeli*  or to Elena in Palazzo**  where I can find a variety of artisan chocolate at reasonable prices. I like to support small companies. I like to get suggestions and a bite to taste in peace, no queuing up required.

I am grateful to someone who makes the effort to trace good genuine products, possibly from another small company, and hands it with a smile. They know I’ll be back tomorrow.

*Terra Umbra. Via Patrono d’Italia 10, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi
**Pasta fresca e non solo, 43, Viale Michelangelo Palazzo di Assisi


twenty four thousand sausages

Animal lovers have peculiar behaviors sometimes.  Like, for example, eating 24000 sausages in one day.

On the third week-end of January the village of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi celebrates the feast of Saint Anthony Abbot . The Egyptian hermit is the patron  of domestic animals, especially pigs, as well as of butchers.  He has been invoked by farmers against a number of diseases including pestilence, herpes and , of course, various skin rashes.

Our local celebration originates from somewhere  in the XIX century when the end of a pestilence  decimating the village’s horses was attributed to a miracle of the  Saint. From that time on, the people of Santa Maria degli Angeli commemorates the miracle with a procession, the distribution of  the Piatto di Sant’Antonio (see below) and the blessing of domestic animals.

This year's

This year's proession was proudly preceeded by the Carabinieri cavalrly

People comes to watch the procession and to bring their pets for the blessing.  Pets are clad in  red to honor the Saint.

pets on the way to blessing

Pets on the way to be blessed

Animal lovers find all sorts of implements to carry their pet s.

a rabbit trolley, dog and rabbit pouches

A rabbit trolley, dog and rabbit pouches

Some are impeccably dressed.

dressed up for the eventDressed up for the event
The celebration is organized by a group of local men, the Priors, who carry the Statue of Saint Anthony during the procession.

The Procession of saint Anthony, his statue is carried by the Priors

The Procession of Saint Anthony, his statue is carried by the Priors

In addition, the Priors collect funds so that virtually everybody in the village can afford to go out and eat the “Piatto di Sant’ Antonio” a plate with pasta, meat and fruits that was originally distributed to the poor.  The plate is a carnivore feast including by regulation 4 pork sausages , two slices of roast and 2 meatballs.

So, with approx. 6000 participants, the local butchers have had enough work. The pets have been dressed up and blessed.  As in the best Italian tradition, everybody went home well fed and happy. Well,  may be not the pigs, but at least thay have been put out of their misery.


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