In Verona and its surroundings there are many local and seasonal events called Sagre di Paese. These Fairs or Festivals aim to celebrate typical local dishes and special gastronomic traditions from the local territory. The countryside of Verona is a very popular area for producing corn, rice and kiwi.
One of the most famous Fair, which takes place in late September for about 26 days of celebration, is called Sagra del Riso di Isola della Scala (Rice Fair in Isola della Scala). It began in 1966 from the farmer process ‘garzega‘ which is the moment when rice is cropped. This is not just a food event but it is also a celebration of local costumes, sports, shows and conferences; this is a real chance to be completely immersed in the local flavours of main rice dishes. In addition this event hosts an important exhibition with almost 150 Italian stands. But the unique experience is the moment you enter in the big shed, where you can taste the many variety of dishes, a very coulinary temptation. So why don’t you visit this local event like the locals? In addition what makes this Fair original is the fact that the rices are produced by family based businesses, who are involved in the all phases of the process, from coltivation, to crop to production and trade. But during this Fair you will not only find rice dishes or risotti, but also arancini, dolci or desserts, pizza made with rice and paella. This Fair is something you will never forget. You might be lucky to prepare risotto in one of our Cook Class Tour. Just ask the team for special request. For example rice called Vialone Nano is the typical one from the southern area of Verona; for this reason it has been denominated as I.G.P. Or Indication of Geographic Protected. You will certaintly try Risotto during our Cook Class.
Another local food which gives its name to the former citiziens of Pianura Padana is called Polenta. In fact Italians usually call people from Verona and region Veneto, as ‘polentoni’, because they are used to eat a lot of it, and they still do. Introduced in 1500 this product comes from corn and it was a very common dish in war times, as it symbolised the food of poor people. It can be served hot or cold; in the second case it can be warmed up on fire place to be called ‘polenta brustolà’ (toasted). The typical containor to cook Polenta is a copper tin non-tinned, because it keeps the constant heat. In Vigasio, a narrow area of Verona between October and November Sagra della Polenta di Vigasio occurs. Always combined with local music, dances and markets, this event celebrates the very popular dish of Verona.
Another very locally known product of the countryside is the Asparago. Its cultivation is very ancient and it goes back to Roman Ages. The producton is specific in April- May and the localities involved are the villages (Comuni) from the Easter towns, like Membrotta or Arcole, till the southern region of Bassa Veronese. This product is very fine (pregiato), which changes colour for its quality. Its flavour is a combination of a soft and strong taste, but in order to get most of the nutritional value it must be eaten fresh. In particluar the white variety is rich of Aspartic Acid, which is only present in the shoots. Very well known is the Asparago called ”Membrotta’. This is typical of the area of Zevio and San Martino Buon Albergo; because of its climate and soil this area has become a special production centre. Introduced in 1800 Asparago became more popular after the War. It can be cooked in stew, risotti or in the typical dish with boiled eggs on the side, vinegar, salt and oil on the top. Very low in calories and rich in minearals and vitamins. Therefore if you wish to visit the Festa dell’ Asparago of Mambrotta at the end of April, ask to our team for more information.
But what is Verona for most of the visitors? The city of Love. If you visit Valeggio sul Mincio, in fact, you can have the chance to learn how to make the real Tortellino. Its popular Fair is called Festa del Nodo d’Amore to refer to the knotted shape of this traditonal meal. The event occurs in June and it is represented by a very long dinner table on Visconteo Bridge (Ponte Visconteo). However if the queu to book a place is too long, in early September you can also visit the event called ‘ Tortellini e dintorni’. This is not only a gastronomic adventure, but it is also a journey to discover the village of Valeggio sul Mincio and the little medieval Borghetto. In fact many itineraries are organised to walk down the roads and stop by typical food stands. In addition to the classic dish you can also taste the specialities of Torta di rose, il dolce di Valeggio, la coppa al bagno and i tortellini di cioccolato.
Lastly if you wish to explore the flavours of Verona Mountains (Monti Lessini) you must visit Fiera del Gnocco di Malga. This dish is also called ‘gnocchi sbatui’ as its name refers to the action of hitting the gnocco on the table during its preparation. Gnocco is the potato dish plate typical during Carnival time, which takes place 6 weeks before Easter. If you walk in the little mountain villages of Lessinia, the locals might advice you their own recepies for sauce; some prefer ricotta cheese, others like truffle or butter on the top. It is a very typical dish, quiet simple to make but very energetic to have. Originally this meal was consumed by shepards during lunch breaks.
However there are not the only special dish Fairs, but also Community Fair, which are general Festivals, happening in many neihborhoods all over Italy. Taking place during the summer they don’t have a special dish celebrated but these events offer a variety of affordable different meals, followed by local wine and artisan beers. These Festivals represent a moment of socialising for the locals where children can play and adults can come together for a chat. Music is always a good companion and sometimes even typical balls take place, such as Ballo Liscio. Then games and gypsy rides can entertain the teenagers and youngest.