Who doesn’t love a good festival? The combination of food, games and fun in an outdoor setting is always guaranteed to be a success. I mean, what more could you ask for? But if the name of the festival is Primavera dei Vini (Wine in the Springtime) and the location is in the remote Italian countryside – then you’ve got all the ingredients you need and more!
If you check Wikipedia to learn about Rovescala, you will discover that this small commune (municipality) is located about 50km southeast of Milan. Aaaaand… basta (stop). That’s it. If you research the festival itself, you’re likely to uncover only two or three short blog posts about it, aaaaaand… basta! So this event is a relatively unknown festival in a small, remote Italian town – why on earth would anyone be interested in going?! Because it’s a relatively unknown festival in a small and remote Italian town, of course! In our experience, these are usually the best gatherings – genuine and unpretentious, just as it should be in Italy.
Every Sunday in March, the residents of Rovescala pull together for the festival meant to celebrate the approaching spring with open air markets, parades, music and games. Of course, what Italian festival would be complete without food and wine as the central theme to the day? With the largest two spaces in town dedicated to either food or wine, you are guaranteed that something delicious will pass your palate. They also had plenty to do for the kids.
I couldn’t uncover a specific reason for the festival, which is close to approaching its 30th year (many such events are held in the honor of a specific saint or battle or historical element). It is my suspicion that the collections of farmers producing a wonderful and relatively unknown wine worked with the local comune (municipal office) to promote their regional product and boost tourism. While the festival does not pull a large contingent of international visitors, each Sunday in March the town swells to capacity with other Italians living nearby.
Like so many things Italian, the hills surrounding Rovescala are rooted in a tradition that stretches back over eight centuries. The grapes grown for the production of the local Bonarda wines are of a seldom seen variety; the Croatina grape, which is then typically blended with the Barbera grape to make the wine. You won’t discover a finer example of Bonarda wine (not to be confused with the Bonarda Piemontese vine) then you will here in the foothills of the Apennines mountains in our hometown region of Lombardia (Lombardy). This wine website describes the grape,
The mid- to late-ripening grape delivers wines with dark color, gushing fruit, low acidity and soft tannins, often resembling montepulciano or dolcetto in expression.
Before we could get to all the wine tasting, we wanted to fill our stomachs with some food. We discovered that the main pavilion had open table dining, where “neighbors” become friends. In fact, our neighbors were happy to share some of their frog legs with both me and Julia when I asked about them. To say the dining was “organized chaos” is an understatement. But the delicious food, fun neighbors, guitar player and cheap wine (I got a full glass for €1) more than made up for it! The authenticity of the experience was definitely one of these “this is why we moved to Italy” moments.
After lunch, we strolled past the outdoor vendors displaying their hand crafted goods – anything from homemade grappa to artisanal wooden bowls. We made our way to the main hall where the farmers were eager to showcase their wines. A modest €5 bought me an empty wine glass complete with a nifty case that allowed me to dangle the container from my neck (you know, in case I needed both hands to have a conversation like a true Italian – picture a lot of hand gestures). We befriended, Alessandro Dellafiore – the President of the Pro Loco Rovescala a local organization designed to promote local products. He explained that as long as I didn’t leave the building, I could re-fill my glass any number of times and try as many different wines as my little heart desired. “Jen, buckle up and get comfortable – we’re going to be here a while!“
After I had enough liquid courage, I decided that I needed to demonstrate my manliness. I can think of no better way to peacock than to climb a telephone pole in order to slap a leg of prosciutto! I was in luck, as that option was readily available to the brave few willing to try. I waited and watched a half a dozen guys and gals try and fail to reach the top. While I was in line, a kid roughly fifteen years old made it to the top. His effort was rewarded with a bottle of wine. I grinned in admiration of the culture that rewards their youth with a bottle of wine. When it was my turn, I strutted to the pole as if I was Michael Jordan saddling up to the free throw line. I knew it would be no problem to practically fly to the top. That is, until I made my first upward thrust and realized my dress shoes were a major detriment. I nearly slipped coming right out of the gate, but I recovered and found my grove. I made it to the top of the pole in record time and was the only person to receive a large cheer from the crowd and two bottles of wine for my speed (and a bit of showmanship). After I came down, I was pleased to have earned a big hug from Julia in addition to my liquid prize.
We wrapped the day with a little more walking and shopping (we went back to buy some wine as gifts and to add to our cellar). Julia stopped to take a seat and “chat” with some locals in front of their home – I suppose she wanted to practice the Italian art of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). All in all – it was a fun day and well worth the time in the car.