Rovescala

Wine in the Springtime

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!

Vineyards of Rovescala
Vineyards of Rovescala along our drive into town
The farmers have been producing wine for over 800 years
The farmers have been producing Bonarda wine for over 800 years

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.

I was loving the group of Harley riders that rolled into town
I was loving the group of Harley riders that rolled into town
Of course, what Italian festival is complete with a collection of Vespa's?!
Of course, what Italian festival is complete with a collection of Vespa’s?!

Jen and Julia in Rovescala
Jen and Julia in Rovescala

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.

They had a face painter for the kids, free of charge - she wouldn't even take a tip
They had a face painter for the kids, free of charge – she wouldn’t even take a tip
Of course, Julia wanted to be a Tiger
Of course, Julia wanted to be a tiger
She proved how scary she was with a growl and scratch with her claw
She proved how scary she was with a growl and scratch with her claw
Jen and her baby Tiger
Jen and her baby tiger

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.

The town fills up each Sunday in March
The town fills up each Sunday in March

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.

Inside the pavilion for food - good luck finding a table, we waited about 20 minutes for space
Inside the pavilion for food – good luck finding a table, we waited about 20 minutes for space
We were thrilled when we finally claimed our spot
We were thrilled when we finally claimed our spot
We lucked out with some great neighbors who were a lot of fun
We lucked out with some great neighbors who were a lot of fun
It was great listening to this guy playing and singing at the next table
It was great listening to this guy playing and singing at the next table

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!

Merchants sold all type of hand crafted goods
Merchants sold all type of hand crafted goods
Inside the wine hall - they Julia a wine necklace so she could join in the fun
Inside the wine hall Alessandro gave Julia a wine necklace so she could join in the fun
Julia carefully helps me select my favorite wine
Julia carefully helps me select my favorite wine

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.

I get strapped in for my long climb
I get strapped in for my long climb
It may not have been graceful, but I was the fastest climber of the day
It may not have been graceful, but I was the fastest climber of the day
Julia cheers me on - just the encouragement I needed
Julia cheers me on – just the encouragement I needed
At last!  I made it to the top and slapped that prosciutto like I've never slapped a prosciutto before!
At last! I made it to the top and slapped that prosciutto like I’ve never slapped a prosciutto before!
Julia ran up and gave me a big hug - that was the best prize
Julia ran up and gave me a big hug – that was the best prize
Of course, a couple bottle of wine isn't too shabby either
Of course, a couple bottles of wine isn’t too shabby either
Julia wanted to have a go
Julia wanted to have a go
She did pretty well - she won a generous bag of candy
She did pretty well – she won a generous bag of candy
Here we are showing off our prizes
Here we are showing off our prizes
After the participants all volunteered, the pros took over
After the participants all volunteered, the pros took over
They made it look easy!
They made it look easy!

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.

Julia is an expert at "dolce far niente" (the sweetness of doing nothing)
Julia is an expert at “dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing)
Our collection of "fair booty"
Our collection of “fair booty”
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4 thoughts on “Wine in the Springtime”

  1. I laugh at all your posts, but this was the best! Didn’t think there were any “undiscovered” festivals left in Italy. Good for you for finding one!

    1. Maureen, I’m so glad you enjoy the posts and that you really enjoyed this one. It was a fun day and wonderful to write about. I’ll keep exploring the depths to find more like this…

  2. Salve, seguo da un po’ di tempo il suo e gli altri blog di persone che arrivano dall’estero per fermarsi per un po’ in Italia; trovo interessantissimo ed educativo vedere come si percepiscono le cose italiane viste con altri occhi. Trovo i suoi articoli veramente belli (tra l’altro scopro delle cose dell’Italia che non so neppure io). Quando avrà la possibilità passi anche da noi in Piemonte dove non ci sono solo Alba “Wines and truffles” ma una marea e mezza di occasioni e di mini fiere tipo quella bella e tipica di Rovescala. Senza dimenticare che da domani a Torino inizia Torino Jazz festival fino al 1°maggio. Sono sicuro che per tutta la sua permanenza in Italia non avrà da annoiarsi.
    Complimenti ancora per il suo Blog.

    1. Ilario,

      Salve, sono così felice che ti piace il blog. Mi piace vivere in Italia. Facciamo l’amore Piemonte molto – abbiamo famiglia che vivono nei pressi di Torino. Se siete a conoscenza di festival o città che dovremmo visitare, fatecelo sapere. Nel frattempo, continuate a leggere! Grazie mille.

      I’m sorry – my Italian is still not so good! :-)

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