Eat, Drink and Dance: A Summer Festival in Rural Tuscany

In one of the greatest moments (perhaps THE greatest moment) of my Foodie International life, I won a salami while playing a festival game I like to call: “wheel of prosciutto”.

It all happened during the Festa de l’Unità, Castelmuzio’s annual week-long festival to support the Italian Communist Party/Democrat Party. Nearly every small village in Tuscany hosts one of these fund-raising festas during the summer months. Despite having two close friends who are political journalists in Rome, I find Italian politics to be more or less incomprehensible. I wouldn’t dare affiliate myself with an Italian political party, but I can affiliate myself with the community of my town. For most villages in this area of Italy, the Festa de l’Unità is the event of the year. Live music, dancing, local wine and delicious homemade food within walking distance – count me in!

This was my second year in attendance. I arrived with my neighbor’s family and waited in line (with half of the town) to place our dinner orders from the posted menu.

I love festival food; in Italy they refer to this type of volunteer-based town eatery as a stand gastronomica. It’s a bit like going out for a home-cooked meal. Nearly every village in Tuscany (and Italy as well) throws some sort of town festival – whether it’s based on religion or food, historical or a political fundraiser. The festivals are advertised well in advance, so it’s easy to plan for as many as possible in a season.

We ordered pici al ragu, steaks, and a several bottles of the local red. We dined on plastic plates, at picnic tables under a large white tent. The band began to play cheery, accordian-infused Italian classics.

As we finished eating, a fast-talking voice blared through a megaphone. It was time to spin the wheel of fortune, where prizes included a full leg of prosciutto, salami, cheese and wine. I must have emptied my wallet at last year’s festival without any luck; I really wanted that prosciutto! The wheel itself is wooden, with about 20 slots. Numbers are sold separately for each round of spins. This year I was determined.

I couldn’t believe it when they called my number. I launched myself over to the prize table. Someone had already won that night’s leg of prosciutto, but there was still a salami to be claimed – it was mine! In that moment I felt more like a part of the village community than ever before, surrounded by friends and neighbors, live music, delicious food and holding a victory salami high above my head. The Italians have it right; how could life get any better than this?

2010 Mileage Total: 41983

Share This:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>