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The Bevagna Food Festival

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June 2, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

The Mercato delle Gaite is a festival in the Umbrian town of Bevagna. Bevagna has a strong Roman history, which can be seen in the sea creature mosaic and the Roman amphitheater as well as many other parts of the town. It is also famous for the elegance of the central piazza, Piazza Silvestri and the medieval buildings that make up the majority of the town.

The Gaite is a medieval festival held in the last ten days of June spanning two weekends. It starts and ends with archery displays. The first weekend of the festival, teams of archers from Bevagna and surrounding districts, dressed in period costume, wander the town competing at various points where targets have been set up. Supporters can accompany their favorite team and cheer them on.

In addition to archery, there are various medieval musical displays throughout the festival. Then there is the food. The town is divided into four quarters and each quarter competes on a variety of challenges, archery, medieval displays including silk worm raising, and cooking. Night after night the town is filled to capacity as visitors flood in from as far away as Perugia and Spoleto.

They come to sample such delights as nettle soup and stinco de maiale (pork shin), or scottodito (lamb chops). Italians are fond of offal dishes, too.

Cheap carafe wine is always available. The white is sometimes a little fizzy, but that is part of the fun of it all. The carafe red is usually good as this area has an international reputation for its Umbrian Rosso and Montafalco Rosso as well as the spectacular Sagrantino. The Sagrantino grape had been almost forgotten until farmers in this area started to cultivate it again. It has never looked back and has been the red wine served at celebrity weddings in recent years. So if carafe wine is not for you, it is possible, for a little extra money to buy bottles of excellent wine produced by local wineries.

All the food is made with ingredients that would have been available during medieval times. So there is neither a tomato nor a potato in sight. I had often wondered how Italians' managed before the tomato, and this festival is the place to find out. It is a great culinary event for meat lovers as there are plenty of different cuts of meat. Pecorino cheese (sheep cheese) also features in antipasti dishes along with various cured pork products. Pecorino seems to be a lot easier for the digestive system, so even people who shun cheese due to lactose problems seem to be able to enjoy it.

A visit to each of the four quarters gives access to different approaches to medieval food in different settings. Each quarter brings in a chef, but all the serving and clearing up is done by the people associated with that quarter. They dress in medieval costume and everyone helps, even really young children. It is a great way to build community bonds.

The four different quarters Santa Maria, San Pietro, San Georgio, and  San Giovanni serve food and snacks in different locations around the town. Some have courtyards where they setout their wooden benches, others have lovely old cantinas as well. San Giovanni has its main food on offer in a fabulous garden accessed by walking down a short, steep path that is squeezed between two buildings in Piazza Garibaldi. It is like going through a secret tunnel and into, well not Narnia, but somewhere magical.

The whole town gets into the spirit of the event and cooperates in creating the medieval theme. Metal downpipes are hidden behind sacking, elegant metal tables and chairs are replaced with medieval style wooden benches, shop fronts have wooden facades erected over them and banners hang from the houses proclaiming which Gaite they belong to. From my house, the green and yellow flag flaps on the upstairs balcony for San Pietro.

The festival feel at weekends and during the last seven days of the festival means the town hums with people enjoying themselves. The Gaite runs for ten days each year with the actual dates changing a little but always around the last 10 days or so of June.


N/A

Country: Italy

Province/State: Umbria

City: Bevagna

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:N/A

Price Guide:$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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