Venzone is the only medieval walled city in Friuli Venezia Giulia and so it stands to reason that during the annual pumpkin festival the whole town takes the opportunity to don period dress creating a re-enactment of life in medieval times. This year’s festival takes place on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd October.
The festivities begin on Saturday afternoon. Along the streets of the old town you can watch medieval arts and crafts demonstrations and many of the taverns and restaurants hold medieval evenings with the opportunity to sample various pumpkin dishes and be entertained by musicians, jugglers and story-tellers.
Storytelling events for those from outside Friuli Venezia Giulia could be somewhat difficult to follow though as they are likely to be in Friulan, which is a language in it’s own right and not a dialect of Italian as is common elsewhere in Italy. The people of Friuli are very proud of their language and are keen to preserve its use and to this end it is also taught in the schools of the region.
Sunday is the main day of the festival. It’s an extremely popular event and arriving from Udine, the first official parking area that you come to is about 20 minutes walk from town (there are free shuttle buses circulating from 2pm to 11pm on Saturday and 10am to 9pm on Sunday from all the car parks). All the restaurants in and around Venzone offer set pumpkin based lunches. They may be worth a try but unfortunately, as at many busy times, the quality and service can suffer and the one I stopped at on the walk in from the car park was a little disappointing. I was served pumpkin gnocchi just like the commercially produced ones you can buy in the supermarket, (but not at supermarket prices) and the pumpkin part of my husband’s meal just didn’t arrive as they’d run out! My advice is to get a good look at what’s being served before choosing where to eat or to forgo a sit down lunch and sample anything from pumpkin pizza to various breads, cakes, pies and biscuits from the stalls in the old town.
As well as food and craft stalls there are many actual pumpkins on display which are judged in various competitions for the heaviest, longest and the best decorated with special awards for those decorated by children. Watch in awe as artists in full chef’s whites create beautiful, intricate designs on some of the largest pumpkins you’ve ever seen.
The streets are paraded by medieval nobles, ladies, knights and merchants, there are award ceremonies for the various pumpkin competitions and the medieval music and dance demonstrations continue in the streets along with acrobatic and juggling displays. As darkness sets in at around 6pm, torches are lit which add another dimension to the atmosphere.
The event has quite an international feel due to the large number of Americans visiting from the nearby U.S. military base in Aviano. Things start to wind down at around 8pm.