Remember, remember all of November. That's guaranteed with a string of events and festivals in Italy this month which provide a feast for the mouth, eyes and ears. John Bensalhia reports.
November's not the kindest of months. With the joys of Spring so far away and the cold weather starting to bite, people need a bit of comfort this month. Fortunately, there are many Italian events and festivals taking place in November to warm the heart, ears and palate. Food and drink. Jazz. Lights. Dance. It's all here in a packed month!
BOLOGNA JAZZ FESTIVAL – Bologna/Ferrara, 28th October - 22nd November
There's nothing like chilling out on a hot summer's day with a cool drink and a bit of jazz playing in the background. That's why holding a jazz festival in the dark Autumn season is a stroke of genius. Simply listen to the music and let it take you to those warm summer nights – or wherever you want to be!
The Bologna Jazz Festival is one of the key jazz festivals of the year, and it's already under way. A slew of talented jazz acts will be performing at various locations in both Bologna and Ferrara.
The varied line-up provides something to suit all tastes of jazz music. The line-up includes the Anat Cohen Quartet, the Abercrombie Organ Trio, Bill Frisell, the Dee Dee Bridgewater Band, Kenny Barron and Dave Holland, the Eugene Bush Trio, plus many more.
Students of the jazz department of the Conservatory of Bologna will also take part in a special project that studies the compositions of jazz musicians Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor. The results will be performed on 9th November at a special concert at the Oratory of St Philip Blacks.
ROMAEUROPA FESTIVAL – Now until 30th November
This year marks the 29th edition of the RomaEuropa Festival, which this year goes under the banner of Life Blood. It's a festival that features the cream of contemporary dance, music and theatre, with 15 locations paying host to some spectacular presentations. This month holds some special dance and choreography treats in store. The line-up includes Dutch choreographer Itamar Serussi, Manfredi Perego, Louise Vanneste, Claudia Catarzi and a performance from Company Frosini/Gable who will be involved with the Zombitudine project.
All in all, this 29th edition of the festival continues to provide a fascinating and unique celebration of popular dance and performance cultures.
ALL SAINTS DAY and ALL SOULS DAY – 1st - 2nd November
The weekend of 1st and 2nd November forms the backdrop to the All Saints and All Souls public holidays. All Saints Day honours the Saints of the Catholic calendar while the following All Souls Day is said to have been linked with the former since 998 AD. It is believed that Abbot Odilo of Cluny first marked the day as a remembrance of the dead to reconcile the living with the deceased. On the weekend of 1st and 2ndNovember, Italy comes together to honour the dead. With that in mind, in the preceding weeks, graves are cleaned and prepared in advance of the flowers laid there to mark the solemn occasion.
This event is notable for some time-honoured traditions in certain parts of Italy which acknowledge the deceased in individual ways. In some regions such as Piemonte and Lombardia, dining tables are left set for the dead and filled up bottles of water are left for the dead to drink. In other areas, sweet snacks are specially prepared for the event. Special cakes are served in Umbria to counterpoint the sombre tone of the day, biscuits are made in Veneto and served to loved ones, while broad beans and chestnuts are prepared in Liguria.
MERANO WINE FESTIVAL – 7th - 10th November
The Merano Wine Festival has been a key diary entry for wine connoisseurs since 1992. More than 500 vintners from Italy and across the globe will gather at this year's event to showcase some of the finest wines around. There will also be more than 100 gastronomy producers to add a bit of food display to proceedings.
The Merano Wine Festival promises to be a packed and informative event that boasts a good selection of initiatives and ideas. Not only are there guided tastings, there will be master classes relating to wine which teach visitors all about the tastes, flavours and backgrounds of the selected drinks.
New to this year's event is the launch of Cult 2014 which brings together 40 of the most prestigious wine producers in the country. This looks set to be an interesting and memorable début. In addition to the wines, there will be Italian and international culinary treats to see in the Chef's Challenge. And if you prefer beer to wine, then you won't go far wrong with a visit to Beer Passion, which lines up a rich and diverse range of beers.
LUCI D'ARTISTA – Salerno, From 7th November
If the nights get darker earlier in the late Autumn and Winter seasons, then there is at least one bit of compensation. There's more scope to illuminate the way with a series of unique and distinctive light displays. One of the boldest concepts of this kind comes in the form of Salerno's Luci D'Artista, which returns on the 7th of November this year.
Luci D'Artista comprises a truly stunning display of lights and colourful displays which can be seen on the streets, squares and seafront of Salerno. It's a magical, other-worldly experience to behold, and with that in mind, the theme selected for this year's show is 'Northern Lights And Fairy Tales'.
Among the fairy tale elements in this year's light show are large statues of Peter Pan and Cinderella which will be at the centre of the two main squares of Salerno. Meanwhile, in the town park, youngsters and the young at heart adults can either discover the wonders of characters from Walt Disney films or relive their childhood.
Future goodies include the festive delights of Christmas markets (which will be introduced from 27thNovember), a Christmas Tree, Santa's Sleigh and the Forest Of Ice.
Combining impressive lighting techniques and sheer magic, Luci D'Artista is guaranteed to light up each and every visitor to the heart of Salerno.
FESTA D'AUTUNNO – Cosenza, 7th - 9th November and BACCO NELLE GNOSTRE – Noci, 8th and 9thNovember
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is one of the popular images of Christmas, and in Italy, chestnuts will be making appearances at many an Autumn and Winter festival.
Two of these take place over a three day span between the 7th and 9th of November. Festa D'Autunno is held in Cosenza, Calabria, and is a healthy mix of culture and good food. There will be plenty of chestnuts for all and in addition, there will be a varied soundtrack of folk music and street performers – not to mention a visual feast of historical processions.
Meanwhile, Bacco Nelle Gnostre (translated as Bacchus Around Cloisters in reference to the Roman Christian Soldier and Saint) will combine fine wines with traditional Puglia food (and of course, chestnuts!). There will be a wealth of entertainment to enjoy in addition to the food and drink – including concerts, art displays and street artists.
FESTA DI SAN MARTINO – Sicily, 11th November
Festa di San Martino is held on 11th November to celebrate San Martino (Saint Martin), known as the 'Bishop of Tours'.
This festival is held throughout Sicily – the question though, why November? Well, it is said that early November is commonly linked with new wine starting to mature. There is a proverb that says “At San Martino each must becomes wine”. So with that in mind, celebrations take place on 11th November.
Unsurprisingly, there is a big emphasis on wine – new wines are sampled, wineries are open for tastings and matured wine is uncorked and ready to be sampled. In addition to this, there will be a selection of foods on display – in particular, pork products such as ham, sausages and salami, breads, biscuits – and of course, roast chestnuts!
SAN MINIATO TRUFFLE FESTIVAL – 15th - 30th November (weekends only)
Having written about the joys of truffles in my last piece on Italian festivals and events in October, the truffle tradition continues apace in November. One of the most prominent truffle exhibitions takes place in San Miniato, which hosts its 44th edition this year. The event was first launched in 1969 and after a brief pause, it has consistently run since the early 1970s.
This truffle festival has received international recognition and lines up a vast array of displays, products and traditional recipes for visitors to enjoy. Truffle-based products will be available to sample including pasta, sauces and preserves. If you're looking for other products, then the event caters for all tastebuds. Meats, chocolates, pickles, cakes and preserves will be on display to provide tasty warmers against the colder weather.
FESTA DELLA MADONNA DELLA SALUTE – Venice, 21st November
In 1630 and 1631, Venice faced dark times. Bubonic plague hit the city and tragically wiped out over a quarter of its population. At the height of the crisis, the surviving population gathered for three days and nights in a procession of prayer to the Virgin Mary. The city's senate vowed that if the city survived the plague, then a new church would be built dedicated to the Madonna's honour.
When the plague ended, the church was indeed built – Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health) was designed by Baldassare Longhena in 1631 and to mark the occasion, Festa della Madonna della Salute is held on the 21st November.
In addition to the sombre tributes paid to those who lost their lives, this event also lines up a number of celebratory customs and festivities to acknowledge the intervention that halted the plague. One of the customs is to eat a special soup known as Castradina, which is made from cabbage and dried mutton. In addition, the streets come alive with stalls, music and vendors offering local delicacies such as Zaleti and Pevarini.
ROMA FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL – 29th November - 1st December
Take 18 chefs and 60 winemakers. Put them on the top floor of Eataly in Rome, and you have a winning recipe for this year's Rome Food and Wine Festival.
Showcasing some of the best Italian food and drink, the chefs and winemakers will be on hand to provide a suitably tasty experience for visitors. Not only can visitors sample some of the best wines and signature dishes around, they can also gain a little insight into the backgrounds and processes involved in their creation.
There will be wines on show from many areas,including Lazio, Tuscany, Liguria, Sicily and Trentino. Meanwhile, a host of chefs including Massimo Bottura, Henry Panero and Hugh Alciati will be on hand to educate about the joys of such foods as couscous and ravioli. In addition, Max Pezzani will be at the helm of a presentation on The Triumph Of Meats, while pastry chef Luca Montersino will be presenting The Triumph Of Dessert.
It's three days of tasty treats with a zesty twist of knowledge, and a must for all fans of good food and wine.