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Romagna june food 'n fun festivals break records

From great Italian food festival through medieval city raves to little village fairs, the warm june sun brought out hundreds of thousands of revelers

150,000 people celebrated wonderful food at FestArtusiana

Forlimpopoli, Romagna has held an annual gastronomic event dedicated to Pellegrino Artusi "Father of Italian Cookery" and this year is its 18th birthday See Pellegrino Artusi:  For over a week every night between 7pm and midnight, Casa Artusi and the historical center of this small town come alive as a "city of taste." For the Festa Artusiana.

Streets, alleys, courtyards and squares become stages for food stands featuring Artusi's dishes, exhibitions, performances, multi-media productions, tastings and gastronomic tours, concerts, children's events, cultural events, art displays, and more.

And, last week foodies from all over the world swarmed to Forlimpopolo to eat, drink, buy, learn and be merry! And with free entrance for everybody, there was fun and tastes, music and conversation for all.

Music was a melodious background around the town's citadel where more than 150 stalls opened up for business together with 40 open-air restaurants, which together with the 11 local ones, served massive portions of amazing food and wine every evening for 9 warm edible nights.

Everywhere you were able to buy and consume delicious specialities from the Artusi cookbook - listed by recipe number AND at extraordinarily low prices.

Pride of place was given to really local seasonal foods and great wines such as the Mora Romagna pork, the Squacquerone di Romagna cheese, Romagna peach and nectarine, the Romagna shallot, Volpina pears and the amazing DOC Sangiovese di Romagna, DOCG Albano di Romagna and DOC Trebbiano di Romagna.

And, just down the road at the serene city of Cesena, another more ancient festival was taking place - the three day celebration of St John the Baptist - Cesena's patron saint - has been taking place now for hundreds of years.

The city of Cesena was endowed by the rich and powerful Malatesta (Badhead) warrior family with both a soaring citadel overlooking the city and the world's first public library. But the thing that most Cesenate know best how to do is to celebrate, traditionally and, it must be said, rather stylishly.

So the cobbled alleyways, elegant streets and delightfully-paved squares are all festooned with stalls helping the inhabitants to drink, and eat and buy all they need to have a good time.

Pride of place were the red sugar cockerels, symbols of Romagna. The idea is that you resist eating these succulent delights until the eve of St John's Day and you whistle through them to get rid of all your sins! It's no wonder that all the stalls with cockerels on display (we counted a dozen at least!) were sellouts.

Other stalls included more traditional St John's ware - beautiful hand-made sprays of lavender and garlic - the garlic to ward off witches and the lavender to ward off the smell of garlic! These bouquets were made by a daunting group of women numbering at least 20 who were creating them to fund the red cross. Special icecream (gelato) made of  milk from the local 0 kilometer dairy was also on offer.

One of the traditions of the St John's Day festa is to buy something for your house - and (given that this is in Romagna) to get it at the very vest price. All manner of stalls were doing great business - around 500 of them throughout the city centre!

Plus a big fair, plus the usual outside summer culture that is Cesena.

Whilst just down the road in the small hillside town of Longiano (also with its Malatesta castle dominating the town - now a sublime art gallery endowed by the local poet Tito Ballestra) the PD festa was taking place. The little town square was crammed with stalls selling all kinds of local produce and the stage was set for the first of four evenings entertainment, which included a night of comedy sketch, an evening with the winner of 'Italy's got Talent' and more local entertainment.

All compliments of the Democratic Party. Plus, of course another square full of food and wine, tables, waiters and waitresses all ready to serve lots of great local food and wine - cheap.

And the song that linked the international food festival, the traditional city festival and the town political festival - 'Romagna Mia' SING ALONG HERE

Valere Tjolle

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