Of course Italy has beautiful churches, ancient ruins and amazing art, but the most exciting of Italy's attractions is definitely the food! There is so much to appreciate about their fresh and local food traditions that vary significantly by region. If you're serious about getting a taste of Italy's long and vibrant food culture, consider incorporating one of these popular local food festivals into your itinerary:
Italians love to have fun with their food, but the annual Battle of the Oranges takes food fighting to another level. The event, which commemorates a medieval battle, involves dividing the town into nine teams which pelt each other with locally grown fruit. Picture La Tomatina but with rock hard oranges instead of squishy tomatoes. The battle rages over the course of several days in February, accompanied by a carnival and other festivities. Visitors can watch safely behind nets or test their luck out on the battle field (but be prepared for a few bruises).
Officially titled the Romanesco Artichoke Festival of Ladispoli, this celebration of all things artichoke takes place annually just outside Rome during the second week of April. At the festival you'll find artichoke cooking contests, races and music, but the highlight is the slices of free fried artichokes handed out to the crowd. Also scope out local restaurants for prix-fix, artichoke themed menus.
The Florence Gelato Festival is actually one of a series of traveling gelato festivals held in major Italian cities. Still, since Florence claims to be the birthplace of gelato, what better place to celebrate the frosty dessert? Every summer for an entire week world class gelato makers and enthusiasts descend upon the city offering workshops, performances and, of course, lots and lots of tastings. Each night the festival ended with a showcase of gelato themed cocktails.
The Martell Valley, high in the Eastern Alps of South Tyrol, is very proud of its status as the highest altitude strawberry cultivation area in Europe. On the last weekend in June they celebrate this distinction with a festival dedicated to all things strawberry. The highlight is the crowning of the Strawberry Princess, the region's ambassador for their berries.
As one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is well visited all year round, but visiting during one of the town's two anchovy festivals makes for a unique experience. In addition to its beauty the town is famous for exporting processed tins of the salty little fish. In June there is the Fried Anchovy Festival, while the Salted Anchovy Festival takes place in September. Both events feature celebrations and lots of tastings.
Which is your favorite Italy food festival?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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