Who ever thought that at an olive oil festival, you’d come home with a hand-bound journal or a handmade eelskin belt – or a pair of handmade leather shoes?
Gianfranco will tell you all about the making of parchment and ancient book-binding techniques at his stand – and nearby, Federico will explain why that eelskin has such a bright shine at his leather goods stand (where young American wife, Hannah, helps him out). The festival’s artisan stands – olive wood, cross stitch, maiolica, leather goods, book-binding – encircle the cavernous halls under the massive ribbed vaults of Assisi’s thirteenth-century city hall.
And if you pass Federico’s leather goods stand and walk past another artisan, Roberto, working on the caning of a chair, you’ll come to the “outdoor part” of Assisi’s UNTO festival, centered on the celebration of the cultural and historical value of the “produzioni tipiche” of the Assisi territory. During the last week-end in October, the UNTO festival takes you “on a voyage through the flavors and traditions of our territory.”
The “voyage” starts when you enter the tent set up in the main square in front of the 1st B.C. Roman Temple to Minerva where stand after stand offers you tastes of Umbrian goodness. The only stand of dozens not offering foods or wines is the first one where lavender plants of every variety and lavender sachets catch the eye – but after the lavender, get ready. Many stands offer tastes of “Umbria’s gold,” olive oil taking center stage at this festival: there’s even a stand of face creams enriched with olive oil. You’ll hear from many a producer how production is drastically down due to a wet spring and summer. Truffles have fared better with the dampness, both the black ones and the whites. Daniela will offer you a taste of her family’s truffle pate’ and Federico and Roberto of Pietralunga will assure you theirs are best!
Young Sara and Giulia – from the region of Latium- sell their hazelnuts (production down, too, due to weather ravages) and offer tastes of crunchy encrusted hazelnuts to visitors. At a nearby table, my friend Jenny and I tasted Umbrian wines and at the next stand, sharp and tangy pecorino, sheep’s milk cheeses. Wild boar salamis reigned at one stand and at the neighboring one, Alberto heated up snail sauce for tastes for visitors. Polenta with truffles, the tiny lentils of Castelluccio, farro, pastas, legumes of every Umbrian variety imaginable and honeys: what Umbrian goodness could possibly be missing?!
We found it at the last stand we visited, that of the Tili family organic wines. After sipping one of their fine organic reds, Maria Palma and her daughter Jessica offered us tiny dark chocolate cups filled with a vin santo (“holy wine”). Umbrian goodness like we’d never imagined.
Click here for a note on another UNTO festival
See Federico’s amazing leather crafts
Read about another fall festival olive oil celebration
Read about – and see!- another favorite autumn festival
Read about our olive harvest – last year