All over Umbria in late October, early November, medieval hilltowns celebrate autumn culinary specialties in a fanfare of festivities. Hazelnuts take center stage in Bevagna’s Festa della Nocciola during the first week-end in November.
Under the massive ribbed vaults of the thirteenth-century city hall – where medieval merchants once displayed their goods – volunteers sell packets of chocolate-covered hazelnuts, dried hazelnuts, hazelnut spreads, Christmas panettone made with hazelnuts, hazelnut flour, and thin host-like hazelnut cookies, panicoli.
At one end of the long display table, nearly bald white-haired Agostino demonstrates for us an antique hazelnut-crushing tool and amiably smiles for a photo after joking, “Don’t take my picture – my hair is messed up.”
In the back of the room, under medieval vaults, a Slow Food-sponsored conference on healthy eating, “Pane, Olio, Nocciole e altre merende” (“Bread, Olive Oil, Hazelnuts ..and Other Snacks”) finishes up and the cooking competition gets underway. Local women compete with hazelnut treats ranging from hazelnut muffins (the winner) to hazelnut pies to hazelnut pizzas.
Local cafes serve espresso with hazelnut cream liqueur, hazelnut tozzetti cookies, hazel cream puffs, mini-hazenut tarts, pizza alle nocciole, bruschetta topped with mozzarella, tomatoes, rucola and ….slivered hazelnuts. At Maria’s cafe’, the local strudel, la rocciata, made with hazelnuts entices customers – who might enjoy it with a sip of hazelnut liqueur in a mini-cup made of dark chocolate. We tried her gelato di nocciole – buonissimo!
Just steps away at the Polticchia bakery – known in Bevagna for years for breads and simple sweets like those that Nonna once made – baci di dama (m’lady’s kisses) filled with rich hazelnut cream and the round ciambelline cookies of hazelnuts and Sagrantino wine are festival favorites.
Leaving the bakery, you’ll pass one of the buttressed streets so characteristic of Bevagna and then you’ll come to the fresh pasta shop where, Silvia and her mother work magic with pasta. Ravioli with lemon or with black truffle or the typical Bevagna thick spaghetti made with potatoes, picchierilli are customer favorites but their ravioli filled with sheep’s milk ricotta and crushed hazelnuts starred during the festival and sold out quickly
All over Bevagna, ristoranti and trattorie served lunches and dinners with hazelnut dishes on every menu. Luciano, cook at my favorite Bevanga trattoria, proposed an enticing first course: ravioli with hazelnuts and ricotta in a pumpkin sauce. Silvia, thanks to your pasta, Luciano’s trattoria soon filled with chatting, happy clients!
Read about Bevagna’s medieval festival
Read about another Umbria fall food festival
Read about – and see – an October Umbria food festival
Click here to read about a November chestnut festival you cannot miss
Click here to read about Assisi’s November olive oil celebration< Read more about chestnuts, olive oils – and truffles, too!
Read about Foligno’s November honey festival
Click here to read about the autumn woodland flavors festival in Montone
Read about a sagra near Perugia starring peperoncino