Walking towards Foligno’s main square in late September, you know it’s time for the “First Courses” festival showcasing Italy’s primi: everything from pastas (gluten-free ones, too) to risotto to polenta to gnocchi – and even cousin-cous (a favorite first course of the seacoast towns in western Sicily, influenced by Arab cuisine).
What’s the sign that I Primi d’Italia is animating Foligno? Pasta in whimsical, creative shop displays: perched under sunglasses….
…..sidelining shoes and clothes….
…setting off jewelry displays….
…perking up the barber shop window and that of the adjacent florist…
…..and even a piquant lingerie display.
When we reached Foligno’s main square and the I Primi d’Italia information center, it was time for a decision: where to taste the goodness? What to eat?
We looked at the Foligno map posted in the information center indicating all the various locations serving primi: the Villaggio della Carbonara, the Villaggio dell’Amatriciana, and the villaggi serving gnocchi, polenta, gluten-free pastas, pici and strangozzi (Tuscan and Umbrian versions of a thick spaghetti), pastas starring truffles, tortellini, Roman first course specialties, cous nous….and not only.
Then we spotted on the map Il Villaggio dei Primi di Mare (the “village” feting seafood first courses).
We headed there, walking past Foligno’s medieval cathedral of rosy pink limestone……
…..and into winding medieval backstreets we’d never explored. And then we saw the sign…..
……which led us to our destination: a row of vaulted porticoes in local pink limestone along the Topino River.
This charming “hidden corner” – and don’t most of the Italian medieval towns have many? – of Foligno is called “le Conce” or “the tanneries” as here leather was once tanned, the animal skins brought up the Topino River by boat and unloaded right into the cellars of le conce.
Diners were already enjoying the seafood primi at plank tables under the vaults of the tanning locales.
Pino and I shared an antipasto of large green Puglia olives stuffed with a tasty seafood pate’, then breaded. I ordered the seafood bis: a seafood cannelloni and a pasta with a seafood sauce of shrimp and other Mediterranean fish and shellfish. Both, buonissimi!
Pino skipped the primi and chose fried calamari.
As we savored the seafood goodness, we chatted with a couple from Perugia, Giancarlo and Irene, who were sharing our table right along the river.
…and before leaving, we complimented the two young chefs (from the Adriatic coastal area of the Marches region) on their buonissimi primi di mare.
Back in Foligno’s main piazza, the evening was just beginning for I Primi d’Italia enthusiasts: singers and a band performed til late for this twenty-first edition of a much-loved Umbria food festival….
…..and a huge food tent just steps away offered “street food” from all over Italy for those preferring nibbles as they strolled rather than sitting down to primi piatti in one of the villaggi:
…and there were even cannoli siciliani. But we passed them by…..
…..as no need for a dessert after our evening of i primi d’Italia.
Read about Foligno’s splendid Baroque festival
Click here to read about another Foligno food festival, starring honey
Read about the Foligno festival which so stimulates young people
Read about Foligno’s ties to Raphael