Anne's Blog

In Cascia, Roveja, Saffron, Coppiette……. and Not Only

Date: January 25, 2019 - categories: , , , , , , , , , , - Leave your thoughts

Crispy bruschetta with a hardy red wine, tastes of pecorino cheeses, and roasted chestnuts were a buonissimo prelude to Cascia’s  January song competition of rural Epiphany-time music,

The groups competing in the song contest would be heading into the piazza from the Basilica di Santa Rita, beloved 14th-c saint born near Cascia.

Huge white tents were set up below the Basilica and artisanal crafts and local foods – samples offered – entertained the waiting  visitors. At our first stop at a stand of legumes, what a surprise to see Geltrude,  savior of the mythical “lost bean,” the roveja: 

We’d first met Geltrude – and tasted her buonissima zuppa di roveja – in Cascia a few years ago at the Festa delle Tradizioni Rurali.  The roveja had enhanced the steamy soup that night but there weren’t any roveja cookies. Geltrude makes them nowadays, though …..

……..and offered us a taste, insisting we try, too,  her farro and saffron biscotti:

Saffron is cultivated in the Cascia area and at Nanda’s stand nearby,  dwarf jars of saffron were on sale.  

She urged us to take a whiff and when Pino couldn’t distinguish its perfume, Nanda laughed and encouraged him to put his nose right in:


Cheeses with saffron were on sale in the next booth – along with cheeses made with wild fennel, others with the famous Cannara onion and cheeses with chili pepper and chives as well as a walnut cheese. On a wooden polenta plate, cheese samples were set our for visitors.

It was the next booth which caught Pino’s eye:  not so much for the Norcia prosciutto and salamis of all types…..

……but for le coppiette sitting on top of the salami.  We’d bought some from the butcher on a recent trip to Preci, another Umbria mountain hilltown,  as those chewy salami strips are not typically made in the Assisi area.

It didn’t really take offering Pino a taste to tempt this buyer!

Chewing le coppiette, we headed to the middle of the piazza where bruschetta was toasting over the coals:

I wish I’d taken a video of young blacksmith Diego flipping the bruschetta on the “bruschetta-flipping holder” he’d invented  – but here are a couple shots of the phases of the bruschetta-toasting:

From a plank table nearby, Danilo and other local volunteers served  the bruschetta with vino rosso locale.

Danilo and Pino talked for quite some time about the 2016 earthquake damage in Cascia, nearby Norcia, Preci, and other mountain hill towns.

Before we headed on to see the booth where Diego’s family displayed their wrought iron work, Pino asked if there was a box for offerings. Danilo replied, “No, grazie, noi di Cascia offriamo oggi  and then with a smile, he poured Pino more wine and offered us both more bruschetta.

The Venanzi family iron work was steps away from the bruschetta……

…and an artisan working in wood showed his crafts nearby. His pens intrigued Pino:

We finished our “giro” of the artisan crafts and artisan foods at the booth of roasted chestnuts…

…and just in time: we were munching chestnuts as the music of organetti, accordions, cymbals and tambourines began to warm up Cascia. Lusty voices joined in.  The competion of the Umbrian rural  pasquarelle had started.

Click here to read about – and see! – the Cascia pasturelle festival.

Read about the Cascia festival where Geltrude’s roveja soup was feted.

Click here for a roveja soup recipe.

Read about our recent Preci visit..

Read about Preci and earthquake damage

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