Thanksgiving is as American as apple (or pumpkin) pie: cornucopias, and stories of colonial days abound during this special week, and Americans abroad might find themselves nostalgically craving that thick slice of turkey drizzled with homemade cranberry sauce. But those who may be overseas, spending their holiday on everyone’s favorite Boot, will be pleased to find that the Italian thanksgiving spirit is not lacking at all, just in a different form.
Italy’s festivals offering thanks for the harvest have been taking place much longer than that of Thanksgiving stateside, and the roots run deep in its agricultural history. This land of diverse climates and growing conditions produces fresh, quality ingredients across the peninsula, and during the fall harvest season, you would be hard-pressed to find a town that doesn’t celebrate its own Festa del Raccolto, literally “harvest festival,” during autumn. Listed below are some of our favorites – and ideas for incorporating the seasonal products they celebrate into your own Thanksgiving meal.
Festa della Castagna (Chestnuts): Sassofortino
Chestnuts are ubiquitous in Italy during this time of the year. Vendors line the streets in cities across the country selling roasted chestnuts to those in the mood for a tasty snack, and market stalls make room for a section dedicated to the raw nuts. This festival, which takes place not far from Florence and includes five days of parades, tastings, and shows. Can’t make it to Tuscany for the festivities? Grab some chestnuts at your local market and try adding an Italian chestnut soup to your holiday menu.
Festa della Zucca (Pumpkin/Squash): Venzone
This Umbrian festival dedicated to one of Thanksgiving’s star ingredients takes place in Venzone, in the region of Friuli. The event includes highlight’s the town’s Medieval history, with demonstrations of popular trades of the time, music, dances, and spectacles of fire-eaters, sword-eaters, and acrobats. And of course, there are tasting of traditional plates made with squash. Want to celebrate the Italian love for the zucca without hopping on a plane? Incorporate a plate of pumpkin gnocchi into your holiday table spread.
Festa dell’Uva (Grapes): Merano/Meran
This northern Italian festival takes place in Südtirol, also known as Alto Adige, a part of Italy that was under Austrian jurisdiction until 1919, and the heavily Austrian influence is markedly visible. This three-day festival, complete with a parade of citizens in traditional Tirolese garb, showcases the traditional products of the region, including cured Speck, cheeses, and chestnuts. And, lest we forget, there are grape products, juices, and high-quality new and old wines. If you don’t have a chance to make it to Meran for this year’s Festa dell’Uva, celebrate at home with your own Pinot Grigio or red Lagrein wine, laudable specialties of the region.
What is your favorite autumn culinary delight, Italian or American? Let us know!