The same day that I went to Cannara on my bike, I was invited by Phil and Suzanna (neighbors here, Americans, permanent residents for about six years) to go with them and her sister, Tricia, to the Festa della Cipolla, and I happily accepted. I had the brochure with the menus, studied each of the five offerings, but realized that I’d eat wherever the others ate, anyway.
We were off in their VW to find a parking spot in the crowded village, full of visitors for the Festa, and soon we were walking through booth after booth of vendors. Of course, the braided onions and garlic of all colors were now available, unlike earlier the same afternoon. I had been looking forward to buying one of the braids for my kitchen, and then reconsidered. I’ll be gone all winter, with the house closed, and I could only imagine the decomposition of the onions as they hung in winter humidity—and possibly the smell when I got back. I cannot take any agricultural products home to the US, either, no matter how attractive the braids were, so I had to pass, and just take lots of photos, instead.
We passed on one of the big tents, serving the onion menus, and then I found out that I was the only one who hadn’t already eaten dinner. I misunderstood that we were going to see the vendors, take a walk, and come home—oops. I had figured that vegetarians could find a menu that was suitable, but I hadn’t figured in the special food needs of Tricia, so they had eaten before coming while still at home. No worries—there was plenty to see, and I’d keep my eyes open for a snack—maybe made from onions, if I were lucky.
The vendors surrounded several blocks, often on both sides of the street, with many selling onions and garlic, but many more selling jewelry, handbags, hats, candy and preserves. The four of us took our time, sampled as we could, and just enjoyed the evening and the festivities. We spent at least 2 hours doing the rounds, and had a very enjoyable evening.
When we passed a small bar, I saw my dinner inside: a pastry filled with onions and cheese, for €2 each. It was a good size for holding and eating as we walked, and both Phil and I left with a treat to celebrate the Festa. We continued walking and talking to vendors, and eventually were able to see all of them, get our tastes and bites, and then find a seat on some marble steps as the band got ready to play in one of the piazzas. We sat and sang along for a while—mostly old Sinatra favorites, with the band singing in English with strong Italian accents—and then headed for the car. On the way to the car, we stopped for a glass of wine and a seat for a few minutes, and then were headed home across the valley, and back to Spello.
Suzanna’s sister makes custom jewelry in New York City, and she was fascinated by much of what was on display, with an eye for seeing how each piece was made, the quality of the beads and hardware, etc. It was interesting to be by her side, and see how she approached the vendors and their wares. Her jewelry is highly regarded, and I got to see what she was wearing herself, along with Suzanna’s bracelets, too. She was an exhibitor at a small show here in Valtopina while she visited for a few weeks, and apparently was regarded as a talented and resourceful designer, with very unique and beautiful pieces. It was a pleasure to spend time with her, and Phil and Suzanna, too.