La Festa - the Italian way, by Camilla Pagliaroli

Sicilian specialities in Livorno, for Italy's 150th anniversary celebrations Sicilian specialities in Livorno, for Italy's 150th anniversary celebrations 18th March 2011 Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification of various independent governments; both papal states and feudal kingdoms. And I was so pleased to see how the Livornese chose to celebrate their big "festa".  At first I was sceptic as I didn't hear of anything, Livorno is such a red city, and most Italian friends just shrugged their shoulders when I asked them about happenings in the city, and frankly; they didn't seem too interested.

Fair enough, in Finland there usually are no major public celebrations either on our Independence day, but then it is on the 6th of December, so it's already both cold and dark! Most people light a blue and white candle (our country's colors) in the window at night and sit down in front of the TV after dinner, perhaps with family or some friends around, to watch the ball at the presidential castle in Helsinki. There's actually something very Finnish about that.

My other cultural experience is the complete opposite; 4th of July for the Americans signifies big barbeques with friends and family and setting off and watching fireworks at night. It's loud, friendly and jovial. So what would you expect from the Italians? It could have gone one of two ways in my experience. But as all towns and villages already have their saint's day with religious parades, I was overjoyed to see that the Livornese were celebrating the other Italian passion: food!

Between Piazza Grande and Piazza della Repubblica, Via Grande was full of stalls selling their goods. Aside from a handful of plant and flower vendors, the rest of them were dedicated to food and wine! Sofia and I sampled lots of goodies. Everything from Umbrian truffle paste, Sardegnan pecorino cheese and Sicilian sausage infused with wine, to saffron biscotti and hazelnut-flour torte, and all intertwined with some exquisite extra virgin olive oils. I even found a new favorite from the Pisani foothills for those moments when you want a really mellow, mild-tasting oil to drizzle on food.

To round off a most satisfying afternoon walk, we "coincided" our walk back up Via Magenta with the timing of the grand opening of a new gelateria; La Mela Stregata. And in honor of the day they gave away their home-made gelato (pick your own two flavors!) to all. I sampled their dark chocolate and coffee flavors, and Sofia really enjoyed their strawberry flavor. What a wonderful way to celebrate your country!

Read more about Camilla's Livorno experiences on her blog

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