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Sunday, 3 August 2008

History in Santo Stefano part 1

It is still festa season. Friday night we went with our friend Irene to the Sagra del Raviolo in Arcola. It’s one of my favourite sagras of the year, because the ravioli really are special. They are handmade, stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and a choice of toppings: ragù (minced meat sauce), sage & butter, or nut sauce. The delicate flavour of the butter and sage best enhances the flavours of the ravioli themselves without overpowering them, but the rich walnut sauce is also delicious.

Last night we went to another highlight of our year the Historical Re-enactment of a Medieval market along the Via Francigena in the old town of Santo Stefano. This annual event is a great excuse for all the locals to dress up in medieval garb and have a great knees-up. Proceedings begin with a procession headed by the drum-rolling, fanfare-blowing, flag-waving ‘sbandieratore’. They are a group of young people, waving, throwing and juggling large flags around skillfully. They are followed by all the nobles, first and foremost by King Charles the I don’t know how manyeth of France, who was given the key to the city of Sarzana in 12something (I really must find out the historical details sometime). He was played as every year by our friend Pino, who rides in majestically on his horse.
All ages get involved.
After them the soldiers and knights in shining armour march in and finally the convoy is tailed by the ordinary trades people as well as the entertainers, the jugglers and musicians. After the ceremony of the king sitting down on his throne and everyone shouting “hurrah!” lots, the flag throwers, the knights and the other entertainers show off their skills. The trades people in the meantime, the weavers and cobblers, the bakers and cooks, the painters and wood carvers, the fortune tellers, and basket weavers, the herbalists and archers set up their stalls around the narrow alleyways of the town and show off their skills. As you can see, great fun is had by all.

Cooking sgabei, puffed-up, deep-fried bread balls of the region

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