Polentissimo at Monastero Bormida
Italy is well known for its festivals. Our region of Piemonte has many of them, most of which celebrate history, food or wine.
One of Piemonte’s staple foods throughout the centuries has been polenta and March is the traditional time to celebrate this wonder corn food.
Last year we went to a Polenta festival in Bubbio, a small town about 20 minutes away. This year we celebrated the wonders of corn at Monastero Bormida, another small town about 20 minutes away in a different direction.
Unlike last year, when the skies assaulted us with rain, this year we were basked in sunshine.
We arrived mid morning and were guided by a volunteer from the festival into a car park along the riverbank. Parking on the river was a great way to enter the town because it required us to walk across an old Roman bridge from which we enjoyed a wide view of the stone village and it’s impressive castle. An extra bonus was an elderly man with an easel and paintbrush who was halfway through a painting of the town. A couple of hours later we found this painting for sale in the market and I had to be dragged away in case I spent more money than I had!
Once in the village, we wandered around the narrow streets of stone houses where modern day street signage had been covered by hessian to ensure an authentic experience. Local artisans dressed in period costume were displaying medieval crafts and skills. There were spinners, weavers and knitters, along with basket-makers, stone-carvers, rope-makers and farm tool sharpeners.
With noon looming we headed towards the castle to take part in the local promotion group’s EUR 10 lunch. For this small price, we enjoyed bean and tuna salad, polenta and salsiccia, chocolate bunet, bread, water and wine. We were also treated to the happy folk music of a walking piano accordion player.
After lunch we set off to see what goodies awaited us at the farmers market. We tasted a lot and bought a lot too…gorgonzola crema, aged goats cheese, salami and several hazelnut products…before being distracted by brass bands and flag wavers!
We left mid afternoon, stomachs full of food, arms loaded with goodies and ears bursting to the sounds of trumpets and drums.