Letters from Veneto: June

Suddenly everything is gathering pace for the summer season. Posters are appearing on trees telling us about the latest festivals and outdoor events, and it is often hard to choose what to do on weekends.

I love the Pea Festival in the village of Baone. The little village sets out a handful of stalls on the grass in the central square and local growers sell their produce. Who can imagine that there are 26 varieties of peas? Of course, the day includes a feast of Risi e Bisi, a creamy pea risotto with lots of Parmesan, eaten with gusto by locals and visitors sitting at long tables and sharing wine and water. As with all local feasts, it is cooked by volunteers.

The Fried Flower Festival is another favorite. In the middle of nowhere, you come across a field with an open gate inviting you to drive in for a feast. Long tables accommodate diners with the delights of deep-fried zucchini flowers, crunchy and delicious, washed down with endless glasses of local Prosecco. In the middle of the tables, floorboards have been laid for dancing, which continues sotto le stelle (under the stars) until midnight.

Perhaps my favorite event is the Remada a Seconda, a kind of wacky boat race where homemade boats compete by sailing down the canal to the Venetian Lagoon. Oars and wind power are the only means of propulsion, but I would say the main fuel is Prosecco! All the whimsical crafts are furnished with a few crates of bottles to help them on their journey, although inevitably some of them sink or fail to move in any direction, just going around in circles. An ambulance follows the fleet down the tow path, just in case.

This year, the fastest boat (of the few which actually arrived at the destination) was a beehive with its crew of five all dressed in yellow and brown stripes with wings. The prize for the best ‘boat’ went to a cute yellow car for two which looked very realistic and managed to float along in a straight line. Personally, I liked the dragon with smoke coming from its nostrils, but the Viking long boat came a close second with its striped sail and crew of eight men with ginger beards.

On the banks, the race was sent on its way with a song from the members of the local rowing club, El Bisato (The Eel) The song is in dialect, but nevertheless a catchy tune and everyone sang along.

The celebratory feast after the boat race was memorable. About 100 people sat down to a four-course meal all cooked and produced by local people for the bargain price of €15 each, including unlimited wine. We had salad with walnuts, a pea lasagna, skewers of frittata and courgettes with cooked young wild herbs and leaves from the hills, along with tarts and pastries. It was a delicious vegetarian meal and everything was produced within a radius of five miles.

I am always impressed, living in this rural part of the Veneto, at Italians’ ability to make their own entertainment and welcome all to their fun occasions with a warmth and hospitality not found elsewhere.