Do you like strawberries? If you do, then the little village of Nemi during the first week of June might be your personal little slice of heaven: it’ time for la sagra delle fragole, the strawberry festival!
Some practical info:
- Nemi is a small village on the shores of the lake with the same name, lago di Nemi, in Lazio, the region of Rome
- The strawberry festival takes place during the first week of June, each year. In 2015 the exact date is 30th May – 7th June
- Nemi is only a short train ride away from Rome and can be easily visited for a day trip from the city
Italy is full of culinary festivals and most towns have at least one event per year when they showcase their local produce. Local production of food is one of the things Italy is most famous for and one of the results of Italy’s mountainous geography, which for centuries maintained villages isolated from each other, fostering individual traditions. If you are interested in learning more abuot this, you might be interested in this book: Celebrating Italy: Tastes & Traditions of Italy as Revealed Through Its Feasts, Festivals & Sumptuous Foods
It’s really worth to put some research into what product each town is famous for, because the differences between local specialties can be significant: might it be salsicce, radicchio, piadine or, like in this case, fruit!
The strawberry festival or sagra delle fragole (sagra=festival) is the perfect way to feast on strawberries in all forms. If you are thinking of just big baskets of strawberries, you might want to think again: while fresh strawberries are of course abundant in Nemi, especially in the local variety of wild strawberries, during the strawberry festival you will also have jams, preserves, syrups , ice creams and even strawberry liquor!
You will not go hungry there and you will not get bored: as well as strawberry stalls, during the sagra Nemi also becomes the destination for street theatre performances, historical walks and medieval inspired shows. It’s a great way to witness some Italian tradition in a town that while known to tourism is still reasonably authentic.
Nemi is a town with a long history. Its first inhabitants were i Latini who lived there before the Romans took over the area. I Latini were devoted to goddess Diana, lady of the woods and nature among other things, and also Venus and Adonis, another nature deity connected with the luscious woods and mountains surrounding the town.
Mythology tells us that Adonis was killed during a hunting trip. Venus, in love with him, reached him in the woods and cried over his dead body: according to some version of this story, the vegetation scratched the goddess legs and, from her blood, red roses would spring. According to other, local traditions, her tears, falling on the ground, would turn into heart-shaped red fruits: strawberries.
In memory of this, every 13th of June (date of Adonis death) the Romans would mark the death of their deity, eating strawberries, a tradition that survived also during Christian times, when the tradition ‘moved’ to celebrate the Christian Saint St Antonio da Padova, also remembered that day.
Recommended reading:Roman Mythology: Roman Religion and Culture
Do you like food festivals? Are they something you look for, when travelling and is there anyone in particular that you found particularly interesting?
Where is Nemi: zoom out to see the main landmarks around Nemi.