The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. My boyfriend and I had just enough time to settle into our new home in Mestre, Venice before discovering the food festival hosted in the main piazza just a few days after our arrival. Il gusto della cultura: una giornata di saperi e sapori or “The Flavor of Culture: A Day of Learning and Tasting,” took over the city for the weekend. Piazza Ferretto was filled with food stalls, each offering a different specialty product from all over Italy and around the world.
There were i calabresi, displaying bins piled high with olives, cured garlic, and sundried tomatoes, jars filled with pickled eggplant, roasted artichokes and hot pepper paste and garlic, hot peppers, grapes and bundles of oregano strung from the roof of the tent. There were i siciliani, selling the famous chocolate of Modica, cannoli, and wine. One stall for artisinal liquorice. Another only for dried fruits. A local Venetian stall selling baccalà (dried salted cod). The international stalls ranged from German sausages to Irish Guinness, from Spanish paella to fried Polish donuts. If only all markets had such variety and diversity!
The markets sprawled into the side streets around the piazza and for three days the whole city seemed to swarm around the stalls, tasting, interacting and learning about the different products.
The festival reflected so many of the important aspects of food — how it can bring together and unite people, how it can represent diverse traditions and cultures, and how it can open our mind (and palate) to new experiences.
How wonderful to be introduced to a new city, to our new home, by savoring both local and international specialties — I couldn’t imagine a better way!