I think I can speak for every real Marchigian here, when I say that what we missed the most in Le Marche during the pandemic were the several and countless “sagre”, aka festivals. The word festival doesn’t really do justice to these social gatherings where the occasion is (most of the time) merely a pretext to eat, drink, listen to live music, chat and enjoy a beautiful night.
Some sagre have to marked on the agenda, such as Sagra dell’Uva in Cupramontana or Sagra del Carciofo in Montelupone. This last one celebrates a Slow Food Presidium and it will soon come back after a 2 year stop. Elke visited Montelupone at the beginning of May 2019 and here is her story about it!
Montelupone is a small, beautiful borgo in the province of Macerata, less than 15 km from the sea and from the larger towns of Macerata, Loreto and Recanati. The name Montelupone and the wolf in the city coat of arms refer to the Luponi noble family, who lived in the area for several generations. The place is one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, the most beautiful places in Italy and has also been awarded an orange flag (bandiera arancione) by the Italian Touring Club, which is awarded to small villages with good tourist and environmentally friendly infrastructure. A visit is therefore also worthwhile outside of the artichoke festival.
But the festival, which has existed since 1961, should definitely not be missed by those who love artichokes, because here from the Montelupone area comes a very special variety: the Slow Food organization has this artichoke, also called scarciofeno , included in the list of “Slow Food Presidium”, that is food from regional, sustainable production and special quality that is protected. In fact, artichokes from Montelupone are smaller than those from industrial agriculture, have no hairs inside and no thorns outside, and are less productive but particularly tasty. The larger ones are braised and freshly processed, the smaller ones pickled in oil or made into artichoke cream.
We arrive in Montelupone in the late afternoon, park outside the well-preserved city walls and enter through one of the four city gates, the 15th-century Porta Ulpiania.
Already in front of the city walls, but also inside, there are some greengrocers who – of course – offer artichokes from Montelupone.
Inside, we stroll to the center and pass all kinds of construction fences and supported houses: the earthquake of 2016 left some traces here. The church of Santa Chiara is still closed because of the damage.
In the Piazza del Comune we immediately notice the Palazzo dei Priori with its arcades and the clock tower (Torre Civica) from the 14th century. And in the Palazzo Comunale, next to the municipal offices, is a beautiful 19th-century theatre, the Teatro Nicola degli Angeli. We reported earlier that there are a particularly large number of small theaters in the Marche
But we are hungry first and go to the Parco Franchi, where a fairly large food stand is set up. Two modern cash desks are available and the food distribution is organized like a military order, because each of the volunteers only serves one of the different dishes from the menu. Everyone is ready and seems to be nervously waiting for the visitors….
But everything is very deserted and empty!
Erik, the husband of fellow blogger Isabelle, will now laugh again at us Germans, who are always so early that we are often the first. Today we don’t mind and we order artichoke quiche, braised artichokes and a grill plate to share. Accompanied by white wine, which is tapped from large stainless steel vessels. Armed like this, we quickly find a place in the tent, which is equipped with beer benches, and enjoy our meal.
As we finish and leave, we see that eating out early was a very, very good idea: by now there was a huge queue at the food counter. As is almost always the case here in the area, the mainly local guests are very patient and so they wait their turn without grumbling or pushing. After all, the festivals are mostly for a good cause: the local clubs often earn something for the club treasury with the food stands.
In the meantime, we take a short digestive walk along pretty, small alleys. We notice a gelateria that even has artichoke ice cream! Of course we definitely want to try it. The taste isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly good either – the artichoke decoration in the ice cream container, on the other hand, is great.
Sponsors of the festival have set up stands or information boards, which is also part of many festivals: In this case, the then brand new Suzuki Jimny is presented, and in cooperation with the environmental association Legambiente, the municipality points out that only plastic-free tableware is used here.
From the edge of the park we enjoy the breathtaking view of the endless expanses of the Marchigian hills up to Monte Conero. That must have been what the romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi from neighboring Recanati meant when he created a literary monument to this landscape with his poem L’Infinito (roughly in English: The Infinite).
Finally we go back to the Piazza del Comune, where there will be another concert in the evening, but we won’t see it anymore because we still have a long way to go.
Info und Tipps:
- In 2022, the artichoke festival will take place again after the corona-related break, on May 7th and 8th. You can find the program here.
- You can find more information in English about the famous artichoke from Montelupone, including recipes and an online shop, at this local organic retailer, for example.
- If you prefer to enjoy the artichokes / carciofi in the restaurant: Some local restaurants offer special artichoke menus on the holidays, here are a few examples:
- If you like escape rooms, I personally suggest the most exciting one I have ever partecipated in right in the centre of Montelupone (which is also one of the restaurants that offers the typical dishes). It’s called Cave Escape, because it takes place in real caves underneath the restaurant itself! Definitely worth trying! https://www.facebook.com/Mysterychallengecaveescape/