The worst place on earth if you are a pig…
In the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, the humble pig is so revered that an entire month of festivals is dedicated to the gastronomic delights of pork. It is quite understandable! The pig provides the raw product for one of Italy’s most sought-after exports, Parma Ham, but the story of the pig does not end with Parma Ham, and at this month-long festival you will find out how many other great pork delicacies are produced in the region. There are also demonstrations of how the carcass is divided up and how all the various cuts are processed – this event is not for vegetarians, who should perhaps give this festival a miss and rather visit one of the many other attractions of the region!
The November Pork festival, takes place each weekend for the month of November, and each stage is hosted by a different village along the Street of Culatello, (or the Pork Road), starting in Sissa, with “The Flavours of Pork” event. At each stage, the village butchers compete to produce the biggest, longest or heaviest product, which is why the competition is said to be the “greediest” of all food festivals in Italy.
Sissa – The annual “November Pork” fair starts in Sissa on the first weekend of November. On the Friday night there are live concerts and festivities and on the Saturday visitors are tempted by a market of typical products of the area, which include not only pork but also many organic products, fish, teas, spices and spirits. The music and entertainment continues late into the night. Sunday is the day everyone is waiting for – there are demonstrations of cheese making and the making of salamis and other pork products, before everyone gets to taste the giant Mariolone (a type of cooked salami) that the local butchers have been making all weekend.
Polesine Parmense – on the second weekend of the month the festival moves down the road to the village of Polesine Parmense, where it takes much the same form as the previous weekend, with music, dozens of market stalls and this time the star of the show is the Prete(Priest – this is made from the cured meat of the pork shoulder and knuckle, all rolled up in strips of pork rind into a triangular shape, reminiscent of a Priest’s hat) Usually it is a modest sized salami, but for this festival the butchers make the biggest one they can! It is baked and distributed(for free!) to everyone on the banks of the River Po. Of course, it is all washed down with a great local Fortana wine.
Zibello – is the village where the festivities take place on the third weekend, and this time the starring product is the Salame Strolghino; this is a “thin” salami, very delicate in flavour, traditionally made from the trimming of the large pear-shaped Culatello salami, which is locally known as the King of Salumi”. At November Pork, the local butchers of Zibello try to make the longest ever Strolghino to feed the many visitors. And I mean long…sometimes it can be up to several hundred metres!
Roccabianca – is the last village to host the November Pork competition and there are all sorts of extra events to mark the end of the celebrations. These include the “Pork Hot Feet” race, a Christmas Market and, of course, the tasting of the giant Cicciolata (this type of salami is more like a meat-loaf; it is made with some of the best pork cuts, generously flavoured with spices and then set in a loaf-shape, and served with hot polenta).
Each weekend, in addition to all the market stalls where you can buy local products, you can also visit regional restaurants, many of which feature special menus to showcase pork dishes from the region. Also in November, there is a black truffle festival in Parma, a Cheese Fair in Talamello(Rimini), and an olive oil festival in Ravenna, making November one of the very best times of the year to visit Emilia Romagna.