So, Saturday night was the festa of San Benedetto in Taggia. I'm sure I've posted before about San Benedetto...it's when they set the town of Taggia on fire.
Folklore has it that when groups of warriors were making their way around the Riviera, raping and pillaging, they skipped the town of Taggia. Ya know why? Because the clever Taggiaschi (people of Taggia) knew that the bastards wouldn't waste their time sacking a town that had already been sacked...so these ingenious Taggiaschi set the town on fire on their own! They destroyed their own damn town so the invaders couldn't! Damn clever.
In celebration of their brilliant forefathers, current Taggiaschi annually set their city aflame.
This year we were invited to a pre-festival dinner at the parents of one of my friends. We had tripe with beans and pork with, well, I don't know what but it was delicious. Halfway through the dinner we realized that the woman sitting across from us was our insurance agent. It wasn't until we heard her name, Maria Pia, that we figured out who she was. One just doesn't meet too many Maria Pia's floating around...even in Italy. Here's my friend and her parents.
And here's Maria Pia.
Here's Maria Pia's husband, who had kind of taken David under his wing by the end of dinner.
Then, the festivities began. The way the festival works is that anyone with a cantina (a cellar) opens their doors for friends and family to come in to celebrate. People without cantina's wander the streets going from one huge bonfire to the next, on the way they stop in every open cantina for a glass of wine and something to eat (as if the tripe hadn't been enough). Think of a city wide pub crawl but with good wine and even better food and it's free. Ok, forget the pub crawl thing...San Benedetto is nothing like a pub crawl.
Anyway, since everyone in Taggia has lived in Taggia their whole life, and is probably related some how to the original Taggaschi who fought off the invaders pretty much every cantina is open to everybody. Or so it seemed to me and the group we were traveling with. But then again, the open doors to us could have had something to do with the fact that the vice mayor was in our group.
We started first at his mother's cantina. Here's Ivan's mom.
Then, as one does we wandered the streets of Taggia...actually I saw parts of Taggia that I never knew existed. Taggia is a big town! Who knew? We were with a group, so we travelled in a group. If one person stayed longer to chat at one cantina, the whole group stayed. This got a bit tough for the people in our group when David and I started running into everyone we've ever met from Taggia -- parents of former students, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, the lady who sells me garden supplies....
And then David really put us at risk of losing our group for good when we stumbled across the cantina of BARBA ROSSA. He was so shocked and happy to see the Americans he sold the turkey to that before I knew it David had two plates piled high with hot meat and an overflowing glass of wine.
"I thought you guys lived in Carpasio or something! NOT Taggia! Here have some more pork." Carpasio is like 15 km up the valley - it's home to many foreigners who, obviously, never come to San Benedetto.
To which David promptly responded, "We live in Maberga! You need to come over for a cook out! We have an awesome grill! This pork is outstanding." Now, I think that's nice of David to think that that piece of shit pile of rocks that I made is really awesome but I doubt the best butcher in the area with see its beauty. When I finally pulled David away to join our increasingly impatient group they were setting a date for this grill out.
Back on the road with the group I found myself apologizing to Ivan, "I'm sorry we were so long. He's our butcher."
"I hope we don't run into your baker" was Ivan's response.
The night ended for us at this cantina, which has the reputation as being the best one. It was pretty festive...what with the music and the singing and all.
It was 1.30 when we told our hosts that we needed to head back to Maberga. "But you'll miss the hot chocolate and pastaccini in OUR cantina!"
"When do you do that?!"
We couldn't make it. For all the warm welcomes we had in every cantina from friends and locals and butchers, in the end we showed our true colors...we are not real Taggiaschi. Had we lived in Taggia at the times of the raping and pillaging, we wouldn't have been with our fellow towns people burning...we would have been sleeping.