Monday morning is usually a day when most small stores are closed in Italy—yet today Sarzana was hopping. There were vendors all over town; trucks and tents were strung through the streets and squares.
It was the festival of the big nuts. I read it on a poster. I didn’t know if you were supposed to get a little crazy or they were going to measure something usually quite private, but count me in for any Italian festival.
Actually, it was the festival of the big walnuts, which I suppose are blooming this time of year. I’m bad with trees. I can never remember their names or when they bloom. Come to think of it, I’m pretty much that way with people, too.
In any case, we snaked through the throngs of people squeezed between stalls laid out in the streets. You could buy canaries, olives from all over Italy, transparent underwear, soup pots, high heeled shoes, Peruvian nick-knacks, or get a sausage sandwich—or better yet a panino stuffed with porchetta, my favorite Tuscan/Umbrian street food. Here’s what you look for:
Yes, behind the Soprassata there’s a young piglet stuffed with rosemary, garlic, salt (lots of salt) pepper and other things probably best left unmentioned, roasted in a wood-fired oven and laid out on the counter of a deli built into a trailer. You just belly up to the porchetta truck and ask for a panino di porchetta. Don’t ask for a panini unless you want more than one. Panini is the plural of panino (Americans often get that wrong because they are taught by the dingbats manning industrial food emporiums that an Italian sandwich is a panini).
You can point to the pig and ask for “un panino” or hold up your thumb to indicate the number one. Yes, that’s right, don’t point to the sky with your index finger or they might interpret that as “two” (or maybe even “make one for the big guy upstairs.”) Of course, two is better than one, so don’t fight fate, especially when it drops extra porchetta in your lap.
We ate. Then after putting the camera in the car in preparation for shopping at the Ipercoop, the clouds came. By the time we had shopped it had begun to rain.
Winter is fickle. But there’s nothing better to do than wait it out with the help of some truffled lasagna followed by a couple of fat sausages over a pile of canelli and borlotti beans. We’re in Italy; let it rain, damn it.