Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Monday, April 27, 2015

Kite festival, green fair and a train trip to see Florence

It's all gogogo in Romagna

As ever, unless you're there you don't find out about things that are happening in Romagna. If you don't have a knowledgeable local that is.

Anyway, the local paper was advertising the International Kite Festival in Pineta (tranquil pine woods by the sea) and eventually, I found out the website: http://www.festivalinternazionaleaquilone.com/ and thought that it may be fun to go.

And in another local paper (yes there are loads of local papers in Romagna - dealing with all the different points of view!) the big Green Fair was announced to take place in one of Romagna's 300+ castle-villages - Saludecio. Some trouble finding this on the web but here it is: http://www.saluserbe.it/

So on Saturday morning, after enjoying the wickedly satirical meeting of mayors etc pontificating in the main square for Liberation Day (complete with sashes) and a visit to the market - off I went to the seaside and the pine woods (well, they're all the same really!).

Pinarella is lovely, the beach is crowded, and the sky even more crowded - with great clouds of kites - there must have been literally hundreds in the sky at any time. Colour, inventiveness, action, stunts - they were all there and a bit of sun too. Plus big crowds of people having a great time - and of course the food arrangements - you can't persuade a Romagnolo to go anywhere without a great food offer and a seasonal one too. So today its asparagus and artichokes - delicious. Plus crepes,gelatos, special meals - and tons of fab seafood… yum.

But lunch was to be later - at the green fair or 'Saluserbe' as this gathering is called. A combination of the place name Saludecio and Erbe or herbs. To be honest, you couldn't create a more fairytale castle but this is the real thing. Dominating the surrounding gently rolling hills, from Roman times until the Malatesta era, Saludecio was a defensive and production stronghold with noble families palaces and churches.

Entering through its 14th century gate now you encounter an atmospheric hilltop village known for its painted walls, its little theatre and its lovely town square restored in the 14th century by Sigismondo Malatesta.

Famous for its hospitality, village festivals are held throughout the year including the massive '800 Festival' and 'Pilgrim of the Stars' 'Saluserbe' natural health festival is becoming more and more important. Half of living herbs and half of green living things and well over half of truly GREAT food, Luckily, all the stalls and the tastes - of honey, olives, local cheeses, cold meats and salamis, nuts, biscuits and much much more helped me build up a massive appetite before I chose somewhere to eat the special offer of the day.  This included three sorts of local cheeses, ten sorts of local meats plus the crispiest warm flatbreads and deep fried flatbreads too.

And, of course you're in a castle-village and that means fabulous views while you eat. What a feast for the stomach, the eyes and the soul. Even then, you can't avoid the ladies plying you with cake offers on your way out of the village. Already crammed when I arrived there were thousands arriving now - all intent on having a good time and a good feed and drink.

The dancing was taking place in the centre of the gracious art-city of Cesena just at the bottom of the castle - it seemed wrong to avoid a typical local gelato and enjoy the music from a local band and entertainment, plus a kid's festival for Liberation Day.

When you think of Tuscany you think of great food and wine, lovely hills, posh villas and lots of tourists - strange when it borders Romagna, with arguably better food, just as lovely hills, lots and lots of atmosphere - and prices that don't break the bank. You wouldn't call Romagna posh but you would certainly enjoy it just as much - maybe even more when you think of your wallet.

Anyway, there is a little train. The idea is, you have your morning coffee at the lovely little bar by Faenza railway station and you get the 10.20 train which takes the direct route along the Lamone Valley, through the picturesque Romagna Hills into the amazing Apennines (yes, we're still in Romagna!) and then down into the Tuscan plain and hey presto, you've arrived in Florence's Santa Maria Novello Station.

As quick as you like - out of the horribly crowded centre of Florence and up into its lovely hills for a superb lunch overlooking the city. This is one of the few places where you can eat fried calves brain (which I did in the interests of experience - delicious).

And then a truly world-class experience, a visit to the amazing Anthony Gormley installation at the beautiful Belvedere with views all over Florence. So you see Gormley's evocative modern work against the background of maybe Italy's richest Renaissance city. What more could you want? And it's FREE - Gormley insisted that he wanted lots of people to come so it's open house.


Yet another beautiful scenic train ride (by the way the 90 minute each way train trip costs just 9 Euros) and back in Faenza in time to have a look at the amazing ceramic museum.

That, I think is a weekend to remember - and apart from at the Belvedere, I don't think I saw one foreign tourist.

Valere Tjolle

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