The Tuscan town of San Miniato holds its truffle festival late in the fall, when the cherished fungal morsels are at their peak of fragrance and flavor. In Massa Lubrense, a small town near Sorrento in Campania, they boast the world’s best lemons and celebrate the harvest with a huge sagra where the locally-made limoncello flows freely. In our village of Marinelli, we invite the world to a weekend of eating liver.
Ahead of the annual Sagra di ‘Gnumeeredde e Cervele’ette we residents of our little village break out our Sunday best, make our houses spic ‘n span and decorate the town square in preparation for religious parades, dancing to live music, barkings of the vendors and, most importantly, the eating of roasted hunks of beef liver wrapped tightly in gut membrane. The appeal of the ‘gnumeeredde is as compelling to the locals as is the yearning of the Scots for haggis, and is just as difficult to understand. As my indulgence in haggis occurs once a year at the birthday celebration of poet Robert Burns, so is my desire for the liver sandwich for which Marinelli is “famous” totally satisfied by an annual experience.
But it is the sagra itself that is the appeal of the event. The locals begin the evening with a parade that features the statue of the Madonna that graces the little church that sits on the town square. A small brass band provides the cadence to which villagers of all ages and several generations march from one end of the village’s main street to the other. An outdoor mass on the steps of the square follows and, as soon as it’s over and the priest says, “Andate in pace,” the Marinelli townsfolk show what true party animals they are. The three-piece band breaks into American music that was new when these musicians were young at least two decades ago. Half of the population of the village falls into ranks and begins line dancing and the other half heads to the grilles to load up on the delicacy from which the party gets its name.
When darkness has reached its full, the fireworks start and everything else goes into a pausa. The pyrotechnics only last a few minutes but not a single attendee has missed so much as a squib going off. If the explosions had been silent, you could have heard a pin drop, such was the collective skyward concentration.
Vendors displayed wares that ran from cured olives to vacuum cleaners, an amusement park ride spun children around on swings and the locals showed off their most fashionable attire. An ambulance and its staff of four stood by at the ready. I think it was there in case someone were to try to eat more than one liver sandwich but it could have been for something else.
And, as always, photos by the lovely and talented Jessica Coup.