Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Apple Time!

While Ma was here, we heard about a festival said to be one of the most exciting in southern Italy. The apple festival in Valle Maddaloni. I was excited. I love festivals, craft shows, parades, all sorts of these things. We've wandered onto a few such festivals while living in Italy, and for the most part, they've been small and spectacularly unattended by the general public. The one exception was last year's trip to EuroChocolate in Perugia, which was so far in the other direction in size, scope, and attendance that it's in a class by itself. The chance to attend a well regarded festival only a short drive away was exciting. And we like apples. These apples are different, specific to this region, tiny and sweet and juicy. Here's a photo of the exciting festival:

Clearly, not the hotbed of festiveness we were expecting. Plus, I made a pretty major error that I just keep making over and over again (definition of insanity, right!). The festival was called Valle Maddaloni Apple Festival (translation). I know there's a town nearby called Maddaloni, so I thought...great, the festival is in Maddaloni on the main street, named Valle Maddaloni. This is where knowing Spanish is a huge detriment to living in Italy. Valle does not mean street in Italian. It means valley. You can see where this is going, right?

We dutifully put the town of Maddaloni into our "trusty" GPS, drove out into the beautiful countryside of the Campania region, found the town, and proceeded to spend almost an HOUR driving around tiny streets trying to find this festival. We stopped to ask for directions, and here again, an error we make on a regular basis...which is, having me be the person to go ask the question. For some reason, I have some sort of mental block against understanding the answer. I go ask, I think I understand the reply, I jump back in the car and confidently begin giving directions, only to get us even more lost. After a long time, usually only 20 minutes or so that feel like three hours, we stop for directions again and have a "discussion" that results in Nathan being the one to ask for the directions. At which point, he gets back into the car, begins confidently driving, and we reach our destination with very few wrong turns. it turns out, Valle Maddaloni is it's own town, and is also in our trusty GPS. Once we figured that fact out, we were on our way - and the laughter of the gas station attendant in Maddaloni, upon my direction questioning, made a little more sense. Fortunately, I have become quite used to being the dumb American and am fairly immune to laughter in my face. Junior high school about 25 years ago was fantastic preparation to living in Italy.

We arrived in Valle Maddaloni, a gorgeous, old town clinging to a hillside and straight out of Tuscany rather than southern Italy. Excellent. We know Tuscan towns. They have piazzas, and that's where the festival is. For sure. Up, up, up we drive, streets growing more and more narrow with no main piazza in sight, and finally, we reach a point where going up seems to be narrower than our station wagon. So we go down, down, down, find a guy walking down the street, ask for more directions, and the festival was extremely easy to find, on a large, main street right off the large, main freeway. [Big sigh].

Despite the utter lack of activity - seriously, there were only two other couples shopping (both American, by the way) - we really enjoyed ourselves. The cheese guy set up in the first tent was generous with his samples and we scored a fantastic cheese for our dinner that evening. We bought a bag of apples for me to try my hand at making apple butter (my grandmother helped me), Nathan got a plant for his office, and Ma found several jewelry items for gifts. Also, we noticed some vendors were still setting up (at 1pm in the afternoon), and we noticed a stage going up, so my thinking is that the Valle Maddaloni Apple Festival really is a grand, well attended festival, Italian style - which means the crowds probably showed up about 11pm.

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