800 x 637 image uploaded at TrekEarth.com
Fermignano, Pesaro-Urbino (Marche) — Ready? Set? Go! The image above speaks for itself as we took off for an extended weekend to witness the 43rd Palio della Rana in the region of Le Marche. Historical reenactments are very much an important part of italian culture and the ‘Race of the Frog’ traces its origins all the way back to 1607. The region is known for their olive all’ascolana (stuffed olives) and truffles among other things, but is also home to Jackie (and Antonello) of Allora, Aspetta. Since this happened to be my first meet up with another american expat in Italy, I have to say that we had a great time in their company.
Medieval costumes, falcons, fire eaters, and food…
Upon nearing the environs of Fermignano, bright yellow banner announcements heralded the impending frog race which included a variety of activities held during a 3-day period (13th – 15th). Food booths organized by each of the competing contrada (district) sold plates of everything from polenta with porcini, pasta with cinghiale (wild boar), fried frog legs and tripe, just to name a few. We supported contrada L’Agostina by sampling their rane in porchetta which tasted of frog, herbs and garlic and had nothing to do with pork. It’s true, frog tastes like chicken. Unfortunately for L’Agostina, contrada La Torre came out the winner in the end.
The actual competition occurred on Sunday, otherwise known as the Domenica in Albis, or Sunday after Easter. Beginning at a long distance and culminating into a wild and frantic dash toward the central hub of Piazza Garibaldi, seven districts divided into two age groups participated in the 170-meter course (186 yards) that stretched along the main street of via M. Liberta. There was a good crowd in attendance but not so much as to make it impossible to scout positions for better photo-ops. Our initial stakeout was next to the judging area where they had a veterinarian inspecting and giving the frogs a clean bill of health before the race. Funny thing is that the prospective contestants were kept in these enormous jugs for storing wine? Had they been really swimming “in the juice”, the pond dwellers would never have crossed the finish line.