Montelupone Celebrates Artichokes
How many places can boast a view of a sunrise over the sea, a view of snow-capped mountains and a lazy sunset of rolling green hills that seemingly go on forever? My guess is not many; but come to hinterland area around Montelupone (MAP) in Le Marche and you got all that plus a cute little ancient hilltop town to roam around in. If you time it right, you could be roaming around while they celebrate their annual artichoke festival, which had some pleasant little surprises for us.
While trying not to sound like a travel agent selling you a holiday, Le Marche has everything. Over the 5 years of being in Italy, occasionally I would see entire trains sponsored by the Le Marche Tourism Office, blowing it’s own trumpet about just how much diversity Le Marche offers. After spending a short amount of time there to visit this artichoke sagra / celebration, I can vouch for their claim of offering all things like sailing, skiing, mountain climbing, rustic country life, summer beach holidays and of course a great culinary tradition.
Not as well known as Tuscany or Umbria to the international traveller, Le Marche easily competes as a prime destination rather than a secondary alternative. All those romantic ideas you have of Italy, well… Le Marche does a really good job at providing them.
Montelupone is a small, walled town high above the farms that supply it with all the produce it needs. Naturally the local Monteluponese artichokes are what makes this town a little more distinctive to similar towns in the area. Here they’ve been growing them for generations and were one of the first towns in Italy to celebrate them, this being the 49th sagra and usually celebrated on one of the first weekends of May.
One of the highlights for me was meeting Simeone Boccanera from Bar Gelateria Boccanera. This gelato bar sits at the top of town near the main piazza and blew my mind when I saw that they offered sorbetto alla giudea and a gelato ai carciofi. Certainly one of the most adventurous sorbet recipes to ever cross my lips, their alla giudea is a savoury sorbet, which one elderly lady tried and came back singing it’s praises and suggesting it accompany a plate of prosciutto and cheese, which it was actually designed to do. This sorbet uses all the same ingredients as the vegetable dish, in fact the artichokes are prepared as normal including things like olive oil, garlic, calamint, parsley and obviously, artichokes, then used and adapted for this sorbet.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a plate of cold meats and cheeses but the accent it would give to an antipasto was clear when I tasted it. An experiment they tried and from all customer reports, a great success, and one worth pushing further, possibly as a packaged product to keep in one’s freezer and pull out to really stun some unsuspecting dinner party guests.
As for the Sagra, it is probably one of the best organised and least publicised events on their cultural calendar. It’s very well attended and there is plenty of food to go around all day and night. On the menu are some of the trusted favourites and some new dishes as well.
Le Marche is somewhere I will go back to and explore a lot further and Montelupone is definitely somewhere I would go again just to try that sorbet.
Tags: artichoke gelato, artichoke recipes, artichoke sorbert, carciofi italiani, italian artichokes, montelupone artichoke celebration, ricette carciofi, sagra del carciofo di Montelupone. Le marche artichokes