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Unique Italian Festival Even the Italians Don't Know About

"Cinque Terre...A remote region along the "Italian Riviera." This annual celebration takes place on the saturday proceeding Ascension Sunday"

By: Tom Ellerbe
Cinque Terre...A remote region along the "Italian Riviera." This annual celebration takes place on the saturday proceeding Ascension Sunday, "Sagra dei Limon" the Lemon Festival remembrance occurs in the small village of Monterosso, of 5 small villages along the Ligurian sea in northern Italy. For centuries, the celebration of citrus has been very important for the local economy.

Very early in the morning, you can hear sounds of laughter, light tapping of hammers and little four cylinder Italian trucks putting along Via Fagina...the narrow street that splits hotel La Spiaggia and the Ligurian Sea. As a rule, Monterosso al Mare is calm and quiet this time of morning. During the tourist season, many of the best-on the-beach-drinking spots are active until very late into the night.

Sweet aromas of lemons and flowers fill the air. The celebration begins as the sun rises above the village. Citrus fruits enrich storefronts, windowsills and archways with artistic designs. Lemon art reproductions of animals and tiny people, line the stairs and steps of the shops.

Many locals and shop owners wear yellow clothing and small children are dressed in yellow fruit costumes. Local panetterias (bakeries) and ristorantes present fresh smelling breads, pastries, lemon pizza and other delicious eatables.

Exotic thirst-quenching beverages have been prepared in advance of the celebration. A local specialty is Limon cello (lemon liqueur). Lemon zests are soaked for 30 days in neutral grain alcohol. Result is a thick, light to bright colored sweet sensuous desert drink with an intense citrus lemon-flavor, but not sours, as it contains no lemon juices. Normally it is stored in a freezer. You can sip the many variations of this seductive beverage at the free tasting stations.

The artistic pageantry continues in Piazza Garibaldi (Local Park) which has a statue honoring Giuseppe Garibaldi. A dashing revolutionary who, in 1870, helped unite the people of Italy into a modern nation.
An "open air country market" packed with displays of fresh local veggies, fruits, floral and handmade crafts line the park area.

Live local bands entertain folks with international music and songs. At the end of this ceremonial day, a special presentation takes place with an award for the largest lemon grown in Monterosso.

Historical data: The Lagneto family controlled Monterosso al Mare in 1200 and in became a part of the Republic of Genoa. The village was a favorite target for invading pirates during the Middle Ages.

There are few cars, many hotels, good beaches and a thriving late nightlife scene. A long pedestrian tunnel separates the old town (Centro Storico) and the new town (Fegina).

A good time to visit this traffic free "Italian Riviera" is during the months of May and June. Be sure to check your calendar and arrange to be in Monterosso al Mare in the northern region of Cinque Terre Italy, to celebrate "Sagra dei Lemon".

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