La porchetta, noble street food of Umbria and central Italy in general, stars in the May festival of San Terenziano, “Porchettiamo”. Best translated as “Let us roast suckling pig”, your Italian/English dictionary won’t have a translation and you don’t need one: just head to San Terneziano to experience “porchettiamo” with the “locals” in this tiny hilltown near Todi.
La porchetta (pork roasted on the spit, generously seasoned with garlic, rosemary, sage and wild fennel) and panini di porchetta draw the crowds to the stalls of vendors – or to their customized moveable trucks – in the piazzas, streets and weekly outdoor open markets all over central Italy. La porchetta is omnipresent at every Umbrian fiera, the traditional outdoor market on a saint’s feast day (or the day before or after the feast).
The town of San Terenziano however, fêtes la porchetta itself, in late May when the small piazza leading to the fortified 16th-century city gate becomes “la Piazza della Porchetta“. Perfect timing: after all, the Romans called pig maialis, after the goddess Maia to whom it was dedicated. Every town, city, and region della porchetta is invited to San Terenziano to offer their product to critical visitors, who come to enjoy un panino di porchetta con un bicchiere di vino rosso locale.
The more critical palates savor small tastes of different porchetta types which vary depending on the size of the roasted pig, the breed, the area where the pig was raised and its forage as well as how la porchetta was prepared (and nothing beats the traditional porchetta spit-roasted over the wood fire).
Families and young couples share sandwiches, while others browse the booths near the piazza offering a variety of artisan crafts. Some families enjoy a “pig-nic” served to them on the lawn behind town walls and young people enjoy live music played throughout the three days of “Porchettiamo”. Passing under the fortified city gate, visitors walk the cobblestone narrow street lined with artworks of Italian design students who turn pig forms into art.
On the final day of Porchettiamo in nearby medieval Grutti (pop. 500) – home for centuries to skilled porchettai - young people in medieval costumes slice woodfire, spit-roasted porchetta (the best we had!) at a fraschetta in front of the town’s ancient tower.
By Anne Robichaud, the only American authorized as an Umbrian Regional tour guide. Read about her Umbrian hilltown tours, cooking classes in her home and in the US and her "memoirs of rural life" on www.annesitaly.com. Enjoy the many stories on her blog http://annesitaly.com/blog/