Ancient + Native: Rural Festival Emilia

Italian Vineyards, What vines are native to Italy?

The ancient and native vineyards. Courtesy: Rural Festival Emilia

Isidoro and Giovanni Lamoretti cultivate indigenous Italian grapes on their hillside farm near Parma, Italy, neighboring the Torrechiara Castle. They maintain dedication to a particular varietal, Lambrusco Maestri, known for soft creamy bubbles. Ancient documentation shows that Lambrusco grapes have been cultivated in the region since 160 BC.

To call them ancient is, well, obvious – but these varietals aren’t always recognized in the consumer mix. Despite the lack of purchase-power, there are producers, such as the Lamorettis, who believe in the importance of biodiversity. As such, Isidoro and Giovanni are participants in an upcoming event, the Rural Festival Emilia, a gathering that seeks to promote and further the husbandry of ancient and native species, such as the Lambrusco grapes, in Italian vineyards.

“Our commitment is to recover and protect with passion the ancient native plant varieties and animal breeds abandoned for decades and nearly extinct. For us biodiversity means rediscovering a role as active subjects of a project of restoration and enhancement of a world to protect and preserve for future generations.” ~Rural Festival

Italian Wine Tasting, What is Emilia-Romanga, what is rosato

Wine tasting with producers at Rural Festival Emilia. Courtesy: Rural Festival

The festival is created to offer exposure to the farmers that work in Appennino Tosco-Emiliano – an area is recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, defined by UNESCO, “Biosphere reserves harmonize conservation of biological and cultural diversity, and economic and social development, through partnerships between people and nature. They also contribute to the transition to green societies by experimenting with green development options such as sustainable tourism and training for eco-jobs.”

Appennino Tosco-Emiliano is a beautiful expression of agriculture and conservation mixing to generate an atmosphere known to draw visitors for that specific purpose, to stay on the farms where the sights, smells and tastes of the farmer’s life become the highlight of the experience. Called agritourismo in Italy, this is an authentic experience that washes visitors in closeness with farm life.

But what is so special about Tosco-Emilia? “The area contains close to 70% of total species present in Italy including 122 species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and fish, as well as a wide variety of flora comprising at least 260 aquatic and terrestrial plant species.”

This biodiversity is elemental to the Rural Festival’s approach, however the focus of the event is on agricultural species, livestock and crops, those that are seeping toward extinction as modern consumers turn away from the ancient varieties. “The main economic activity in the reserve is agriculture,” says UNESCO, recognizing that the work done by the approximately 100,000 inhabitants of the area is significant for preservation. “The main economic activities are tourism, agriculture, craftsmanship and the processing of high-quality foods such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di parma, oil, honey and spelt from Lunigiana and Garfagnana.”

Appennino Tosco-Emiliano, UNESCO, Italy, Agriculture

The Appennino Tosco-Emiliano biosphere reserve (Italy) ©UNESCO/AlterEco sc

According the the Rural Festival, “The area dedicated to the recovery of old varieties also includes rows of grapevines as Lambrusco grapes, Fortana (red and white, without filtration), Muscat, Trebbiano, Malvasia Smell, Santa Maria, Melara, Verdea, Tonda di San Secondo, Bergano Bianco, Bianchetta, Metic and still, White Rose, Lugliatica, Linhj, Termarona, Crova, Crovetto, false, Galuson, Crova, Varan Artemino Nusera Monfra’, Nigrera, and Red Bergano and Monterosso.”

Italian Vineyards, Indigenous Grapes, Vinodiversity

Ancient and native varietals thrive in preserved vineyards. Courtesy: Rural Festival Emilia

Trees, tomatoes, sheep, horses, pigs, donkeys, vegetables and other ancient varieties are represented by the famers that care for them. Such as:

Alessio Zanon, a biodiversity expert raising endangered dairy cattle such as the Grey Apennine, a species that nearly died out during World War II. Claudio Grossi, a farmer who selected a famous for selecting “miracle grain” which yields an original and special bread. Duccio Fontani a collector of “spontaneous Chianti” herbs for 30 years in Siena. Valentina Cipelli who raises free-range, endangered “Chicken Romagna”

The event is September 2nd and 3rd and has free admission. A second event is held on September 16th and 17th in Siena. Both festivals feature a market, hands-on activities, four-wheel rides through farmland and the opportunity to meet producers.

Rural Festival Emilia
Barboj Park Rivalta
Via Torchio, 20
Lesignano de’ Bagni – Parma
Cell. 342.9128266 / 335.316337
Google Map – Rural Festival Emilia

Rural Festival Toscana
Piazza of Gaiole in Chianti
Cell. 333.1239638
Google Map – Rural Festival Toscana

*All photographs are courtesy of Rural Festival*


Italian Food Wine & Travel

If the diversity Emilia-Romanga region appeals to you, join our Italian Food Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) group this weekend for a twitter chat and curated collection of related blog posts from the following authors:

Lynn from Savor the Harvest highlights two of the region’s main attractions in Italy’s Heart and Soul of Wine and Food.

Jennifer of Vino Travels shares her discovery of Romagna Albana: The 1st White DOCG of Emilia Romagna.

Here on L’occasion we share this guide to a favorite local tradition with Ancient + Native: Rural Festival Emilia.

Katarina, host of Wines of Italy Live Stream and Grapevine Adventures, explores Podere Palazzo – An Organic Winery in the Heart of Romagna.

Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla introduces us to a unique specialty of the region with Nocino: A Green Walnut Liqueur from Emilia-Romagna.

Lauren at The Swirling Dervish delves into The Winemaking Traditions of Cantina Braschi.

Thanks to Katarina Andersson, we will also welcome Davide Moki Castagnoli from Braschi Vigne e Vini in Emilia-Romagna. He’s sure to add a unique perspective to our chat, providing us a clearer understanding of the region’s wines.

Our live chat occurs on September 2 at 11 am EDT. To follow the discussion, log into Twitter and search for #ItalianFWT. Click the “latest” button at the top and you’ll see all the tweets live, as they are posted.

It’s always a good time, with plenty of wine recommendations, food pairing ideas, and travel tips. If you’re already missing the lazy days of summer, please join our virtual trip to intriguing Italy.

9 thoughts on “Ancient + Native: Rural Festival Emilia

  1. Wow, fabulous article Jill. I love your bringing other aspects into each group. While it is about the wine, there is so much more, and had I not read your article, would know nothing about Appennino Tosco-Emiliano and the Biosphere Reserve. What this area is doing- the agritourismo, green development and eco-job experimentation, focus on biodiversity- I commend them. This is so important for conservation of ancient varieties of everything. Instead of sending kids to camp, or adults to various conferences, send them for a week, two or more at an agritourismo in this area, or something similar. Possibility.


    1. I am sure you are spoiled with great events such as this. Around here, fall means pumpkin patches and there is an excellent one nearby that has a seed exchange for heirloom gourds, squash and pumpkins along with a wild array of them available for purchase. Really fun! Thank for your comment!


  2. Thanks for a glimpse into what makes this region so special. Everything about the Rural Festival resonates with me, especially the focus on protecting and preserving local flora and fauna. It seems to pay homage to the past via modern technology and expertise – the best of both worlds. Love the whole idea!

    Liked by 1 person

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