Festa della Zucca
In late October, the Italian city of Venzone celebrates the Festa della Zucca which is a festival that is one part Renaissance Fair and one part pumpkin feast. The city of Venzone has a rich history and celebrates its Medieval heritage during the Festa della Zucca. The whole community seems to really get into the spirit, with candles lit in the old windows facing the square, pumpkin decorations throughout the city, and people dressed in Renaissance costumes.
The origin story of the Festa della Zucca is very entertaining – essentially a wealthy noble promised money to the city to beautify and preserve its buildings but he never carried through with paying everyone. One person, in particular, was very upset by this and instead of furnishing the top of the cathedral with the golden orb he was commissioned to make, he replaced the orb with a pumpkin. The community did not notice this switch until the pumpkin fell from the top of the cathedral and smashed in the street. So while you are at the Festa della Zucca, keep an eye out for the golden pumpkin decorations that are around the town square.
Coming from the USA, I really miss how much Americans go nuts for pumpkin so it was super fun to me to experience the Italian version of a Harvest festival. In Austria, there is Kürbis (pumpkin) but they do not have the American Sugar Pumpkins I am used to cooking with. It has been a tough Autumn for me without all of the pumpkin fanfare I am used to so I was so happy to be in Venzone sampling pumpkin foods at the market.
There are several farmers and producers with small stalls at Festa della Zucca selling items that range from hand-milled polenta to local salami to buckets upon buckets of apples.
The festival runs through the weekend with events during the night and day. We arrived around 6 pm and caught the tail end of the daily displays and shows before the night portion of the festival began. It was beautiful to watch the sunset on the hills that surrounded the city, so I definitely recommend arriving at a time where you can enjoy all the festival has to offer.
The food at the festival was great (although priced a little bit higher than I would like, eh, festivals, what can you do…). Our group hopped around the different festival stalls to try as many things as we could. To start, I had some pumpkin gnocchi with smoked ricotta with a pumpkin beer from a local brewery. I later tried some honey schnapps to help ward off the cold while walking around at night and for dinner enjoyed some pumpkin Frico with hot mulled wine. Even though it was a cold evening, the festival was still going strong, perhaps all of the alcohol for sale may have had something to do with it…
If you are planning on visiting Venzone for Festa della Zucca, here are some helpful tips to help you plan –
- The festival is free to attend, but donations are requested at the old city gates
- On Saturday be sure to stay for the fireworks at the end of the evening
- Current dates and festival information can be found on the Venzone Tourism website
- Parking can be difficult to find near the old city, however, there are several lots within a mile of the city. The city also organizes shuttles from a large parking lot near Venzonne, check their website for up to date information.
We had a great time at the festival and plan to go again next year. I am so happy to have a new tradition for years to come – thanks Venzonne!