This Sunday's early morning raduno was in the town of Isola della Scala (Verona province) which was holding it's 41st Rice Fair. The fair runs for three weeks, 14 September to 7 October this year. In 2006, 450,000 people attended and 350,000 risottos were cooked!
Since the famous "isolana" risotto of this area is featured after the raduno, the ride attracted an extraordinarily large group of 800+ cyclists. So many cyclists made for a slow ride due to narrow roads but the risotto afterwards was, in fact, excellent. We ate in a pavilion that holds 5,000 people...the cyclists were just swallowed up in the immense space. I was told that in the evenings it's difficult to find an available seat! The inner circumfrence of the pavilion is lined with riso and rissoto vendors. There was also a pavilion for music concerts and a very large area of booths selling the local Vialone Nano rice, wine and food produced in the peninsula: cheese, oil, mushrooms, etc.
Rice thrives so well in the Po valley that first courses of risotto are more common here than pasta courses and are a great way to serve whatever is in season, from seafood to wild mushrooms (such as Porcini) to meat and game.
The official event website is: http://www.isolafiere.it/
Photos: Emanuela at the entrance to the Fiera, the risotto is served at one of the stands, a variety of rices are sold, a young lady at the "La Pila" riso stand