Frogs fair

 

The “Festa delle Rane” (frogs fair) is an event which undoubtedly traces back to the food traditions of the North of Italy (and especially those of the Veneto region) where the abundance of sweet waters in the forms of rivers, streams, creeks (many of them human shaped for irrigation purposes) had frogs as a common presence in the countrysideand hence as a respectable source of food. Despite frogs being consumed since quite a long time around here, though, this fair in the surroundings of Padova (the township is called Grossa di Gazzo) had its first instalment in 1998. This event takes now place for a full week, between June and July each year. Names of places like Quinto Vicentino, Villalta, Valproto, Lanzè and many others say undoubtedly little to those who are more at ease with thours across the near cities of Vicenza or Padova. Despite being little known to the wide public, and often not offering much more that the typical sequence of townhall, church and square, they offer to both the newly- and more experienced travellers some clear examples of the life in this reach and  productive (both agriculturally and industrially) part of Italy. Some of these smaller towns (or villages…) offer indeed some hidden gems, with their ancient villas (Veneto region is famous for its circuit of “Ville venete”), medieval fortifications (i.e. Cittadella) or simply polished, clean and orderly places for a stroll and some shopping.

The frogs fair of Grossa di Gazzo (PD) offers to the casual tourist a genuine taste (food, local prosecco wine) of procucts and atmosphere of this countryside, green and humid part of Italy. Almost as a joke, the name of the town of Grossa (with its few hundreds inhabitants and administratively belonging to the – slightly – bigger commonality of Gazzo Padovano), literally means “big” in Italian. Its name, though, should probably derive, according to one of the hypotheses, from the Longobardic “Gaium” or “Gazium” or “Gagium” meaning forest, now gone since long time in favour of the more productive cultivation fields. Although there are several different explanations of the meaning of its name, the town of Gazzo first appears on a document dated 1187 from the Bishop of Vicenza. There are sights worth of a visit even in Gazzo. Those who expect to taste a handful of (fried) frogs are certainly satisfied!

Not that much into frogs? Fear not, the menu is proposing other local specialties like – to mention a few –  “bigoli all’anatra” (typical fresh pasta with goose sauce), horse steaks, soppressa (a typical local fresh salami) and plenty of polenta. Surprisingly organized for such a local event, the first stand to be found is the cashier which is where the crowd stays the most. From the cashier the orders are electronically transmitted to the big kitchen which is devoted to relentlessly provide food to the swarms of hungry people who continuously come in. Finding a place to seat for bigger numbers of people proves to be easy enough as there’s a continual turn over, while people wait for their order number to be announced from the speakers. The looks of the plates is unmistakeable: literally a pile of fried frogs (actually seeing the frogs on your plate is quite different from imagining them) covers the “rane fritte e polenta” dish. Have a look at the picture for yourself! At first try, if never having tasted frogs before, one can be quite surprised by the taste: the small frogs, with the added complexity of the small bones (yes, they’re eatan as they come) which need to be crunched carefully, possess a distinctive taste like that of small fried fishes. Another typical preparation is the risotto con le rane. All in all, one does not need to spend much more that 10 € to be able to eat and drink to satisfaction. We recommend this Festa delle Rane, especially to be enjoyed with the family of with a group of friends (a small fair is also present, for kids and adults alike).

Granted, the “frogs” element of this festival is the main attraction and you might simply want to try them out but all the rest is simply delicious (kitchen is filled with professional cooks and caterers). The Festa delle Rane, a very small event as it is, is definitely a funny and diverse addition to the wonderful time you can have in these fantastic parts of Italy, when planning your next trip. Other than being close to a number of bigger, wonderful historical places (Vicenza, Verona, Venezia and many more), the area is rich of natural beauties and attractions, with a number of other italian festivals and fairs scattered throughout the region. A splendid way to discover and enjoy the venetian territory! External link to “Sagra delle rane” (in Italian): http://www.sagradellerane.com