update 2016: this year the artichoke festival of Ladispoli (province of Rome) will take place from Friday April 15 to Sunday April 17. The Sagra del Carciofo in Sezze (province of Latina) will be held on April 14, 2016.
April is the month of the artichoke festivals in Italy. One of the most famous Italian food festivals is the Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco of Ladispoli, in the Lazio region, celebrating the Roman artichoke.
An icon of the Roman and Jewish cuisine, the Roman artichoke (Cynara Cardunculus) comes from the plains of the Lazio region. The earliest ones are harvested in Ladispoli and Cerveteri, while the later varieties come from the Agro Pontino plain that extends to Sezze in the province of Latina. This “Romanesque” artichoke (Carciofo Romanesco) is one of the most appreciated variety of the over 50 artichoke types available in Italy, from the spiny Ligurian ones to the small purplish Tuscan ones.
The Romanesco variety has gained Igp (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status by the European Union. Apart from the Romanesco the only other variety to have gained an Igp denomination in Italy is the Carciofo di Paestum from the Campania region. Other excellent varieties from other regions include the Carciofo monteluponese (Marche), the Carciofo violetto di Sant’Erasmo (Veneto) and the Carciofo violetto precoce di Jesi (Marche), which is perfect to be consumed raw.
The Italian word for artichoke, carciofo, comes from the Arabs who called it karshuf (or kharshuf) and cultivated it as early as 400 BC. More about the history of the artichoke in our article about the aphrodisiac foods in Italian cuisine (indeed, artichokes are believed to reinforce sexual desire…!)
The 64th edition of the artichoke sagra of Ladispoli will take place from Friday April 11 to Sunday 13 (update: this year from April 15 to 17, 2016), whhile the Sezze festival is generally scheduled at the beginning of April. During the two weeks preceding the artichoke festival in Ladispoli, restaurants of the town area will offer fixed-price tourist menus (at 21 euros) exclusively based on artichokes.
Other famous artichoke festivals in Italy include the Sagra del Carciofo Moretto held in Brisighella, province of Ravenna (Emilia-Romagna) at the beginning of May and the Festa del Carciofo Violetto di Sant’Erasmo, held on the namesake island in the Venetian lagoon and usually scheduled around May 10th, but dates have not been confirmed yet for the 2016 edition.
In Rome you can try Jewish artichokes (carciofi alla Giudia) in the legendary trattorias of the Jewish Ghetto, such as Sora Margherita and Giggetto – al portico d’Ottavia. For the non less excellent carciofi alla Romana (artichokes the Roman way) head to one of the restaurants of Rome serving typical Roman cuisine: our favorites are Checchino in the Testaccio district, Lo Scopettaro, Checco er Carrettiere and Sora Lella. Most restaurants serving original Roman cuisine will serve both the carciofi alla Giudia and the carciofi alla Romana.
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The Moretto Artichoke of Brisighella