Rustic chic Italian style
“Pigs saved a lot of lives here,” Corolla says, and they show up throughout the menu, starting with the antipasti platter with choice cuts of prosciutto, coppa and salami. Most of the dishes on the menu were originally designed to sustain inhabitants through the winter months. Many were also derived from smaller, more affordable animals, so handmade pastas come with pigeon, duck and rabbit ragùs.
Di Simoni, who does most of the cooking, learnt the ancient recipes from his local-born grandmother, and 94-year-old Nonna Di Simoni is still passing down her wisdom today. His polenta with snails is novel and delicious, as is the fortifying porchetta (baby pig) stuffed with fennel and garlic.
The dining highlight has to be New Year’s Eve – as much for the eccentric celebration as the food. The guests, Italians drawn from far and wide by the promise of quality food, all order cotechino – pig’s skin filled with heart, tongue, liver – served with lentils, which are said to bring good luck for the coming year. I don’t want to be the odd one out, and it doesn’t disappoint.
At midnight, everyone – except me – watches a simple firework display outside with a glass of spumante in hand, after which it’s back indoors for tambola, a holiday game similar to bingo, then an agri-quiz, contestants ringing in their answers with cowbells. It’s a throwback to the past where local families would gather together in one farmstead to see in the New Year. The atmosphere is relaxed rather than riotous, and everybody is in bed by 3am.
The sprightly can visit Fermignano’s festival, which includes a late-night discoteca and a traditional dance. The ancient town is well worth strolling around by day too, taking in its old churches, Roman bridge and medieval tower.
But back to New Year – why miss the fireworks? In the afternoon of the day before Capadanno, I take a walk up to Ca’ Maddalena’s highest point. From here it feels like you’re suspended on high with Carpegna and Catria, the two nearest peaks. There are no lights to disturb the sun’s descent behind the mountains. At that moment, gazing up at the clear heavens, I decide what I’d be doing when the clock strikes 12. I’ll be here, looking at the stars and – after a salvo of fireworks from below – in complete silence.
Staying there:Double rooms start at €80; a five-bed is €120. Horse riding costs €15. Tel: 00-39 -0722 331025,
Getting there:Ryanair has flights from Dublin to Venice or Rome, both of which are three-hour drives from Fermignano. From March, Aer Lingus will offer flights from Dublin to Bologna, from where the journey to Fermignano lasts 90 minutes. Trains and buses are fast and frequent.