IF the Christmas markets mean winter, mediocre Gluhwein and festive Kitsch then the Festa Italiana is all about summer, gelato, proper vino and la Dolce Vita in the sun (fingers crossed). ToM suddenly started thinking sunscreen and shorts with the announcement that Festa Italiana Manchester is returning from July 13-15, once again transforming Cathedral Gardens into ‘Little Italy’.
Last year’s inaugural event was a sensational success, pulling in 26,000 punters, and the plan is for this free weekend-long celebration of all things Italian to become an annual event.
Inspired by Manchester’s Italian heritage, as well as the traditional festivals over in Italy, the Festa is all about the community coming together to socialise, authentic beautiful food and drinks and live music.
Such was the Mancunian enthusiasm for the stalls, masterclasses and bars that many traders sold out last year. Proof – the Festa stats (somebody laid off the vino and Peroni to keep count):
4,500 pizzas pizza frittes munched, 50 metres of pizza devoured, 3,000 Aperol Spritzes sipped, 2,200 Peronis enjoyed, 3,500 cakes from Salvi’s scoffed, 1,800 glasses of prosecco from Con Gusto quaffed, 650 pasta pots from Pasta Project eaten, 700 Nutella Crepes from Manchester Coffee Company guzzled.
This time Maurizio Cecco and his organising team will be prepared for the onslaught. Expect the same formula but with additional stalls on the food market plus more brands and eateries involved.
This year's promises an even bigger programme including a dedicated children's food festival, Bambini Cucina, more hands-on masterclasses; and a series of special banquets. We can’t wait.
Maurizio, who owns Manchester's family-run Italian restaurant group Salvi's, plans to make the festival an annual fixture.
“We have an amazing foundation this time on which to build," he told us. "Last year we were starting from scratch, we were creating something new, and we had no idea how popular the event was going to be.
"To see so many people come and enjoy our Festa was staggering, and fantastic. This year we are back with so much more for visitors to enjoy – from the live music to the number of producers involved, it’s going to be much bigger and even better - we only just got started last year!"
Festa Italiana runs from Fri July 13 to Sun July 15 and will be open from 11am to 11pm each day, with free entry. For more information visit festaitalianauk.com.