Rice Fair in Isola della Scala: Every year a little town in the province of Verona becomes the rice capital of Italy. This town is called Isola della Scala. A peculiar name. Literally it means Isle of the Ladder.
Why the name Isola della Scala? During the Roman period the area was full of swamps, therefore the villages were quite isolated, like islands. As for the Scala, since 1200 the village was under the rule of the Scaligeri (whose symbol was a ladder) family of Verona. Hence the name Isola della Scala.
In the town, other than the Church dedicated to Saints Stefano and Giacomo, some beautiful villas and the Scaligera Tower, you can admire the Pile da Riso, machineries used once to separate rice grains from their husk. The local product is in fact rice.
Many are the rice producers in the area. The rice variety of the area is the Vialone Nano igp (indicazione geografica protetta, protected geographical indication). Half of the Italian production of Vialone Nano is made here.
Think that in the town emblem there are a ladder in the right part and a rice paddy field in the left part.
The local speciality is the risotto all’isolana, prepared with calf meat, pork loin, rosemary, Parmesan cheese and perfumed with cinnamon.
The Rice Fair in Isola della Scala takes place every year in the period in which the rice is harvested. This year, 2016, it lasts from September 14 until October 9. Each year it counts about 500.000 visitors and 400.000 risottos servings.
I found interesting the little interactive exhibition about rice, located at the entrance, on the left of the Info point.
Right in front of the exhibit there were the stands of the local producers of rice, where you can buy kilos of rice of different kinds and rice based products (cookies, pasta, beauty creams).
At the festival there is not only risotto. But art and food exhibitions, a Fair, conferences, an educational farm for kids. Here I finally found and cuddled a donkey. Oh!
But, surely, risotto is the one true protagonist.
Local producers (Palariso) and Chef of different Italian regions (Palarisitaly) prepare several risotti. While the risotto all’isolana is a must, present every year, the other dishes change.
This year you can find: risotto with mushrooms and truffle, risotto with asparagus, risotto basil and bacon, pumpkin risotto, zucchini and shrimps, radicchio and gorgonzola, mushrooms and sausage and many others. Warning: not all these risotti are available on every date of the Festival. You must check on the website. Some of them are in fact only available during one particular weekend.
There is also a version of risotto all’isolana for persons who suffer from celiac disease.
Of course there were rice-based desserts too. I had one with a beautiful name, Bacio di Giulietta, Juliet’s Kiss. And it was super scrumptious, all chocolatey with a base of crisped rice.
La Fiera del Riso was an impressive experience. It is huge. Nevertheless, the waiting for the dishes was not so long. You have to pay at the central CASSA (cashier): 5€ for a dish of rice, 3,5€ for half dish of rice, 3€ for a dessert. You are given some coupons to present at the stand you choose.
We tried all the 5 available risotti at the Palariso that day. After 5 forkfuls per head we changed dishes like in a production line. Except that it was rather a “demolition” line. We all agreed that the risotto all’isolana was the best one.
There were also as lot of wines available, many of them very good. In fact my friends were all quite tipsy, as you can see in the photos.
Rice Fair in Isola della Scala tips
If you appreciate this Italian speciality and you’re in the area, I suggest you to go and taste some risottos at the Rice Fair in Isola della Scala. Parking fee is €2. It is 30 minutes by car from Verona, 1 hour and a half from Venice, 2 hours and 15′ from Milan. It can be also an occasion for a day trip combining it with a visit to Lake Garda or Mantua.
You have time until October 9!