My friends know that the older I get the more I cherish rites (where the border between ‘religious rite’ – meaning with that any outer activity implying an inner journey – and ‘tradition’ is very unstable). One of my ‘pesarese’ favourite rites, besides going to the Harbour Feast, is that of going to San Nicola Fair taking place in September. The Fair, entitled to Saint Nicholas (celebrated on Sept. 10th according to the Roman Catholic calendar) is to me, and to most Pesaresi, the turning point between Summer and Fall.
Over 600 stalls peacefully occupy the streets along the seaside. Starting from via della Repubblica (leading to the bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro), both viale Trento and viale Trieste display all kinds of goods: from the typical Italian onions and bulbs of garlic to local cheese as ‘pecorino’ or ‘fossa’, sausages, honey, toys, clothes, hats, books, umbrellas and, of course, the yearly fair ‘thing-a-majig’.
Each year someone comes up with the ‘discovery-of-the-year’ item that is supposed to make each housewife the most fulfilled housewife in the world. The eighth wonder of the world is usually a miraculous rag to clean windows, a magic knife to make roses out of zucchini and/or carrots, a lemon squeezer you just have to push into the lemon (I got it two years ago and never used it!). This year the big fuss (?) is about a magic carpet: no matter what you pour on it or what falls on it, stains simply do not appear…
The Fair dates back to a very long time ago. After the new harbour was built under Francesco Maria Della Rovere II in 1615, the inhabitants and the merchants of the town asked for the old fair (already existing in the 16th century) to be held again, and improved. The Fair did not keep going through the centuries; later on the fairs of San Terenzio, Pesaro patron saint – which we celebrate on Sept. 24th – and San Nicola fair merged into just one fair: la fiera di San Nicola. This year the fair will last 4 days (from Sept. 10th to Sept. 13th).
Yesterday I went on an ‘exploring tour’ with my sister Cristina and my daughter Costanza, but I’m planning to go for a walk along the booths each day of the fair. I love the smell of cotton candy mixing with the smell of sausages (I know, that sounds gross… but do you remember ‘Proust’s madeleines‘? This particular smell reminds me of my childhood, I cannot help it!). I like ethnic stalls and African women turning your hair into a beautiful mane made of (looks like) hundreds of braids.
What I love the most, though, are the ‘sidewalk shops’ organized by children. Children selling their old toys, books, stuffed animals. My sister and I used to organize such a ‘street sale’ when we were little girls. We were so happy when someone bought us something that now that I’have grown up (more or less) I always buy something whenever I come across children sales. In addition to that, having my sister always been a ‘creative volcano’, I remember that when she was in her early teens she used to make earrings, bracelets and painted tiles which she used to sell at San Nicola Fair (I, being the younger, used to be the sale assistant!). However, back then, even children had to buy a space; so my poor dad had to stand in an early line from the early morning in order to acquire, and pay!, the space where Cristina would have her stall!
Yesterday Costanza, needless to say, got a new pair of Winnie-the-Pooh house slippers, a pin with ‘Pukka’, a strawberry lollipop, a plastic house of the dolphins and – guess what? – the inevitable two goldfish (which she named Dori and Nemo) and the bowl.
I hope I will soon convince Costanza that the two goldfish are better off in the pond at the grandparents’ country house (we call it ‘the pond’ but it’s actually smaller than a bath tub). In the meanwhile we welcomed the newly arrived guests, placed them in the kitchen, and off we go to the fair again!