The (unexpected) divination power of onions

TIMG_0189oday I cannot but write again about the curious case of ‘Urbania onions’ which seem to have the gift of telling the weather, month by month, for a whole year. Yes, today we are going to talk about one of the most fascinating, and weirdest, popular beliefs of my land: weather forecast by Urbania onions!

I think we all know that real knowledge and popular wisdom walk hand by hand. And the traditional rite of telling the weather by the onions, handed over from generation to generation since the Middle Ages, is definitely a product of ‘popular wisdom’. The origin of the prediction seems to go back to a very long time ago, when it was vital for the peasants to foretell the weather upon which their whole harvest  – and life – depended.

So here it goes: n the night between Jan 24th and 25th, known as the night of Saint Paul of the Signs, twelve white onion slices sprinkled with salt are placed on a cutting board outdoors facing the East.IMG_0190

The procedure consists of three steps: starting from Jan 1st to Jan 12th (these are the so called giorni conterecci – counting days) you must take note of the atmospherical conditions, as each day represents a month of the year. Then, starting from Jan 13th you go backwards and assign each day a month but, this time, you start from December and go back to November, etc. Should there be discordance, that means that the weather is going to be unsettled. Then, on the night of Saint Paul’s conversion, you place twelve slices of onions, six in a row making two rows (one below the other), on a cutting board. You sparkle them with salt, place them outdoors, facing the East and you wait.


IMG_0185The morning after you proceed “reading” the slices. If the salt has melt on the onion slice, it means that the corresponding month will be rainy; if the salt, on the contrary, is still crystal shape it means that the month will be dry.

In Urbania, the ancient and magic rite of the “onion reading” is left to Ms Emanuela Forlini, a teacher who people call in order to receive useful advices on which month is best to get married, to go on holiday or to sow. Emanuela inherited this skill from her grandafather Domenico and even her father Anselmo, a lawyer, carried on the family tradition, aware of the importance of preserving the great wisdom of the Past.

Of course, she does not claim any scientific fundamental, nor did her father. However, the onions from Urbania seem to be 70-80% reliable. And you, would you rather trust the onions or a weather forecast official website? As far as I am concerned, I prefer them sautéd in a terracotta pan, adding the perfect touch to beans all’uccelletto with tomato sauce, olive oil and sage (even if the original Tuscan recipe recommends garlic, I make my own variation with onions).

Not to be missed in Urbania the imposing Ducal Palace on the Metauro river, the Diocesan Museum and Ceramics Collection, the Mummies in the Church of the Dead.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s