Unto, nothing unctuous about it at all!

November 26, 2012 / Events
Assisi, Umbria
Here in Assisi, we certainly hope that the November UNTO festival will not in any way be the final or last oil (as in “Extreme Unction”);  after all, for Catholics, Extreme Unction has a finality. The final anointing for those in danger of death takes its name from the Latin, unguere (“to anoint”) – and one nearing death here in Italy is “in extremis”

In early November, Assisi launched its first UNTO festival and at first, the name puzzled more than a few of us “locals” as it means “greasy”, “oiled” or “anointed” And “untuoso” (“oily”) can have the same negative connotations as “unctuous”:  “slippery’, “greasy”,  “insincerely agreeable or earnest”.   Over espresso in the cafés on the main piazza, we speculated on the choice of a name like that  for a festival in this gem of a medieval hilltown, albeit a festival highlighted by olive oil tastings.

And then the posters announcing this first-ever four-day festival fêting the historical and cultural links of the typical food products of the area clarified all:  UNTO is an acronym for Unesco Natura Territorio Olio. The festival intertwined various local cultural associations, the area farmers, Assisani  and visitors in a celebration of not just the prized Umbria olive oil but also its esteemed wines, truffles, prosciutti, salami and sheep’s milk cheeses.  And not only gastronomical stars of Umbria took the stage, but also local handcrafts, from Assisi’s traditional embroidery to silks dyed with olive leaves, pompegranate and other vegetative colors.

As visitors wandered the stands set up in front of the 1st-century B.C. Roman temple in the main square, a tango music band enthroned on the town fountain added festive notes to the UNTO days.  Small shuttle buses transported visitors to the area olive mills in the Umbrian countryside to watch the  pressing of the new olive oils, offered on bruschetta.   Other visitors headed into the 14th-c palazzo municipale  for a cooking class highlighting Umbrian goodness.

UNTO:  a celebration of “oily”….and we hope it won’t be the last!

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

23 Responses to “Unto, nothing unctuous about it at all!”

  1. This sounds similar to the Frantoi Aperti (olive mill open houses) events that take place in various towns in southern Umbria in November and early December. In addition to being able to visit the olive mills and taste the olio nuovo, you can enjoy special markets and musical performances in the town centers. Last November my husband and I had the great good fortune to visit Umbria in early December and take advantage of a few of the events. The freshly pressed oil was so green and luscious! Our favorite was from Checcarelli in Trevi.

  2. gerald anders

    once again, I delight in reading these articles: short, pithy, articulate,personal and informative. But I continue to be frustrated knowing that this was, according to the article, announced for some time preceeding the event, and yet the first most of us hear about it is afterwards, when it is over or ready for extreme unction. I am almost to the point of just not opening any further Notes because the level of frustration just rises. For those reading them from afar it is not so bad (Iwas one of those until a recent move to Rome) but to be so close and then discover you missed something is cruel.

    Seriously, is there no way for those writers who are regulars and know the ropes, to just send either a copy of the announcement or a very brief note giving event title,date, place,time and if available a site to get further info BEFORE it is over. Unsigned to be sure no one annoys the post-er asking for fuller info. Just a box at the end of a regular article labeled UPCOMING would do the trick. THe rest is up to the reader.

    Don’t mean to sound like an ungrateful curmudgeon who does not appreciate the labor of love these articles represent.

  3. Anne Robichaud

    Penny, thanks for your note and hope you are into new adventures (in Portugal now, vero?) – Janet, hope to see you here next year – Cyndy, the Frantoi Aperti fetival is ongoing – Nov til Dec 6th (with visits to the olive oil mills for pressing) whereas UNTO celebrates not just the oil….Gerald, good suggestion (and I think GB at Notebook wants to do a calendar) and hope you can get to Frantoi Aperti before conclusion, Dec 6th..you should find program on the Net but if you do not, please advise..

  4. Anne – Wonderful article! Keep them coming and don’t hold back on the photos either!

    I second Gerald’s comment on the need for a calendar and applaud you Anne for immediately offering to share what you knew in terms of things going on in the months ahead!

    I was always fascinated by all the various activities that were happening and made notes in my calendar to remind me to be on the lookout for them in the coming year but Gerald’s suggestion is the answer!

  5. Mary Cappiello

    Wow, Anne! This fête sounded so delicious and interesting that I wanted to be transported to Assisi! The fastest way possible, if available! Loved your accompanying pictures, too!

  6. Zofia & Charles (Canada)

    Great article! Wish we had been there to join in the festivities.

  7. Diane Lennon

    Anne, I second Mary Cappiello’s comments. Also like Gerard’s comment on posting upcoming events on Italian Notebook.
    I am planning on attending UNTO next year!

  8. Suzanne and Jack

    As usual Anne a fabulous article and the accompanying photos really capture the festivities.
    An annual calendar with photos of each of the Umbrian festivals could be a thought too.

  9. Thanks for the nice article. Regarding the need for a calendar, yes, but… My wife and I lived in Italy for 13 months and ended up having to make our own spreadsheet of potential events to attend just in Rome, let alone the whole country. One goal of spending a year was to be able to participate in events such as UNTO that we would often miss during restrictive 3-week vacations, and we did well. But there are just too many. One must do some research–this stuff is all on the Internet somewhere–to find the festa that appeals. Many regional celebrations are annual events with long histories, so they appear in guide books and blogs. Others like UNTO that are new generally get publicity on RAI and other news outlets, but as unknown quantities, it’s a bit unfair (secondo me) to expect sites like this one to do promotions in advance. So, yes, a comprehensive calendar would be great, but it would be a full-time job for someone.

  10. Wow. This festival would make it even easier to a get a taste and a smell of the food and the land of Umbria. Walking the fields and back roads is such an involving way to experience the color and texture of the soil, the smells of the orchards and fields, and taste the glories of the foods they produce!

  11. Well, I’m just going to have find a way to get to Umbria during the olive harvest. Our first trip ever is planned for May of next year, but reading about UNTO makes me want to start planning of next visit already.

  12. Angela Melczer

    This is making me very hungry and bringing back wonderful memories of Christmas Eve at Nana and Papa ‘s house with chestnuts roasted until they popped open! Thanks for the memories, Anne. As always, I love your posts!

  13. Pate Cardel

    Ann hat is going on in Feb or is May a better time to come to Assissi? Thanks for your great information

  14. Cara Anna,
    Your descriptions and photos of the festas in your region make me want to be there. We love your wonderful town and wish we could be ther more often.
    Thank you for all your wonderful writings. Don’t stop!
    Tanti baci, Marianna

  15. Danial Teo

    The articles in the “Italian Notebook” are simply brilliant. Have been reading them and it gives so much insights into the people, culture, religion, food and sights.
    Reading about UNTO festival and the pictures are great. Yes “Extreme Unction” used to be frightening as its close to finality, but now we have “Anointing of the Sick” in my country which is the blessing for a recovery. The festivals you described make me eagarly waiting for my trip in May and experience the Corsa dei Ceri in Gubbio.

    Thanks for the articles and looking to Assisi.

  16. Marcia Flanders

    Thanks for the fabulous article! Great information and it all sounds wonderful. The photos are beautiful too! I can’t wait to make a trip there, I hope to visit and stay in your lovely apartment soon :)


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