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The first Sunday in Lent, in the Roman Catholic tradition, marks the start of a period of abstinence from eating meat, which the Church obliges the faithful to observe until Easter Day. In past centuries, the people of the mountains replaced the meat in their diet with cheese from the mountain pastures, which they bought and sold at the main market in Trento. This is the origin of the ancient tradition of the “Casolara”, the cheese fair held in this historic city on the first Sunday in Lent, which was in fact called “Dominicia Casolariae”. The fair was held every year without interruption until 1934.

During Lent it was absolutely forbidden to slaughter any animal, or to sell meat or bring it into the town. Permitted foods included vegetables, eggs, milk and its products, and fish.

Now this historic Fair is to be held again in Trento, from 4 to 6 April 2003. Stands in Piazza Fiera (“Fair Square”) will offer tasting opportunities and the chance of meeting experts, who can help visitors discover how well Alpine cheeses go with honey, jam, mostarda (a kind of spicy pickled fruit), and the inevitable, large glasses of wine.

It’s not hard to understand how important such events were for the society of the time, if we remember that around the 13th century in Trento there were no shops selling cheese products, so that the Fair was possibly the only occasion on which people could stock up on the dairy products they needed. And the choice was a wide one, with produce coming from different regions: the documents of those times describe cheeses of all kinds, with names such as rabbiano, brentonico, veronese, parmigiano, which indicate their region of origin.

The modern version of the Casolara also includes special gourmet events in the city’s restaurants, with menus offering sophisticated dishes based on Alpine cheeses.

Visit for the programme of the event.

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