Not exactly a Sagra, not exactly a trade show, the Expo at the Val Fontanabuona was a showcase of the arts and businesses of the Valley.

The Expo was held in Calvari, which, like almost every other town in Liguria, sports a statue of Cristoforo Colombo.

cristoforo columbo

(Why do the statues so frequently depict Columbus pointing?  I’m sure he was too busy to stand at the prow with his finger out-stretched – it looks so he-went-thataway.)

Containing many small communities (and several larger ones) (View Map) the Val Fontanabuona, which runs behind the sea-hugging mountains between Genova and Chiavari, is perhaps best known for its ardesia (slate) mining and production. (There are some exciting mining photos in the link.)  Below are some small items made of slate, but it is as often used in construction here for steps, window sills and trim work.

things made of slate
There are lots of other business in the Valley, though, and the Expo is a way of demonstrating the variety and quality of production there, as well as giving a boost to the region’s towns, many of which had information booths at the Expo.  The many wood-working and furniture-making shops in the Valley produce everything from reproduction pasta-making chests

pasta making furniture

to wooden bowls and decorative items

wood worker

to timber framing for building construction.

wood framing

Several solar heating companies displayed their mysterious pipe arrays, and there was even a very efficient German vacuum cleaner sucking up piles of crumbs and dirt from an aged oriental carpet.  A food distributor handed out cups of Covim Caffe (the Captain’s favorite!), and the booth for Borzonasca gave us lovely little fried squares of polenta to taste – secret recipe, alas. The ubiquitous food booths touting dried porcini, wines and cheeses of the region were augmented by displays of honey, which evidently is in high production in the VF.  We could even watch some of it being made in a portable show hive.

bees (2)

One of the more interesting displays, I thought, was a 16th century loom which is still in use to weave the famous Genoese velvet, made from 100% silk, which is lustrous and rich.  The Cordani Velluti company of Zoagli owns the last three looms in existence; each loom can produce a piece of fabric daily measuring 30 cm x 60 cm.  No wonder it’s expensive!

16th century loom

The regional food specialty, available in the dining tent, was battolli, a pasta from Uscio made from wheat and chestnut flours, served with pesto:

battolli (2)

The chestnut flour gives the dish a touch of sweetness which is both surprising and delicious.

The Captain has always said that the Val Fontanabuona reminds him of what Italy must have been like fifty years ago.  This woman perfectly exemplifies the marriage of old – the tombolo (Genovese bobbin lace) she is making – and the new – the IM she is receiving on her cell phone.

tombolla and telefonino

The Val Fontanbuona is like that: behind some of the very small town exteriors are some very modern businesses that are serving customers all around the world.  The Expo was a great way to become familiar with some of them, and to learn more about the beautiful Valley itself.

the val (2)