Every culinary tradition has favourite combinations… like fish and chips!
Italians seem to have a pretty clear idea of what goes well with what (cheese and pear, coffee and cream, pizza and beer) and what should not be mixed with what (fish and cheese, cappuccino after a meal, etc). At least my parents do… and I would say many “hard-core Italians” are quite opinionated!
I think the Italian culture is very ritualized in this sense. Food is a religion, with its rites, rules, dos and don’ts. Of course the best chefs are those who manage to create new combinations despite what people say and surprise you! (I would like to mention Alessandro Prosperi of La Locanda nel Cassero above all – an amazing chef).
A popular combination in this period is that of baccelli (broad beans) and prosciutto: broad beans are seasonal and many sagre in this period are devoted to them. I think baccello is the Tuscan word for it, the Italian word would be fava, but in Tuscan it’s a bit of a taboo word… so we work around it! :o) A festival near Pisa, in Montefoscoli-Palaia, is dedicated to baccelli and prosciutto and it takes place on April 25, 26 and May 1. On the same days, a festival dedicated to broad beans can be found in Arcille near Grosseto too.
Anyway, just to mention unusual combinations, I would like to mention the Festival of fried fish, broad beans and stockfish (Sagra della Frittura di Pesce, Fave e Baccalà) in Campagnatico (near Grosseto) from April 23 to 26 and from May 1 to 3 (http://www.comunedicampagnatico.it) It sounds dreadful, but why not give it a try…
For those who drink wine with everything, including pizza (like I do), “I Vini del Castello” (the wines of the castle) is an interesting festival that takes place in Greve in Chianti on April 25 and 26. In the same days, in Panzano there is the Festa della Stagione Bona (The festival of the good weather, April 25).
My vote as to crazy combinations goes to the event called “Jazz in Macelleria“, Jazz at the Butcher’s, a smart and amazing combination of jazz and excellent, home-made cold cuts in a butcher’s shop in San Miniato at the Macelleria Falaschi. Jazz in Macelleria is on April 26 and I am looking forward to it!