Once it was a big farmer’s market and today it has become a lively square festival with a large laden table with lots of rarities and a few memories. The Fair in early December was a time of the year when even the tenant farmers with few economic means, women and men that they were, bought something that was not strictly necessary. An umbrella, a pair of pants, a jacket, a new whip for the horse or the “Superiride” to dye clothes.” It was the best day of the year,” recall some of the older Carmignanese up ’till now. You really could find everything at the Fair.
You could buy piglets for raising and they sold the specialty of Carmignano – dried figs (for a certain period, the whole fair was named after them).

But there weren’t always dried figs. In a town square the prices were low and they preferred to sell figs during the days before the fair to Florentine retailers (when figs didn’t go overseas). In 1913 the Fair was held almost without any figs. A few treats were sold between 2 liras and 40 cents and 3 liras and 70 cents per kilo. In 1917 it was even worse – the prices had dropped to 1 lira and 72 cents because of the price controls. Few figs were sold to Florence. As for the others, referred public officer to the mayor, inhabitants of Carmignano thought it was the best to keep the figs for themselves to eat, instead of “buying other stuff, since everything was more expensive.”
For the Fair, however, the streets were full of vendors. Several days before the fair shops were stocked with merchandise: soda salt, sawdust, candies, cinabrese powdered dye, brushes, brooms and ropes. Santa Claus wasn’t coming yet so for children and youngsters the fair meant a small sum to spend on sweets and toys.
“One night before the fair,” say the elders of the village, “in Armida’s shop they began to roast chestnuts for selling and boil vegetables to make “herb balls””. Back then Bellini had a grocery store and wasn’t making yet the glorious cookies to be enjoyed with or without the Vin Santo.
But why was the ancient fair of Carmignano dedicated to St. Andrew, if traditionally, the day of the holiday is the first Tuesday of December? The mystery is soon resolved. The date was changed at some point: it seems that there were other fairs at the same time in neighbouring municipalities. In fact, at least until 1833 the fair of Carmignano took place on November 30, The Day of Saint Andrew. So recalls also the Georgofili’s scholar Repetti in his geographical physics and historical dictionary of Tuscany. The earliest mention of the fair is in 1392 and is found in a municipal statute, which provided a kind of a market near the town hall which then stood within the walls of the fortress. However, the heyday of the event was reached in the eighteenth century. Not by chance on 23 November 1704 it was decided that the Old Fair would last three days as Carmignano had gained much celebrity and fame for wine, olive oil and dried figs. People came even from Prato with great interest and attraction. As proof Count Giuseppe Maria Casotti in his “Historical Prato Almanac” had written on 30 November 1721: “On this day many people from Prato go to Carmignano, where there is the Fair… “.

Translate »