The Sagra

June 23, 2011 / Local Interest
Italy
A sagra is an evening village gathering offering the best in local cuisine at minimal prices, dance band music (free!) and entertainment for all from pre-schoolers to the elderly. The term derives from sacra festa, once upon a time celebrating the local patron saint’s day.

Italy being Italy, the sacred and secular are co-mingled and today the focal point of most sagre is a culinary specialty: Sagra degli Asparagi, Sagra degli Gnocchi, Sagra della Ciliegia (cherries, try the risotto alle ciliege!), …della Cipolla (onions reign, from focaccia to the dessert!), …dell’Oca Arrosto (roast goose), …dell’Anguilla (eel), ..del Cinghiale (wild boar), all the way through to late November’s Sagra del Tartufo (truffles)!

…and where else can you eat grilled lamb at 7 Euro, enjoy a liter of prized Grecchetto wine for 8, and finish up with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for 2.5 Euro?

At most sagre, older people volunteer to cook in fully-equipped mobile kitchens while the younger set serve at picnic tables under huge tents. Retired police captain Antonio served me grilled lamb and cooked greens at a recent sagra. I asked him why he was running tables from 7 pm to 1 am for eleven nights straight. Smiling, he answered matter-of-factly. “Because this is my village.” Yet another example of Italian passione…

When the dance band started playing at 9 pm, the food tents were full with happily-feasting, chatting families. The play area for the little ones was in full swing. but the open-air dance floor was focal point. An inspiration to see sprightly elderly farm couples waltz, fox trot, tango, mazurka, and polka for hours – after a day in the fields! Little girls pair up, shadowing parents ’round the dance floor, while toddlers are waltzed around by grandparents.

There is a sagra somewhere close to home from early spring to fall, and many rural folk attend them frequently just for the dancing. Sagra: superb cuisine with family and friends followed by open-air exercise, uniting those of all ages.

And what could be more “sacred” than that?

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.

16 Responses to “The Sagra”

  1. Thank you. Loved the note! We just went last week to our village sagra – The “I ‘heart’ (in the shape of a Florentine steak) Trestina” -even though we’re in Umbria. I’m not a huge meat eater, but the pasta and bruschettas were delicious. A village reunion with great food. Very Italian tradition!

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  2. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    One of the downsides of not running a car in Naples and a too busy partner (!) is that I have never attended a sagra. So want to. This encapsulates the experience beautifully.

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  3. It took us a while to figure out the sagra! There were posters all over Perugia but half the time we couldn’t understand where they were or how to get there! Friends took us to a Sagra del Stinko at a little town in Umbria that was exactly as you described! Wonderful food, dancing and atmosphere! Thanks for taking me back to that moment!

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  4. Greg G

    After reading your article before 8 AM, now I’m ready to eat.
    The Sagra – we in America have several local churches and such, of all ethnic back rounds from Greek, Polish, and Italian. I’m a “foodie” and go to them all with family and friends. The food could not be better.
    I am leaving for Italy July 19 thru Aug 3 – driving thru Tuscany and Florence – Is there somewhere to get a list of Sagra’s? Some internet link that could be used as a plan of attack?
    The way I see it, I could make it to one a day, different towns, and die a happy man. THANK YOU!

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  5. Margie

    What a wonderful tradition! US towns and neighborhoods should import the idea. Well, I guess our street fairs are similar but there are just not enough of them. Thanks for reminding me of why I love Italy so much!

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  6. Lyn Beckenham

    That is so well described. I have been trying to express to Australian friends and family since our arrival home from Italy just what a Sagra is but I have never managed to put it as well as this article now says it and the pictures show it. These events were our most enjoyed outings in Italy and seemed to be the most typical, local experience of Italian life we could have. Loved them! So, thanks for puting this story in Italian Notebook.

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  7. Carole Sommovigo

    Just fantastic! How does one find out there where & when of these Sagras? Like Greg G’s note above,when one finally gets to visit Italy this is exactly what we look for.

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  8. There was a lovely restaurant in Somerville by the name Sagra but it has closed !! too bad… it was just starting to be delightful for all ages, and the GM was terrific!

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  9. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all for comments. Greg, check out the notice boards in towns where you are staying – sagra posters will be on them.
    Sagras generally run about 10 days.
    On week.ends, food lines can be long – get in line by 7 30.
    Ask the locals about “la vostra specialita’?” and order that for sure…and whatever else tempts.

    Just saw a poster today for a new sagra – not too much in the sagra theme: “Sagra del Wurstel”.
    ugh.

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  10. Agnes Esposito

    Anne: Great article. The pictures are wonderful. What village is represented in the pictures? Hope to say Hi to you in Sept. of this year when we spend time in Spello, Umbria.

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  11. Tom Brady

    Looking forward to our arrival in Badia Di Patroia near Trestina June 23-30th. Are there any Sagra planned this summer in late June in the Upper Tiberna Valley? Thank you Anne!

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  12. Anne Robichaud

    Sagras all over in June / and you must NOT miss the Mercato delle Gaite festival in Bevagna…end June..i wrote about it here on IN

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  13. Diane plantenberg

    Interesting. Just learned this week that my great,great grandmother’s maiden name was Sagra. Although my great grandfather’s people are from S’ Elia, Sicily, it appears that my great grandmother’s family was from the Island of Lipari which was resettled by Spanish citizens after the originally were sold as slaves by pirates.
    Diane Plantenberg

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  14. Anne Robichaud

    FLASH! 143 ‘feste” and “sagre” Umbria are now registered “ECOfeste” i.e., now “green” and respectful of the environment.
    How? attentive to recycling of wastes, producing less waste, use of less water, elimination of plastic when possible for food services..etc..
    This site has more info: http://www.ambiente.regione.umbria.it

    Reply

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