If you want to approach Italian culture through its most beloved culinary traditions, you have to become a sagra tourist. Here is a guide to the most interesting of these food festivals.
SAGRA, ITALY’S TRADITIONAL CULTURAL AND GASTRONOMIC FESTIVAL
There is always a good reason to celebrate and enjoy great food, loving company, and a nice glass of wine — that’s every Italian’s mantra. Maybe this is the reason why we have sagre all over the country. The Guardian once called these annual cultural and eno-gastronomical festivals “Italy’s best-kept food secret.” We recommend you visit one of these festivals to get a taste of Italian country life.
LITTLE TOWNS, PROVINCES, REGIONS…EACH HAVE THEIR OWN FESTIVALS
An Italian sagra is an extraordinary concentrate of traditions, and not just gastronomical ones. The word sagra comes from the ancient Latin adjective sacrum, and means “holy” or “sacred.” That’s because these sagre used to be associated to religious events, often put on to celebrate the life of a Christian saint. Nowadays, sagre are lay celebrations of life, local food, wine, and friendship. They’re also a great tourist attraction! During the fall, you will find sagre all over the country celebrating seasonal products such as chestnuts (Sagra delle castagne), porcini mushrooms (Sagra dei funghi porcini), wine (Festa dell’uva), truffles (Fiera del tartufo), and even chocolate (Eurochocolate).
LA SAGRA DEL MARRONE
Castel del Rio (a little town close to Bologna) is home to a festival that celebrates chestnuts in the fall. At this sagra, you’ll be able to taste the traditional caldarroste, roasted chestnuts, or sample many other chestnut-based products.
FESTA DELLE MELE
At the end of October, the town of Cles in Trentino Alto-Adige hosts the Festa delle mele, a festival completely devoted to apples. The most famous variety of the many showcased is the sagra is the one from the Val di Non..
FIERA INTERNAZIONALE DEL TARTUFO DI ALBA
Alba, in the northern part of Piemonte, is the city of truffles. In fact, every year, from October to November, Alba becomes the European capital of truffles.
SAGRA DELLA NOCCIOLA
Piemonte is also famous for its delicious hazelnuts, the Nocciole di Piemonte I.G.P. (Protected geographical region). Cortemilia holds an annual festival in their honor.
Eurochocolate is one of the most important chocolate festivals in Europe. It is held in Perugia, Umbria, at the end of October. Chocolate lovers will literally go wild for the vast variety of chocolate on display, and the number of present artisanal chocolatiers.
Marino, a beautiful town just outside of Rome, celebrates the famed Sagra dell’uva every October. It is a colorful festival dedicated to grape harvesting and, of course, to wine.
SAGRA DEL TORDO DI MONTALCINO
Established in 1958, this sagra honors an ancient Tuscan tradition. The sagra celebrates the tordo, or thrush, a common local bird. The wonderful town of Montalcino, celebrated for its wine, it is also home to this festival.
FESTIVAL DEL PEPERONCINO
This is the “hottest” festival. In October, Diamante, a wonderful little town on the sea in Calabria, hosts a famous chili pepper festival. In fact, the Calabria region is celebrated for its incredible varieties of peperoncinoi.