Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrating Food Tuscan Style

Every year, from March till November, you'll find food festivals, called sagra (sagre plural) around Italy. Most of these festivals celebrate traditional, local ingredients. You'll find the Sagra del Tartufo (truffle), the Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar), the Sagra della Lepre, (wild hare) and many other specialties celebrated by way of Sagre.


Emanuele brings you to some Sagre in this quick video!

I shot this video a few years ago that gives an idea of the atmosphere at most sagre. The tables and lighting are usually super casual. Here Emanuele, the host and my friend, is at the Sagra delle Pappardelle sul Lepre (wide egg pasta served with wild hare). Other images show the Sagra del Crostino (the crostino sagra), and were shot on the day my friend Manuela (see the smiling girl who makes a toast to the camera) told all her friends she was expecting her first child.

Sagre are a great way to celebrate food and special occasions, or to just have a relatively cheap but authentic meal with friends or family.

They usually take place on weekends, in small towns scattered throughout Italy. They unfold during warmer months in general, following the hunting and harvesting seasons, but the occasional sagra can be enjoyed even in cold weather.

Some of my favorites in Tuscany:

La Sagra delle Ciliege (The Cherry Sagra!) 
 You'll need a car to get to this one! I go every year- and get in line for the frittelle alle ciliege (cherry fritters). Get there early- I've almost gotten into fist fights over these when the line gets too long!






One of my personal favorites! 
The organizers send me a reminder email every year!




This one can be reached by way of the 14 bus, going in direction "Girone". Reservations are recommended! This is the best-organized sagra I've encountered!


This is just a tiny example of how many sagre are out there. Do a quick google search while you're in town and you'll find plenty of Sagre to try. There are even sagra search engines!
Here's a good one to use no matter where you are in Italy:
http://www.eventiesagre.it/cerca/cat/sez/mesi/Toscana/FI/Rufina/intit/rilib

An important note: in the past ten years or so, many sagre have been popping up "like funghi" (like mushrooms). Since these festivals are a quick way to make money for clubs and groups who host them, and require less strict licenses than a permanent restaurant might, tons of non-traditional sagre are being hosted. Both authorities and hosts of the more traditional sagre are starting to take note, and many say that there will be parameters set for hosting sagre to keep the traditional ones from being overshadowed by the new ones. A great example of a sagra that has NOTHING to do with traditional Tuscan fare: La Sagra della Paella!